Sarah Thompson

Dear friends,

When I initially began my blogging journey, my goal was to put the spotlight on women who inspire me, challenge me and are all around fabulous individuals. With pleasure, I share with you my very first interview of a dear friend and mentor – the wise, loving and glamorous Sarah Thompson. She took the time to sit down and share how Hope, her gorgeous and equally glamorous daughter, came to be part of the Thompson clan through the miracle that is adoption. Her story is an incredible testimony to how the love of God is reflected in a family unit.

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G: Hi Sarah! Thanks for taking the time for this sit down. To kick us off, tell us about yourself and your family.
S:
Heyyyyy! I am a stay at home mama and a pastor’s wife and a perpetual volunteer. I’ve been married to Jeffey for 17 years and we have three kids, Judah, 11, Elias, 8, and Paulina Hope who’s 5.

G: I know (through our past conversations) that your involvement with the organization Safe Families was instrumental to constructing your family unit into what it is today. Tell us more about what Safe Families is and does.
S:
Safe Families for Children is a compassionate movement to keep kids safe and families in tact. They are available in moments of crisis for families with a network of support and temporary hosting of children while their folks get back on their feet. They are a preventative service to keep kids from out of situations where abuse or neglect might occur and come in before foster care might be an option. It’s a super cool organization. We found it while we were in the process of adoption, hoping to care for kids in need while also getting to learn how to love a child from different genes with different backgrounds.

G: Talk to us about your story with Hope. How did she come into your life and what ultimately led you to the decision to adopt?
S:
I found out I have PCOS (Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome) when I was 16 and so had known for a long time that having biological children might be a challenge for me. We jumped through a 1000 hoops over the course of several years to get pregnant with Judah. I didn’t want to go through that again and we started our adoption journey.
Right when we had completed the process, I found out I was pregnant with Elias! You hear about stories like this from time to time, but it’s actually super rare! It was a huge surprise. And we had gotten really excited about adoption at this point and so decided to continue to pursue it for our third child. We chose domestic adoption, because there were so many kids right here that need homes! Our only stipulation was that we wanted to keep birth order, so to have Elias be a big brother too.
We were chosen by four different birth moms over the course of a year and they all chose to parent themselves. This was a hard year for us, though we were soooo glad and grateful that these birth moms were each able to come to that decision in a positive way. To keep our focus on the prize, we started hosting children through Safe Families!
We were blessed to keep four kids at different times over the course of the year, the shortest being for just a day and the longest being three months (which was the longest a child would stay in a host home through Safe Families). This was challenging in a completely different way and also a huge blessing. Our case worker at Safe Families knew we were waiting to adopt and so when there was a baby girl who’d been in the program whose mom had decided she wouldn’t be able to parent, she got in touch with us. Safe Families goal is always to keep families intact. They are not an adoption agency, but of course sometimes extenuating circumstances make it difficult or impossible for a family to continue to raise their child. This was one of those very rare occurrences.
We met with Paulina’s birth mom and hit it off right away and she chose us to parent Paulina! We found out about Paulina one day, met with her birth mom the next day and a day after that brought her home. It was a whirlwind after all the waiting! And after she’d been in our care for six months we were able to make Paulina Hope an official part of our family!

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Paulina’s 6 month photo, the first picture we ever saw of her.

G: How did you go about sharing your decision to adopt with Judah & Elias? With extended friends and family?
S:
Our family and friends had been in on our journey with us from the beginning, through our struggle with infertility and coming to the decision to adopt.

Life takes a lot of support, you know?

We needed a community around us for the ups and downs! We are so grateful for our families (church family included) and friends.
With the boys, we have always been open that God sends kids to families in different ways: sometimes through a mom’s tummy and sometimes through adoption, where, for whatever reason, a mom or dad can’t give the best care to their child and chooses to love them by putting them in the care of a family that can give them the care they need.

G: I’m sure its impossible to pick just one “best thing” about adoption – but share with us some of what you feel are the greatest parts of it for you and your family.
S:
Having Hopie (as we now refer to Paulina Hope)! She is a jewel, a precious, precious gift. She is a tangible expression of God’s grace and love for us. While we were so far off and so different from God, he chose to love us as his children. It’s a far smaller jump for us to love a child with different genes/background and we are completely humbled and honored to do it.

