Christmas all the Time

There is a part of the Christmas story, often overlooked, that speaks directly to the heart of a mother. I know, I know, it’s not Christmas, and even if it were the most wonderful time of the year, the Christmas story as found in the Gospel of Luke is about God sending his son into the world, not motherhood. Just hear me out.

After there was no room in the inn, after the stable birth, after the shepherds appeared to worship baby Jesus, we read in Luke 2:19, “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

This is motherhood in full force – a statement that moms of any age, faith, and walks of life can relate to. Because isn’t that what we all do? We treasure, we ponder, and we replay those savored moments in our own hearts and minds again and again.

Let me tell you a little about my daughter. She is 13 months old, bright, spunky, and sweet as can be. She is a delight, and fits into our family in a way only God could have designed.

She is also the worst sleeper known to man.

(That may be a slight exaggeration, but over a year of sleep deprivation gives one license to be dramatic.)

Nap time is often a battle of the wills, and the very beginnings of sleeping through the night did not start until 11 months of age, and even then it was an inconsistent luxury.

Currently, at just over a year old, she allows us to get close to a full night’s rest nearly every night. This is due in no small part to a carefully crafted schedule of strict wake-up times, oddly specific nap lengths, and the willingness to continue rocking her to sleep. It turns out some of the research and organizational skills you learn in the professional world are directly applicable to motherhood.

Enter our ill-fated attempted to transition from two naps to one.

Things spiraled very quickly, but it’s not my fault really; Ellie gave us all the signs she was ready. She started skipping naps, happily stayed up for long stretches of time, took longer to put down, and fit in the correct age range. Everything I read about her behavior pointed to dropping that first nap. So down to one nap we went, and I excitedly began to plan everything I would do with our free mornings and my long afternoon stretch of alone time.

I thought of play dates, trips to the zoo, and story time at the library down the street, the afternoon coffee I could enjoy on the couch by myself, more time to write and focus on volunteer activities… my naive illusions were soon shattered by what I will forever call “the week with no sleep.”

As it turns out, she was tricking us. Despite all the signs she, in fact, was not ready to drop that morning nap and the consequence was a little girl who was so overtired she almost completely stopped sleeping at night.

I should have known because Ellie rarely does anything by the book. It’s usually something I love about her, but this particular week it caused me to whisper things like “you will not defeat me, I will win” in the dark of night. Not my finest mothering hour, to be sure.

In one of those sleepless moments rocking with Ellie I happened to glance over to her dresser at one of her Christmas presents, a board book that tells about the night Jesus was born from the perspective of different people and animals in the manger.

It may not be Christmas time, but she asks to read the book quite a bit, so I have it mostly memorized by this point. I thought about my favorite page, the one from Mary’s point of view. The one that always makes me tear up when I read it, because through simple language it reminds me of the depths of my love for Ellie. “I am Mary, the mother mild, how I love my tiny child.”

Why is it that when we tell the Christmas story the concept of motherhood is never talked about, aside from how Jesus came into the world? He was born of a virgin, and that’s it, Mary’s motherhood seemingly stops there. Except it doesn’t.

“But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

Through all the craziness of life, when we feel like we can’t keep going, in all the moments that feel inconvenient like giving birth in an animal stall and being immediately visited by strange men would have been, this verse speaks wisdom into our motherhood journey.

My mama heart finds memories to store forever, even in the difficult times.

I will never forget how Ellie’s face always looks like a newborn’s when she finally falls asleep, even as my arms can barely contain her tall, one year old body.

In her whiny and cranky moments, she runs to me for comfort and trusts me to provide for her needs.

It doesn’t matter how tired she gets, that girl loves a good dining room dance party and smiles at my dorky mom moves.

I know Ellie well enough to tell that the move to one nap clearly wasn’t working, and I was able to make the changes necessary to welcome sleep back into our lives. It fills me with awe and confidence in my God-given ability as a mom, and that is something you bet I will ponder often in the years to come.

Even now as I sit on my kitchen floor, stealing a few minutes with my laptop in an attempt to get these words onto a page before they leave my thoughts, I hear my daughter playing. She has switched the setting on her toy from English to Spanish and is babbling with delight at the new songs it sings. It’s a seemingly insignificant moment, but it makes my heart soar.

