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Adventures at Knee-High

A happy gal, her toddler, her baby, & her best friend

Let It Go. (Sorry.)
be happy
barefoot_mummy

The sun is SHINING, you guys. And it's WARM. Well, almost.

 

We're going outside. I know. Daring.

 

We've got until Sunday to enjoy this nice weather, and then it's back to damp and chilly for a bit. So, until then, I'm going offline.

 

I'm not sharing this information because y'all are going to be missing me five minutes from now and wondering where I went. I'm not posting this because three days offline is some kind of heroic feat. No big life lessons here.

 

Just this simple encouragement, a few days out from Spring, for us all to do a bit of spring cleaning in our own day-to-day. I have some awesome, inspiring, supportive, encouraging, hilarious communities of friends on Facebook - distant family, mama friends, brothers and sisters in the Lord - many of whom I only have contact with via Facebook. I also have a tendency to check in on that newsfeed a bit too often.

 

So, from now until Sunday, for me there'll be no Facebook scrolling, no Instagram sharing, no Pinterest birthday party planning. Just living. In the moment.

 

It takes longer than three days to break a habit - but it's a good start. I've had numerous conversations with other mamas about sleep training lately, and in teaching a baby to settle it's often the third night that's the breakthrough.

 

So why not? There's still time to have a breakthrough now, while it's still winter. Yours doesn't have to be social media-related, but I'm sure there's something - habit, fear, lack of motivation - that's dragging you down and holding you back from making your Today completely awesome.

 

Let's make like the blond chick and Let It Go. Kick that habit. Face that fear. Get up and do what you couldn't be bothered doing. Punch today in the face.

 

And then give it a big hug, and share an ice cream.

 

Let's do this. We've all got much to live for.

 

I'm off to blow bubbles and play trains and draw dinosaurs and frolic in the sunshine with these bonces.


Happy Spring cleaning!


8 Things I Know
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barefoot_mummy
1. Bonces Gotta Bonce.

So, you had a baby recently, eh? Yeah, good for you, Mummy. Whatevs. Now... TO THE PLAYGROUND!!!!!



She likes showing me what she already knows she can do. He likes mastering all there is to be mastered. They both like to swing.



And Theo? He sleeps while they wear themselves out.



(They're not really wearing themselves out. They've still got plenty more in the tank.)

This thing I know: Kids need to play, and run, and shout, and climb, and knock each other over on the swings. No matter how cold, no matter how weary Mama might be, no matter how many other things could be getting done... bonces who get to play are happy bonces. It's worth every frozen minute of playground loitering.


2. She's Growing Up.

Who is this leggy piece of work with the kinder friends and the mad reading skillz? Seriously, when did this happen? Suddenly I have this grown-up, cord-cutting, baby-loving, pregnancy-faking kid around the place...



She's got a whole new level of coping skills, and an eagerness for chores. With two little boys in the house, I'm very much aware of - and thankful for - her willingness to help, her ability to dress and (kind of) groom herself, and her awesome level of communication. She's fun, and interesting, and affectionate, and I LOVE HER.

And so does this guy, who gives her the BIGGEST smiles:



This thing I know: I am SO PROUD of who my girl is growing up to be.


3. Theo Is Cute.

Exhibit A:



Exhibit B:



He's laid-back, and cuddly, and starting to crank out those smiles. He loves to be held, he loves to be with us, and HE KNOWS HIS MAMA. (Who sometimes sneaks away to eat breakfast with two free hands.)



He was born in water, and he doesn't seem to have forgotten.



This thing I know: The hashtag is correct - this kid really is #theodoreable. I'm smitten.


4. He's a Darling.

My Owen is crazy and unpredictable and loves a good "shooter". (Note: ANYTHING can be made into a shooter. Pencil? Obviously. Duplo? Of course. Tissue box? No problem.) He takes things apart and wrestles his sister and crashes toy cars.



He's also so independent he insists on making his own Teddy Bread and choosing his own vitamin from a selection of three, and woe betide anyone who peels his banana for him...



But he's the SWEETEST BOY. Look!



Think he loves his brother? (Hint: he does.)



He can be talking all tough one moment, and the next he sees Theo and his voices switches up three octaves and he goes to mush and it's all, "Hel-lo Feo!" "Hel-lo, lit-tle guuuuuuuuuuuuuuyyy!"



I'm learning to work with his independence instead of trying to control it. I'm learning to appreciate his desire to do everything for himself. I'm learning to embrace his quirks and not get frustrated. I'm learning to let go of Teddy Bread ever looking this good again:



This strong-willed independent streak is fine. Better than fine. Because I know he's setting himself up to be such a confident, capable young man.

(Even if it does mean him taking apart the Lego house I made when I was a kid, in TEN SECONDS FLAT.)



And he's pretty lovely to hang out with.



This thing I know: My little big boy is one awesome dude.


5. We Made a Good Investment.

Baby Owen, who made us tired (and slightly deaf) and took up so very much of our time that poor Little Ellie only got whatever tired scraps were left... we were right about him. He was an AWESOME investment in Ellie's future. Because here they are, not even three years in, and BESTEST buddies.



I love these little packages of nonsense. I love the way they negotiate turn-taking. I love the way they chat when they think I'm not listening. I love the way she calls him "Owie" and watches out for him with her particular combination of care and bossiness. I love the drawn-out way he says her name - "Ahhhl-liee" - and how he loves to surprise her and willingly goes along with all her crazy make-believe games.



I love when they pose together. Because they're just SO CUTE.



I love when they snuggle up together for prayer at bedtime...



(... which was cuter before I turned the light on to take a picture and dazzled the eyeballs out of them both).

They're little mates, and they're there for each other, and I love it.



This thing I know: They are of so much value in each other's lives, those difficult early months were worth every moment.


6. We're Making Another Investment Right Now.

And knowing this, it's so much easier to say, "Sorry, Owen, I can't pick you up right now - I'm holding Theo," or "Sorry, Ellie, I'll do crafting with you later - I have to feed Theo." Because today, Theo is using up most of my time. But then we'll blink, and look again, and he'll be running around with them, playing "Queens and Baddies" and exponentially multiplying their fun.

They're already practicing.



And meanwhile, I'm pretty sure no grudges are being held.



This thing I know: Theo is slotting right into this family like the missing piece we never knew we were missing. We love him.


7. I Would Get Nothing Done Without The Hugabub.

Seriously.



