Working Mama Diaries: Soul-Care

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I by no means have all the answers in my 19 months of motherhood.  But what I do have is my experience of 19 months of motherhood. I’m not here to compare, raise up or put down any type of mama–let’s be honest–we are ALL rockstars doin’ our thang.  But what I know is being a mama who works outside the home 40 hours a week with a commute. And a partner who works outside the home.  Stepping back into reality after my Family Leave experience was shell shocking. 6 weeks of NICU life. 2 weeks of going back to work and trotting to the NICU three times a day to see June, pump, change diapers and then back to answer emails and hopefully I remembered how to do my job. 6 weeks being home with June.  Then back to work full time!

I’m not here to discuss the difference in leave policies or benefits, although that’s a subject I’m quite passionate about. What I want to share is what I did to take care of myself.  And still do to take care of myself as a working mama.

  1. Figure out what my options were.  When I realized that I was only going to have 6 weeks with June once she came home rather than the 12 I had expected, my brain and fingers got to working.  I’m incredibly fortunate to have the option for Reduced Seasonal Hours in the summers.  That meant I went back to work 4 days a week for the first three months.  That was a huge blessing with all the doctor’s appts and follow-ups JP had. We could easily schedule everything for Mondays and I could adjust to being back to work with a three day weekend every week. If you’re in a rough season–see what options you have! Maybe it’s not going back after a baby but just going through a different season of parenting. Or mental health.
  2. Take care of my body. Yes, I had follow ups with my OB, but I also followed up with my primary care doc who was amazing.  We shed tears together, she’s given hugs on almost every visit and helped remind me that I have to take care of me physically to be the best mama, wife, employee, friend and human.
  3. Not feel guilty taking care of my body. That meant more than the doctor’s office. It meant continuing my regular chiropractic care and implementing monthly massages. Does it take us looking intentionally at our budget and prioritizing certain things? Absolutely! But I also know that I’m helping out my massage therapist friend by giving her some extra income.
  4. Taking medication. Not for everyone, but I have increased anxiety since our car accident and am on a low-dose anxiety medication. I wanted to think that I could be okay without meds. Eat well. Take vitamins. Get sunshine. Use essential oils.  And while all those things help immensely, so does my medication.
  5. Is there anything that could be outsourced? Lawncare. Done. Check. Honestly, this was more in the beau’s wheelhouse, but once he started working nights we had to figure something out and it’s been a lifesaver and helping someone else in their business. Win-win. I’m trying to figure out if there are other things that might be outsourced that could help us and help my anxiety.
  6. Seeing a therapist. Another huge benefit through my employer is work-life counseling sessions.  Each employee is given 5 per calendar year and I use mine up! I’m grateful to have a third party to share my journey with, to share perspective and share tissues.
  7. Schedule regular family days, date nights and girls nights.  Now when I say “regular” I just mean, be intentional, not necessarily every week or two weeks.   Surprise, surprise coming from me, right? I just make a list of the people I want to see/invest in, things we want to do each month as a family and any fun event that we want to do as a couple. Having some things and people’s names written down helps me not go three months without seeing folks.  Sometimes it’s a phone call to a mentor out of state, or a google hangout with a long-time friend or coffee or a target run with a soul friend. Regardless, it’s time that fills my heart and up.
  8. Spend time outdoors and disconnected. There’s something magical about the fresh air, smell of the leaves, grass and water. We’ve been so fortunate to go to Couples Camp last spring and this fall to get away from the noise of life, leaving our cell phones, watches and all reality in our cars, hiking in and building our marriages and our relationship with God. The reminder that Nothing Worth Doing is Easy is a constant and great for us to prioritize our marriage but also incredible just to be disconnected and have some space in my head.
  9. Water my own grass.  Remember this is a season where I’m going to be home more and that’s where I’m meant to be.
  10. Give myself grace. Again, and again, and again. Dishes will pile up. The house will be a mess. Hosting friends for dinner will mean picking something up and putting it on fancy plates.  It’s okay.  You’ve kept yourself and another human alive.  Kudos.

I’ve heard three different sources and podcasts this week alone discuss self-care. Many of them mentioned some of what I experienced.  Others mentioned yoga, baths and reading. It’s a buzz word these days.  For me, self-care is actually soul care. I love Emily P. Freeman’s tag line –“creating space for your soul to breathe.” That’s what I crave these days. And I hope by taking care of my own soul and it’s ability to take some deep breaths, I’m creating space for others to do the same.

Photo by Maria Shanina on Unsplash

 

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The Front Seat

One of the things that drew me to Lew when we first met and were dating was this love of adventure. Travel. Camping. Road Trips. When I thought about the potential for adventures and travels we had together, my futuristic self was geeking out.

