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Friday, November 3, 2017

Keeping Tabs On Pre-Mom Me

I cannot write while simultaneously making sure Skylar doesn't stick her finger into an electrical outlet. However, I can listen to podcasts and keep Skylar alive at the same time. I've listened to everything from TED talks to the "Love and Relationships" podcast to various mom podcasts.

I like efficiency. I like quality. In the midst of some mundane household chores, I desperately want my mind to be fed. I fell across a podcast recently that I really love. It's called "Inspired to Action" and the host is Kat Lee-- a Christian mom on a mission to bring out the strength and gifts of other mamas. I've been so encouraged and inspired by all of the guests she's had on. One of her guests is a wise, articulate mother of five named Chrystal Evans Hurst.

Hurst wrote a book called "She's Still There" about the dreams she had pre- or intra-motherhood and how she works to do the things she loves while doing what is required of her. Hurst identifies herself as "an achiever". So do I.

I'm not sure if that simple truth really clicked until she said that's what her StrengthsFinder test revealed. I'm married to a guy who is a passionate achiever, so maybe my own desire for achievement gets overshadowed because Matt's achievement standard is soooo high. But the lowest I've felt in life is when I feel like I'm wasting my time...drifting in and out of days...not actively using my gifts. Not achieving.

Swimming fed my need to achieve for years. I had numerical goals and I knew how close I was to them at all times. Writing doesn't have the same clearcut measure for success, but I've always had writing goals for myself. But how do you know if you're "achieving" in motherhood? Especially when you have an almost 1-year-old (!) who's not yet using her words? She smiles a lot, so I do consider all of those to be achievements. :) But I'm not sure I can take credit for every gap-toothed grin.

I, like most (all?) new moms, was surprised by the time commitment of motherhood. It's not a 9 to 5. Working moms don't stop thinking about their kid as soon as they go to work. No, your baby is still there, in your mind, oft the subject of your worry.



I somehow thought Skylar would fit nicely into my pre-existing work regimen. There are a few reasons why this has not worked:

1. Mobility which comes with an unintentional lust for danger. 

I bought a Summer Infant Pop 'n Play to put beside my desk. The PC term is a play yard, but it's really a hexagonal baby cage. I don't think it's quite spacious enough to call a "yard". I assumed I could just stick Skylar in there and write. And I can...for all of 10 minutes. Then she gets bored and wants to explore the house-- something that requires every 10 second check-ins. So, yeah, writing time while Sky is awake is very limited.

2. I don't want to miss a thing.

Skylar changes every day. And I love watching my baby gain stability and independence. I love watching her wave. Or give hugs and kisses to her stuffed animals. Or chase the dogs (or robo-vac) around, thinking that one of these days she'll be fast enough to catch them. I don't need to be constantly playing with her, but I do love observing her.

3. Just priorities. 

I used to go insane if I had more than one day out of the pool/gym. I've always believed I'm a better human being when I get to exercise. But the definition of "exercise" has morphed drastically in the last five years. It used to mean four to five hours per day of swimming, running or lifting. Even after retiring from my swimming career, I was an exerciseaholic. Swimming year-round for 15 years will do that to you.  I now go on morning walks with Skylar and the pups and am content calling that my exercise many days. When I'm particularly motivated, I'll use some precious Skylar nap time to lift free weights in our living room. (Update: we just got a Peloton bike and I've ridden it nine days in a row [queue the "Bueller's been absent NINE times" voice]. I understand the Peloton craze now.)

Before the baby was my alarm clock, I'd rise "early" (7 a.m.) and get cracking on emails. I liked to knock off as much work as possible in the mornings. I've read recommendations not to start your day with emails but that never made sense to me. My mind was fresh. I was operating efficiently with my dear friend Coffee. I got 'er done.

Now...I wake up to my sweet snookems (Skylar), nurse her, play with her, feed her breakfast, then go on a walk. Emails might be hastily checked on my phone, but I'm not firing through my to-do list like I used to. And that's OK.

One thing Hurst says in her book is you don't need the answer, you just need an answer. I've realized my mom role is a dominating one in this season of life. Does that mean I don't need to exercise or write or tend to any of the gifts I feel God has given me beyond nurturing my child? No. Can I write a book right now? Probably not. Can I practice writing every day? Sure. Not with a 1800-word feature story each day, but with a brief journal entry before I go to sleep. Or a blog every three (?) months (...I'm always aspiring to be a weekly blogger). If I ever learn to wake up before Skylar, that can happen (reminds me of another good Kat Lee podcast-- Hello Mornings). *P.S. I write three to five stories each month for Swimming World MagazineSo, go ahead and subscribe. I don't care if you don't care about swimming. :D

I look back at all my mom did in awe. She never hired anyone to clean the house. She taught art and a Sunday school class. She was constantly redecorating our house and hand-making people gifts (useful handmade gifts! They do exist!). She made us every meal. She wasn't an exerciseaholic, but she was perpetually moving every day of her mothering life. She's always sketched floor plans/home renovations for fun. My mom worked really hard at being a stellar mama and did a lot on the side to nurture the creative nooks of her brain.

So yes, motherhood is a ton of self sacrifice, but I don't think God ever intended us to lose ourselves in motherhood. I want to strive to be like my mom. To be there for my husband and my kids, but to somehow find time to develop my other gifts. I know there's more to that than writing it down, but that's how I started every swim season-- goal sheets.

I'm reading a book called "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron that is all about restoring the blocked artist inside you to be a world-serving force.  It can be as flowery as that sentence I just wrote, but the methods Cameron outlines have been proven effective...I hope to employ them if I can find the time.

This Good Book has some solid advice too:
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 
1 Peter 4:10

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

8, 9, almost 10 Months. Hitting Warp Speed.


