On Writing and Mothering

This guest post is by the talented and lovely Brittany Knott. Read more of her beautiful writing on her blog Knee Deep in Lovely.

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Nothing motivated me to finish the first draft of my book more than my due date.

Because, really, I could have kept dragging it out. I didn’t have a publisher giving me deadlines or demands (or a paycheck, darn it).

But I knew. I had people warn me that when I had kids my margin for things like writing novels would be non-existent. I knew mom life would be different and I couldn’t loiter over a macchiato in a coffee shop.

So I anticipated August 2nd with so much longing to be a mother and so much apprehension about not being able to write when it had taken me thirty years to shed some of my mounds of uncertainty and finally do it consistently.

They were right, you know. It wasn’t the same after she was born. I did put things on hold. In those early days, I could have done more. She slept a lot. But it was inconsistent and I felt I needed long stretches of time. Also, everything about being a mother consumed me whole. For better, for worse.

My sweet doorman would ask almost every day, “How’s the book coming?” And I would duck my messy head and blush and say, “No progress.”

Meanwhile, motherhood began to give me so many things to write about on my blog. I was being broken apart in a way I never saw coming, and it was beautiful. It is beautiful.

If God can use motherhood to refine me, He can absolutely use it to make me a better writer.

He can show me my surroundings, my relationships, my world through a new set of brown eyes. Having someone to care for can’t keep me from writing, but not observing, not breaking apart and not stirring certainly will.

Of course, on a practical level, it is a bit more complicated than before. She is one now and I can’t write when she’s awake.  I can’t wake up before she does and write because she wakes up too early.

She takes two glorious naps a day. I’m trying to force myself to do “chores” while she’s awake (even though she tries to eat the Swiffer and climb inside the dishwasher), so that I don’t feel the pressure to do those while she’s sleeping.

Sometimes I catch myself prepping breakfast food or whatever and I have to stop and say, “This can be done when she’s awake.” And then I’m brought back to the things that cannot be done while she is awake. (Unfortunately that includes watching Undercover Boss). This morning during her nap, I sat out on the terrace and wrote a blog post so I wouldn’t be tempted to fold the laundry (read: pin 100 pictures of clothes I will never own on Pinterest. Real life.)

I will never be the poster child for productivity. In life or in writing. Motivation is hard especially because I don’t actually earn money writing. I know the years ahead (God willing) include more child-rearing, more chaos and less alone time. I’m praying for the grace to still have writing be a part of my life, bending and twisting along with us.

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Brittany Knott lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter. Her book, Viv: The Story of a Stray is in the crazy process of getting published. She hopes to use any profits to help fund an adoption.

 

When Motherhood Doesn’t Feel Magical

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It’s bedtime and I am dreading it, but like everything in life I just have to deal with it and get it done. I didn’t always dread bedtime. My girl used to be the best sleeper. Every since Aurelia realized how easy it was to climb out of her crib and we decided to remove the railing and turn into a big girl bed, it’s not so easy.

I know, I know. It’s never easy. I know lots of you reading have newborns and multiple kids. Many of you are single moms, or may as well be. Many of you are just exhausted, emotionally done, anxious and depressed. Some of you fight to get up every morning because you want children so badly and you can’t have them. Some of you have gone through the unspeakable grief of losing a child. It’s easy to compare my situation and scold myself,

You shouldn’t feel this way. Count your blessings! 

On the flip side, I know sometimes I just need to stop filling my head with other people’s magical motherhood moments on social media. It’s too easy to think that’s real life and internalize it and somehow think I come up short.

I rub my fingers through her 2-year-old cherub-like blonde curls and feel a surge of intense love.

I don’t always FEEL that way. Lately, I am just numb. I have this beautiful, intense and intelligent child coming more and more alive to the word around her every day, and most days I am just getting by.  For that I also feel guilty and judge myself and the cycle continues.

I want to have this magical feeling of being in love with my kid 24/7. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? To feel overwhelmed with joy and rapture constantly. Some days I feel like I don’t even deserve her and I take her for granted. Some days I am not even sure if I can handle another child even though I want one so badly. Most days I just feel inexperienced and unprepared.

“You’re a good mom,” a friend will tell me.

But it’s hard to accept it sometimes. It feels a little like being in junior high and a boy told me I am pretty for the first time. I am not sure I believe it, because I don’t believe in myself enough.

Most days I wonder if I got too frustrated, if I was too strict, not fun enough. I feel my patience running out so much. I honestly didn’t think it would be like this. I used to be so care-free, so patient and laid-back. (Or so I thought.)