Almost 10 years later we have been on a lot of adventures and I’m so grateful as I look through our past photos, recall memories of when we decided to live in the moment and leave the camera behind. And I think forward to some of our long-term goals that include more travel with our family and I get really excited.

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One of my favorite authors, storytellers and podcasters, Tsh Oxenrider’s new book At Home in the World released this week and I’m SOOOO excited to dive in this weekend. She has asked her readers to think about where we each feel most at home in the world. As I started thinking about this, my place isn’t anywhere we’ve traveled to or is super exciting. While I would love to be able to share an exotic location, I have to say, I feel most at home in the front seat of a car.

The front seat was how we entered married life as we navigated highways and curvy roads on our honeymoon through the south.  We wound our way through Savannah and Charleston and Asheville and came back to Kentucky as one.

The front seat was the place for spontaneous road trips that led us to Toronto for long weekends and Tennessee to visit college friends and across the state of North Carolina the summer before we got married visiting friends and family going from mountains to beaches and back again.

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360 The Restaurant at the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada

The front seat was the support we needed to have great conversations when we made trips to Virginia when my mom was still living there and dealing with lots of health issues, hospital stays and eventually time in a nursing home. I cherish those days and conversations with the soundrack of the Beau’s iPod getting us through those curvy West Virginia roads.

The front seat was where my mom made her way from Virginia to Kentucky in the summer of 2013 so that we would be closer to her to help with her care.

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The front seat afforded us a lot of amazing views on our road trip out west in the summer of 2015. Most memorable was driving into Canyonlands at sunset and being so overwhelmed with the beauty of creation the beau and I both teared up.

On that same trip, I experienced incredible stomach cramps and had to lay the seat down as we wound our way through Washington and Oregon.  Little did I know those stomach cramps were a precursor to something big.  We came home to a positive pregnancy test.

In November of 2015, the front seat was once again the support needed as we made our way back to Virginia to lay my mom to rest.

Christmas Day of 2015 at 24 weeks pregnant my love for the front seat was wrecked. Literally. We were hit head on and ever since then me and the front seat have been at odds. But I’m coming around.

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The front seat supported me and held my tears when I left the hospital empty handed after 6 days in the hospital and our daughter stayed in the NICU for 8 more weeks when she rocked our world 9 weeks early on February 13th, 2016.

The front seat held my secrets as I figured out my new body and how to feed my girl who was thriving on my breast milk. It was my companion as I pumped daily in the car as we drove to see our girl every day.

The front seat was empty that day the beau drove home ever so slowly with JP and me in the backseat embarking on this new journey of parenthood.

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June Parker leaving the NICU

I’m learning to love the front seat again.  The past 16 months have seen lots of flinches, grabbing of the door handle and closed eyes when in the front seat.  Being hit head on and knowing that impacted the premature birth of your daughter will do that to you. I’ve used my phone more as a distraction when traffic is bad in a big city or on those curvy roads.

But I’m trying to live in the moment and change that.  Even if it means facing my fears without my head in my phone. I don’t want to miss the view. We are planning more long term travels. And I know that I’ll be in the front seat again.  Releasing control.  Trusting. Living.  All things I want to lean into.  The front seat isn’t a destination but a place that gets you to your destination.

For me and these past 18 months, the front seat has gotten me THROUGH.

When we are driving around town, through the Red River Gorge and on the backroads to and from Lexington, I reach over and grab the beau’s hand and look back at our beautiful, healthy and perfect 14 month old and am full of gratitude.  The front seat longs to be my protector and comforter and adventurer seeker. I’m slowing learning to let it be so and let go of the fear.  Letting go has gotten me through this difficult season but is gently calling me TO more adventure, TO more road trips, TO less fear and TO courage.

Thank you Tsh for helping me remember that I am at home in the world in the front seat.

 

 

2016 Review

So 2016 seems to have been a tough year for a lot of people.  Whether you had personal heartache, were saddened by the events happening in our country and world or were dismayed and brokenhearted at the election results, I think most of us can say that we are ready for the calendar page to turn.

I’ve tried to re-frame our own year which certainly had it’s hard parts, but also to celebrate all the good that occurred.  And as in last year’s 2015 review, you’ll get to see some of the visual representation of all our goodness from 2016. Thank you Instagram and Google Photos.  And full disclosure (this may go without saying) but a certain someone stole the show in 2016.  So glad you joined our family JPC.

January 2016

One of my favorite pics ever.  From our Babymoon at Butterfly Gap Retreat. So sad to hear they’ve sold the property due to family illness, but hoping that another owner will reopen. This place holds a lot of special memories.  Good thing we settled on a name for Bebe during our time here.  If we’d only known what would transpire two weeks later.

