Thursday, December 31, 2009

357 Days

It has been weeks since I have been able to sit down and write, and I have missed it. So much has happened during this holiday season, but with all of the craziness, reflecting on all of this has taken a back seat to cooking, cleaning, packing, unpacking, wrapping, and unwrapping. As I sit here, this New Year's Eve 2009, I can't help but to get a little choked up as I think about how my life has changed this year. Eight days into 2009, at 9:53pm, the cry of tiny baby shrieked through the bright and sterile operating room. This cry rang in my ears welcoming a new and amazing chapter in my life. In one brief second, we were no longer a couple. We were a family. And, in the year 2009, my sweet little family of 3 has grown and changed with every single day. Since that day, January 8, 2009, I have experienced 357 days of bliss. I am not going to sugar coat reality. It has been hard. Each day has been challenging, and some completely frustrating, but even through the chaos and confusion, I have found myself happy every night when I fall asleep, and ready to smile every morning as I wake to the sweet little sounds streaming through the tiny monitor on my nightstand.

Watching Layla grow has been absolutely unbelievable. I have read all the books and have done all the research. I knew what to expect when I was expecting and I knew what to expect in the first year. But I never knew how I would feel through all of this. The only way to describe my feelings each and every day of 2009 is complete awe. I have been awed by a tiny blue-eyed girl. The amazement I have felt for her ever changing personality and mental and physical development has brought me to my knees several times. I sometimes think about Mary thousands of years ago, holding a tiny baby, listening to Him cry, and never, in her wildest dreams being able to imagine what He would do with his life. I know my tiny baby is not the Christ child, and I know she will never die to save the entire human population. But I know that Mary was a mother, just like me, and that just as she was amazed and awed by her son, and just as she was proud of everything her son did, I will be amazed and awed and proud of my daughter.

My hope and prayer for this New Year is the same this year as it was last year, and I will venture to say that it will be the same in each year to come - I hope and pray that Chris and I will be the best parents that we can be, and that we will teach our daughter everything we possibly can. I hope that our relationship as husband and wife continues to grow stronger with every smile and every tear. I pray that my little girl will learn about unconditional love by the strong example set by her parents. And I pray that we will never be jaded by the sadness and negativity that surrounds us. I hope that we will always find the beauty and happiness in life, and that we will always find a moment to show our gratitude for what we have been given.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Thrill of Hope

Have you ever truly listened to the words of "Oh Holy Night"? It is one of the most beautiful Christmas songs ever written, and I have listened to it and sung it a million times. I could recite the words on command, but last night, as I drove home from a quick trip to Wal-Mart, I actually listened to this song. I am not going to lie. I cried, and not just a few tears. And I did not have to come up with an excuse when I came in the house with watery and puffy eyes since I have a sinus infection.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 'til He appeared, and the soul felt it's worth.

I guess I never thought about the worth of my soul, but to God, it is a valuable posession. I am just in awe thinking about the birth of a tiny child that put a value on my soul. This tiny baby made me worth saving. This sweet boy gave me the promise of life with God, eternally. The knowledge of this gives me hope...

The THRILL of hope, the weary world rejoices.

I have never thought of hope as thrilling until last night. Hope to me has always been a word I have associated with sadness and hard times. You always talk about hope in difficult situations as sort of a light at the end of the tunnel. Hope is something you cling to in dark times. Hope to me has always been a quiet guide to a journey through a difficult situation, but thrilling? Really? Thrilling to me is excitement and adventure. I have never thought of being thrilled in the midst of sadness or fear. But from now on, I want to be thrilled. It makes challenges seem a little less difficult when you place an element of excitement on them.

On a small scale, I am thrilled with the hope of new opportunities for me and my family. This past year, minus one salary, has been a little scary. But thinking about it in this new light gives me the thrill of hope. I am encouraged by this new hope. I know that God has a plan for our family, and I know that if we are not hopeful, God's plan will not be fulfilled.

On a much larger scale, our society has fallen into a dark time. We are at war with other countries and ourselves. We are so concerned with making people comfortable that we do not challenge their beliefs and gloss over the fact that this season is Christmas, not "the holidays". The reason there are holidays at all is because of Christmas. And this Christmas season, I am filled with hope that we will share our message of why we have Christmas at all. I am thrilled in the hope that this world will no longer be weary, that we can all rejoice in the hope of this child that gave our souls worth.

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees, Oh hear the Angels' voices.