She’s sleeping finally. I am sitting on her floor next to her big girl bed because that’s what I do now. Her baby sixth-sense will know the second I get up to leave and she will bolt out of her bed to bang on her locked door. The only way to prevent this is by making sure she is in a deep sleep, like REM, and that’s not as easy as it used to be for her.

My back aches from the position I am in and I still have to take care of the dog and make dinner and do laundry. I know I am selfish. I’ve always done what I wanted when I wanted. I’ve always treasured being alone, having quiet time with my thoughts time to write.

I feel like that’s how I survive and lately I am just barely getting by.

Lately, there is a constant feeble, half-whispered prayer in the back of my throat.

I know, it worth it. I know, it’s over so fast. I know, the grass is always greener.

I stroke her hair again, whisper the words I’ve been telling her since she was born:

“Never forget. You are beautiful, brilliant and brave. Mama and daddy love you more than there are stars in the universe. Jesus has amazing things in store for your life.”

I take a moment and let my own words be real, not just a repeated phrase.

I get to be her mom.

It’s the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s a privilege to care for this amazing human being. I know it’s probably never going to get easier, but that’s what grace is for.

I know many days will feel too hard, many will feel mundane, speckled with a few patches of joy and magic.

As a super sensitive person, I have to constantly remind myself life isn’t about feelings either. They are too fickle.

There is a Truth beyond what I feel or don’t feel, and when I purposefully put my eyes there, true peace will follow.

I start another lullaby, and feel the words.

I sing over my daughter and the room became sacred.

I almost hear God echoing the song, singing over me.

When you walk through the river, I will be with you

When you pass through the waters, the waves they will not overtake you

When you walk through the fire, the flames they will not touch you, 

You are mine. You are mine.

Becoming Mom

I decided to share the story of my daughter’s birth I wrote when she was a few weeks old. After all, this is a mom blog and this is about how I became a mom. Plus, she is turning 2 in 2 days and I am feeling extra sentimental. It’s also a nice reminder after the drama of her screaming “I DON’T WANT IT” in Walmart and kicking me while trying on shoes. (Not that that happened today…) Plus, to be honest, it’s been a little crazy lately and I haven’t taken the time to write a new blog post. So here you go. Grab some tissues.


It’s close to four in the morning and I am awakened by the sound of my daughter crying. I slowly emerge out of a sleepy haze, rolling over to get out of bed. I pick my baby up out of her bassinet and try to comfort her. Her cry is loud now, reverberating across a silent house, her pink mouth wide open, waiting for me to feed her. For a moment I just want to drift back to sleep. Sweet, blissful sleep. I am then reminded of how just two weeks ago I longed so badly to hear her cry, and I would have traded every night of sound sleep just to hear her voice.

1.

It’s the sound we all hold our own breaths to hear, as a new baby enters our world and takes their first breath. My daughter struggled with hers, even after she let out her first glorious cry. For some reason we still don’t understand, her lungs never fully expelled the fluid inside them. She was born gasping for breath and we didn’t realize it at first. Everything about her looked alert and perfect, I couldn’t believe how flawless she was, not a wrinkle or imperfection.

I caught her myself after 10 hours of labor, 30 hours of water being broken, and 48 hours of no sleep. I pushed her out with a strength I didn’t think I had left, while on my hands and knees. I had already tried the relaxing birthing tub and every other position in the book, but her head was stuck, until that final, raw and real moment.  My midwife and birth team rushed to cover the beautiful wood floors with towels as Aurelia slipped into this world and into my arms.

I held her for an earth-shattering 20 minutes or so, the last time I would hold her until a week later.

The events after her birth were a gut-wrenching blur. Pure joy followed by overwhelming panic. She wouldn’t nurse, and showed signs of distress. She was given oxygen and a phone call was made. I got stitches. I rested in bed in the next room while medics wheeled in with the proper equipment to give my daughter the breath that she needed. It was storming hard outside, dark and foreboding. I couldn’t go with the ambulance, I wasn’t strong enough yet, I could barely stand. So my husband went. They rolled her into my room to say goodbye. I stood on shaky legs, holding onto the bed post, my vision blurring and blacking. I saw my precious baby hooked up like a science experiment, a pure, precious child inside of a machine with wires and tubes everywhere. I collapsed back on the bed sobbing.

No. This wasn’t our story.

I had just birthed a nearly nine pound baby with nothing to slow down the pain but my breathing. I have avoided hospitals my whole life, always gone “the natural way,” always assuming my body was fine and that it would fix itself. I believe very deeply God heals and protects. I rejected medical advise when I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes and opted to keep it in check myself through diet and exercise, which worked brilliantly. There were no complications and I was once again considered low-risk.