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February 2016

June Parker Cracraft came catapulting into our world on an early Saturday morning, February 13th at 1:57am.  Stay tuned for more of her birth story as we approach her first birthday.  (Seriously…birthday?!?!?!?!) 2 lbs 2 oz and 14. 3 inches of pure sweet and spiciness! Our lives haven’t been the same since! This is one of my favorite pics–3 days old here.

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March 2016

This was one of the biggest milestones for me as a mother.  On her 47th day of life, I got to nurse my sweet JP.  Breastfeeding was something I really wanted to continue for as long as I could, so when our journey didn’t take near the path we had planned, I couldn’t have been more thrilled to be able to nurse June.  And I’m proud to say we’re still going strong 10 months later! We also celebrated Easter together as a family.

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April 2016

April 11th.  Taking our girl home from the NICU.  Zoom in and you can see the look of excitement and fear on the beau’s face. He was terrified of the drive home. Oxygen tank, monitor, and two folks who were oh so excited but oh so scared.  What a mix of emotions.  I’ll never forget that day.

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May 2016

My 35th birthday.  Our first date out after June came home.  Thankful for amazing in-laws who have stepped up in so many ways that I can’t begin counting.  And thankful for an amazing dinner at Distilled that night.  Sweet Sweet Snuggles after we arrived home that night.  Also very thrilled to celebrate my first Mother’s Day although it was somewhat bittersweet.  2016-05-11-22-19-30-1

June 2016

These two. What a bond they have. I cannot imagine this year without this guy by my side. We celebrated his first Father’s Day and also what an incredible support he has been. He worked 4 nights a week while June was in the NICU (because we had decided that him picking up extra shifts was a good idea before the baby came).  I also went back to work 4 days a week in late May and we celebrate and remembered my Mom on her birthday.  Quite an emotional month–he really earned his keep in June. We had our first house guest as my Aunt Ruthie came to visit for a few days and some good friends stopped in from out of town!  Also JP was able to come off oxygen this month! Yay for no more tubes!

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July 2016

July brought our first big road trip as we went to Virginia to see my family.  I will always treasure this sweet picture of my Grandma and June.

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August 2016

June spent a lot of time with Gigi and Pops this summer once I went back to work.  This was her first trip to the Disney Store and can we say someone has her Pops wrapped around her little finger?

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September 2016

Big milestones for June this month–sitting forward in her stroller and sitting up (assisted). We spent a LOT of days getting out of the house when June first arrived home taking walks around our small town and enjoying time with the girls at the coffee shop. The summer was a bit hot, so we got out on the town quite a bit in the fall.  June really enjoyed the ArtWalk, although she was asleep for most of it.  She also started physical therapy this month, but like the rock star she is, only needed two sessions! We do lots of work at home with her and she’s continuing to make big strides! I also got to celebrate my favorite season with my favorite redhead!

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October 2016

We took our first little vacation as a family of three. The beau and JP were able to tag along to a work conference in Atlanta, but first, we hit up June’s first Cincinnati Reds game. Although they lost, they lost to the Chicago Cubs so June got to see the World Series winners! How exciting! We also got to meet Aunt Tammy on the way to Atlanta and try out the pool at our hotel. October also brought starting solid foods, drinking from a sippy cup and enjoying Halloween.

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November 2016

Turkey Turkey Turkey!!! Our little Turkey LOVED Thanksgiving at her Aunt Walene and Uncle Donnie‘s! It was her first big family gathering and she was quite the center of attention.  She enjoyed turkey, sweet potatoes and peas herself! I also went with Mama to vote in this historic election.

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December 2016

Holidays.  How magical through the eyes of a child, right?  June got to meet Santa, enjoyed lots of love from friends and family, tag along on Mama and Daddy’s Christmas date and we had a lot of quality time together–the BEST gift.  June is sitting up on her own, army crawling and into EVERYTHING.  We were grateful to get an overnight in Cincinnati to reflect on our year and set some goals for the upcoming one.

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Truly as the year has come to a close, we are just so grateful for all the wonderful things brought our way through June Parker.  We have a lovely, healthy girl, sweet puppy, wonderful partnership in our marriage, two great jobs and a house over our head.

Expectations

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Always coming down to expectations.  That’s been my challenge for years.  If I’m honest, I’ve been struggling with expectations lately. What expectations should I have of myself as a working mom?  What expectations I have for my marriage? What expectation I have to how my evening will play out? That’s where it gets real. How do I navigate being organized and living into the way I’ve been created–the color-coded, futuristic, visionary self–and not hold to a particular expectation? Because when the rubber meets the road, my desire to plan is tied to the anticipated outcome.  AKA: Expectation.

How do I set a financial goal and hold loosely to the expectation that I’ll meet it but not be overwhelmed if it doesn’t happen?

How do I navigate things when the expectation is that it’s the night I need to wash bottles so that my child has food for the next day and all she wants to do is be held?