I've never cuddled such a cuddly baby as our Theo. Tired, grouchy, overwhelmed? I pop him in the Hugabub, and within a MINUTE most times he's asleep. Or at least awake but quiet and content. It's lovely. The easiest and most practical bonding time ever. And it means my hands are free to cook dinner, play with the kids, write a blog post... and of course, HAVE ADVENTURES.



(Which have included Rebel Owen deciding, halfway home from the park, that he wasn't done. And MARCHING BACK THERE ALL BY HIMSELF.)


(Important note: It's pretty much impossible to actually give chase in this thing; the best you can hope for is a kind of long-distance follow.)

Looking back on our early weeks with Owen, I wish we'd had this thing back then. I wonder how much it would have eased that transition from one to two. It's lovely for Theo to be held close and feel calm and settled, even while his boncey big brother and sister are keeping me busy.

Also, who doesn't love a babywearing daddy? :) This guy is awesome. He's been sick for a couple of weeks, and suddenly this week I was even sicker and dude took care of EVERYTHING while I pretty much slept three days away.



This thing I know: Theo's starting to get the hang of napping in his bassinet, and that gives me all kinds of new freedom. But he's still new, and he wants to be close to us, and that's fine. In fact, better than fine - I love it. I'm going to miss this when he's bigger.


8. I love what I do.

As far as I'm concerned, motherhood is the best gig ever. I get asked about how I cope with the "hard work" of having three little ones. Strangers at the shops love to tell me I've "got my hands full".

And I have.

Full of blessing. Full of love. Full of fun. Full of joy. My kids don't just fill my time with tasks and my car with crumbs and my ears with songs from Frozen and my house with plastic nonsense which may or may not be turned into "shooters". They fill my whole heart. Pretty sure mamas actually grow a new, bigger heart, just to hold it all.

Sure, my days might look like they're full of child-care-related busyness, without much more than a stolen moment or two to myself. And that's mostly true. But that busyness isn't WORK. It isn't something I HAVE to do, to get to the two seconds of enjoyment. It's ALL good.

I'm not suggesting there's anything glamorous about washing out little undies, or breaking up fights, or collecting the detritus from a week's worth of snacks from under the car seats. And getting a solid night's sleep, or going to the toilet alone, or having a snack without the need for stealth? Sure, they all sound like lovely notions. But I LOVE WHAT I DO. I love doing the hundred little things they need me to do for them every day, because I LOVE THEM. And THEY NEED ME. That's the deal.

And it's a pretty sweet deal. I drop what I'm doing to intervene when they're fighting, and I get to see two little people learning about relationships and social skills and kindness and grace. I herd my little circus through the supermarket, and through all the "ComeonOwen don'ttouchthat waitforme slowdownplease keepupEllie putthatback youdon'thavetocountthemALL we'vegotenoughchocolate STOPTOUCHINGTHINGS" routine, I get to see my daughter practicing her newfound reading and numeracy skills, my son taking such puff-chested pride in being a good helper, my kids working together and encouraging each other and doing their best to be patient.

Like a family photo, from the outside this life might not always look all that glamourous or fun. Tired eyes, strained smiles, stressy babies, four-year-old attitude, two-year-old angst... great big looming red-eyed koalas...


(Liam: too tired for a photo. Ellie: too cool for a photo. Owen: shall not be made to stand where he does not wish to stand. NO. I GO STAND WITH MUMMY. GOOD BYE.)

But despite appearances, that (pictured) stopoff was nice. We stretched our legs. Theo was fine. Owen slipped his warm little hand into mine and we had a lovely little moment. Ellie practiced skipping and happily ticked off another spot on her roadtrip map. And Liam had a cup of coffee just up the road and felt much better.

Likewise, my moments might look chaotic. My kids might argue and interrupt and make a mess. You might not get as much of me as you once would have, because my time and attention have to spread a little further first.

But in the words of the Chilli Peppers, THIS LIFE I CHOOSE. It wasn't thrust upon me to add to all the work I already have to do. "Whoa, yikes, now I've got another one to deal with..." No. I love these kids. I love being their mum, with everything that entails. It's challenging. It's fulfilling. It's FUN.

I love what I do.

And at the end of the day, when they all fall asleep, then no matter how crazy it's been, no matter how busy, no matter how noisy and messy and exhausting...



... This thing I know: I am so blessed.

Theo's Birth Story
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barefoot_mummy
At this time one week ago, our little boy was born. It was my dream birth. I am so incredibly thankful - to my midwives and my doula for their wisdom and support; to my family and friends for their assistance and love; to my children for their awesomeness through the whole thing; to my husband for his calm patience and best-friendship; to my baby for being the perfect little chooch of a bonce #3 that we always knew he'd be... and above all, to the Lord for always seeing us through and always knowing exactly what's best - and giving it to us. I am so blessed.

That it's been a week already is astonishing two ways:
1. It's been a week already??
and
2. How can it be that I've only known him for a week??
So, in honour of this first milestone, I'm cooking chicken noodle soup and sharing a very special story.

***
Monday 5 May was a day I hadn't really expected to get to: my baby's estimated due date. Ellie, who was posterior and came at 41+1 after over a week of false starts, probably would have come that week earlier if she'd been anterior and triggering more effective contractions. Owen came at 38+4, and took 2 1/4 hours from start to finish - and Liam packed my hospital bag while I was in labour! This time, I was ready by 37 weeks.

And then 37 weeks passed. And 38. And 39.

I wasn't exactly miserable yet, but I was very heavily pregnant and still responsible for two busy little children. I'd had enough of my physical limitations when it came to doing things with my kids. I'd had enough of Discussions with OBs about the best way to manage the birth of my baby because of my (completely diet-controlled and never a high reading) gestational diabetes. Every time a new concern had arisen, we'd prayed and the Lord had dealt with it immediately (and I'll share some of those stories another day), but I'd had enough of new concerns arising. I'd had enough of understanding the facts and statistics and theories enough to believe it would all be fine, but never really knowing. Oh, had I ever had enough of not knowing.

I wanted to meet this little person who I've always known we've been waiting for. I wanted to see my baby's face and touch my baby's hair and smell my baby's skin and feel my baby's warmth. I wanted my baby to stop having violent hiccups on my bladder, also.

I spent that Monday working on congratulating myself for making it so far, for having a perfectly cooked baby, for carrying this baby so well for so long. It was a long day, but it was okay.