G: What would you say was the greatest challenge? How did you overcome that challenge?
S:
The waiting was hard. But that’s life for everyone, right? Whether we’re waiting to get pregnant or get a job or find a life partner or whatever: the process is the same. Rely on the Lord and trust his perfect timing and provision.

Sometimes God wants us to want him more than we want his provision. Sometimes we are not ready for the thing we are asking for and the wait brings us closer to it. But whatever it is, God’s ways are better than our own.

Secondly, we leaned on our friends and family. We were so blessed by the love and support of others. And we practiced what we wanted by serving with Safe Families.
I’d say there’s a lot of other challenges in adoption too, like learning to really love a child that in some ways is just completely different than you, or how to have a relationship with the birth family, or how to incorporate our child’s culture into our family… it is a lot. But we did our homework and researched and asked a lot of questions before we ever laid eyes on Hope.

G: Does Hope know her story? If yes, how did you tell her? If not yet, how are you planning to explain it to her?
S:
Yes! Most domestic adoptions are open adoptions, meaning we can know her birth family. We knew Hopie’s birth mom loved her so much and still desired a relationship with her, even though she couldn’t take care for her. Plus, it is generally seen as healthier for a child to grow up knowing and feeling like adoption is normal and just a part of their story. So we started telling Hopie her story before she ever understood the words. And we talk to “Mommy Shay” (as we refer to her birth mom) every week, on the phone/FaceTime or over text. Paulina Hope is blessed to have lots of family that loves her and wants the best for her!

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The day we adopted Hopie.

G: What is one thing that you wish people would know or understand more in regards to adoption?
S:
I wish people would stop saying “gave up” or “put up” their child for adoption. It isn’t giving up to choose adoption for your child. It’s choosing to love and to put the child’s life and needs first. And by using language like [“gave up”] we are perpetuating a stigma that it’s a bad thing or worst case or something to be ashamed of. It is not. It’s a beautiful thing.

G: Do you have a Biblically centered view on adoption/foster parenting that you could share? What encouragement can those that are hoping to enter into this role or are in it currently draw from Scripture and the Gospel?
S:
It was Matthew 19:14 where Jesus says “Let the children come to me” that first piqued my interest in adoption. God’s Word is living and active and never returns void. So here’s a bunch of scripture that helps to form my view of adoption:

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”– Romans 5:8

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”– Romans 5:10-11

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” – Galatians 4:4-7

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” – Ephesians 1:3-10

“But when Jesus saw it, he… said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. – Mark 10:14-16

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”– John 14:18

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”– James 1:27

Now for some fun questions…

G: Its summer in Chicago! YAY – finally! What are some fun activities that you and your family have done or are looking forward to?
S:
We LOVE being a city family and taking advantage of all Chicago has to offer. We go to the beach. We bike the Lake Shore path or the 606. We head to the Chicago Botanic Garden at an attempt of a more peaceful day. We hit up a lot of playgrounds/parks – Maggie Daley is awesome, but Oz Park and Welles Park are a couple of other favorites. We try to get museum passes from the library and go to at least one museum every summer. We usually hit up Lincoln Park Zoo a few times. We go to Lickety Split for the world’s greatest frozen custard and Miko’s for Italian Ice! And the Chicago Park district has a ton of really great affordable programs. I could for sure keep going. There’s a lot to do and see in this city!

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G: What is the funniest thing your kids have said to you this week?
S:
Hahaha! They say funny/gross stuff all the time! But out of the blue Hope said the other day, “Stop calling me Mr. Ham!” No one has ever called her Mr. Ham. We all died.

G: Describe your perfect way to unwind after a crazy day.
S:
Hit a yoga class, go home and have Jeffey already put the kids to bed and sit and read or watch a show with him and one of the stellar cocktails he makes. Then have sex and still make it to bed by 11pm. Lol goals

Final thoughts from Sarah:
It’s amazing to think about how I’ve seen God’s overarching faithfulness in my life. His provision and perfect timing has guided my every step and led me to be the woman I am today: mom, wife, follower of Jesus. Some times have been really hard! But God has ordered my steps and proved himself good again and again.

Got more questions about Safe Families or how to get involved?

Visit their site here!

Pumping 101, Part 2

Finally, after a prolonged absence due to a smidge of travel (Zoya had her first road trip – yay!) and a cold that swept our whole family, I am back to write the second installment of my top tips for pumping success!!!

To read part one, you can access the earlier post here. Those ready to dive into part two, let’s do this!