The NICU, this wasn’t our story.

I felt like I was in a bad dream when I finally arrived at the hospital. My father-in-law pushed my wheelchair through the endless maze of hospital corridors. I watched several cops run by us to a group of people standing at the end of a hall watching a man who was broken to pieces, yelling through his tears, “They told me he was alive!”

No. We didn’t belong here.

I was supposed to be enjoying the suite-like relaxing birth center, taking an herbal bath with Aurelia, eating a pancake breakfast in bed with my new, complete family.

We arrived to the hospital room with Louvier on the door, and there she was, hooked up to so many machines, sedated and far away from me like she never left my womb in the first place.

(I wrote this at one of my miserable 2 am moments in the hospital)

the constant mechanical beeping reminds us

of these fragile lives

who came to earth to soon

hanging in the balance

a few numbers

determining survival

but the will to live is strong

it echoes through halls

if you tune out the dark

and choose to hear it

Everyone we met in the hospital had far worse stories than ours. Most couples had preemies who had been there for months. They had been traveling a long, hard road, and there seemed like no end to it. My heart broke every time I walked down the hall and heard the cries of those tiny infants, who often had no one to hold them besides busy nurses and an occasional emotionally frail parent who drove from a long distance away and could barely keep up with their lives back home.

I was humbled, every time I began to feel bad for myself. I know you can’t really downgrade your own pain by comparing your circumstances to others, it is still the most difficult thing I’ve ever been though. But I quickly saw the stark black and white difference my attitude and perspective made in my mood and my overall sanity.

Gratefulness became my lifeline, and as days passed there was more and more to be thankful for.

My baby got better every day. Every single thing they tested her for came back negative. There was no bigger issue, no abnormal development or defect. She was indeed perfect, she just had a rough start.

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The nurses changed every 12 hours. Most were excellent, a few were mediocre. One in particular, a cheery, round woman who had been working in the NICU for 25 years, was our own Mary Poppins, our angel. She came right in the middle of our stay and saw Aurelia as healthy and whole, and treated her so. She pushed the doctor to eliminate machines and slow down sedation drips. She even bent the rules so that I could hold my baby, even though I wasn’t supposed to because she still had an IV in.

2.

I walked into the room after one of my long, painful bathroom trips, and Mary Poppins was standing over Aurelia’s bed grinning. She had produced a festive red bow from her magic bag, and placed it on my baby’s sweet head. I stopped, choked up, staring at my baby who finally looked like a little girl, not just a sick child. I got situated in the oversized hospital recliner and the nurse placed Aurelia in my arms. That day was my “due date” and even though she came into the world the week before, I felt like she was being born all over again.

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Soon they removed the ventilator which had been keeping Aurelia silent. I waited for her cry, thinking it would happen immediately, but her poor voice box was all scratched from the tubes. A faint, hoarse noise slowly turned to a strong proclamation of life over the next 24 hours.

3.

Her “third birthday” happened a week later when the doctor finally declared her well and signed our discharge papers. We went home, exhausted and overwhelmed with emotion, knowing Aurelia had no medication, condition or even a diagnosis.

“Some babies just have a hard time transitioning,” our pediatrician who I nicknamed “the baby whisperer” explained when we went to our follow-up appointment. Aurelia screamed her lungs out to prove they worked, then calmed down immediately when he put her in a different position.

At home, we quickly fell into a routine and relaxed knowing that whatever normal, hard things we went through with adjusting to having a newborn, at least it wasn’t magnified in the hospital.

We were finally home.

———————————-

Hallelujah 

Every breath is a second chance

(Switchfoot)

———————————–

I don’t claim to know why things happen. I can’t justify the fact innocent babies suffer, and that while we have our happy ending, some in the NICU do not.

I do know that life is so unpredictable, no matter how well you plan and prepare you just never know what road you’ll have to walk down.

I know that you never know how strong you are until you are brought to your very weakest point.

I know that there is a transition that happens in that moment of utter brokeness:

His strength is made perfect in your weakness. 

I know that Grace and Comfort are there in that moment, and He is more real and tangible than the tears in your eyes and the pain in your heart.

I know that sometimes the smallest, more fragile looking things in life often carry the most strength.

And I know my girl has found her voice, and one day, the world will hear it.

 

 

Jean-Thomas wrote Aurelia this song when I was pregnant and sang it for her in the hospital. This was our Fourth of July celebration.

 

Beautiful girl in a beautiful world

Do you know just how much your worth?