How do I respond when plans change? The dinner is cancelled, someone has to go out of town unexpectedly, the event gets rained out.

How do I switch gears when things at work or church or your volunteer organization end up going a completely different direction and all of a sudden you wake up one day and everything seems different–your coworkers, team mates, company, boss, leader, everything?

What happens when things don’t go the way you thought they would with your family? Someone loses a job, moves, has a crisis, gets divorced, has a falling out?

I’m sure we all have found ourselves in one or more of the scenarios listed above. Transition is hard.  And there are expectations going on inside of us every day. Every minute. And when things change, expectation is buzzing around like that annoying fly that you just can’t quite smack down.

I’m still figuring this all out.  I certainly don’t have all the answers. What I do know though is that so much of the things I struggle with come down to control. Expectations are my desire to have things play out a certain way. That my friends is a control issue. And as much as I can plan and forecast and look at data to predict outcomes, in my personal life, I have to trust that I’m not the one in control.  And when you’ve experienced so much of life that seems out of control, holding closely to things you know are true just seems right.  Safe. Controlled. Familiar.

But we weren’t meant to live a safe and controlled life. There is risk involved. The unknown. And when you take a risk, there is beauty beyond your wildest dreams. Relationships restored. Sunsets you’d never imagine if you’d gone home early because it was safe. Throwing caution to the wind and being spontaneous has resulted in some of my most favorite memories with the beau.  The freedom and ability to fall into the unknown clinging to the only thing that is true and known is pure bliss.

I certainly don’t have all the answers. But I want to listen. To process. To respond. And to live with arms wide open, chin up, eyes closed, wind blowing on my face tuned in to what is out there waiting for me that I might have missed otherwise.

{Snip-its of Motherhood}-Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week

{Disclaimer: I know there is much controversy around “breast is best” and those who desired to breastfeed and may have had to take other avenues.  Please know I subscribe to “fed is best” and celebrate all moms and babes on their journey. This is just a small snapshot of my story}

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Since June was born 9 weeks early so many of the ideas I had about my journey into motherhood were thwarted by a C-section, rushing our girl to the NICU with just a passing glance at her and staring numbly at the hospital grade pump my amazing nurse and lactation consultant wheeled into my room the next morning.  I had 2 more months to prepare for motherhood, finish our house renovations, prepare the nursery. I never imagined having to start my journey of nourishing my child through hand expression and  pumping around the clock 8 times a day.  Two of my best girlfriends came to visit right in the middle of my nurse educating me on how this all works.  True friends right there.

While I was still in the hospital I pumped and the beau navigated cleaning all the parts. I remember always being discouraged & concerned–is this enough? has my milk come in? I need to do this because it’s so important for preemies.

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Once we were discharged, not only were we traveling daily to the NICU to see the babe, I was trying to figure out how this new part of my body worked, remembering to wash (and bring) all the parts with us and waiting in line to use the pumping rooms. It was emotionally taxing to bring in your milk back the NICU nurses and trying not to stare when the other moms would bring in 2 entire 2.5 oz bottles full (about 80 mls each) and I would maybe have 30ml’s total.  I also experienced the reversal of that later in our journey.

Thankfully I was producing enough that donor breast milk was not needed, but she was still being tube fed and until she was able to come down off the C-pap, we couldn’t try bottle feeding or nursing her.

When she was 47 days old on March 30th, I was able to nurse her for the first time.  The beau who was back to working nights 3-4 days a week was there and the lactation consultants were busy and unable to come assist. Our amazing nurses put up curtains for privacy since she was still on oxygen.  And little June did her thing.  Just like I know babes fresh out of the womb can latch right on, she did that same thing.  And I couldn’t help but cry.

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There was so much that didn’t go the way I’d hoped but I was so thankful that this worked.  The following day the lactation consultant came over and said she had a perfect latch and our anatomy worked perfectly together.  Again, tears flowed.

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I went back to work the last two weeks of her NICU stay so that I could enjoy more time with her at home.  I would get to work at 7am, take shortened breaks and head over the to nurse her every morning. Those were very special moments.

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Coming home with her on oxygen and a monitor was tough, but I continued nursing and pumping even though her small size requires she be on some high calorie formula to help her growth. I’m grateful that our team recognizes the importance of the 19 calorie breast milk in addition to her 27 calorie formula and supports my decision to continue nursing her. That does mean that I’ve got a freezer full of milk that may be donated at some point as I’m still pumping to keep up my supply, it is worth it.

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And for all you moms out there feeding your babes–You rock.  Yes, nursing has been a great gift to us, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without it’s challenges.  Just like everything in parenthood.

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Tending

As I have been on this journey of motherhood for the past five months I’ve had a lot of time to think about things I wanted to share.  However the thoughts in my head as I’m doing laundry, nursing June or at work don’t equal out to time it would take to actually put pen to paper. The time spent on those things that are most important trumped the time that I would have spent getting those thoughts down. But now I think I have a routine and some tools in my toolbelt that will allow me to share these things.