I started this sometime in July (Sky was 8 months):

We lowered Skylar's crib today. There are three levels. We started our girl on level one and Matt was wanting to skip down to level three today. I instantly said, "No way!" Not because it wouldn't make sense to move it all the way down and not have to do it when she's standing up and trying to escape, but because I felt like moving it to level three was somehow going to speed up time. So she's sleeping in her level two-height crib right now, and all is OK in my world. So funny how my motherly irrationality kicks in, like if we went straight to level three Skylar would start crawling and climbing and walking this week. But that was my thought process...

I think I started to say Sky was in a magical stage at five months but now I think "No, no, no, now she's in a magical stage." But really...she's not mobile. She smiles uncontrollably at her mom and dad (I joke with Matt that we cannot look directly at her, that cuteness just shines so bright). She's made up entirely for the early weeks, when we did everything we could to make her happy and she gave us nothing. Her smiles are incredibly rewarding and she is entirely too generous with them. If she continues to charm us we her crinkle-nosed smiles throughout these early years, we're in trouble. Spoil-her alert.

August 2017

Smiling her way through Leiden in Holland. 
One month later and most of the above paragraph still rings true. However, Skylar forward crawled for the first time yesterday and life is about to change. Skylar journeyed to the Netherlands and France during her ninth month of life. I was praying that she would not discover mobility while we were there. She didn't. Not because she wasn't ready but because we probably delayed her crawling by taking her everywhere in the carrier (P.S. I bought a Lillebaby on sale for $80 right before this trip and am sooo glad I did. Even though my back did start to ache after touring around Paris for five plus hours, this thing is pretty user-friendly).
Sky's first jumping pic.
We started out on our marathon Paris touring day and Skylar was hysterical in the carrier with Matt. We switched because, endearingly and annoyingly, Skylar sometimes just wants mama. But she was not calmed by my presence. We sat down for breakfast at a bistro, and the waiter brought her some authentic baguettes to gnaw on. We got a good look in her mouth during one of her waling fits. Not one but FIVE teeth were coming in at once. The friend we were visiting in Paris, Sara, said she's heard the human memory doesn't begin until age two because we wouldn't be able to bear the memory of teething. It's apparently one of the most painful things we go through in life.


Though often called "cutting teeth" apparently what happens is hormones are released within a baby's body that cause some cells in the gums to die and separate, allowing teeth to emerge. Though teeth slicing through gums sounds far more painful, this gum-dying process must be quite painful too. Fortunately, we were in Paris, and Skylar had all of the best teething breads at her disposal. Matt and I joked that she would be ruined by this untouchable French bread, rejecting any variety of bread made in America we give her. haha. Thus far, she hasn't been so particular.
Sky will surely remember Notre Dame...
Airplane bassinet. Lifesaver. 

Lessons learned in month nine:

Oh hey! There's another sleep regression. I was so looking forward to getting back on our schedule once returning home from Europe (a rough nine-hour time change).  She was back on schedule for about a week, then, on my birthday, she woke up hysterically crying 20 minutes after her bedtime. Unfortunately, she was with a babysitter because Matt and I were out for my 30th birthday dinner (btw 30 ain't so bad!). Matt and I watched on the monitor (on our phones) as our sweet friend Cory tried to calm Skylar down. I know that's a no-no on date night, but we got some sadistic entertainment out of watching our friend turn on the lights and play with Skylar. haha. She won. She always wins. When we got home, Cory and Skylar were playing in the living room. Skylar gave us so many smiles at 9 p.m., knowing there was something special about being up after dark. I thought it was just a bad luck night for the babysitter, but the trend continues. The past four nights, Sky had woken up in hysterics, 20 minutes after conking out at her usual bedtime. It has taken us anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes to get her back to sleep. Apparently it's the 8-10 month regression caused by separation anxiety. Now, how the heck do you let a baby cry it out when you know the cause of this is separation anxiety? Matt and I can't do it. Not at this age. We go in and wipe those crocodile tears and read to her until she calms down. Rock, read, down in the crib, repeat. Eventually, she rolls to her side and goes to sleep. Perk of this unintentional later bedtime, she sleeps in! 7:20 a.m. right now, and she slumbers on.

- It's OK to go off schedule. I was stressed about taking Skylar to Europe. Mainly stressed about the flight, but also about what the trip would do to her lovely schedule. I have come to the conclusion that most babies are good little humans if they're well-fed, well-rested and well-loved. But I've seen my little human when she's lacking in the food or rest department. She's unhappy. I wasn't sure how naps were going to work in Europe. I added up her sleeping venues and my little love slept in NINE different places over our 12-day vacation. That's including naps in friend's homes/apartments. That's a lot of foreign environments. And most of her naps were 20-minute catnaps taken in the front carrier. Not ideal for her happiness levels, but they sufficed! Despite five teeth creeping up, Skylar still managed to be her joyful self for 95 percent of our trip. And it took about four days to get her back on schedule once we got home. Basically, the lack of routine didn't phase Skylar once we got back home. Would I do it again? Probably not in the next five years. It was challenging. But I'm proud of our little family for making the journey.

It really does get better and better. Every month I say, "No, this is the best stage!" but as all experienced moms remind me, "It gets better and better." It doesn't necessarily get harder, the challenging areas just shift around. And gosh, the delights of this babe far outweigh the challenges. Let's hope that's the case when she's 15 and embarrassed of her parents simply because we're her parents. What an irrational stage of life-- sorry, Mom and Dad! I thought I was an adult at 15...I knew everything, except for how little I knew. OK, let's not focus on the teen years, this baby stage is pretty dang sweet.

Train ride to Paris.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Recovering from A Spinal Cord Injury: Carley Baldwin's Story



Carley was intimidating on paper. She was part of the studly class of swimmers I came in with at the University of Arizona. I thoroughly stalked each of my fellow incoming freshman. I remember my dad getting in on the excitement-- "This girl from Colorado is top 16 in every event!" Top 16 in the country. And Carley was actually in the top five in most of her events. A complete stud.