Tuesday I woke feeling peace. I was back to truly feeling what I'd been saying all along - that the Lord had this all figured out, baby would come when ready, and I was in no rush. Everything would happen as it should, at exactly the right time.

I had no idea how right I was about that.

We gobbled an early dinner that day, and I dressed up nice and went out for the first time in days - with Ellie, to Mother's Night at her kinder. I spent a lovely hour and a half playing with her and chatting to other mums, most of whom couldn't believe I was there. I was feeling great. People kept offering me chairs, and I kept suddenly remembering I was 40 weeks pregnant.

That night we went home, took photos of Ellie and I in our dresses (and Owen in his "Awesome" jumper, because where there's a camera there's Owen), and put the kids to bed. I chatted to Liam about how peaceful I was feeling about the whole waiting thing.
4am, I woke to go to the toilet, and realized the crampy feeling I was having was starting and stopping. At regular intervals. Almost like... contractions.

There's something unmistakeable about early labour contractions, to me. I'd had a false alarm the Friday before, but those (reasonably strong) contractions only had me wondering if I was going into labour. These mild, crampy feelings were different, and just like last time, deep down I knew.

Around 5am, I remembered the contraction timer app I'd downloaded on that Friday. I spent an hour timing increasingly strong crampy contractions, which were coming roughly every 12 minutes and lasting a little over a minute.

At 6am I decided I'd had enough of being in bed. I grabbed my dressing gown and slipped out, leaving Liam sleeping. By the time Ellie woke at 6:20am - bringing Daddy with her, as she does - I'd set up most of my birthy things and was contracting for a little under a minute and much more frequently (7.5 - 4.5 minutes apart). They were definitely feeling more like contractions than cramps by now, but I was still able to walk around and talk through them, and I was feeling quite peaceful and relaxed about the whole thing. Owen got up shortly after, and I sent Liam back to bed while the kids settled down to breakfast. I told Ellie what was happening, and that this might be the day that the baby would come - she was excited, but understood that I needed her to be calm. Actually, she was an absolute darling.

At 6:45am I started feeling stressed at the thought of the kids needing me for something during a contraction, and took that as a cue to get Liam back up. I set him to work contacting Allison, our midwife, Sandy, our doula, and Renae, who'd offered to help with the kids, to let them know today was looking like being the day. Renae was supposed to be working, but managed to get the day off and arranged to pick up the kids soon. Allison and Sandy both made their own arrangements and put themselves on standby, awaiting further news.

By this stage, I was definitely retreating into Labour Land. When Liam tried to tell me what was being arranged, or ask what needed to be done, I was unable to process the information and really had no interest in trying. He immediately stepped up and Took Care Of Things, which was just what I needed.

I came out of the shower (reluctantly, because that warm water was amazing) and pottered around a bit more, and Renae collected two excited little people at 8am. My contractions paused while everything was happening, which didn't worry me at all - I knew that was to be expected. Liam went out to help Renae get the kids and their suitcases to the car, and the second the door shut behind them I was hit by the biggest contraction yet. My body had been waiting, and was keen to get on with it.

Liam came back in and we switched on my pre-selected CDs (Coldplay, Of Monsters & Men, Jack Johnson, Ella & Sascha, Mumford & Sons) and spent a nice half hour together in the kitchen, preparing chicken noodle soup in the slowcooker between contractions, and enjoying the peace of the morning.

Between 9am and 10am I timed contractions again - they were back to 1:30 every 12 minutes or so. Definitely contractions, but manageable. Sandy contacted Liam for an update, and I realized I was no longer walking or talking through my contractions. That gradual progress was reassuring to me, even though there were sometimes longer pauses between sets of contractions. It was all progress. We inflated the birth pool, set out a few last bits of birth-related paraphenalia, and rested.

At 11am I was still feeling peaceful and safe enough to send Liam out to the shops for a few groceries and last-minute baby things. While he was gone I had a couple of bigger contractions... then another fairly long pause. Liam came back with Baker's Delight for lunch, which I devoured and immediately wanted more of. In early labour with Ellie (there was no early labour with Owen) I'd been too edgy to eat - I can still remember the pie with a single bite missing, sitting on my plate all afternoon. This enjoyment of my lunch was another reminder of the peace and calm I was feeling this time. Everything was going perfectly.

After lunch I timed a couple of contractions again. I recorded one interval of 6:55, with a 1:04 contraction, followed by an interval of 3:04 and a 1:39 contraction. The irregularity of those contractions, and the effort involved in remembering to hit "start" and "stop", started to feel like too much bother. I quickly abandoned the timer and got into the rhythm of contraction, drink, wander, contraction, drink, wander, contraction, toilet, horrible toilet-related contraction, weird follow-up contraction, pause, repeat.

I reflected to Liam on how closely this resembled the "my perfect labour" I'd described to Sandy a few weeks earlier. Waking up knowing I was in labour, having time to peacefully get things together and settle into being in "the zone" (as opposed to the sudden intense speed of Owen's labour/birth)... it was wonderful. And being able to relax and know I was staying at home made a huge difference.

At around 1pm, we sat in the lounge and watched a couple of Olan Rogers stories on YouTube. When the second video finished, I realized it'd been a while since my last contraction. Liam went to get changed, and I started pacing the lounge again. Suddenly at 1:30pm, after a pause of exactly 16 minutes, a big two-minute one hit... closely followed by another... and another. I was leaning on the back of the couch and beginning to moan through them. Liam let Allison and Sandy know things had intensified and we'd probably be wanting them soon, and then rang them back a few minutes later to ask them to come over.

I sent Liam to fill the birth pool and turn on my labour playlist on my iPad, abandoned the timer completely, and moved into the next stage of labour with the simple, calm acceptance I'd always wanted. Perfect.

Sandy arrived at 2pm, closely followed by Allison. Allison checked my blood pressure and baby's heart rate, while Sandy made me raspberry leaf tea and gave me sips of water and reminded me to stay relaxed. We spent the next couple of hours chatting and laughing (and introducing Allison and Sandy to the wonderment that is a Terry's Chocolate Orange) in between contractions, during which everyone sat quietly while I leaned over the kitchen counter and moaned and breathed. It felt wonderfully calm and positive and joyful. I loved those couple of hours.

My contractions were becoming more and more intense, and after a while Allison tried applying pressure to my lower back while I was bent over the counter - which felt fantastic. I was finding myself stretching and swaying my hips instinctively, and wondered if I was helping baby move into a better position.