One of the best books that I have read recently has been The Fringe Hours by Jessica N. Turner (I also have a N. middle initial and love she always uses hers as well!). This book was queued up in my kindle long before June arrived, however it was not the right time for me to read it. I love it when God has a plan even down to the timing of when we read a particular book. The Cliff Notes version of this book is essentially a way for women in particular to grasp the most out of the little moments that pass by in life. It’s not necessarily multitasking but being more intentional with those moments in time that are somewhat wasted because we are scrolling on our phone or aimlessly doing things that are inconsequential. Since finishing her book I have read more books and accomplished more things than I thought possible with a newborn at home EVEN after returning to work.

So with that said I have realized that this space is something I want to tend to. I know that writing is very cathartic for me through all that I’ve experienced over the past year.  I feel that this is something I need to do. I realized in looking back that through the encouragement of my counselor and even my chiropractor that this space is important and healing for me and need not be neglected. Even if it’s a discipline for me as time can be hard to carve out to tend to this. But that’s just it…tending is a daily effort–not something done all at once.  You don’t magically go out once or even once a week to your garden and magically have a harvest–it takes small bursts of time and effort–along with some large bursts! And I’ve learned to use the tools necessary–I may be sitting here right now dictating most of this post via voice-to-text on my phone (ps-this is a new/nursing mama’s BFF!).

So with that I am hoping to share (at least) weekly on a combination of faith, parenthood, wellness, community and practical tips I’ve learned along the way as an encouragement to all those who may find their way to this place. I’m finding my niche in the intersectionality of all of those things and I want to share what I have learned as well as hear from you on your tips advice and wisdom on all of those same things. The past 5 months (and let’s face it–year) has been challenging and isolating at times but it’s also allowed me to really determine what I’m made of and how to best steward the time and resources I have on those things that are life-giving to me and necessary in the multiple identities that I hold.

And let’s face it, there’s bound to be some cute pictures of our sweet June Parker from time to time.

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#MoreThanAMom

I think it was the day after June was born, I noticed an invitation to join a Facebook Group for Mom’s who work in Student affairs. I thought the colleague who invited me wasn’t wasting any time–turns out, it had just been formed.

The group has quickly grown to over 4,000 members and I’ve been able to see the amazing women out there in my field and connect with other NICU mamas who work in Student Affairs.  I’ve gleaned wisdom from some pioneers in our field sharing their journey of motherhood.  And I was intrigued when the founder encouraged folks to share how they’re more than a mom–what are the other things you do to help bring balance and boundaries to your life.

Since balance and boundaries are a favorite topic of mine, I thought about what I’ve learned in motherhood in these 6 weeks (now 7). After writing, I realized what often happens after I write–that the writing has been cathartic for me; apart of my healing and growing process.  I hope my sharing can bring you some peace today.  And regardless of what role you’re filling–Mom, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Caregiver, Employee–know that there’s more to you than just that.  You know it.  It’s okay to let those other parts shine.  We all need them to make this world brighter. And if you are a parent, a mentor, a friend, a neighbor–let those folks see all the wonderful facets that make you YOU.

I’ve been a mom for a little over 6 weeks, but I’ve been a caregiver for quite some time as I was the primary caregiver for my Mom for many years.  Her battle with Rheumatoid Arthritis and several other health concerns ended this past November.  One of the biggest things I learned as her caregiver is that I can’t be there for her 24/7 and if I’m not taking care of myself, I can’t take care of her.  She taught me a lot about being a mom.  My daughter is in the NICU at our university hospital and I came back to work on Monday to have 6 weeks with her once she’s released. I’m taking advantage of a super supportive office and supervisors by coming in early and making the 15 minute walk to the NICU a few times a day.  It’s been a challenge thinking about how I’ve been #MoreThanAMom since June came into our lives. But then I think about the ways in which I had already implemented boundaries and balance and desired to place presence with others over perfection. I still love my friends well, enjoying hosting in our home even though it’s rarely perfect (especially in the remodel phase) and enjoying taking care of myself holistically—mind, body and soul.