Our freshman class convened in Tucson in August...when the average temperature is 102 degrees. A letter had been sent out from the UA staff at the beginning of the summer. A daunting part of it read: "Be prepared to run three solid miles in the afternoon heat". We were all paranoid about this, except Carley. She had been running five miles regularly throughout the summer, in addition to swimming 20 hours per week. Carley had done cross country in high school too.


We went on a recreational run around campus as a freshman class before practices began (over-achievers). I was dying. Carley led the pack, able to chat and laugh the whole time. Carley was perhaps the least awkward member of our class. She could strike up a conversation with anyone and make us laugh with her sarcasm or her contagious eruptions of laughter. I liked her right away.

College swimming reveals a lot. Yes, physically, we didn't wear much. But emotionally, we saw each other naked in the heart of hard practices and after good and bad swims. You basically live with your entire freshman class in the dorms. We traveled in a pack. We were a flock of freshman swimmers riding our beach cruisers down to University Boulevard to get Chipotle (five nights out of seven).

Fast forward nearly 11 years. Carley is the product manager for a medical devices company. She works in the spine division. She's built a successful career. But more important in her mind is a boy named Jonny whom she brought into the world four years ago. She's raised him as a single mama. Carley is now in Denver, close to her parents, who help out a lot with Jonny.

Kristin Viger has been Carley's best friend for 16 years. I remember her coming to visit when I lived with Carley our sophomore year of college. They looked like sisters and were obviously kindred spirits. This summer, they took off to go to Belize on their first vacation together. Twelve hours after their puddle jumper landed on one of Belize's cayes (islands), their vacation turned into a nightmare.

On the evening of June 4, a few of Carley's friends were flipping off of the dock at the group's resort. Carley said she was too afraid to do a flip so she did the move she's done thousands of times in her life-- she dove into the ocean. The tide had dropped significantly since earlier that day. Carley's head hit the water and immediately thereafter hit land. Carley floated to the surface and could not feel her legs. One of her closest friends from college, Keenyn, swam over to retrieve her.

Carley knew there was something seriously wrong so she immediately went into lifeguard mode-- instructing her friends on how to best brace her body and her neck. Carley was transferred to a lawn chair and a rolled towel was placed around her neck for support-- a far cry from the emergency equipment that would be mandatory at a resort anywhere in the USA. But they were in a Third World country and did the best they could with the available resources.

Carley & Keenyn
Carley was in shock, wrapped in a towel on a lawn chair, attempting to move anything. After her friends had no luck tracking down an ambulance, Carley was hoisted into the back of a van. The seats were laid down in the back seat of a cab so Carley, still in the lawn chair, could fit. The drive to the clinic on Ambergris Caye should have only taken 10 minutes, but with cautious driving for the sake of stability it took 25. After checking into the clinic and realizing the incompetence of the doctors, Kristin said they knew they needed to get to a real hospital. Kristin helped line up a charter flight to Belize City, just a 15-minute hop over from the island. In order to situate Carley (who was still on the lawn chair) in the plane, rows of seats were removed. Only two additional passengers could fit, so Kristin and Keenyn accompanied Carley.

When the three landed, there was no ambulance waiting to take Carley to the hospital in Belize City. They waited 15 minutes for an ambulance to take Carley to a hospital five minutes away. It was around 3 a.m. when Carley was finally transferred from the lawn chair onto a basic wooden backboard. Kristin said they felt more comfortable with the doctors at this private hospital in Belize City, but the atmosphere was still starkly different from a hospital in the States.

Carley was taken in for a CAT scan. Up until that point, Keenyn (a former UA football player), had been hopefully reassuring Carley, "it's just a stinger". But the CAT scan showed a far more serious injury. It appeared she had fractured her C4 and C5 vertebrae.

If you Google that injury, a lot of scary stuff pops up. You'll see that C3 through C5 are some of the most critical vertebrae as they relate to your spinal cord. All can lead to paralysis of all or of significant portions of the human body.

After the gravity of the injury was revealed, Carley's parents received a call with the nightmarish news from Belize City. From there, everything was put in motion to evacuate Carley to Miami, Kristin said.

Someone needed to go back to get luggage, so Kristin flew back to the island, packed their bags in a hurry, then hopped on a return flight to Belize City, all within two hours. As they waited in the out-of-date hospital room, Carley and Keenyn listened to gospel music, praying for the Americans to come evacuate them soon. Carley's flight out of the Third World finally took off at 4 p.m. on Monday, June 5. When the medical team swooped in to rescue Carley, she said she'd never been more grateful to be an American.

Tom, Carley's father, was there to receive his daughter in Miami. Carley said she hadn't broken down and cried until she saw her dad. Once in the US, her medical care took a drastic turn for the better. She was taken in for an MRI and CAT scan.

Carley with her parents, Toddie and Tom, and Jonny.
Remember, Carley works in the spine division of a medical device company. She knows all about spinal injuries. She was nervous to see her MRI and prayed that her injury would not be "complete". A complete spinal cord injury means the cord was severed. There is no known treatment to recover from a complete cord injury. The word "incomplete" was what Carley was hoping to hear. Prayers were answered. The injury was incomplete. The protective dural sack around Carley's cord had not even ruptured. So, what does that mean? The paralysis she is feeling now is the result of spinal trauma-- bruising and swelling around her spinal cord.

On Tuesday, June 6, Carley underwent surgery to, in layman's terms, decompress her spine. The surgery was a success. The pseudo vertebrae they inserted in C5's place did it's job. Since the accident, Carley's arms retained some movement but her hands, abdomen and lower extremities were a different story.

A week after the injury, Carley's hands felt like they had fallen asleep. She started feeling a prickly pins-and-needles sensation and the numbness began to fade. When I spoke to her two weeks after the accident, she said she was feeling the same sensational progression with her feet. She had been getting lots of foot rubs since she could tell exactly which parts of her feet were being touched! Huge progress.