5) Create a milk organization system that makes sense for you and your family early on in the game. Any sort of confusion surrounding storage of breast milk is just plain stressful.
When I initially began pumping, I inadvertently had an oversupply because my tiny NICU baby only required about an ounce per feed. I was doing a lot of freezing, but did not have a systematic method to the process. In fact, I did not even realize the necessity to record the amount of ounces in a bag (face palm)! My freezer was a disorganized mess.
Pinterest has a wealth of information on maintaining a beautifully organized freezer stash as well as user-friendly ways to store fresh milk the fridge. There are also a lot of apps that help keep track of the running total of pumped and frozen milk; Pump Log is a favorite. Once I figured out a system that worked, I needed to go back and reorganize my deep freezer. This was an hours-long process that could have been avoided had I done my homework ahead of time.

4) Find your support system. We can’t do any of this mom stuff completely on our own, so this is imperative. For me, the central support figure was definitely Vlad. He woke up in the middle of the night to feed Zoya so that I could pump simultaneously. He washed pump parts. He bought me a deep freezer. He was invaluable.
However, a partner certainly does not have to be the main support (or at all, if they aren’t present).

I had girlfriends who had done the pumping gig come alongside me, nurses in the NICU who cried with when I was engorged and frustrated, and a whole other slough of people I drew from when I needed to.

Funny enough, someone suggested joining a pumping support group on Facebook. Even though I thought it was kind of silly, I went ahead and requested to be a member of the Exclusively Pumping Moms group – and it was a great decision. A whole community of women who were going through exactly what I was going through, sharing tips, stories and humor opened up to me. Having that network proved to be ever so important as I ran into problems or just needed someone who had been there to hear me out.

3) Never quit on a bad day – this was a saying prevalent in the pumping support group. I found myself repeating it to myself fairly often.

Truly, there are going to be days that you want to quit and never look back. Days on which you need a shower but can’t get one, days on which there are more tears than smiles, days that you can’t find a bit of the beauty of motherhood everyone talks about.

I know I had all of those days – more than just once. They evoked some very intense emotions that I knew could cloud my rational judgment and ultimately influence my commitment. The last thing I wanted to happen was to quit out of frustration and be wrought by major regret. If I was going to wean, I wanted to come this conclusion when I was truly ready, not at a time when I was overwhelmed by a crappy day. Looking back over the months, I am confident that sticking to the resolution of not quitting when I felt like it most actually allowed me to keep pumping way longer than I have otherwise.

2) Walking up a hill is so much easier than climbing Mt. Everest, is it not? Therefore, set small goals for yourself. Out of the gate, I thought I was going to pump exclusively for a year. As I realized how truly tough exclusively pumping was, one year seemed impossibly far. I frequently told myself,

“Just get through this day. Ok, now get through this week.” Reaching these seemingly tiny goals was actually a big deal because of the created a sense of accomplishment. Plus, every small goal completed is really just an excuse to celebrate your hard work and reward yourself accordingly. Now, I know we can all get behind that.

1) Finally, if you do nothing else, simply acknowledge that your pumping journey is unique. Comparison is the ultimate joy thief – especially when it comes to freezer stashes, post partum bodies, and the like.

Your merit as a mother is not measured in ounces.

You are doing the best that you can and working hard to provide food for your little one. You know what is best for you and your family – more so than any other human. Don’t allow others to disregard the hard work that you are doing. Or to set the rules on how you should be doing it. Use any ignorance regarding breastfeeding or pumping that you come across as an opportunity to educate others.
Remember to give them grace, and save some for yourself as well.

Thank you for allowing me to share the bits of wisdom I have gained on this topic as I have gone through the months exclusively pumping for Zoya. Our journey is drawing to a close. However, I am still available as a resource to anyone who may need it. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need advice or just to vent – it can be very therapeutic, trust me!

Pump on, ladies.

Pumping 101: Part 1

Do you decided to venture into this whole pumping arena…now what? Pumping (and especially exclusively pumping) is like a whole new dimension of reality that you step into, blinking from the blinding light, and proceed to stare at in amazement while not really being sure of what to do next.

Welcome to my two part series in which I will share the top 10 nuggets of wisdom that I have gleaned from personal experience.

Just remember, we’re in this together.