Baby had been sitting very much ROA for weeks (and oblique before that), and feeling quite unbalanced. During my false alarm the previous Friday I'd had some unusual pressure in the right side of my pelvis, which seemed to be related to that night's lack of progress. On the Saturday Sandy came over and tried some rebozo and positioning techniques, and I'd felt much more balanced since. A glance at my belly was enough to see baby was still hanging out over on the right, but I was feeling the head sitting evenly on my pelvis at last.

Alli later told me that when she heard how my earlier contractions were coming in sets, she thought it sounded a bit like back labour. Turns out baby was most likely rotating throughout the day, from ROA, through posterior (hence a patch of backache and a weirdly empty-looking belly at one point), to (optimum) LOA! Good job, baby!

At 4pm I had a contraction that challenged me with its intensity, and came out of it saying, "I think I'll get in the water soon." One more contraction and I was in. Oh, immediate relief! The warm water felt beautiful, and the bouyancy of the water helped me move freely to get comfortable. During my first contraction in the pool, Allison's backup midwife, Jenny, arrived. I remember being vaguely aware of her arrival, and opening my eyes afterwards to see her smile and wave at me.

Things started picking up pretty quickly from that point. I was vocalizing more, matching the intensity of the contractions with my voice just as I had in labour with Owen. Alli brought me sips of water, and Sandy leaned across the pool like an absolute trooper to apply pressure to my lower back for ages. When I began to moan she would murmur a simple acknowledgement, and I was surprised by how much that made me feel better.

I was getting loud, and every so often I'd find myself hugely uncomfortable and have to lean and shift around all over the place to find a new comfortable position. For the most part I was labouring on my knees, with my head on my arms on the side of the pool, but at times I was stretching up high on my knees, or sitting back between my heels, bracing my hands on my thighs.

At the time, it felt like a bit of a struggle - but in light of what we now believe was happening positioning-wise makes total sense, and it's wonderful that I was able to work so freely and instinctively with my body to help baby get perfectly aligned. (Imagine if I'd let the OBs talk me into inducing early, for no reason beyond a diagnosis of GD. Would my baby have had time to turn? Would I have had the capacity to help the process? Or how might that labour have ended up? Hmm...)

*steps down from soapbox*

In the middle of it all, there were little moments of awareness - Liam standing in the kitchen patiently waiting for a pot of water to boil for the pool, Allison and Sandy quietly offering me sips of drink, snippets of the songs I'd chosen (which buoyed me along much more than I'd expected). At some point, I became aware that the candles - which we'd left in the box because it was a beautiful sunny autumn day - had been brought out and lit. It added a soft, peaceful ambience to the room which was absolutely lovely. I remember saying "Hey, the candles are out!" and then leaning into another big contraction.

Suddenly, I found myself making a grunting sound and felt a huge urge to push, halfway through an otherwise normal contraction. I heard Allison comment on the sound I made, and say that it was good. The work got much harder from here. I was vocalizing so loudly into the side of the pool that Liam later told me I hurt his ears at one point. I think I remember that point - it hurt mine, too! I was finding it harder to pick a good position, moving my legs out behind me and back under, lifting up out of the water, leaning side to side, rocking right back, leaning into the side of the pool again, and hearing myself babbling strange sounds through the most intense contractions.

I let out one little "I can't!", which I didn't even mean, and Allison said "You can," and I already knew I could... and then the pushing urge came back and it was on. I was leaning right over the side of the pool (which was deflating slightly because of a tiny leak we'd discovered that morning - Liam had to bring out the electric pump and reinflate it a couple of times while I was in there). I found the edge of one of the big towels we'd spread under the pool, which was perfectly anchored by the weight of the water, and used it as an anchor to pull while my body pushed. There was no conscious decision to push - my body just knew what to do, and I trusted it.

In our discussions about homebirth, Ellie had told me she would like to cut the baby's cord. It was completely her own idea, she was very sure about it, and I loved it (ah, the beautiful things that are possible when birth happens at home!) - though I'd made sure she understood that we couldn't guarantee it would work out that way. Now, realizing baby would be coming soon, I took a moment to tell Liam I wanted Ellie there as soon as the baby was born. He called Renae, and she put the kids in the car and headed over to a nearby playground to await the news.

I switched back into labour mode and let the huge pushing contractions take over. Sandy later told me that during one contraction, as she was applying pressure to my back (where she'd been able to feel baby moving down), she felt a shudder from inside me as the baby shifted. I could feel everything, and this time I was able, in some distant part of my mind, to identify exactly what I was feeling at each stage. There was the pressure of the baby's head pushing down, and I was aware of the fact that my waters hadn't broken - the membranes were still intact. I knew babies were sometimes born this way, but I didn't know what it meant in terms of the birth process. It didn't worry me - nothing worried me throughout the whole process - I simply felt mild curiosity.

After one slightly more deliberate push, just because it felt right, I could feel baby's head starting to crown. Alli encouraged me to go slowly, and I did, giving it a couple of gentle half-pushes to allow things to stretch. There was a moment when I became suddenly aware of the humidity in the room, and felt like I couldn't get a breath. Then the head was coming and I was completely focused again. I felt the slow progress of brow, nose, chin as Alli quietly announced them. It did hurt a bit, but the water was wonderfully soothing and there was no burning or stinging sensation at all. Allison reached down to gently guide baby out, as it was compound presentation, hand next to face. I had no idea until they told me afterwards! That protective bag of waters - still unbroken - made this much less of an issue than it could have been.

Finally - after a contraction in which I leaned so hard on the softening pool side that water rushed over the side and up my nose - the baby's head was out. In my previous births I had paused at this point for another contraction to push out the body, but this time I suddenly had a hugely painful muscle cramp, which I couldn't extend my leg enough to release. Without waiting for a contraction, I focused and, at 5:35pm on Wednesday 7 May, I shoved the rest of my baby out by sheer determined force.

The relief was immediate, and there was a moment of utter calm in which I took a breath and realized that baby is out meant baby is in the pool with me... somewhere. I flipped around and found my baby floating in the warm water. I reached for that warm little body, lifted it up and cuddled it to me. There was a cry, and a beautiful little scrunched-up face, and my arms were full of baby, and it was the most beautiful moment. Perfection.

I thought I'd caught a glimpse of boy parts, but wasn't sure in the dim light and the water. I lifted baby up and Liam and I looked together...