Carley has astounded rehab teams in Miami and since being transferred back to Denver. A couple PTs were assisting her as she sat up two weeks post-op. She asked them if she had helped at all. The PTs said that she absolutely had. Proof that the swimmer core doesn't event know how to relax!

There is much to be grateful for in the heart of this devastating accident. Carley said it most eloquently in a recent Facebook post:

No one knows why God puts certain trials in our lives, but throughout this fight His purpose will be made known with the support of my amazing family, friends, and boyfriend... And fighting is exactly what I plan to do. I don't consider June 4th the day of my accident, but rather the day I survived - and I truly believe it was for this little guy. My prayers are for him to learn faith, humor, and perseverance throughout adversity. ❤️💪🏽"Put on the armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." - Ephesians 6:13-14


Carley has a long road ahead of her. She said it's hard for her to comprehend the fact that every SCI (spinal cord injury) is different. Carley sees everything in black and white-- "If I break my arm, there is a set plan and estimated time for recovery." This is different. Doctors cannot forecast when feeling or movement will return to Carley's legs-- legs that have run and swum thousands of miles in their 29 years. It's hard to imagine how life-changing this is for a vivacious young mama and former elite athlete.

Shortly after realizing her legs did not work, Carley told Keenyn, "You know I'm going to walk again." She's been resolute since the minutes after her accident. She wants you to know, she's going to walk again. 

As reassuring as her hope is to all of those who love her, it's integral that Carley has that hope reciprocated. There are trying days ahead, and I know Carley doesn't want any of our pity, but she wants to know you're thinking about her and praying for her and her family-- the people holding her hand as she works toward her second set of first steps in her lifetime.

Carley's life has made a deep imprint on my heart. And that impression grows deeper as I hear of her courage and tenacity in the face of her life's biggest blow. She's a warrior, and I want her to have a massive army fighting alongside her. Shoot Carley a text, send her snail mail, give me a message to forward to her. Pray for endurance and strength as she works her way toward a full recovery.

Financial support is also much appreciated, as flying ambulances tend to cost a fortune, and insurance has not covered as much as Carley's family had hoped. You can help by contributing here.



Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Dear Expectant First-Time Mom

It seems like every time I hop on social media one of my peers is announcing their pregnancy. We're moving out of wedding season and into baby season. So this one goes out to all of the moms-to-be.
***Disclaimer: I'm no pro, but there are a few things I wish I'd known before my daughter made her way into the world seven months ago.

The day I found out the cause of my lethargy and nausea was a baby and not the flu was a joyous day. Because I really hate the flu. :) I've wanted to be a mom for as long as I've idolized my own mom, which makes up at least 25 years of my nearly 30 years on Earth.

Some people hate pregnancy. I loved it. Well, 95 percent of it. Everything gets cramped in that last month. I've yet to meet a pregnant lady who loves being 37+ weeks pregnant. Every week my app let me know how my baby girl was changing and I found the entire process to be an education and a faith affirmer. So many millions of things line up perfectly for the creation of a new human. I look at pregnant women completely differently now-- with wonder. Ladies with bumps become a routine part of life, but they shouldn't! There's magic happening in that womb. I'm not running up to strangers to rub and kiss their tummy, but a weird part of me kind of wants to...

So, mom-to-be, I hope your pregnancy is being kind to you. If it's not, I hope you're seeing the baby within you as the best justification for feeling crappy ever. Matt and I knew parenthood would be a bit of a trauma, but there were unforeseen challenges-- some that could have been curbed, some that every parent deals with.





  1. Take a breastfeeding class and/or see a lactation consultant in the first weeks of baby's life (if you're planning on breastfeeding). 

Seventy-four percent of moms breastfeed for some period of time. Forty-four percent of moms breastfeed for six months or more. Before having a baby, I wouldn't have understood that 30 percent drop. Now I get it. Breastfeeding is hard. Sure, there are some moms who have a bountiful milk supply and whose babies know what to do at the boob right away. But I think that's a minority of cases.

I limped along breastfeeding my baby girl for the first six weeks, but she was never content after feedings. And it was painful. I finally scheduled an appointment with a lactation consultant who came to our home. She discovered our baby girl's severe tongue tie within minutes of her arrival. She was astounded no one checked for it in the hospital. We had her tongue tie fixed that week so Skylar could actually use her tongue to suck! A lactation consultant absolutely saved our breastfeeding game.

So moms-to-be, consult the pros! Don't have unwarranted pride around breastfeeding. You don't know what you're doing. I read books and researched online, but having someone watch you nurse and feel around your baby's mouth is invaluable. Don't wait, just do it! I wish I had called a lactation consultant earlier.

 2. Don't trust your milk supply in the first few weeks. Do trust it after 12 weeks. 

I'm a person who likes a routine, so I was eager to hop on the schedule train. I jumped too quickly into attempting to feed Skylar on a schedule. That combined with her tongue tie led to a diminished milk supply. Those first six to 12 weeks are integral to establishing your milk supply. You'll learn from a BFing class or a LC that milk production is based on demand. I've had many friends who have their milk come in plentifully in that first week, about four days after giving birth. Side note:"Milk coming in" is such a magical phrase...how incredible for our bodies to know when to fill up the milk jugs?!

I woke up with heavy boobs one morning and was amazed. "Sweet! My milk arrived!" I casually thought. I assumed it was there to stay. Not how it works. Your body makes more than enough in the beginning then regulates according to how much your baby is extracting. If I could start over, I would have pumped at least once each day when my supply was in full force. That would have saved me lots of stress as I tried to resurrect my supply after learning that Skylar had not been extracting much milk at all with her tongue pinned down.