Your dreams are already changing this earth

There is so much more you’re destined for 

There are those who’ll tell you you’re wrong

They will try to silence your song

But right here is where you belong

Take your dreams, sail away

 

You’re the dawn of a new day that’s breaking

A masterpiece still in the making

Blue in the ocean of grey

The birth of a star that sends darkness away

Be the hoper of hope far out of reach

Be the dreamer of dreams and impossible things

 

Though this world may try to define you

They can’t take the light that’s inside you

So don’t you dare try to hide

Let your fears fade away

 

You’re the dawn of a new day that’s breaking

A masterpiece still in the making

Blue in the ocean of grey

The birth of a star that sends darkness away

Be the hoper of hope far out of reach

Be the dreamer of dreams and impossible things

and impossible things


Here she is singing a few weeks ago. I’d say she found her voice!

Saying No to a Full-Time Job

It’s only Tuesday and I am already tired.  Mostly from a billion thoughts I can’t get out of my head. I am a little scatter-brained right now.

As much as I love writing freelance, sometimes it’s hard for me to keep track of what is what. Technically, I am working contract for 5 different companies, possibly a 6th soon. Plus I have 2 blogs I am trying to run, as well as projects for my church.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but I’ll be the first to admit I am not the most organized person. Sometimes I look at the whole thing and it’s overwhelming.

Sometimes I wonder if I made the right career choice.

About a month ago, I applied for a full-time job. I have applied for many jobs, so I was surprised when I got a call back right away. I knew it was in an office, but my husband encouraged me to go interview anyways. I was kind of hoping they would be more flexible with the schedule, maybe allow me to do some of the work at home.

It was a big deal for me to face my fear. The morning of the interview, I woke up feeling sick with anxiety. I don’t do well with these kind of things. I like to hide behind my computer. But somehow I found something “professional” to wear, and got out the door. (It’s been a long time. My attire consists of uncomfortable jeans I don’t wear and yoga pants.)

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Gosh I miss this show.

I guess I did well, because they pretty much told me I had the job on the spot. 45 hours a week in an office. No possibility of remote work. It was a cool office building, I’ll give it that. Everyone looked young and hipster and I felt out of place. My interviewer looked just like Jim from The Office. The content I’d be writing was pretty boring, but the pay was decent,  and it was consistent. It was a tough call.

The day I had to make my decision, I met with 2 other SAHMs and we got to talking why we love to be with our kids and how we couldn’t imagine life any other way.

I knew what I had to do.

I said no because for the millionth time in my life I was reminded I don’t want to throw away my dreams for security.

Because I believe God has something better.

Because  I know that right before the real thing comes, we are tested with a fake thing that may be tempting, but it’s not the best.

It’s such a hard lesson to learn, but so necessary. (Don’t. Ever. Settle.)

I said no because the 9-5 life makes me a little crazy inside.

I love interrupting my day with a trip to the park. I love going to the gym or the grocery store in the morning, working during nap time and after my daughter goes to bed. I love that I can space out my day, work for a bit then play dress-up or go puddle stomping. I don’t just love it, but I think I work better that way.

I want to be there for my daughter. I can’t imagine missing the little moments in her day.

I know that I need to pour my heart into this blog and that’s what I am going to do.

Since I said no, I’ve had a few more opportunities come up. I am currently studying to take a test for a great work-at-home company that pays well and hoping that will work out.

I am trusting God for more. I am trusting Him for favor for myself and for my husband. For provision.

Please don’t think I am putting down moms who work outside the home. Ya’ll are incredible, and I know God gives people the grace for wherever they are.  Everyone has a different path. I just know it’s not for me, for this season.

Even though I’ve had moments of doubt, I believe deep down I made the right decision. I don’t regret pursuing it or doing the interview. It was also kind of a wake-up call. I am a writer. I can can actually do what I love and get paid.

I determine my success and my worth.

I can succeed. I can take a breath and tackle one thing at a time.

My toddler has been screaming in nap avoidance for over an hour and she is finally quiet.

I sit. I breathe. I write.

Peace and Creativity,

The Stay-at-Home Something

Learning To Swim

My 20-month-old daughter is in a baby water safety class. It’s something I have always wanted to do, since before I even thought about getting pregnant. I saw a video of a young toddler waddling outside alone and falling into the pool. Every parent’s nightmare, right? But the toddler quickly turned on her back, floating to the top and kicking her legs to swim to the side of the pool where she pulled herself out.

I did some research and signed Aurelia up. I figured it would be fun. She is practically fearless and loves the water. She’s been in the pool since she was 6 weeks old.

What could go wrong?

I am realizing now, most of parenthood  involves swallowing your words.

It turns out my brave, adventurous daughter (welcome to toddler-hood) hates doing what she doesn’t want to do. Mainly, going under water. The past 3 classes have been hell. She’s screamed and cried and fought me.