“But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

Ellie may not have slept that week, but in my exhaustion I gained perspective.

Motherhood gives us little gifts to remember always. It’s Christmas all year long.

Editors Note: I wrote this piece over a month ago, but the sentiment still holds true. Ellie is now 14 months old and officially on a one nap a day schedule! True to form, she did it in her own timing.

Motherhood, Grief, and my friend Chuck

Let me tell you about my friend, Chuck Ball.

I met Chuck when I was 17 years old and preparing to go on my first overseas missions trip to the country of Albania. He was 63 years old and, having been to Albania numerous times before, was one of the team leaders.

Chuck has a bit of a gruff exterior, and when I first got to know him I was more than a little intimidated by him. As it turns out, that gruffness was all show; you’d be hard pressed to find a more generous, encouraging, kind, and even funny man.

On that high school missions trip, thanks in large part to Chuck’s leadership, my love for Albania began. Fast-forward to today and I have been to Albania five times; three of these trips were with Chuck. He was a true friend and mentor, and in this moment it feels impossible to overstate the impact he has had on my life.

Two weeks ago I received news that Chuck had a heart attack and was at the hospital. The updates I heard throughout the day didn’t sound great, but I couldn’t bring myself to believe that this was the end. As I assured one friend, “I’m sure he’ll be fine, you know Chuck. We’ll see him at Christmas and give him a hard time about how he’s not allowed to get old and he’ll roll his eyes at us. It’s going to be fine, it has to be.”

Unfortunately a phone call from this same friend later than night confirmed our worst fears. Chuck had passed away. He was home in the arms of his Savior after a life so faithfully and well led.

I put the phone down and immediately burst into tears. But then something happened I wasn’t expecting, although I should have been. It’s something mundane, something that happens all the time. My ten month old reached up for me from her playpen, a big smile on her face. I had been getting her dinner when the news came, and she was hungry.

I dried my tears, picked her up, and went to get her mashed sweet potatoes off the stove. I spent the rest of the evening thinking about Chuck, but not really able to grieve the way I wanted. I couldn’t. There was dinner to eat and clean up, evening playtime to be had, bedtime stories to read… you get the picture. Mom life keeps on going, even when we want to stop.

Over the past couple of weeks since that day, I’ve realized that I have absolutely no idea how to grieve as a mom.

I’m an introvert by nature. I process sad news and major life changes best with a lot of alone time, introspection, and often times tears. Unfortunately alone time is a rare commodity these days, and while I could try to schedule a good cry in during one of Ellie’s naps, tears don’t really work that way.

I guess I’m adjusting to a new normal in more ways than one. How do I make processing my grief a priority while still maintaining the level of selflessness motherhood requires of me? What is the balance here?

I’m starting to suspect there’s no magic formula, but like all things on this motherhood journey I just need to keep prayerfully putting one foot in front of the other until I figure it out.

Grief is hard, but grief also gives us something to be thankful for. I had 13 years of learning from an incredible man, and while his loss hurts now, I would not trade his influence over those years for anything.

If you need me, I’ll be here simultaneously missing my friend and loving my family. And I’ll be sure to let you know if I discover that magic formula.

 

Six Months a Mama: A letter to myself

Dear Mama,

Congratulations! After the hardest 21 hours of your life you have welcomed a beautiful, healthy baby girl into the world. I know you are struggling as you try to figure out what just happened to your body while immediately caring for your daughter 24/7. You are utterly exhausted, overwhelmed, you have stitches in places no one should ever have stitches, you can barely stand without help, and you cry at the drop of a hat for no reason at all.

Unfortunately, it gets worse before it gets better. This is normal, even if it doesn’t feel that way.

But please, hang in there; because when it gets better… oh does it get better.

You know all those cliché sayings everyone shared with you while you were pregnant? You have just discovered the truth behind them.

You will feel a level of tired you never thought possible.

The days are long, but the years are short.

Parenthood will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but the most rewarding thing you’ve ever done.

That last phrase is your least favorite because while you identify with the hard, you haven’t experienced anything rewarding yet.

I want you to know that I see you ever so slowly pressing through this hard phase.