10) Understand your body. Knowledge is power right? At least for me, that’s very true. The more I learned about the why and how of breastmilk production, the more I became aware of what I needed to do to help myself in the process. Wouldn’t you agree that it’s so much harder to be steadfast on a journey when you don’t know much about where you’re going or how the heck you’re gonna get there? The whole pumping gig actually became easier (at least on a mental level) when I did the right research – so I highly suggest you put those Google skills to good use early on! Here are my top favorite pumping resources in case you need a jump start:

This brings me to my next point:

9) Create a regular demand in order to establish supply. The more often your breasts are emptied on a regular basis, the more your body will be signaled to up its milk production. This can be achieved via breastfeeding, pumping or a combination of the two. Expect to create a pumping schedule that mimics a newborn baby’s eating habits. Under the guidance of the postpartum and NICU nurses, my schedule was 20 minutes every 3 hours for the first 6 weeks around the clock. Those the dark ages. After we made 6 weeks I was OK’d to go 6 hours at night without pumping. I gradually got myself on an every 4 hour schedule – at which point I was able to maintain an excellent supply and freeze extra.

Whatever you do – remember that the first 12 weeks are crucial to establishing milk supply. And consistency is key. If you go too long without pumping, not only will you experience the discomfort of clogs and engorgement, but your body will start to think it doesn’t need to be making as much milk and your supply will drop dramatically.

Wether you’re trying to establish or increase your supply –

8) Do make a middle of the night pump a habit. Quite frankly, this sucks. I know. After trying to get tiny post-NICU Zoya to take her bottle at 2am for up to an hour at a time and cleaning spit up off the nursery rug, the last thing I wanted was to hook up to the pump. But you know how I was saying that being more informed will make you more driven to actually follow through on the hard stuff? Well, apparently prolactin levels, which is the hormone responsible for stimulating milk production, are highest between 2 a.m and 6 a.m. (Cregan, Mitoulas, Hartmann, Mitoulas & Hartmann, 2002). Prolactin gets released when the breasts are stimulated (through pumping, hurrah!); so knowing that, I felt that there’s really no more opportune time to get a session in.

My only suggestion would be to make that middle of the night sesh something to look forward to. Enjoy the alone time (honestly)! Watch a good Netflix show or listen to a podcast. I became obsessed with playing Candy Crush during my nightly pumping time. It’s so dorky – but it worked!

Once your supply is fully established and you’re comfortable with the amount you’re making you can experiment with dropping that middle of the night pump.

7) Hydrate and eat right like you’re getting paid. I’m not even kidding. The American Pregnancy Association (2017) recommends increasing your calorie count by about 500 for a total of 3,000 per day. Think about it – not only are you fueling your body to recuperate postpartum, have the energy to take care of a newborn and support your daily life functions, but you are also secreting a decent portion of your calories into your breastmilk. I have the tendency to skip meals when busy and definitely noticed a dip in ounces as a result on those days.

I also want to make a point about lactogenic foods – again, good idea to do some digging here. There are foods (here’s lookin’ at ya, oatmeal and coconut) that are correlated with increased milk production while some have the opposite effect. I was enjoying a cup of mint tea on a nightly basis while wondering why I wasn’t producing as much – thankfully I shared with a friend and she set me straight!

Water is also important. Although it won’t actually increase your supply, drinking plenty of water is very important (Mohrbacher, 2010). Lactating ladies need almost a liter more per day than the regular folk, meaning 3.3 liters of H2O on average (Institute of Medicine, 2004). Just like with calories, you’re secreting a decent portion of your fluid intake into your breastmilk and need to replace accordingly. While I was pumping ’round the clock, I felt constant Sahara Desert-like thirst. My solution was to fill a cute 16 oz water bottle and keep it by my pump with a goal to finish it fully during each session. Adequate hydration is key to our bodies functioning at their highest levels, so I guarantee that making this a priority (as well as nutritious, boobie-friendly meals) will give your tired body the respite it needs.

6) Learn to pump on the go.

Exclusively pumping does become a lifestyle of sorts but it doesn’t have to control your whole life.