But trust your body! I dreaded breastfeeding at first because A. it hurt. B. it took FOREVER (50 minutes to 1 hr). C. It was uncomfortable (your baby needs to be propped and you support their every part, so it's easy to get super bound up neck/shoulder/arm muscles).

And D. I never believed I was making enough. Eventually, you need to get past what the pump says and look at your baby. Is baby happy? Is he/she growing in length? Does baby seem satisfied after eating? After four months, I finally chilled and observed my happy girl. She has never been chunky, but she's stretching out and smiling lots. I only pump two to three ounces at the end of the day, but I have complete faith that my girl is getting enough now.

3. Focus on your marriage. Somehow. Some way. 

A nurse in the hospital's triage room checked me and confirmed, "Yep, you're having this baby...TONIGHT!" Matt and I giddily looked at each other and kissed. The joy and fatigue we felt in the following days was indescribable. But the joy in the following weeks is not a constant. It's a visitor. The constant companion you have for the first six weeks is fatigue. And with fatigue comes tangled thoughts and hurtful outbursts. You will say things aloud, usually to your spouse, that you wish you hadn't.

But once baby sleeps through the night (which means six hours straight btw), marriage will still feel different. But what did we expect? We're bringing A PERSON into our home. Two people are no longer the focus. Everything seems to be poured into that third person. You and your spouse won't do it on purpose, but you stop pouring energy into one another. And that's a slippery slope.

A friend of mine who had a baby two months after me (shoutout to Baugh!), sent me this article. It shook me up, in a good way. Matt and I always complain about "kids these days" feeling entitled, but we never talk about how they got that way. This article nails it. Parents focus on their kids and not their marriage. I want our kids to look at our marriage as an example of love. A love that existed before they entered the world! Keep nourishing your marriage. It's hard! One of the hardest parts of bringing a child into your lives.

4. Meet other moms. 

I had a friend in Tucson who had her son six weeks before I had Skylar. She helped me talk through my baby blues and offered helpful hints for the challenges of caring for a newborn. She, sadly, moved in January and I realized I was sort of alone. Not that I have no friends, but I didn't have many mom friends who could empathize with the isolation that comes with those first months.

We were not created to be alone. I've always been good with alone time, but it's no longer alone time when a baby crosses your threshold! I found myself craving a tribe...literally a tribe. I was wishing I had a bunch of women with babies in teepees beside mine. OK, we can stay in houses. I was dying for fellowship with other mothers. It's a necessary therapy.

Postpartum depression is real. I don't think I had a serious case, but I definitely had the baby blues. You realize the gravity of your responsibility while feeling alone and in a sleep-deprived fog. Talk to other moms. They get it.

I think there's a real need for community within the circle of mothers with babies under six months. There are not many options for meet-ups. Classes and playgroups don't start until they're six months old. And before that, you feel silly attending a "playgroup" when your baby isn't old enough to grasp a toy, much less the word "play".

Insider tip: playgroups are for moms. Sure, it's super helpful for babies to watch each other and learn from observation, but honestly, moms just need other moms. I wish I had started going to baby story time at the library earlier. Yeah, it's hard to fit stuff between naps when they're super young, but getting out of the house truly will make you a happier, better mom.

5. But leaving the house is scary!

Seriously. I did not think I would be so fretful about driving Skylar somewhere. I still remember my first drive solo with her-- I stayed well under the speed limit. I was constantly paranoid that she was going to have a meltdown, so we didn't get out much. She was starving, so her first couple of months really were one meltdown melting into the next.

I truly did not get it when I saw seemingly carefree moms perusing Target with their brand new babies asleep in the cart. I was traumatized after 10-day-old Skylar screamed her way through Target in the stroller. You're so afraid of how your baby will behave and what people will think about you as a mother. But I think back to the days when I heard kids crying in stores and airplanes-- I never thought, "Ugh, how annoying". No, I thought, "I wish I could help that poor mama". So just know people aren't all judging you...they're mainly pitying you. Now, doesn't that make you feel better? :)

6. People give advice...they can't help themselves. Shoot. I can't help myself. 

I realized it as I wrote this subheading-- I'm giving unsolicited advice. Take it or leave it! There are a trillion different ways to mother. I know a lot of really good people who were raised very differently from me. Very differently from how I'm raising Skylar. Many wise, been-there moms will tell you how they did it. Most of the time, they are not telling you "this is how you should do it"-- they just want to be helpful.

I have pride so I have trouble with this one. If someone tells me something they did, my ego think "I know what I'm doing!" But really, I don't. haha. It's prudent to listen and (dare I say) apply some of the advice you get. But not all of it. That's not possible. And God gave you this incredible maternal instinct. You may not feel like it, but you're well equipped to keep this baby alive. The tools are built into your DNA.

I'm sure there are lots of pro tips I'm missing. Just thought I'd share a few things I wish I'd known. Good luck, mamas! This is the greatest gig on Earth.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

My Daughter is Half A Year Old...whaaaaat?!

No, I didn't throw a half birthday party for my Sugar Plum Princess, but she did wear a dress and a headband for perhaps the second time in her life. Solid effort, Mom! She doesn't seem to mind headbands, so I might start throwing them around that noggin more often so people stop calling her "handsome". haha! She is a handsome little broad though.
Does this count as a smile, Mom?

I'm not going to say we've "hit our groove" because I don't know if that ever happens with your first child. Right when I think she has a predictable routine, she goes through some mental leap that wreaks havoc on our controlled regimen. So the routine is, I'll feed you, play with you, look for signs of fatigue, put you down and pray that you sleep for longer than an 30 minutes. She typically has a good reason for refusing to nap.  This morning, she left me exasperated after refusing to nap for, I don't know, five hours...thereabout.

I plopped her in her jumperoo after admitting my defeat. After a few minutes of jarring bounces, she settled into a comfortable squat. The grunting started and in a few short minutes she was quite literally in deep doo-doo.