I see you struggling to breastfeed, when nursing is far from the magical bonding experience people told you it would be.

I see you sobbing in the middle of the night because you’ve only slept for twenty minutes and you just can’t take it anymore.

I see you having a breakdown because you really want to attend the mom’s group at a nearby church, but you don’t have the courage to leave the house.

Most importantly, I see you in your biggest struggle, the one based around yet another parenting cliché:

The second I laid eyes on her I was struck with a love so overwhelming it’s indescribable. I can’t even remember what life was like without her.

You remember exactly what it was like before Ellie was born. You worked hard to build a career that you loved, you made decent money, you fit into the cute clothes in your closet, you slept… need I go on? Your life was good before Ellie, and acknowledging that does not take away any of the wonderful things she now adds.

You’re also struggling with this new love. It is different from anything you have ever experienced, and while you enjoy being a Mama you don’t really feel it yet.

Don’t misunderstand me, I know you love your daughter. You know you love her too.

It’s the kind of love that gets you out of bed for the fourth time in one night because she is hungry and you will do anything to take care of her.

It’s the kind of love that would cause you to do everything in your power to keep her safe, including sacrifice your own life.

It’s a “kick ass” kind of love, as your dad will describe it, and it’s the kind of love that is known in your head before it’s felt in your heart.

I hear those desperate prayers as you cry out to God to bring joy and fulfillment in your new role. You pray to feel the love you know you have for your little girl.

God will hear those prayers too.

At three months you will start to feel like a person again, at five months you will find yourself thinking “this is fun” more often than not, and by six months you will look at your daughter and the weight of the love you have always had for her will come crashing down on you.

It’s a love that is swift and fierce, filled with both head knowledge and more warm fuzzy feelings than you could ever imagine. You will look at this little person you created and burst with awe and delight.

You will finally experience the reward everyone says accompanies the hard stuff, and it will be like nothing you have ever known.

Just as she is growing into a person, you are growing into your new role. Give yourself grace, and continue to rely on the Lord more than you ever have before. Look at the amazing journey you have been on already, with a lifetime of learning and growing to go.



 

Dressing my Postpartum Body, AKA Learning to Laugh at Myself

My daughter was born three months ago, and while my figure is still miles away from where I’d like it to be, it generally doesn’t bother me too much. My body’s most important purpose right now is nourishing her, and if that means some parts are softer and other parts are *ahem* bigger than I would otherwise like them to be, that is just fine.

But accepting my new body and dressing it are two entirely different things.

We are going out of town this week, my first time traveling since Ellie was born. It dawned on me the other day that a vacation means I am going to be out and about and interacting with other people for a solid week and a half. Not to mention, this trip revolves around two very important family events: a graduation and a wedding. The take away? My daily uniform of yoga pants and David’s shirts isn’t going to cut it.

I surveyed my current wardrobe and discovered I had approximately three shirts and one pair of pants that actually fit me. So, birthday money in hand, David, Ellie and I hit the mall!

I was pleasantly surprised by my jean size and not too upset by the new size large shirts I had to purchase to replace my smalls and mediums.

The real adventure came when I went bra shopping.

We got off the elevator on the third floor of Nordstrom where a young, slim sales associate greeted me. She was absolutely adorable and could not have been more than 20 years old. I told her I was looking for a nursing bra but had no idea of my size. She took me back to get measured.

*jaw drop*

You guys. Not cool.

I’m not going to divulge the details, but let’s just say it’s an embarrassingly large size.

The sales associate left the room and returned with two bras for me to try on.

“These are the only nursing bras we had in *insert ungodly size here*.”

I turned around and came face to face with two of the largest, matronly looking bras I have ever seen. Whatever. If they fit and get the job done, I guess I can’t complain.

I was pleasantly surprised when I tried one on. It may have been ugly as sin, but it was definitely comfortable.

Young, skinny sales associate came back in to check the fit, and the following conversation ensued:

Sales Associate: “Well, it looks like it fits pretty well. But… is your right side your smaller side? That cup isn’t fitting as well.”

Me: “It’s currently my smaller side because it’s the side my daughter just nursed on.”

Cue uncomfortable silence and an absolutely horrified look from the sales associate.

“… oh…”

Awesome.