"It's a boy!" we said.

"Hello, Theo," I whispered to him.

Then I looked up and registered smiling faces in a darkened room. "Hey!" I exclaimed, "When did it get dark out?"

Renae had left the park as it got dark, and pulled up outside our house just as Theo was born - more perfect timing. Ellie came in all giggly and excited, and said "Hello, baby Feo," in her most delighted and loveliest big sister voice. She absolutely exuded all the joy I was feeling, and it was so amazing to have her there.

Over the next half hour or so I had a few more (milder but still moany) contractions, gave Theo his first little feed while trying to get comfortable and still keep him warm in the pool, and eventually birthed the placenta at 6:20pm with a couple of decent pushes. Oh, and that chicken noodle soup we'd started that morning? Finished cooking about ten minutes after Theo was born. Perfect timing, even in the little things.

We waited for the cord to finish pulsating before cutting it, so in the meantime the placenta was floating in an ice cream tub next to us - occasionally it would bump against my elbow and I'd nudge it away. During this beautiful peaceful lull, Ellie kissed my forehead and told me she loved me about a thousand times. She also politely declined my offer to touch baby Theo, saying she would "when he's a bit cleaner" (he had a pretty decent coating of vernix).

And then it was her big moment.

I am so proud of my girl. She and Liam held the scissors together, and with great serious concentration she cut through her baby brother's cord in two careful snips. She can't wait for him to be older, so she can tell him all about it.

Oh, my heart.

Owen came in next, looking very pleased to meet his new little brother (whose name, Ellie announced, begins with "F"). He was gentle and calm and very lovely, and gave me the sweetest and wettest little kiss.

I moved from pool to couch, Allison and Jenny did their checks on Theo and myself, and I gave him another (more substantial) feed. Mum called, and I gave her the glad news. Renae gave the kids dinner (which Ellie ate with relish; Owen opted instead for two bananas and a couple of portions of my chocolate orange, because special occasion). Theo was cleaned up and dressed (as not a smurf - sorry, Owen, whose first outfit was accidentally a smurf-blue sleepsuit and a little white hat) and bundled up all cute and whatnot, and had cuddles with Liam and Ellie and Owen and Aunty 'Nae.

Alli checked Theo's blood sugar level, because, you know, the gestational diabetes, there's a risk it'll be too low... and laughed. Because it's supposed to be over 2.5mmol/L, and Theo's was 6.1.

Yep, he's fine.

The next couple of hours were filled with the kind of sweet, lovely, domestic little moments that only a homebirth can give - people in my kitchen, handing around servings of the soup I'd made; Allison holding Owen in her arms like a giant baby and measuring him "like baby Feo"; cups of tea and chats on the couch as we recapped the events of the day; apparently Allison clambering through a fort made of chairs in the kids' room with Owen... and finally, after kissing Ellie and Owen goodnight (they were going to sleep over at Uncle Ben and Aunty Nae's), a nice warm shower in my own bathroom. Bliss. Sheer, perfect, bliss.

I came out of my shower, feeling happy and clean and refreshed, and a little woozy, to find the rest of my house back to normal - a dining table and chairs where the birth pool had been, floor mopped and drying, couches back in place, washing machine and dishwasher loaded and washing. As Liam said, it was as if we'd spent the day hanging out at home, and now we had a baby.

That baby, that cute little bundle of vernix and smooshy backrolls and thumb-sucking gorgeousness, was 50cm long (2-3cm longer than his siblings) and 4.42kg, which sent us scrambling for a phone to convert to baby-language... 9lb 12oz! I was surprised to realize he was nearly a pound heavier than 8lb 15oz Owen - he just didn't look that big to me. But he sure is smooshy!

Allison, Sandy and Jenny headed home around 9pm, leaving us settled in the lounge with our new baby boy. We contemplated relaxing there for a while... then realized how completely exhausted we were. Heading to bed was a good move, as Theo woke pretty much hourly for sleepy feeds until 4am. He then slept until 7am, which was delightful.

I fed and resettled him, left my littlest and biggest boys sleeping, and went to have breakfast. They woke and joined me at 9:30am when Renae brought the (big! so big!) kids home.

And there we were: our first day as a family of five.

And you know what? It feels so right. He's beautiful - a lot like Ellie, a lot like Owen, and a whole lot that's just pure Theo. And you know what's the best? The not knowing is over - and now we've finally met him, I see he's the little person we've been waiting for all along.

Welcome, Theodore Hurtado.
You are so loved.

Pregnancy: the end is nigh
be happy
barefoot_mummy

37 weeks today. Thirty. Seven. Weeks. How can that even be?!


(This isn't even me now - this is my most recent belly photo, at 35w2d. Next one will be on Instagram in two days...)

What is happening? I've been at this stage twice before - and both times, 36 weeks to 37 weeks took at least a fortnight, I'm sure...

Is it the possibility that this is the last time? Is it the fact there are no other preggos around this time to compare with? Is it the knowledge that this is exactly the least busy and crazy and exhausting things are going to be for a while? Probably.



Whatever it is, I'm happy. Happy to be this far along, happy to be meeting our newest little boncecake soon... but also happy for it to take as long as it takes.

Truly, I'm in no rush. Not nervous, not putting it off - just content. And I'm so thankful for that.



I've tried to write this post twice already, over the last week and a half. My computer switched itself off and lost the file. I've been busy (*cough*nesting*cough*). Owen used up our internet on YouTube videos of people reviewing Thomas the Tank Engine playsets and unwrapping plastic eggs with Lightning McQueens inside (I kid you not - Liam and I have never reached our internet limit... this kid...).


(I've put my ipad away, to cold-turkey him off this YouTube thing. So he uses my empty case and pretends to watch it.)

But here it is, at last. I've had to amend "almost thirty six weeks" to "thirty six weeks and four days" to "thirty seven weeks". Which has actually been pretty cool - what was true over a week ago is still true today. I'm still doing this pregnancy thing, and I'm still happy. Also, over the last couple of days things have changed a bit, so I've got something a bit different to write about compared to my original thoughts. So, here goes...


**Disclaimer: This is a very pregnancy-related post. I'm really writing it for the pregnant ladies out there - particularly the very pregnant. If you're interested, read on. But I have a pretty broad readership base, and I understand pregnancy-related musings aren't everyone's cup of tea. If you're not comfortable with reading about pregnancy-related details, or aren't interested in developing a different end-of-pregnancy mindset, that's cool. Instead, here's a wonky picture of a country sunset on the first weekend of burnoff season. (Pretty, right?) Go no further. You have been warned.**




:glances around furtively: Okay. I think we're good now.