Put together a really comprehensive pump bag. Mine had:

  1. My on the go pump
  2. A car charger and wall charger
  3. Spare bottles and bags
  4. Wet to dry bag for storing dirty parts
  5. A cute cover
  6. A hands free bra
  7. A cooler for milk (if I knew I wasn’t going to a place with a fridge)
  8. A makeup bag with nipple cream and some feel good extras like a lip balm, dry shampoo and a nice book.
  • Once you have all you need, feel free to roam the world as you wish – just take the time to step away and pump. Own it just like you do your middle of the night pump. Make it something to look forward to as best you can.
  • I love all things efficiency-driven, and this led me to figuring out how to pump and drive simultaneously. I would hook up, put my seat belt on, arrange my cover up nicely, and then drive to my destination. Upon arrival, I would break everything down and store my milk before getting out of the car. Getting the Moxxly Flow Kit (which I describe in great detail in my earlier post, Pump It Up) was life changing because of how much easier the on-the-go process became. I’ve gone through the drive through while pumping numerous times. It’s the best feeling ever to arrive at my destination knowing I had a full four hours of free time before my next pump. I realize everyone’s comfort level with this trick may be different and I definitely don’t recommend doing anything that doesn’t make you feel safe.
  • I’ve pumped while Vlad drove countless times, as well as in department stores, my church bathroom, my in-law’s spare bedroom, at a cemetery during a funeral…as mommas, we all do what we gotta do and I counted this as part of it. It’s not the most glamorous or the most enjoyable part of motherhood – but figuring out how to be mobile while maintaining the schedule is life changing!!! I highly recommend not confining yourself to your house for months at a time.
  • …the final 5 nuggets are to come in the next post. Stay tuned and hang in there!
  • References:
    1. American Pregnancy Association (2017). https://americanpregnancy.org/breastfeeding/diet-considerations-while-breastfeeding/
    1. Cregan M, Mitoulas L, Hartmann P; Mitoulas; Hartmann (2002). “Milk prolactin, feed volume and duration between feeds in women breastfeeding their full-term infants over a 24 h period”. Exp Physiol. 87 (2): 207–14.
    1. Mohrbacher N. Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple, Texas: Hale Publishing, 2010; p 400, 415.
    1. Panel on Dietary Reference Intakes for Electrolytes and Water, Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes: Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. Institute of Medicine, Washington, DC, National Academy Press, 2004:p 73-74, 153-154, 161

    The Sweet Six

    “Oh my goooosh, can we see your little human? Both our kids are already big humans.”

    Two ladies my mom’s age were slowly approaching me as I navigated Zoya’s stroller through TJ Maxx the other day.

    The normal oohs, ahhhs and compliments followed suit.

    “She is just so sweet! Aren’t you, honey? Aren’t you?”

    And then,

    “Enjoy her. Even through the tears. We remember – it’s the middle of the night and they’re crying and you’re crying too. But then it’s over real fast. So try to enjoy it too.”

    Wow. That got real so fast.

    I couldn’t help but marvel at how poignant and raw those words were. The fact that I was hearing them from two seriously seasoned mothers somehow made them even more sharp.

    Zoya is now 6 months. Looking back, I am struck by how much truth is in those womens’ words.

    There were definitely tears on my end, especially in the beginning. I had such a tough time adjusting to the lack of sleep aspect of motherhood. Nights that Vlad was gone due to work call were especially rough.

    It was snowing, dark and cold. Zoya would sometimes take as long as 45 minutes to finish her 3 oz bottle. The fight to eat would then be often followed by an episode of major spit up. I would get her back to sleep and, teary-eyed, clean the rug or change out the sheets on our bed. Knowing I still had a 20 minute pump session ahead of me before I could go back to sleep. Wondering if such giant amounts of spit up meant something was wrong with Zoya. (Note: She simply grew out of it.)

    In the thick of it, time seemed to be at a standstill.

    Reality was, it passed by so fast.

    I sleepwalked through the first three months of Zoya’s life. Then, one day, I woke up.

    The tired blur of feeds, diaper changes, endless swaddling, re-swaddling, and guessing what was wrong that is the newborn stage really is just a blip in time.

    It wasn’t all tears, though. I think three months in was when I really started to get the hang of it all and settle back into enjoyment. (Just in time to go back to work. Can we all agree that the U.S. needs to get with the times and create laws allowing longer maternity leave?)

    I love coming into Zoya’s room in the morning – she always greets me with the biggest smile. She is also developing a serious affinity for music and it’s been so fun cultivating that in little ways. And there is so much more.

    It’s hard to believe she is six months. Half a year shouldn’t be allowed to pass by this quickly.

    As Vlad said recently, there is no growth without struggle.

    Motherhood has been undoubtedly the largest and hardest undertaking of my whole life. And it has produced so much growth. I have had to lean on the Lord in ways I never knew before, learn to be a team with Vlad on a whole new level, and adjust to this baby centered pace of life.