I was tempted to menacingly whisper “this is your future” but decided against it.

Then, to add insult to injury, my body decided to revolt.

That’s right, I leaked all over my yet to be purchased new bra as I was trying it on.

That’s right.

All over.

As I was still trying it on.

Once again, awesome.

Ironically, before leaving for this shopping trip I thought to myself how great it was that I had yet to experience one of those embarrassing leaky boobs in public scenarios.

Serves me right for being cocky.

Ellie’s Birth Story

Prior to going into labor myself, I loved reading any and all birth stories I could get my hands on. Stories from blogs, Facebook, Instagram, emails from my pre-natal yoga instructor; stories written by women I knew and women who were complete strangers; stories from first time moms and seasoned veterans… if it was about birth, I wanted to read it. Their words went a long way towards helping me mentally prepare for my own birth; I hope my story is able to do that for other moms as well.


I started having severe hip pain and pressure at about 38 weeks, and at my 39 week appointment was two centimeters dilated, 50% effaced, and the baby was at zero station. However, I was not having any contractions to speak of, either real or Braxton Hicks. David and I spent the week walking a ton, doing yoga/Bradley exercises, and basically anything we could think of to get contractions going.

The highlight of these efforts had to be waddling at a snails pace for three miles around the park close to our house wearing David’s clothes because nothing else fit at that point. Pregnancy is glamorous.

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Trying to walk the baby out at 39 weeks. Looking and feeling very pregnant!

Our due date of January 30th came and went, and I still was not having any contractions.

We had our 40 week appointment first thing in the morning on February 2nd. My doctor checked me again and this time I had progressed to being four centimeters dilated, 99% effaced, and the baby had moved down to positive one station. All without any contractions! We decided to have the doctor strip my membranes in hopes it would get things going!

“I’m on call in labor and delivery starting tomorrow morning. I suspect I will see you there!” she called as she walked out of the exam room.

I was very shaky after the doctor’s appointment and even got sick on the way out to the car. We didn’t know it then, but this was the onset of labor!

By the time we got home I had started having very mild contractions, coming every half an hour or so. David called his office and let them know he would not be coming in, and I tried to lie down to get some sleep. My nap didn’t last long, however, as pretty soon the contractions shortened to being 12 minutes apart and started becoming painful.

Through the afternoon I labored in our living room, sitting with my legs crossed while leaning forward over our ottoman. David picked out a book, The Best of Clarence Day, to read out loud in between contractions to distract me and help me relax. During contractions, he would get on the ground with me and massage my lower back. I was experiencing quite a bit of back labor, so this was the only thing that made the pain manageable.

“As I heard the story years afterward, it was late when he got there, and he bounded up the front stoop two or three steps at a time, and…” David would read, until “Ok, sweetheart you have about 30 seconds until the next contraction starts, get ready. Breathe, breathe, breathe… you’re doing great… half way there… and done. Great job!” Then he would go back to reading to me.

Delaney the bulldog sat very calmly next to me, listening to David and letting me pet her. It was a surprisingly good distraction from the pain.

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The one picture I took while in labor. We had a very peaceful afternoon, considering what was happening.

The day was long, but passed by sweetly as I continued to labor away.

By the late afternoon contractions had jumped to seven minutes apart and became very intense. It was incredibly difficult to relax through them, but David did a wonderful job talking me through each one, providing encouragement, and continuing to apply pressure to my low back.

As day turned to night, we watched a movie and tried to get as much rest as we could.

Then around 10:00pm contractions suddenly stopped. They became super spread out and very mild. We decided to walk around the block to try to get them going again, I spent some time gently bouncing on my yoga ball, and finally decided to lay down and get some rest. That did the trick, because within an hour of falling asleep the contractions were back with a vengeance! They were still seven minutes apart, but even more intense than they had been before.

I don’t remember much at this point. I was desperately trying anything I could to cope, but it felt like the contractions were beginning to win. Eventually, I ended up on my side in bed, clutching a big pile of pillows. David sat with me and continued to read, but his voice sounded very far away. I was in so much pain that I had gone into a trance-like state.

Finally, contractions dropped to being every five minutes and we were told we could come to the hospital. We got there around 3:00am and were escorted into triage. By this point the contractions were coming even closer together.