Our amazing, patient baby-swim coach told me, “You just need to let go,” and it was kind of a shock to my system.

This was my thought process:

“Let go? Me? I am pretty much Elsa, I’ve let go so much. I am the ‘laid back mom.’ I let my kid take risks and figure stuff out, it’s part of my child-raising philosophy…. OH MY GOD MY POOR BABY THINKS I AM LETTING HER DROWN!!”

The panic on her face. The utter terror. The way she clung to me when she came out of the water.

I tell myself that it’s for the best. It’s necessary. It could save her life.

But to watch her go through it is still so hard.

Today’s class ended up in my daughter projectile vomiting in the pool, and many tears, mostly from me.

This is hard.

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Lately, the only thing I hear from God is:

Trust me.

Part of me is tired of it.

Part of me knows it’s the only way to truly rest.

I don’t know why or how or what He is going to do, but I know He will do it.

He will make a way.

2015 felt like I was drowning in so many ways.

I couldn’t see the light.

I couldn’t see the land.

So far this year has been much more hopeful, but every moment is a struggle to believe what He says is true, beyond my bank account, situation, or emotions.

When I stress, it turns my whole body inside out. I go somewhere else. All my creativity is gone.

I can’t breathe.

Sometimes it feels like we are drowning, but God is really is teaching us how to swim.

swim

Sometimes, I just want to take the easy way out.

Take the smooth road, settle just a little bit. Give in. Relax a little bit. Quit following my dreams.

This is hard.

I want to be lazy. I want to strap myself into a life vest and just float. I am done kicking and screaming.

But God knows (and I know, deep down) that’s not what’s best.

That will kill me slowly, as a fizzle out, watching life pass me by.

So, I am gonna fight like hell.

I am gonna get up every morning and believe what God says is real.

I am gonna believe I have been given the ability to create, to make people feel, to shine a beam of truth out into a black sea.

I will take the time to do what I love, to make my heart come alive, to write.

I will swim, even when it feels like I am drowning.

The shining shore is waiting.

Everything I’ve ever wanted is just on the other side of fear.

Peace & Creativity to you,

The Stay At Home Something 

Who You Shouldn’t Invite to Thanksgiving

There is a guest that creeps into your home around the holidays and loves to taunt you during your thanksgiving festivities. He is worse than your conspiracy theorist uncle.

He likes to tell you that your turkey being too dry is the end of the world and that you’re a failure because this year, the cranberry sauce came out of a can.

thanksgiving
Photo Credit: Didriks via Compfight cc

 

When you try to be thankful, and can only focus on the things you wish you had, he mocks you.

“You’re a jerk. What’s wrong with you? Can’t you just muster up an attitude of gratitude?”

You listen to him. You don’t know how to block out his voice.

After all, he’s been such a constant companion over the years.

His name is Shame.

He’s been there with you, all the times you never felt good enough, pretty enough, smart enough.

He came in a new, stronger form when you began your family and entered into this crazy, rollercoaster of motherhood.

“Who are YOU to raise that child, you can’t even figure out your own life?”

Even when you read stupid parenting blogs or gaze longingly at your Pinterest feed, he shows up.

“You’ll never be that mom. She has it all together. Look at her perfectly formed lunches shaped like cute animals and scenes from movies she makes for her happy, well-adjusted, genius, gluten-free kids. Why do you even try?”

He’s especially bad this time of year. He gets louder and more obnoxious.

“Another year gone by, and what have you really accomplished? How about those New Years resolutions you made? How about that money you were going to save, that weight you were going to lose, that book you were going to write? You fail. Again.”

You listen to him. You believe him.

You focus on him and forget what matters.

You forget you are loved.

That imperfection is beautiful.

You forget to give yourself grace.

In reality, Shame is a bastard.

He has no power over you.

He is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

And he is NOT invited to my Thanksgiving this year.

This time of year is about family.

It’s about seeing the face of my daughter light up when she sees a Christmas village scene in a store front window.

It’s about childlike wonder and joy.

It’s about cookie dough messes and spilled hot chocolate.

It’s about leaving the notion of perfection far, far behind, and celebrating the little things.

Because when we can do this, when we embrace the mess and love the little things and be free in the moment, there is no room for guilt or shame.

There is only joy and thankfulness.

So, don’t let this unwanted guest into your home and your heart this year.

Do whatever will bring you and your family peace, and that’s it.

Open up some cans, or just go out to eat if it’s less stress.

Laugh more and worry less.

Don’t worry so much about having the perfect table, that you forget to enjoy the people sitting around it.