Matt followed me into the nursery. We knew we had to tag team this diaper change. I was impressed by her poop's upward trajectory. As I lifted her legs, she doused the front of her onesie in pee. Matt said he thought we were going to have to "cut her out of the onesie". haha. No jaws of life were required, but an emergency bath commenced and we have a sweet smelling six-month-old fast asleep in the crib now. I hosed down her onesie, but I'm not confident that it will be appropriate for another wear.

Sorry that I'm so preoccupied with poop. It seems like Skylar's moods revolve around her BMs these days though, so they all seem like very important episodes. Today's was just a lovely Mother's Day gift.
Sums up motherhood for me. Skylar is a headband repeater. --Fashion police reports. 

OK, let's see if I can remember any of the fun stuff Skylar started doing in her sixth month of life:

Sitting! She still has the most fragile ballerina arms, so she's hesitant to use them as props, but the girl can sit. Her trunk is strong and I'm confident she'll sprout a pair of guns soon.

Two teeth! They erupted in the same 48 hours and everyone was in pain.

Eating food! I was so relieved when I offered her a spoonful of oatmeal and she leaned in for it like a pro. Back in the horrible post-tongue-tie-revision days, her dentist was concerned about her hypersensitive gag reflex. Since her tongue never touched her palate (early on), she gagged whenever anything hit the roof of her mouth. I thought this would lead to eating problems but I've yet to see her really gag on anything! Such a relief. And I know "food before one is just for fun" but gosh, my boobs are relieved to have some caloric backup.

Skylar's likes thus far: oatmeal, avocado, carrots, peas, spinach, sweet potato, hummus. Dislike: asparagus


Ditched the Merlin Magic Sleep Suit. This marshmallow suit was a wonderful transition tool to get her to sleep comfortably in the crib, but you're supposed to get the little babes out of them before they start rolling. Plus, I think the puffy sleeves were preventing Sky from self-soothing in some cases. She now wears a sleep sack, which is the only hope she would have of keeping a blanket on her busy legs.
"Hey, where's my marshmallow suit?!"

*Oh, about rolling over....yeah, Sky did that when she was three months old then stopped. Cold turkey. At our six-month check up, the pediatrician said we should start physical therapy if she's not rolling in two weeks...cue the mom guilt! I'm not too concerned. I know she has the ability deep down in there, she just has a case of muscle memory amnesia.

New octave. Skylar has been singing for a while now...it's precious. But there's singing and then there's hitting a note so high that it can be confused with the shrillest of cries. Sky has been experimenting with this lately. I hope it's just an experiment and she doesn't decide to sing in this tune during our 8-hour flight to Holland this summer.

Bath time is the greatist. But it wasn't always! Sky has found a love for bath water. She kicks and squawks and laughs her way through baths. We used to bathe her 2x week and dread it. Now, I look forward to her nightly baths. No matter how cranky she is, I can plop her in and she'll have a ball.

Mom Milestone?

I cried during her shots. I haven't been fazed at the other appointments, but as I stood there cradling her arms, three inches from her screaming face, my heart hurt. I know moms are supposed to empathize when their babies hurt but before, I've easily written shots off as completely necessary pain for Sky girl. This time, she was to get four shots and I wanted to shout "Stop!" halfway through. Four shots seems like a lot for my 16-pound chiquita. She was upset for two minutes. I nursed her after shots and cried for the next five minutes. She was probably like, "Mom, what is your deal?! I'm fine."

This will be my first Mother's Day as a mom and I still cannot believe I'm in the Mom Club. I'll never forget the first time I said, "my daughter".  I was at CVS, picking up a Vitamin D supplement for Skylar.  The pharmacist said, "Are you Skylar?" and I said, "No, she's my...daughter!"  It was so fun to say.  Then I realized I left my wallet at home.  I drove back laughing at my mom-brain and smiling about having a "daughter".  Such a gift.

Three giraffes chilling at the zoo.

Celebrating My Tough Mother

My mom underwent a routine hysterectomy on October 18, 2016. As far as I knew, it went well. Skylar's due date was November 25, but I knew that was way off, so I told my folks to plan on driving westward around November 20. But Sky came into the world like a freight train on Wednesday, November 9. My parents said, "No problem! We'll be there Saturday." They had just been visiting my brother and his family in Houston. I was impressed with my dad's driving stamina-- it's a 12-hour drive from San Antonio to Tucson. 



They arrived and shared in the joy of their daughter's newborn baby, their TENTH grandchild! 

They spent 24 hours enveloping our baby in love before breaking some serious news. My mom has been living with Parkinson's Disease for at least four years now (that's not the news). Her medications work wonders, but she still deals with sudden-onset fatigue. As she was taking a nap, my dad opened a conversation with a weighty tone. Always a master of communication, he made sure to preface the big news with "this has a happy ending". 

Scans following my mom's hysterectomy revealed cancer. Cancer. That's all my dad had to say for my postpartum flood gates to open. I'm not sure when exactly they received this news, but it came as a complete shock. They had told my brothers and their families, but out of respect for my upcoming delivery, kept the news from me. I'm glad they did. The news may have sent me into early labor. My dad then said they planned on doing exploratory surgery on my mom the next week, hence why they were only staying in town for a few days. Oh, the happy ending my dad had warmed us up with-- they received a call from MD Anderson Cancer Center on their drive to Tucson, reporting they actually saw no cancer on the images they had on file. It looked as though it had been isolated to my mom's reproductive organs, which were, of course, removed in the hysterectomy. So they both were in joyful spirits, though I still was processing the word "cancer".

I had never heard of such an easy bout with cancer-- "Oh, you had cancer, but it was removed in that surgery you had scheduled before you knew you had cancer." But we can agree that it was pretty miraculous timing for my mom to have this procedure done. No hysterectomy would have meant no cancer discovery. My parents were thinking "praise God!" from the get-go.