“Wow, your contractions are registering very strong,” said the triage nurse. “And you are dilated to a six! Let’s get you admitted!”

The nurse was optimistic, but I was disappointed with my progress. I had been laboring for 16 hours and was told I had only gone from four centimeters dilated to six.

The hospital staff was very respectful of our birth plan (our ultimate “plan” was whatever it took to get a healthy baby, but we really wanted to have a medication free birth if possible), and didn’t push any sort of medication on us, but I knew I was exhausted and had reached my limit, so David and I decided to request an epidural. In hindsight, I think this was possibly the best decision I made because things got so crazy at the end, I don’t think I would have had the energy to push her out without the brief break the epidural provided me.

They gave me a very low base level dose, and I refused to push the button for more medicine. This meant I could still feel each contraction, but the pain was dulled. Sweet relief! Thankfully I could also still feel and move my legs.

From that point, things started moving very quickly.

After we were settled into our Labor and Delivery room, the nurse offered to show David the pantry where he could get me snacks and ice chips. I immediately piped up and asked him to go; it may sound silly, but those amazing, easy to chew hospital ice chips were something I was really looking forward to. David went off with our nurse and I curled up on my side, finally able to really relax for the first time in almost 17 hours. Then…

*pop*

*gush*

“My water broke!” I thought, lifting my head with a huge smile on my face. “One step closer. I can’t wait for David to get back, he’ll be so excited.”

All of a sudden the door flew open and a doctor and three or four nurses rushed in. Apparently the baby did not handle my water breaking well at all, and her heart rate had plummeted.

“Ok mom, the baby’s heart rate isn’t where we’d like it to be, we need you to roll over to your other side. Quickly.”

I heaved my knees, rolling my body and all the cords and monitors to my other side.

“Heart rate is still dropping,” the doctor murmured with concern to one of the nurses.

“Alright, mom, we need you to get on your hands and knees. Can you do that on your own, or do we need to lift you?”

“I can do it,” I assured them, saying a silent prayer of thanks that even though they were heavy with medication, I could still feel my legs.

It took all my leg, upper body, and non-existent core strength to roll over onto my hands and knees and hold myself there. Once I was up, I looked under my arm and noticed David had made it back to the room and was standing behind the doctor and nurses clutching my big cup of ice chips. Talk about a chaotic scene to walk in to! He gave me a concerned, but reassuring smile, and I smiled back.

The hands and knees position wasn’t working to bring her heart rate back up either, and they stopped being able to get a good read on the external monitor. The doctor called out that she was going to put an internal fetal monitor on the baby.

“I’m still not happy with that heart rate. We’re going to give it a couple more minutes, but if it doesn’t come up we’re going to have to get her out through a cesarean section.”

An emergency c-section? That was definitely not what we had hoped for.

I took a deep breath, “Whatever you have to do to keep her safe.” David agreed.

Thankfully, her heart rate finally came back up to a safe level and they let me lay back down on my side. The big group of nurses cleared out and David came back to his seat right next to me. “Crisis averted,” I looked up at him and tried to say with a laugh; but it was a frightening several minutes.

Before we knew it, it was 6:30am, I was dilated to a ten and felt a very strong urge to push. By this point the epidural had just about completely worn off, so I could feel everything, which is exactly what I wanted. The contractions were coming one right on top of the other and were barely tolerable. One of the nurses actually commented that she rarely ever saw contractions that intense and close together without the use of Pitocin. Awesome.

I started to push, but once again our girl was not handling the change in her environment well and her heart rate would plummet each time I pushed.

The doctor decided to have me wait to see if she would move further down the birth canal on her own. I was able to hold off for a while; by far one of the hardest things I have ever done! David stood right next to me, talking me through each contraction, while I focused intently on my breathing.

“Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.” It was the only thing getting me through.

At 7:30am it was finally time to push again! Baby girl still wasn’t doing well with the pushing, so I was told to only push on the very strong contractions.

They turned on that huge spotlight over the bed, and the doctor and several nurses took their positions. Everything was a blur at this point, almost like an out of body experience.

With all the commotion and bright lights around me, the only thing I remember being in focus is David’s face as he talked me through everything.

“Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, and PUSH! You can do it, babe. That’s it!”

It was painful and all encompassing, but thankfully I was making quick progress.

Then I heard the doctor’s matter of fact tone once again.

“Baby and mom are both in distress.”

Apparently, both our heart rates were dropping at the same time.

“I’m going to get out the vacuum, if this doesn’t work we’re going to resort to an emergency cesarean. I need you to push!”

An emergency c-section? Again?? I looked at David holding my leg and sweetly smiling down on me, closed my eyes, and gave it everything I had.

A few more pushes and out she came at 8:01am after only 30 short, but scary minutes of pushing!

I felt an immediate release as they placed her on my chest. I closed my eyes and as she let out her first cries, I allowed everything to wash over me; the exhaustion, the elation, the strong feeling of relief that it was over, the extreme joy that she was here, the way her body felt wiggling on top of me, the sense of comfort I had with her, the fact that she was mine.

“There’s ten of everything, and look at the size of those hands and feet!” the doctor said happily.

After all of that, the only thing I could manage to say was “Is she still a girl??” much to everyone’s amusement. What can I say? After we decided to go the very girly pink flamingo route with her nursery, I was paranoid she was going to come out a boy.

I could feel right away that she was a big baby; even so, I could hardly believe it when the nurse weighed her a couple of minutes later… 9lbs 11oz! No wonder she was so hard to get out!

They placed her back on my chest and I looked over at David. “She has your lips,” he smiled at me. “She’s beautiful.”

I lifted my head, laying my eyes on her for the first time. We had two names picked out for her going into the birth, and had decided to wait until we actually met her to decide on one.

“She doesn’t look like a Harper,” I said. David smiled again, “You know what my favorite name has been from the start.”

I looked back at our little wiggle worm. “Elenora,” I said.

“Hi, Ellie.”


My labor was 21 hours from start to finish, and a lot more extreme than I was expecting. I don’t know exactly what I thought giving birth would be like, but the reality of it was nothing like I imagined it would be.

If I could give any advice to new moms who have not yet delivered it would be to hold on to your expectations loosely and make sure you have a good support team.

There is absolutely no way I could have done any of it without David, he was the best coach, emotionally and physically supporting me through every minute. Like we tackle just about everything in our lives, we were truly a team. From the start of my pregnancy to the very end, we were in it together. Thankfully, that same teamwork has transferred into our parenting. I love him so much. Ellie and I are so very, very lucky.

I am also thankful that while we had goals for the birth, I didn’t allow myself to expect anything. If I had, I probably would have come out of this experience disappointed because things didn’t go at all how I wanted them to. The reality is there is nothing to be disappointed about! I managed to power through a long, difficult labor and I have a beautiful, healthy little girl to show for it.

It is truly amazing what our bodies can do.

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Ellie in all her beautiful, sweet newness.

Welcome 2017!

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” ~ Proverbs 16:9

New Years is usually not a big holiday for me, but there have been two times in my life when the idea of leaving a particularly difficult year behind has been so welcome that I have literally counted the days to New Years Eve.

2016 has been one of those years.

January 2016 started with the first of many doctor’s appointments that would eventually lead to our infertility diagnosis. Shortly after, I found out that my job would be ending towards the end of the year. I was working in my dream job with amazing co-workers for the best boss and felt like I was really hitting my stride. It was someplace I thought I could successfully be a working mom while continuing to grow in my career. The plan was to work for a few more years, save for a house, and then gracefully bow out to become a stay at home mom, hopefully about the time baby number two came along. I had it all under control; looking for a new job while trying to get pregnant was totally not my plan.

After adjusting to the idea of saying goodbye to the job and my co-workers, and a lot of discussion and prayer with David, I still wasn’t sure how to proceed. Do we put fertility treatments and having kids on hold for a while so I could focus on finding and growing into a new job? Do we charge full steam ahead into treatments and risk the fact that getting pregnant would certainly interfere with my ability to get a job? What direction were we supposed to go?

Ultimately, we decided to leave it in the Lord’s hands. I would put my job hunt on hold for a few months while we pursued treatment. If the treatments didn’t work after a period of time, we’d put those on hold and I would focus on the job hunt. Our intended path became clear to us very quickly when after our first round of clomid, we found out we were pregnant with our baby girl! My pregnancy has definitely been a huge source of blessing in an otherwise difficult year.