So, having a baby. We all get that the end point of pregnancy is a baby coming out, yeah? Ellie's four, and she gets that. So I think we're okay to go on.

The bit before is commonly known as labour. I'm pretty sure we all know that. I'm pretty hopeful that we all know it doesn't (usually) look much like the TV version ("Oops, my waters have broken in the supermarket! Quick, let's run red lights all the way to hospital, where I'll shout angrily at my husband for ninety seconds and then give off-screen birth to a clean four-month-old baby...")

Still with me? Cool. Basic knowledge confirmed.

So, there's a bit before all that. Yep, some smarty-pantses are saying "That's called 'pregnancy', right?" And it totally is... but I'm here to talk about the overlapping bit - the bit that gets forgotten / sidelined / denied completely.

Prelabour. Prodromal labour ("prodrome" = "early symptom that might indicate the start of a disease before specific symptoms occur" -Wikipedia). My personal unfavourite: "false labour" (grrrrr!!).



There are Braxton Hicks contractions, right? And they're known as "practice" contractions for a reason - they're the uterus practicing this whole squeezing business. Nothing's dilating. It's definitely not a sign of anything exciting being imminent. (With Owen, I reckon I had them from around 26 weeks.)

But then, there are "prelabour" contractions. (That's where I'm at.)

It's a strange place to be, I gotta say. On the one hand, you know it means things are getting more serious, and baby's arrival is definitely closer. (Then again, a quick glance at the calendar could tell you the same thing...) But on the other hand, you also know you could have weeks of this to look forward to.

It's easy to jump into excited mode at this stage. "IT COULD HAPPEN TODAY!!! OR TOMORROW!!! I'D PROBABLY EVEN BE OKAY WITH IT BEING WEDNESDAY!!!!!"

But you know what that leads to? Thursday. Thursday, sitting on the couch, googling "prelabour symptoms" for the eighteenth time, angry at the world for this great injustice. "Stupid body, tricking me like this. Stinkin' lazy baby, still just relaxing in there. And all those people, asking if I'm still pregnant..."



Stressful. I know. With Ellie, I spent a very frustrating ten days going "THIS IS IT!!! Oh, wait... nope. Not it. Again." With Owen, I spent a very grumpy week playing computer mahjong and refusing to rejoin life until there wasn't a baby in my belly.

This time, things are different.

This time, from the moment I thought I might be pregnant, I committed myself to a mindful pregnancy - one in which I noticed what was going on through each stage, and appreciated each little(/big) thing for what it was.

And I did.


[Sorry... just got interrupted by my son needing me to tie a pair of knickers onto Lightning McQueen because "that's his tail". Also, they wanted a "tasting plate".]



Where was I? Ah, yes. Loving pregnancy.

So, 36 weeks and 4 days into this pregnancy thing (also known as last Friday), I was sitting in Funbugs play cafe, watching my kids (and a million others - gotta love rainy school holidays) throw brightly coloured plastic balls at each other's heads, and reflecting on how fine I was with however long this baby was going to need me to wait.

Like everything, it really all comes down to perspective.

Waiting = having time to celebrate the blessing that's about to come into our lives.
Discomfort = body adjusting to better nurture baby and prepare for his/her arrival.
Too tired to do anything = free time for reflecting and being thankful.
All those people asking if I'm still pregnant = so many people who care and are genuinely excited about my little one.

Right? Happy.



The next day, my husband got on a plane at 6am and flew to his sister's wedding, one thousand kilometres away. And that was the first day I started having non-Braxton Hicks-type contractions.

Nice one, body.

I definitely didn't panic. Not even close. I'm not being fooled again.

I may not have jumped into "IT'S LABOUR IT'S LABOUR IT'S LABOUR!!!" mode, but by last night it did make me take another look at how I'm approaching this. I love that I've made it to 37 weeks without a single moment of wishing it was over. And I don't want to lose that contentment now that things are starting to happen.

Okay, so I may have googled "prelabour symptoms" and checked myself off against it. But I then spent some time reminding myself that these things can take time - in fact, it's actually a good thing if they take time (more on that in a moment). I also did some hunting around and found some articles portraying 'prelabour' in a positive way - as opposed to the more popular "here are some annoying symptoms that aren't actually labour" way. (I thought this one was pretty good).

So, this is where I'm at now: I'm still waiting. I'm not waiting and carrying a baby and that's all, but I'm still waiting. Mild tightenings that briefly take my attention and then pass, mild backache that wraps around to a bit of a crampy sensation occasionally, a bit of nausea here and there, the sudden appeal of hibernation in my little nest... They're all fine. They're all progress.

And I guess that's what I'm getting to. I have a lot of quibbles* with the way the medical profession handles a normal, healthy pregnancy - which I won't get into here, except for this bit: the labelling thing, in this case specifically the labelling of "labour" and "not labour".

*("quibbles"? Did I make that up, or is that a thing?)

Every day, a lady (not the same lady every day... you know what I mean) has contractions, wonders what's going on, goes to hospital, and hears, "You're only 2cm. Not in labour. Go home." Or, "Yep, 4cm. You're in labour!" And fair enough, there's no need to be in hospital just then. But the idea that we have to define being in labour as a specific number is, I think, a large part of what makes this early stage so difficult for a woman. It feels like a mild introduction to labour. In terms of what your body's doing, it is a mild introduction to labour. But in official terms, you're "not in labour" until you're ~4cm dilated.

And that is suuuuuuper disheartening for an excited first- (or second- or third-) timer. That's when all the "Stupid body... Stinkin' lazy baby... All those people..." stuff kicks in, and suddenly being pregnant becomes still being pregnant and no longer such a blessing, and being near the end turns from exciting and wonderful to the hardest and most uncertain and most miserable time anyone has ever been through in the history of the world, ever.

Listen. I've decided I'm not having this nonsense. As far as I'm concerned, prelabour isn't not labour, like there are clear-cut stages and this is a separate one of them. Prelabour is the beginning of labour. It might take an hour (like it did for me with Owen), it might take ten days (like it did with Ellie), it might take five weeks (like I kinda hope it doesn't with this one but will be totally okay with if it does... I hope...), but however long it takes - and this is important - it's not nothing.