I eagerly awaited updates from my dad the following week during Mom's exploratory surgery. We were praying fervently that nothing would be found. For some reason, I was confident that nothing would be found. So when my dad called me from the waiting room after a lengthy surgery -- three hours longer than planned -- I was devastated by the news. They found more cancer in Mom's abdomen. They did "debulking" to remove as much of the diseased tissue as possible. 

My dad was so strong on the other end of the line. "The doctors feel confident that they removed it all," he assured me as I cried. I felt guilty every time my dad heard me cry. If there was anyone with the right to grieve this news, it was him. But I heard no mourning. Just immediate hoping and praying. 

Mom was going to need to undergo chemotherapy. Even if the surgery had found her abdomen free of cancer, doctors had recommended chemo. Her treatments would start two days before Christmas. 

My parents were in the middle of renovating a new house when they first heard the 'c' word. They rushed to finish renovations. The home turned out beautifully. My parents moved in the week before chemo was to begin. 

Gorgeous new home! Pre-flood. I love Joanna Gaines, but she has
nothing on mi madre.
Post-flood cleanup.


Then a washing machine drain clog flooded half of their perfectly-outfitted new home. They slept on couches at their old house for a night, then bunked at my brother's families' house for a night. My mom was discouraged. She is the most stoic woman I know, but this was getting to her. She couldn't catch a break. After the floors were redone, and stuff was moved in (again) they were able to settle in and prep for chemo No. 1. 

The first round of chemo came on Friday, December 23. She felt great the day after, then a three-day migraine kicked in...on Christmas Day. 

I FaceTimed my parents on December 28. I'd never seen my mom look so tired and despondent. The migraine had kept her from sleeping. She was crawling out of the depths of a personal hell, as she put it. During the day, a construction crew was making a ruckus as they finished building the garage. As you might imagine, these construction noises were like hammers to Mom's temples. My dad had dropped a bunch of weight, from stress. 

But then, the migraine subsided. Mom felt better. She and her doctors plotted out ways to combat future migraines. Their strategic planning worked. No one floats through chemo, but my mom marched through the next five rounds fearlessly, with complete faith that something good would come out of all this. 

Mom recently told me, "I thought it was kind of neat that chemo started at Christmastime and ended at Easter." Hah! Really neat, Mom. But I'm sure she was thinking of the greatest sufferer of all, as she hurdled her way through her temporal discomforts. 

She hated losing her hair because when she looked in the mirror, she saw a sick person. She's always been the type to prefer to ignore/forget any illness or pain. But this was obvious. Everyone would know. She wore hats all the time, even to bed. It's hard for any woman to imagine not having a crop of hair on your head-- not just for aesthetic reasons, just for basic physical comfort. Eventually she made light of it, joking that she and Skylar had comparable amounts of hairs on their heads. 



We themed each round of her chemo (thank you, Kayla Redig, for the brilliant idea!). More and more people got in on the themes and posted photos during the weeks of her treatments. Mom reacted and responded to each and every person's contributions in the "Barbie Chandler's Themo to Laugh Through Chemo" Facebook group. She updated all of her loved ones the day after a chemo: 


"Chemo #5 (of 6) DONE!!! No problems thanks once again to you faithful prayer warriors AND awkward photo sharers. Tom & I had to try to tame our loud laughter in the treatment room, but we both had tears running down our cheeks, we were laughing so hard!" 

No thought or prayer or comedic contribution to Themo went unappreciated. The themes made us all feel like we could help, in a small way. I read this book years ago about the importance of hope in the face of illness. It leaves you with little doubt-- hope in the face of a sobering diagnosis matters. And my mom had hope and unshakeable faith throughout her months of draining chemotherapy. 

Themo #1 was "It's A Wonderful Life". Above is my brother, Ben, and his lovely bride, Katie, with their niblets, doing the best reenactment ever of the original IAWL poster.

In late February, my dad's vision in one eye was clouded. He had a hole in his retina. It was repairable, but he had to spend a lot of time facedown to keep the blood flowing to the revised eye. He shook it off; told very few people about it. He's probably upset that I'm even writing about it! The biggest bummer for him was that he couldn't play nurse to my mom as well as he had been the previous four months. It seemed to me like they were receiving an unfair serving of trials in a short span of time. 


Mom had her final round of chemo on April 10. We would find out if any cancer had made it past the toxic drugs on May 1. Mom and Dad went ahead and scheduled visits to see all of their grandkids in May and go to their cabin in Door County, Wisconsin. 

I don't know if it was the report of more cancer in the exploratory surgery back in November that got me down or just the nature of the monster that is cancer. I was nervous about May 1. My parents continued to be examples of fortified faith. They prayed that cancer would be gone, gone, gone, but they remained firm believers in Romans 8:28-- "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  

Matt got the text before I did on May 1. "Ohhhhhh, awesome!!!!!" he said from the couch. "Did you get the text?" "No!" I said eagerly staring, waiting for my phone to light up. "CANCER GONE!" he read aloud. I started crying and hugged my man tightly. I feel like I fully exhaled for the first time in months. In her cheery tone, my mama announced the news to those who had been prayerfully supporting her through this journey via Facebook: 


These looks really say it all! I love how my dad is so lovingly embracing his precious bride. 
I forced Skylar to dance with me in celebration for quite a while. Matt was at practice, otherwise he'd have been in on the hootenanny. 

I don't know why cancer exists, and I don't know why my mom has had to battle both Parkinson's and ovarian cancer. I do know that a lot of people bore witness to my mom's stalwart faith during this valley in life. I do know that she has an eternal hope in Christ that made this bump tolerable for her. Same goes for my dad. 


My mom is a wonderful person-- a lot of people think so. But nothing exempts you from getting a horrible disease/diseases. I believe in God. I believe he hears our prayers. I don't believe he burdens us with suffering, but I do think he helps us wring the good from it. I know my faith was strengthened as I watched my parents plow through this arduous time, mostly laughing and smiling. It is my hope that many were inspired by their unwavering trust in God's plan throughout this struggle. 