    From her birth, I have been confidently believing that God intentionally gave us Zoya, specifically, as a daughter and us to her as parents. It’s a giant privilege to be entrusted to show her the world and also to learn from her.

    Six months.

    What a sweet beginning.

    For Vlad.

    My husband. When I think of Vlad, I think, “am I ever lucky.” Blessed really, by the grace of God, to have him in my life. I definitely don’t deserve him.

    Vlad is like wearing a warm coat on a snowy day. Or a cup of the most delicious tea in a cozy, stay here forever, plush chair.

    A loyal and faithful friend to all. He has a gift in making people feel welcome and secure. He’s always the one joking around with the checkout workers at the grocery store. All of the senior citizens that attend our gym know him. Not too long ago, at friend at church reached out to me, saying,

    “Your husband just amazes me. I have watched on two separate occasions as strangers have walked into the service late. Your husband would get up from his seat, introduce himself, and find them a place.”

    Yep, that’s Vlad.

    As years go by, I see his desire to serve God in the every day more and more. He isn’t proud about it. He just simply follows the Lord and if he feels you are in the right place for it, he will tell you about his walk.

    You aren’t going to see a lot of attention grabbing activity from him. In fact, in a large crowd, he would rather stay silent and let someone else enjoy the spotlight. But get him one on one and prepare for some excellent and thought provoking conversation.

    I love this about him and so much more. I love all our silly inside jokes. I love seeing him in the role of “dad” and how tender he is with Zoya. I love finding new mind blowing documentaries to watch together in the cold winter nights and adventuring through the city during the summer days.

    Today Vlad is 31. He hates making a big deal out of his birthday so there’s no giant party. But he is a big deal to me, the aforementioned reasons being part of why.

    Cue the fireworks and the parade, complete with endless gummy candy being tossed to the crowd.

    Happy birthday, Babe.


    Continue reading “For Vlad.”

    April 25, 2018

    Today, April 25, marks exactly one year since I found out I was pregnant with Zoya. I’m pretty sure it will forever be seared into my memory.

    Vlad and I had decided that we would let the cards fall where they may when we decided we were ok with getting pregnant. I purposefully had pretty low expectations for myself in regards to timeline. The heartbreak of infertility and pregnancy loss are all too common and I wanted to protect myself from the pain at all costs. I wasn’t trying to be negative, but I did want to be real.

    We had planned a fun trip to California for Vlad’s birthday, April 28th. (That’s coming up, so feel free to love on him extra this Sunday!) Our flight to San Francisco was the evening or April 25th.

    Leading up to that day, I had been feeling utterly exhausted. I was also constantly starving. While working, I would finish my lunch within a few hours of arriving and actually resorted to buying sandwiches from Dunkin’ Donuts to make it through the rest of the day (yes, they were delicious and greasy). I shared what had been going on with a coworker.

    “Oh my gosh. You’re totally pregnant. You need to take a test!” She laughed, pointing my way towards our point of care room, where we had multiple boxes stocked for patients. I refused, waving it off as a waste of time.

    Several days later, we were packing. The perpetual exhaustion I felt had been joined by breast tenderness. On top of that, my period was mysteriously missing. I was thinking out loud to Vlad about all that had been going on.

    “I had better not get my period on vacation!” I lamented. We decided that I would take a pregnancy test just to be super extra 100% certain nothing else was going on. I was in no big hurry.

    The day of our flight, I went to my nail appointment and picked up a pee stick at the local Dollar Tree. Cause I wasn’t about to pay more than a dollar to find out I wasn’t pregnant. Obviously.

    At home, I continued last minute packing. The test lay on my bed in it’s plastic bag, waiting for it’s time.

    At last, when Vlad’s brother arrived at our house to give us a ride to the airport and with less than an hour before we had to leave the house, I locked myself in our upstairs bathroom. After a deep breath, the testing commenced. I had stolen a styrofoam cup from the water cooler at the nail salon so I wouldn’t actually have to pee on a stick (knowing me, I would for sure miss).

    With my enough pee in the cup, I gingerly dipped the test and waited as the moisture seeped into the result window. I was really only half watching as a pink line appeared. It wasn’t faint either. If it was a paint color, I would call it “desert mauve”. The line appeared so fast that the control didn’t even have time to develop.

    I was the definition of the word shook. Admittedly, the words “oh crap, what did we do?!?” popped into my head as well as the realization that this was forever.