Though it is raining and cold today, this morning is new and glorious. It is a new beginning for me. I was taken to my knees last night, though not quite an Angel, Kelly Clarkson's voice carrying over my XM radio was enough to thrill me with hope for this holiday season and the year to come.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Art of Please and Thank You

With the holidays fast approaching, I find myself out and about quite a bit more. Between grocery shopping for all of those holiday functions, Target runs for anything and everything, and all of the gift shopping, I am in the stores and on the road quite often. I guess I am not surprised, but I find myself quite angered by the rudeness and general disregard for others. As I drive down the road and people pull out in front of me, refuse to get into the left lane to allow other cars to merge, or fail to use their turn signals, my road rage tends to get the best of me. When I am shopping, I am just amazed at the number of people who stand on one side of the grocery aisle while perusing the shelves on the other side of the aisle, therefore taking up the entire aisle with just them and their cart. I guess they think that if they just pretend not to see you then it's okay and they don't have to move.

The other day in Target, my mom, my sister, Layla, and I were shopping and just minding our own business. I stopped at the end of an aisle to reach down in Layla's stroller to put her shoe back on. This took all of 30 seconds, and when I stood up, there was a woman and her cart standing there giving me the evil eye and trying to push her cart through a space that was all of 6 inches wide. Rather than saying "Excuse me," she just stood there and stared at us. Finally, I said, "Oh, excuse me," and stepped out of the way. She barrelled her way through, and for the remaining 45 minutes that we were in the store, this same woman purposely came down the aisles we were in to stand and take up the whole space so that we would have to turn around, and cut us off ever time we tried to turn down an aisle. This woman had to be in her mid to late fifties and was acting like a child. I could not believe her behavior.

While shopping at the Five Oaks Shops in Sevierville last week, I was so angered by the number of customers and employees sitting outside on all of the benches puffing away on their cigarettes and forcing me, Layla, and my parents to breathe in their disgusting second-hand smoke. Today, I e-mailed the manager of the mall, and just brought to her attention how unfair this is to all of us non-smokers, and how much I hated that my 10 month old baby had to breathe in this disgusting smoke. Her reply to me :

Dear Mrs. Blankenship,

We are sorry that smoking has caused you to have unpleasant experiences in our center. However, we have met the Nonsmoking Criteria set by State Law and are in compliance. We have also asked all store employees to abide by our No Smoking Policy and to smoke outside in the back of their store.Our customers are special to us and we would like to send you a gift card as a form of apology. Please forward your address to us.Again we are sorry and wish you and your family Happy Holidays.

Seriously? A gift card? That is supposed to make my second-hand smoke exposure better? Really? I was shocked. Just because it meets state criteria does not mean that is best. I could not believe that a gift card was her solution to this problem. I promptly responded to her, and I told her that a gift card was not the solution. I did not want a gift card, and would just choose to do my holiday shopping elsewhere this year.

Enough with my rant. I have said all of this just to say that this holiday season, I am making it my purpose in life just to be a nice person. I am going to smile at people, say please and thank you, keep myself and my cart on one side of the grocery aisle, say "excuse me" to people when I need to get around them or if I am in their way, hold doors open for people, and if someone has a problem, I am going to try my hardest to come up with an intelligent and accommodating solution. I am doing all of this not only to make myself a better person, but also to set an example for my little blue-eyes. She is watching every move I make and hearing every word I say. I want her to be a good person. I want her to have respect for others, and I want her to have good manners. Respect and manners are so rarely exhibited any more, and it saddens me. We are all human and are all deserving of both of these. I am so excited to teach my little lady the art of "please" and "thank you."

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sweet Surprise

So, I am about to fall over because I am so tired, but I have to write about this while it is still fresh in my mind. I don't want to forget how it felt. I don't want to forget the way my heart skipped a beat. I just want to remember how happy I was, and the smile that came across Layla's face when it happened.

Yesterday, I was awakened at about 7:15 to the beautiful sounds of my sweet girl. The ma ma ma ma ma's and the ba ba ba ba ba's, and Layla riding her motorcycle (what most people call motorboat) are the most wonderful alarm clock. I love to wake up to that. I stumbled into her room, and looked in her crib. She just laid there, looking up at me and smiling. It was so sweet.