Here’s how I’m sensing that I am #MoreThanAMom:

  • Being present where I am. When I’m in the office advising a student—I do my absolute best to be fully present (even if I’m a few minutes late if June has had a milestone or I need to chat with someone at the hospital). When I’m in the NICU with June, I do everything possible to not let my mind wander to what students are on my calendar that afternoon.  Walking to the NICU each day—that’s my self-care time.  And I’m learning NOT to basically run even if I’m running late. What am I thankful for?  What will I fix for dinner? What’s the schedule when I get home? What laundry must be done today? I literally flip a switch when I go through those rotating doors of the hospital—what questions do I have for the nurses, is there anything I need to address while here?
  • When I realized after a walk to the NICU that my neglected toenails were literally causing me pain on my increased walks, I immediately texted a friend to see when we could get a pedicure next week after I leave the hospital one evening.
  • I’ll take the time to S L O W down and grab a Starbucks (Thanks to the generous gift cards from friends)
  • I’m doing my hair and putting on make-up each day. Even before coming back to work, this made me feel human (at least the make-up part—a top knot was my BFF until Monday!) Plus, a good concealer helped with the bags and dark circles!
  • We are still planning on hosting supper club in May for our friends.
  • Agreeing to go with a friend to Cincinnati a few weeks ago to see Newsies when her husband unexpectedly had to go out of town and she had an extra ticket.

Sometimes being #MoreThanAMom is almost a state of mind rather than things we do. Seeing all these posts has made me think hard about how I want to parent our daughter. I want her to know that she can do lots of things and that so can I.  I’m her mom, but also an Academic Advisor, friend, worship leader at our church, theater buff and lover of coffee and good meals around the table with those I love.

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One month of being a mom

I’ve been a mom for over a month now. It seems so odd since I’m currently sitting in my bedroom alone, the beau at work, pumping to give my daughter breast milk to make her strong. No cries in our home. Nursery still isn’t done. Heck-we haven’t gotten the first bit of furniture. But I’m a mom. 

But what I know-and what I was taught by experience-is how to be a caretaker. To call the hospital to check in every night. To build relationships with the nurses and doctors. To know sometimes sleep and self care is just as important-and necessary-to survive. 

I learned all those things from my mom. She was teaching me about motherhood all along. 

What I also know is that God has given me more than a glimpse of his faithfulness in sweet June. Not only has she been a rockstar growing in the NICU, but she gives me a little glimpse of my mom every day. Countless Friends and acquaintances–some who only knew her through social media pictures- have commented on how June resembles my mom. 

  

Her wide set eyes and the bridge of her nose. Her little delicate eyelids and those sweet little forehead wrinkles all scream my mom. 

What I also hear them saying over and over is that God is real. I’ve always been a believer of God when I look at creation. The trees, wind, mountains and waves of the ocean beckon me to believe that God is real and he is who he says he is. But looking at these pictures,  I have to believe even in those moments when I doubt (and believe me, I still have those moments) because I can’t look at those faces and say God doesn’t exist. God is tenderly carrying me through this season of grief and celebration. Fear and faith. Questioning and belief. I’m clinging to belief and faith and celebration. God has been too good to us not to believe. 

Maybe you’re in a season of grief and fear and questioning. It’s ok. Just know beyond it all God loves you. 

And if you want to dive more into who God is and why we believe,  join me for. Study of the Nicene Creed with the new IF: Gathering app. www.ifgatheringapp.com

  

7 months

The last seven months have honestly been a blur. I’m sharing this as apart of my own healing, journey and testimony so please don’t think this as a pity post. This is a celebration of what we have overcome with God by our side. 

The Beau and I were walking down the hall to the NICU to see our daughter the other day recollecting all the has happened since late July and it was like each event was a sucker punch to our life that still leaves us reeling at times. But as we’ve stood and caught our breath, we also realize just how fortunate we are to still be standing. Even if we’re walking down this hallway.

   
We decided last spring that it was time to grow our family. A steady nursing job for the Beau had been secured, we were making progress on house renovations so we decided to keep moving forward on those hoping that we would be well finished before a little one would come along.

On a steamy Friday in late July we got the call that Lew’s Granny had a massive stroke with a bleed on her brain. She passed away about 24 hours later.

In August, Lew took me on his dream cross-country road trip. We drove to Seattle and back in 10 days. We got home on August 12th and I took a positive pregnancy test. We could not have been more thrilled.

  
September brought the start of school and the first trimester. I was so fortunate to not be sick, just a lot of weird stomach cramps, food aversions and exhaustion.  But we could not have been happier. We told our parents on Labor Day weekend (fitting right?). Taking his parents to eat at the Smokey Valley Truck Stop before it closed and visiting with my Mom in the nursing home that Sunday afternoon over ice cream. They could not have been more ecstatic!

We shared our news publicly on our 6th wedding anniversary–October 2nd– and were flooded with well wishes from family and friends. It was real. I had made it through the first trimester and had no concerns or complications. We continued to work on the house, start dreaming about our little babe whose gender would be a surprise and move toward the holidays.

  
Late October my Mom went to the ER with some complications in her legs from swelling.  I stayed the night with her as she was admitted and slept in a somewhat comfy chair in what I think are the smallest hospital rooms in the city.  For the next three weeks, we spent nearly every day and several nights by her bedside seeing her health decline, her legs and toes worsen and conversations about amputation of her toes, feet and possibly legs.