    I had been thinking of how I would tell Vlad I was pregnant when it would actually happen…there were vague ideas of doing some sort of cute prank and taping his reaction. Now that I was definitely pregnant, I was in such shock that the mental capacity required to come up with anything that adorable was long gone.

    I slowly walked into the office, where Vlad was nonchalantly making his headphones into a neat little roll for the trip. I’m pretty sure my jaw was dragging on the floor somewhere behind me.

    He looked up at him. I looked back wide-eyed.

    What happened next was a lot of frenzied whisper screaming so we wouldn’t clue in Vlad’s brother, chilling downstairs. We tried our best to play it cool as he dropped us off for our flight.

    If it’s possible to be ecstatic, terrified, confused and amazed all at once I was all of those. Plus slap happy. My body was actually creating a very tiny human. I felt different…yet I didn’t feel any different. I wondered if I looked different to anyone or if it was obvious to any of the thousands of people at the airport that I was with child. It was the most surreal experience.

    Morning one of being pregnant. Note the giant breakfast.

    Vlad and I had the most amazing trip, pondering the future and savoring every present moment. When I was ready to tell people at work, I found the nurse who had called me out initially and we jumped up and down in the medication room.

    This is my story. I love it because it is perfectly representative of me – kinda quirky and silly, but also constantly aware of the emotional depth some moments hold.

    Every mama has their own story, and they are also perfectly imperfect. Some stories are still being written, and that’s ok too. Truthfully, there are so many beautiful ways to arrive at parenthood.

    I’m thankful to be able to share mine with you today.

    I just wanna be OK

    Can we all just acknowledge for a second that the motherhood struggle is real? And that although the hardships are now being more publicly spoken about, many times the sharing is done via perfectly curated Instagram images that still set the bar so high.

    Basically, society dictates that you can be a hot mess, but in a very coordinated, photogenic way,

    Instagram worthy serenity

    Let’s face it though, sometimes we’re just a mess. No hot prefix. And the daily grind of being a mom doesn’t always inspire beautiful sentiment and song a la Disney princess.

    When I was pregnant I had a notion that after giving birth, love for my baby would give me superhuman energy. I thought I would be able to jump out of bed in the middle of the night to tend to Zoya’s every need with an angelic smile and the energy 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep gives. It was bewildering and guilt inducing when, in fact, I felt the opposite. “They’re only this little once, enjoy this sweet season” – was what I heard from every outlet. Except the tiny baby season is also so, so tough. There are long nights that turn into early mornings and constant guesswork relating to a new baby’s needs. I wanted to cherish all the moments, but constant exhaustion was like a foggy veil that I couldn’t shake some days.

    I was also frustrated at myself over struggling to figure out the balance of caring for a baby and exclusively pumping while simultaneously…uhh…doing everything else. There were days that getting dressed in anything but clean pajamas was unfathomable. Housework was like a mountaintop that I didn’t even want to begin to scale. Going back to work added a whole new layer to the mix. Girlfriends who had been through the season of fresh motherhood told me, “Don’t worry, you’re not supposed to get anything done right now.” Yet, as someone who has thrived on the satisfaction of accomplishment, accepting the growing mountain of laundry in the hamper as the new normal seemed like a big fail.

    It took me a while to figure out that feeling this way was OK. It was normal and didn’t make me an inferior mother. Neither did the fact that I’m not a machine that can simultaneously fold laundry, work out, and make a gourmet meal while raising a baby.

    I’ve learned to seriously prioritize all the things and be fine if some tasks don’t get accomplished. I figured out my sanity is more important than a clean house, a home cooked meal or even (gasp!) a baby participating in ten different activities a day. If I need a shower and I want to snuggle Zoya during nap time, and that means I have to order Instacart groceries, so be it. (Note: I’m very particular while grocery shopping, so giving the reins to someone else has required some serious humility and personal growth.)

    When there’s multiple balls in the air, it’s ok to let some drop so you can catch the others.

    This has become my daily reminder.

    So if you’re just as overwhelmed and underenthused as a new mama or in any life stage, allow the reminder to also become yours.

    You’re doing your very best, giving as much as you can give, within your present circumstance. You’re enough. You’re nowhere close to perfect, but it’s ok cause you’re nowhere closer to failure either.

    Reality: Utter chaos
    Trying to get some rest any way I can
    These pants and sweater have become my uniform