Things were finally looking up, but later in the year, my sweet boss and mentor, Sharon, passed away, followed closely by another dear friend, Judy. More loss; more goodbyes. (If you’re interested, I wrote more about these women in my post “For Such a Time as This: Thoughts on our Baby Girl”).

All in all, 2016 felt like a year dominated by loss. But, when I look back, I realize it can be best summed up by Proverbs 16:9, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” I started the year with a lot of plans, holding very tightly to the way I saw my life going. But, the Lord had a different journey in mind, and I can see that through all the tough goodbyes there have been a ton of blessings.

Rather than look at 2016 as a year of loss, I choose to look at it as a year of growth.

Friendships have been deepened in ways I could never imagine; I had the opportunity to travel; I spent some absolutely irreplaceable time with Sharon and Judy in the days before they passed away; I was able to finish my dream job strong in a way I am proud of; I have been supported and uplifted by amazing individuals who I have been able to support in return; I grew closer to family; I cherished time with my husband who I love more today than I did at the start of the year; and, though it was hard at times, I spent eight months of 2016 growing a precious life inside of me.

I had my plans, but the Lord established my steps. 2016 was filled with pain, but 2016 was also filled with joy and so much love. I’m not sad to see it go, but I understand that it’s a year that needed to happen.

And with that, I look toward 2017 with great anticipation! It’s the year I’ll get to meet our baby girl, transition into stay at home motherhood (more on that in an upcoming post), and hopefully see relationships with my family and friends deepen even further. I know it will be another year filled with growth, and hopefully a little less loss. I can’t wait.

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2016 in photos

Maternity Pictures!

Over Thanksgiving weekend David and I took maternity pictures and I am so thrilled with how they turned out, I just have to share. We took them in my parent’s beautiful backyard; it was a fun, special time to focus on our baby girl and her upcoming arrival.

Our amazing photographer, Stephen Cavecche, just happens to be my younger brother, but we would hire him again and again for our photography needs even if he wasn’t family ;). If you like what you see, check out his website at http://www.stephencphoto.com/.


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Photographer: Stephen Cavecche Photography
Location: Private Residence
Dress: Pink Blush Maternity

Advice about questioning plans to have kids, from someone who has been there

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to accuse or call out any of my specific friends or family members in any way, but rather to provide general advice to anyone interested in hearing it from my unique perspective.

Thanksgiving is a few short days away, and before we know it Christmas will be here! This season is truly my favorite time of year. I love all the celebrations, decorations, traditions, good food, and, most importantly, quality time with friends and family, some of whom I often don’t see the rest of the year. However, the holidays can also be hard for a number of different reasons.

If you are married without kids, you are probably asked on a somewhat regular basis by friends, family members, co-workers, creepy dudes in the grocery store and other complete strangers when you are planning on starting your family. I know I probably got asked that question from one person or another at least once a month. The holiday season, with all its extended family time, is often filled with these kinds of proverbial land mines.

This time last year, David and I had been trying to conceive for about two months and even though we were still early in the process we already had an inkling something was wrong. Very few people knew we were trying, and I had told hardly anyone that my body just wasn’t working right after stopping birth control.

In years past, handling questions about our family plans wasn’t hard. However, there is something about trying to conceive, even if you have only been trying a short time, that makes those questions incredibly painful and intrusive.

The purpose of this post is not to speak to the women who may be struggling to get pregnant this holiday season. You are brave and strong, and I know you have your own ways of dealing with this very personal issue. Every woman copes in her own way.

Instead, I would like to take a moment to address well-meaning family members who plan on asking their niece/sister/cousin/aunt/daughter/relation of any sort when they plan on having a baby: With all due love and respect, please don’t.

“You guys have been married for what, three years now? Are kids in your future anytime soon?”

“I heard about your husband’s new job, so excited for you! I guess now you guys can get started on popping out some kids! Just kidding. Sort of. When can we expect some babies?”

“I was surprised to hear your cousin was expecting, I thought for sure you would be the next one in the family making a pregnancy announcement.”

“You look great holding that baby, I think it’s time for some kids of your own!”