  

Three weeks later, on November 13th, the beau and I were headed back in to try and get her moved to UK hospital because we felt there was more going on that we were able to really see. We stopped for a quick breakfast knowing it would likely be a long day and I got the call that her white blood cell count had risen overnight and she was being moved to the Critical Care Unit. We rushed to the hospital and spoke with several doctors, chaplains and a resident from UK that the beau has worked with before. Her body was shutting down. We were able to have clarity on her wishes and I thank God for that daily. She did not want surgery. She did not want to be revived. She did not want to be vented and have a machine breathe for her. Around 4:30 that afternoon, she received complete healing as she went to her eternal home. While we were so sad, there was also a sense of relief that her pain and suffering had ended. The next few weeks were a blur as we traveled to Virginia, made funeral arrangements, coordinated her transport from KY to VA, went through the motions of Thanksgiving and eventually headed back to work. It is still hard some days for me to believe she is gone.

  
During this time, I had some increased blood pressures at my OB visits.  I went on medication and we monitored it, but knowing the stress I had been under, it wasn’t much of a surprise.

As I processed grieving, Christmas approached.  My family in Virginia had planned a shower for us so we headed to the Beau’s parents Christmas Day and were planning on leaving early on the 26th for Virginia, Baby Shower on the 27th and then back to the grind the following week. Our Gracie pup was going to make the trip with us.

10 minutes away from their house, we were hit head on as we went through an intersection.

 

I was 24 weeks pregnant at the time. All I remember was screaming “Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God!” After an ER visit, lots of time laying on the couch, a vet visit for Gracie, lots of bruising from the seat belt, a visit to UK’s OB Triage, a 4 hour heart rate monitor on the Bebe, some panicked moments, and an additional ultrasound, we were SO fortunate to find out that the babe was fine.  And certainly a fighter.

  
The new year came with lots of insurance paperwork and phone calls, car shopping for a new ride, and navigating back to work.

Before we knew it, we were in the third trimester came and we realized that with all that happened with Mom and the car accident, all our renovations had been put on hold and we had 12 weeks before Bebe would arrive! We got to work and in the midst of all this I was prompted to host a small IF: Gathering in my home the first weekend in February.  At first, I had signed up to host this back in October but only 2 gals had registered so I contemplated cancelling.  However, the day I was going to do so, another 3 gals registered. So we went forward with the plan to host in our imperfect home and 10 of us crowded around our TV to hear amazing truths.  Presence over perfection. My takeaway –who will my domino fall into to impact for the Kingdom?–was threefold.  My word for the year is SAVOR and this ties directly in–I need to STOP doing things.  I need to focus on JESUS and his word and truth, not a million other (all the while GOOD) voices out there clamoring for my attention.  And I need to focus on my little FAMILY and discipling them well–investing in my marriage and our little babe.

  

On February 1st, my OB appointment landed me a really high BP reading so my OB sent me to UK triage to be checked out. After 2 hours, my BP was in the normal range, all my levels came back clear as a whistle. We did some additional testing over the next 24 hours and had a follow up on February 11th with my OB.

On the 11th my pressure was up again and my OB sent me back to triage and wanted a 24 hour overnight observation of me to figure out what was going on.  As I left her office, I asked, “So what happens if my Blood Pressure doesn’t decrease?”

“Well, you’ll be having a baby sooner than you thought.”

I walked back in to the room where Lew was and immediately burst into tears. We had 9 more weeks before her due date. Our nursery was nowhere near complete. I hadn’t had my baby shower. There was still so much to do.

At 1:39 am on Saturday, February 13th, our little June Parker Cracraft was brought into this world by an urgent C-section delivery.  I’ll share more about her entrance into this world here in the days/weeks/months to come when I’m ready to process and share more publicly.

She was 2.2 lbs and 14.3 inches long. She was immediately rushed to the NICU at UK where she’s been hanging out and growing for the past 10 days. She is amazing. Our brave little fighter.  

And her name. We were able to get away for a little baby moon 2 weeks before she arrived and the main agenda was to come up with a name. We had a boy pool and a girl pool and wanted to see how the little nugget turned out (gender and personality wise) before attaching a name to it. June Parker was at the top of our girl list.  After her birth and knowing all she had come through the 7 months in utero–and all that we had come through in that time as well–June Parker was the perfect name.  June after my Mom who was born in June and Parker after the Beau’s best friend Michael Parker who was paralyzed in a kayaking accident in 2007. Two of the strongest people we know. And she’s certainly living up to her namesakes. And my takeaway from the IF: Gathering is coming to fruition a lot sooner than we had anticipated. I get to pray and sing and love on my daughter the way our heavenly father does with us. And it is amazing. Heartwrentching. All-consuming.  Just the way our Father must feel about us.