Your body is preparing. Not just practicing any more - preparing. Those mild contractions that got your attention and then tapered off to nothing? Let's not call that a "false alarm". Let's not get annoyed that it "went away". Instead, let's embrace it as part of the process. Every time it happens, you're a bit closer to being ready. Every time it happens, it's making your more intense phase of labour a bit easier. It's all progress. It's all your body working to bring your baby into the world. Working? Labouring. It might be relatively easy labour for now. It might be part-time work. But it's still counted. It's still something. It's definitely not nothing.

And that line of thinking makes it so much easier to embrace this; to appreciate it as a fascinating part of an amazing process. Yep, they're contractions. Don't necessarily jump up and down with excitement just yet - it doesn't tell you anything more than a "due date" does. But it's things happening - and that's good.

It's not just the physical stuff, either. The impulsive nesting behaviour? That hibernating urge I mentioned earlier? All part of it. A desire to withdraw from the world, an increasingly inward focus... it's okay. In fact, just like those early mild tightenings and crampy feelings and all the rest, these things are designed to be part of the process. When labour gets really intense, you're going to want to be withdrawn from the world, inward-focused, oblivious to distractions that would slow things down. You're not at that point yet, but you're on your way - and that's good, too.


(This is Ellie's version of 'alone time'. Owen did not appreciate her need for alone time. Owen got pushed over. Owen now understands Ellie's need for alone time.)



(This advice is for me as much as anyone else:)

Embrace it. You're in that bizarre limbo-world right now - not "just pregnant" any more, but not producing a baby in the next ten minutes, either. It can be a frustrating, disheartening, miserable place to be. Or, it can be another fascinating part of an amazing process. If it's motivating you to Get Things Done, go with that (just don't overdo it - you'll need that energy). If it's making you want to spend as much time as possible under a quilt with the curtains drawn, go for it (just don't leave your son to help himself to ALL OF THE BANANAS, like I unknowingly did while playing "birthday parties" with Ellie this morning).

Use it. Those contractions that are starting to get your attention are actually a fantastic opportunity. It's easy to go "Oh, no, not this again!" and tense up with anxiety and/or resentment. Reminding yourself that they're a legitimate part of the process, and something you can use, is so valuable. Use them to practice relaxation techniques, breathing, thinking nice birthy affirmations to yourself. Use the time you find yourself spending hidden away to think through your plans and hopes for birth, to connect with your little one, to take time to breathe and rest and be thankful.

Appreciate it. The Lord has designed a pretty fantastic process, here. This part isn't a mistake. This part is a gift. Give thanks. Ask for peace. Find strength in him. It'll feel like forever, and then it'll be over before you know it. And then the real fun begins. Practice leaning on him now, because you're really about to need it...


(Also, get some RRL tea down your chops. Love this stuff.)

You're on the verge of a whole new amazing process. It's a beautiful, life-changing, all-consuming journey. Breathe. Enjoy this pregnant pause.


Not Alone
be happy
barefoot_mummy

This morning was a bit of a tough one.



But good.

Getting ready for kinder, everything was normal. Owen climbing through pillows on our freshly-made bed, and demanding to watch YouTube clips of people getting toys out of surprise eggs... Ellie busting in on me in the bathroom with bouffant hair and a miniature hairclip, and vaguing out somewhere between my instruction to put shoes on and the adjacent shoe rack... The usual.



Then as we were crossing the road to kinder, Ellie asked, "What if I miss you today?"

Random.

I told her she could tell herself, "Mummy's having a nice day, and I'm having a nice day, and I'll be able to tell her all about it when she picks me up."

And that seemed to be okay.



But then as we walked in, instead of a nice "Good morning" for Belinda at the door, Ellie marched to her locker with that face in chilly silence.

Belinda and I glanced at one another, eyebrows raised - eight weeks in, and Belinda knows Ellie well enough to know that that silence was something different.

Usually Ellie's one of those kids who's already put her fruit in the basket and is sitting on the mat before I've even made it to the signing-in line. This morning, she stayed with me. That is very, very, very not her.



I signed her in, drew my kids aside, set Owen down, and squatted at Ellie's level. She came straight to me, head down.

"What's up?" I asked.

"I want to go home with you," she muttered, still looking at her feet.

"Really? Why?" I asked, surprised.

And she looked up at me, and there were tears welling in her eyes - tears my brave girl was clearly trying so hard to hold in.

"What if I miss you?" she asked again, and crumpled into my arms with a little sob.

"Do you usually miss me?" I asked, as I held Ellie and Owen in a lovely-but-awkward squatting-pregnant-lady group-hug-type-thing.

She nodded. "Sometimes."

"Well, what do you usually do when you miss me?" I asked.

She thought for a moment.

And then Belinda came and invited Ellie to sit with her, and showed her how they'd changed around the Home Corner, and gently led her to the mat (where three other kids were crying and trying to climb into Julie's lap).

Julie said some nice, welcoming, reassuring things about all getting through the last day of term together. Belinda sat, and Ellie sat in her lap. I stood and gathered Owen... and paused.

See, I know how to fix her. I love this about my girl: when something's up, I can talk with her and we can discuss things and she's open to seeing a different perspective and being okay. She likes to learn about positivity and coping strategies - and I love to teach her.

But.

This time, I had to let it go. Belinda smiled at me over Ellie's curls and mouthed, "She'll be fine." And I had to go against that crazy-powerful Mama Instinct to fix everything for my daughter, to take a Teachable Moment and put a lesson into it - and instead, I had to take my son and walk away.

And I did.

In the car, I sat quietly for a few moments and breathed. I'm usually the one who's happy to kiss and run - and so is Ellie. We always have been. But today it was such a struggle to walk away from my girl. It was such a struggle to not offer to try one last thing, to talk with her for one more minute, to hang around and check she was okay, to go back and sneak a look... All the things I'd normally advise other parents not to do, suddenly seemed so incredibly tempting.

But I know those things are for me, not for her.

I know Ellie won't always have me with her when things are difficult. I know she needs to learn to find her own way, and to accept others' help. I know she needs the opportunity to feel the comfort of the Lord.

I know Julie and Belinda are smart, and experienced, and compassionate, and sensible, and more than capable of dealing with a little girl having a sensitive day.

I know my girl is strong, and resourceful, and will choose happiness whenever she can.