No, their trials are not over forever. Nor are mine or yours. But shoot, there's no cancer in my mama's body! I think I'll be smiling about that news for a long while. Thanks to all who prayed. Thanks to all who will continue to pray. 


I've written rave reviews of my mother before, but there's nothing that reveals her character more than the story of the last six months. It seemed like my mom's greatest hurt came from her worry that she was inflicting stress on those around her.  She wanted to conquer this thing so she could get back to loving her husband, kids, grandkids and friends with pre-cancer gusto. 

I'm so blessed by her example. I hope to be half the mom to Skylar that my mom has been to me. But even if I'm 10 percent Barb Chandler, that's pretty good. She's a tough act to follow. In motherhood, in life. So happy to have the bar set so high. Happy Mother's Day, to one tough mother. 






"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." 
Hebrews 11:1

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

5 Months! And It Keeps Getting Better

I'm not positive, but I'm 99 percent sure we're in a really magical stage of Skylar's beautiful life. She "talks" a lot, sings herself awake in the mornings, sleeps through the night (well, it's happened twice), is generous with her contagious smiles, and is showing no signs of wanting to be mobile (totally fine by me).


She drinks in the world around her (often instead of drinking in milk!) and is making us appreciate our surroundings more. I wish I could bottle up our evening walks-- to avoid any overtired crankiness before bedtime, we walk around the 'hood. The weather has been heavenly. Skylar looks up at me and gives me smiles. She's also learned that her voice does a neat thing as we walk on Tucson's bumpity roads. I'm probably a hazard to all as I walk because I stare at Skylar mostly, often zig-zagging my way down the road. Beware of the reckless evening mom walker.

After four months of paranoia, something clicked at the beginning of March. Maybe it was the pediatrician reassuring me that Skylar was growing as she should, the lactation consultant explaining the up and down nature of a breastfed-baby's growth curve or my comforting trip to visit my folks in Texas. My mom looked at Skylar and in a somehow-not-condescending tone said, "How can you think there's anything wrong with her? She's thriving!" Perhaps there's a little milk magic in San Antone, because Skylar looked a little pudgy after this second trip home as well!
Happy place!

Morning chats with Mimi!

As soon as I gave myself permission to think, "I'm making the perfect amount of milk for Skylar. She's not fat and that's OK," the storm of new motherhood insecurities subsided. I stopped pumping for two weeks and it was good for my brain. Sometimes putting a number on things is unnecessary. All lactation consultants say it-- "What you pump is not indicative of what baby extracts." Easy to say, but not easy to believe. I was staring at the bottles as I pumped, which is like standing above your stove, waiting for water to come to a boil...

Our generation is blessed and cursed by the abundance of information spoon-fed to us by a simple Google search. Just as you can freak yourself out by seeing your symptoms align with some deadly illness on WebMD, you can spook yourself into thinking something is seriously wrong with your baby. With so much information, there's bound to be misinformation and opinions written as fact.

I believe the Four-Month Mom Calm that kicked in was also do to my lack of research. I stopped reading about everything and gleaning information from the far corners of the internet. Babies have lived for millenia without first-time parents knowing much of anything about child-rearing. They used the people around them for advice (I assume), but I'm sure they didn't stress nearly as much as we Millennials do. There was no Dr. Spock in Ancient Rome. And with less stress, they probably produced more milk and their babies didn't feel the contagious tension when held in mama's arms. Just Annie's theories. Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely pleased to be raising a baby with modern medicine and knowledgable doctors...point is, civilization marched on, without Google.

I didn't stop reading everything, I simply stopped reading about everything. One book I recently Amazoned is "Raising A Healthy Happy Eater" by Fernando & Potock. I'm only in the introduction, but I already love the tone of the book. It's sciencey, without being incomprehensible. A resource for parents and doctors alike. Skylar will be starting solid food in the next couple months and I have no idea what I'm doing, so I'm relying on these feeding experts to guide me. The authors bring up the huge amount of energy devoted to proprioception (our ability to know where we are in space/where our limbs/fingers/toes are going) when baby is learning to eat. And balance. Imagine sitting on a bar stool, with your elbows off the table and your feet off of the foot rest and trying to eat. It would take a lot of core strength to successfully grab a bite of food...then there's the whole issue of proprioception/actually getting the food in your mouth. That's the example the authors give to help us empathize with our babies.

So interesting to think I was once that helpless...I can't imagine how frustrated little chunker me would have been, attempting to grab and place food in my mouth without finely-tuned motor skills...the thought frustrates me now as I precisely place a spoonful of peanut butter on my tongue. ;)

5-Month-Old Skylar Milestones

- She reaches for toys and grabs them/shakes them.

- She grabs her feet and resumes "happy baby" pose.

- She is teething. Gnawing on her pacifier more often than sucking on it. Drooling up a storm. I see some lumpy gums in that sweet mouth!

Plastic waffles....yum yum yum. 

- She SLEPT NINE HOURS...one night. haha. I'm not forcing sleeping through the night because she's SO distracted during her daytime feeds. So I think she still needs some nighttime milky sometimes (which is no big, because I usually sleep while she eats).

*Never in my wildest pre-Skylar dreams would I have thought that 4 a.m. feeds were "no big". Sure, it will be cool when they don't exist, but they really aren't much of an intrusion into my night's sleep.

Honestly, I didn't love motherhood for the first 8 weeks. It was hard, hard, hard. But I have complete amnesia about much of that chapter and am so in love with this little girl. My dad said, "You guys need to have another baby, so Skylar doesn't think the world revolves around her." #Truth #ButNotForAWhile
Someday, maybe you'll have Daddy's gorgeous tan, baby.