I know these statements and questions are well meaning and said with the best of intentions. But, the truth is, they are practically impossible to answer if you are trying to conceive and only serve as a reminder of what you want more than anything, but for some reason aren’t capable of at the moment.

While David and I were trying, I voluntarily reached out to those I was comfortable telling. When those individuals asked me how things were going in that department, I felt loved and was happy to answer their questions honestly. When individuals who were not in the know made statements like the above in front of a large Thanksgiving crowd, I laughed nervously at the time and cried to David later.

So, a word of unsolicited advice this holiday season from my humble point of view: if you don’t already know the status of someone’s family plans, it is best to not ask or comment, especially in a public setting. You never know what kind of battles someone else is fighting.

This is Pregnancy

This post is dedicated to all the amazing women who were real with me about what I was getting myself into. You are my heroes. Seriously.

Now that our pregnancy is public, the number one question I am (understandably) asked is “How are you feeling?” And honestly, now that I’m in my second trimester, I’m feeling pretty good! But the first trimester… that was an entirely different story.

I made a promise to myself during fertility treatments that I when I became pregnant I would not complain about my symptoms, no matter how bad they were. I know all too well that many women would sacrifice just about anything for the blessing of being able to carry a child. In honor of them, and my own journey, I have been determined to ride out the difficult parts of pregnancy with positivity and grace.

However, in some situations, there is nothing wrong with telling it like it is. So ladies (or gentlemen who happen to be reading this), in the spirit of encouragement and camaraderie let me tell you, pregnancy is not all sunshine and rainbows.

Lest you be fooled by what I like to call the “perfect preggo” whose pictures we often see floating around Instagram, let me give you a small glimpse of what my first three months were like.

Parks and Rec

My workout routine was the first thing to go, followed closely by my ability to eat anything that remotely resembled healthy food. I didn’t do my hair or wear make-up. Ever. Attempting to shower on a somewhat regular basis and put on clean, matching clothes became a monumental task; as did driving, walking, running errands, doing housework, talking to people, and showing up for work on time. If I was fully clothed, smelling alright, and not throwing up it was a good day.

Insane nausea and fatigue ruled all. Pre-pregnancy Kendra harshly judged pregnant Kendra on a daily basis, but sick and tired pregnant Kendra could have cared less.

There is one incident in particular that I think perfectly captures the “glamour” of this stage. SPOILER ALERT: If you don’t like reading stories that involve throw up, stop now. You have been warned.

One morning smack dab in the middle of my first trimester, David was getting ready for work and therefore occupying our only bathroom. I was in the middle of my own morning routine: lying in bed taking deep breaths while waiting for my anti-nausea medicine to take effect. (Can I get an “amen” for Zofran?) Delaney, our unsuspecting bulldog, was sleeping on her bed in our room.

All of a sudden, a swift and fierce wave of nausea hit; unfortunately this was going to be a day where Zofran did mercifully little to control my symptoms. I jumped out of bed and sprinted towards the closed door of our bathroom. Delaney, thinking this was a signal to play, ran ahead of me and jumped up on the front of my legs. The epic nausea, closed bathroom door, and bulldog delay were the perfect storm. I lost it. EVERYWHERE. Right there in my hallway.

Delaney fled to safety and poor David opened the door a second later to find me kneeling in a gigantic mess, still very much in the middle of getting sick. He gently ushered me into the bathroom and began cleaning up. A couple minutes later, while I was still huddled over the toilet, I heard him say “Aw, bulldog, she got you too.”

You guys, I threw up on my dog. This is pregnancy.

Granted, I have had a harder introduction to pregnancy than a lot of women. I know my “morning” (read: all day) sickness was on the severe end of the scale. I even ended up in the hospital for fluids after an extremely bad bought of nausea left me dangerously dehydrated.

So, if you are reading this and have not experienced pregnancy for yourself, don’t let me scare you. I just want to provide a little levity and encouragement so you don’t feel bad if you don’t live up to the myth of the woman with an easy breezy pregnancy. One day you can say to yourself, “at least I didn’t throw up on my dog like that one chick.”

And if you happen to be one of those aforementioned “perfect preggos” then more power to you! Please, share your secrets with the rest of us.