And - biggest and best of all - I know I haven't left her on her own. I haven't cut and run, and abandoned her to cope by herself in the big wide world.

I know who's with her.

Sitting there in the car, with Owen "shooting" people through his window behind me, I prayed. I prayed for my girl to feel better and be fine, and to learn through this. I prayed for Julie and Belinda to say and do the things that would help her. I prayed for peace.

And above all, I thanked the Lord.

I thanked him for my wonderful girl. I thanked him for the relationship I have with her. I thanked him for helping me to walk away today. And I thanked him most of all for the greatest blessing any parent can have - the knowledge that when we can't be there with our children, HE IS. Always.

There isn't much that's better than that.

Now it's almost time to go pick her up, and I'm excited. I've had a good day. Owen and I ran some errands, went op-shopping and found pirate things, had a nice long walk, and still made it to Maccas with five minutes to spare before they put the bacon away. Then we played with the trucks and diggers in Toyworld until lunchtime.



I've had a good day, and I'm trusting that my girl has too. I'm looking forward to seeing her face again, to squashing her in a big cuddle and telling her how proud I am of her.



And I'm so much looking forward to seeing how okay she is, how happy, how completely fine. I'm looking forward to rejoicing yet again at the Lord's capacity to always be there for each of us individually.

My girl has a personal relationship with my God - with her God. And I know that relationship will grow and develop and blossom as she gets older and reaches an age of greater understanding. But for now, it's enough just to know that when I can't be there with her... HE IS.



Amen.


Less Is More
be happy
barefoot_mummy

#kinderdays = you're not gonna see much in the way of Ellie pics for today. So here's one from last week to tide you over:

#kinderdays = adventures with this little mate of mine:

Today we went for a drive out to one of my local happy places: Lake Learmonth. My boy had a stick and a toy digger, so it was his happy place too.

(And a "skate park".)

(And a playground.)

Getting out into somewhere quiet and still and not the shops is always a recipe for a good day and a refreshed perspective. Clear air, clear head. I spent the drive out reflecting on an article I read yesterday (this, if you're interested). She makes two interesting and (I reckon) very valid points:

1. In a self-centred world, having children seems like an inconvenience and a chore at best; the idea of "laying down your life for another" represents "everything our culture hates".

2. In truth, children are a gift; they are a blessing; they are a reward from God. And when we remember and appreciate this - "when we thank God for his blessings and we love, nurture, train and bond with our blessings - our lives are fuller."

Amen.


As the article acknowledges, in the midst of nappies and tantrums and sleepless nights it's easy to feel like it's all too much.

What a great reminder that at those points we can lean on the Lord and thank him for giving us SO much.

"He must increase, but I must decrease."
- John 3:30

Who are we, who say, "Less of me, Lord, and more of you," to shake our heads at those who "lose themselves" in the service of motherhood?

Rather, I want to rejoice in it - for in losing myself, I find Christ.

Something else that's got me onto this line of thought: the comments coming up recently in various pregnancy groups along the lines of, "I'm excited about having this baby, but I can't wait to get back my body / brain / personal space..."

To which I find myself going, "AaaaaaHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAhhhh!!!!!"

Like things are going to go back to normal post-pregnancy! You're gorgeous!

Normal is over. Welcome to a whole new "normal".

A "normal" that changes as soon as you think you've got it figured out.

A "normal" in which you won't recognize yourself at all, at times.

A "normal" in which who you are is changing constantly, in accordance with the changing abilities and needs of your child.

(He's very pointedly hanging up on the birds with his snail-phone, because they're "being too loudy".)

"You see dis, guys?"

Let's face it, the body you have as a mother - regardless of how much or how little you work on it - is never going to be the body you had before. It might be as fit and healthy as ever. But it's changed, forever, in obvious and indefinable ways. You can despair, or you can love it and all it represents.

God gave you a body capable of the most amazing things. And look at what that blessing has given you.

The brain you have as a mother will be different, too. Your priorities will change, beyond anything you can imagine beforehand. Your focus will shift. You might forget to return calls, eat lunch, wash your hair, talk about anything other than your children... But you're an expert in the fields of your children's past, current, and possible future interests, needs, strengths, weaknesses, fears, triumphs, challenges, friendships, preferences, and, let's face it, bowel movements.

And making these things a priority - allowing them to take over from your awareness of current events, social trends, where you put your car keys - is service. Motherhood is service. Jesus washed his disciples' feet in a demonstration of service and humility. It didn't mean he was a pushover. It didn't mean he wasn't their leader. He taught them, he corrected them, he led them, he guided them... and he served them. No shame, no embarrassment, no holding back.

"And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me."
- Matthew 18:5

When we serve our children in humility and love... who do we serve?

That's right.

Oh, and the "personal space" thing? Forget it. You don't get it back just because you're not carrying a baby around inside your body any more.

I've mentioned my "pregnancy is practice for parenthood" theory plenty before, and this is all part of it. All those hands touching your belly - husband, children, friends, family, doctors, midwives, sonographers, physiotherapists, colleagues, acquaintances, random strangers... not to mention the pokes and prods and middle-of-the-night hiccup sessions coming at you from the inside - are NOTHING compared to what comes after.

Sit down, and there's a child on your lap; or at least a child's legs tangled across your legs. Go to the toilet, and there's someone with freezing hands touching your knees and gazing disconcertingly deeply into your eyes. Dress nicely, and sticky fingers will touch you. Put sleeping baby down, try to creep away, and sleeping baby will immediately become VERY AWAKE BABY WHO SIMPLY MUST BE HELD UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.

It's no wonder we hide in the pantry to eat Nutella from a spoon, or sneak away during Ben and Holly to urinate in peace.

But it's okay. It's all part of letting go of self. It's all part of "Less of me..."

And as we decrease, we don't become less.

Because as we decrease, there is room for Him to increase.

I'm not saying I'm good at this. I'm not as mindful, or as graceful, about this as I wish I was. Certainly third time around I'm finding it clearer to see, and easier to remember; less of a struggle, and more of a thing of joy. But that's not to say I'm good at it.

But it's a timely reminder. The world might shake its head at motherhood's inherent loss of self. But I'm raising children who are gifts from God. I'm responsible for some of God's children. And if I can remember to embrace this as the blessing it is...

Less of me, and more of you.

Less inconvenience, and more blessing.

Less of "too much", and more of "SO much".

Less of a struggle, and more of a thing of joy.


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