   

 

2015 in Insta-Review

Hey Hey Hey!!! It’s me again!  Excited about the turning of the calendar page and moving forward with an exciting 2016.

But before I can do that, I have to go back and review all that was 2015. Reflecting back on this year it’s easy to look at the challenging moments and forget the joyous ones. I’m so fortunate to be reminded of just what a fantastic year 2015 was even though there were a fare share of dark moments. I loved Annie’s format of an Instagram review, so here goes my attempt!  My #2015BestNine said I took 292 posts in the past year. That’s a lot to filter through, fyi!

January 2015….

{Our goal of community dinners around the table Friday Night Meatballs style was realized!}

1_January

February 2015…

{Served women in our community by hosting the 2015 IF: Gathering in Georgetown}

2_February

March 2015…

{Technically February/March, but after IF: Gathering took a Sabbatical.  No email or social media and nothing on our calendars. It was amazing!}

3_March

{Except we did have our framily over for Friday Night Meatballs and an amazing Caprese salad}

3_March2

SPRING

{Highlight moving into Spring/Summer was starting major renovations on our house!  And this guy. Just say no to all highlight reel posts friends.  I wanna see your messy top-bun silly posts too!}

Spring

April 2015…

{More Friday Night Meatballs.  This was probably my favorite of the few we hosted.  A toddler and a grandmother. A teenage boy and his mom whose husband was on the west coast for a month for business. Friends who were just dating and friends who’ve been married for 10 years. This is true community y’all}

4_April

May 2015…

{My birthday–Friday Night Meatballs in the backyard style with our people and their kiddos. All boys. Dirt. Fire pits. Amazing.}

5_May

{No birthday is complete without a trip to see the Cincinnati Reds with my love}

5_May2

June 2015…

{Renovations continued.  Amazing progress.}

6_June 2

{And when renovations continue so that you’re displaced from your home for 3 weeks and 90% of your belongings are in a POD–you take a long weekend and drive to the Emerald Coast. A quick trip, but two days in the sun, sand and waves did our hearts and souls so much good.}

6_June

SUMMER

{Jennie Allen’s Anything study with these gorgeous gals at my new favorite Coffee Spot in Downtown Lexington. Such a rich summer with these gals.}

Summer

July 2015…

{Experiencing part of the All-Star Game Festivities with the Celebrity Softball Game! So fun!}

7_July

August 2015…

{WAAAAAY too many photos to share here, but check out some from this post.  Cross-country road trip in 10 days took me all the way to Cannon Beach and the pacific ocean for the first time. Life changing trip.}

8_August

September 2015…

{Joining 500 other IF: Local leaders in Orlando to be equipped even more so to share the good news with our communities.  And loved meeting these fellow Kentucky gals!}

9_September

FALL

{How could we get so lucky??? We were blessed with this sweetie.  She came at the perfect time and brought us such joy in what we didn’t realize would be such a tough season.}

Fall

October 2015…

{BABY CRACRAFT ALERT!!!  Remember that life changing trip? Yeah, we found out the night we got home that we were expecting. So excited to welcome our cub in April!}

10_October

November 2015…

{Mama D got sick. Three weeks in the hospital were tough but I truly savored every moment with her. One of my favorite nights ever as we watched Friends on TV and I saw a bit of her sass return.}

11_November 1

{Bittersweet. Mama D went to be with Jesus–from this life to her eternal home. I miss her so, but can only imagine she’s having a blast–playing piano, walking and running on her own, having lunch with her dad and birthmom who passed when she was 6 months old. So grateful to have been raised by such a wondeful lady.}

11_November

December 2015…

{My favorite views of the year– twinkle lights and Fireplace on Netflix with a pup on my lap–and we flipped our dining and living room!}

12_December 1

{A scary Christmas day car accident had us all shaken up. Thankfully all of us–including Gracie and the little cub) were all okay. I tear up every time I look at this photo. Just like our little one to be reminding us that they’re okay and to just trust God–he’s got it handled.}

12_December

WINTER

{Advent.  Waiting.  Trusting.  Anticipation.  Expectation.  Learned a lot in this tough season. }

Winter

 

So that’s 2015 in a nutshell.  We started the year well living into community and hospitality by opening for home for Friday Night Meatballs. Then we realized renovations had to happen ASAP and so things got a little crazy, but that’s life, right?  The fall and winter were tough, but we’ve also had a lot of silver linings and things to celebrate.

I also read 10 books, watched several series on Netflix (Or re-watched) and had lots of coffee dates with people. That’s the day-to-day.  The stuff we don’t always Instagram.  I’m sure there will be more on all this in the weeks to come. I’m excited about all that 2016 will offer and hope to be around these parts much more often sharing about all I’m learning, loving and being.