I reached into her crib and lifted her out. I always hold her close and hug her and kiss her. She has started resting her head on my shoulder and patting me when I do this, but yesterday, it was different. I pulled her close, kissed her, and hugged her. As I hugged her, she leaned in, put her lips to my cheek, and pop! She kissed me. My eyes filled with tears, and my heart melted.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Confessions of an Angry Housewife

In the midst of tears and a knot in my stomach, I came to understand a lot about myself last week. As Chris and I laid down to go to sleep, a wave of emotion rushed over me. I began to cry and all I could do was say "I'm sorry." He did not understand at first, but as we laid there, so much understanding came to me. I had been so angry at him all week. Everything he did made me mad. I snapped at him for every little thing. I know he had been on egg shells all week. I could not understand why I was so angry and why he was on my nerves so badly. It was at that moment on Thursday night that I understood. He had not done anything wrong. As a matter of fact, he had been nothing but wonderful to me all week, going out of his way to help me. But at that moment, I understood why I was so angry. He was leaving, and with every moment that passed, the time of his departure was getting closer. As I cried, I realized how I cope with Chris leaving. I push him away. If I am angry with him, I don't miss him as much. If I don't like him, then the sadness and loneliness don't hit quite as hard. Or so I thought. What was I doing? Pushing away the person I love most in this world. He is such a good husband and a good father. I love him so much, and he works so hard to provide for our family and to help make our family strong and happy. He deserves a week out of the year to do something he loves. I want him to be happy, and I don't want to be angry any more. Once I finally came to this realization, it didn't make him leaving any easier, but it has made our relationship better. Not being angry with your husband is a wonderful thing! I miss him like crazy, and when he's not here, I still get sad, but I am not angry. I feel like a 100 pound weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Shedding that anger feels amazing, but figuring out why I was so angry feels even better. Taking a step back and re-evaluating who I am is necessary every day, and this time, I am glad I did that before he left. We had a wonderful Friday and Saturday together, and I can't wait for him to get home! I love that guy with all of my heart, and I miss him like crazy. And that little blue-eyed girl, I'm sure, is having sweet dreams about her sweet daddy as she sleeps the night away. I can't wait for Saturday... I can't wait to hug him and kiss him and tell him how much I love him. I hope he is having a great week doing what he loves, but I hope he misses me the whole time!

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Round of Applause for Mommy

The little things in life are the things I am growing to love more and more each day that I am a wife and a mother. The little sleeping angel in the room across the house has taught me so much in her short time on this earth. Watching her eyes light up when she finds a toy in Mommy's purse to play with or the laughter that comes from her carseat when she catches glimpse of herself in the mirror, and knowing that those little moments are the highlight of her day. Seeing how happy she is about the smallest things has taught me so much. I used to be and probably to most, I still am very high maintenance, but I would like to think that my maintenance level has dropped since most of my energy has been refocused on a pair of sweet little blue eyes making sure they light up at least 50 times a day! Those moments are the moments that make me happy...

My sweet baby clapping when I walk in her room in the morning, that makes me happy.

Looking in the floor and seeing the entire contents of my purse spread all around her, that makes me happy.

Going on a date with my husband, that makes me happy.

Getting all bundled up and walking through the shops at the Fall Festival, that makes me happy.

Rocking that little girl to sleep, that makes me happy.

Cleaning banana mush off of little tiny hands, that makes me happy.

My husband helping with my coat and opening my car door for me, that makes me happy.

A hand-written thank you card in the mail, a walk in the park, autumn leaves falling on my car, a good book, a sweet comment on Facebook, a new page in Layla's scrapbook, a successful arts and crafts project, a yummy batch of cupcakes, a big bowl of chili, a successful week at Weight Watchers, a trip to Target, an experimental dinner that turns out to be delicious, a night with family, holding the door open for someone coming in behind me, sweet potatoes, a neatly made bed, Glee... These things all make me happy.

But what makes me happiest is my little family... my husband who never gives up on me, and my Layla who has no idea that I'm not perfect.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Camo and compromise

So, for anyone who knew me before I met Chris, choosing a spouse for me would have never involved qualities such as outdoorsy or adventurous. But, because God has a sense of humor, the mate he created for me is both of these things and so much more. Chris is an amazing man who is completely well-rounded. I like to refer to him as "the bridge." Reason being: if you put two completely opposite people into a room and then add him to the mix, he will find some common ground to bridge the gap. For this reason, I completely adore him. He also knows just enough about almost everything to be able to have a conversation with just about anyone. I thank his car sales days for that skill. A friend of ours said it best when she said, "Chris is kind of like Charlie from the Farm Bureau commercials." And she is exactly right.

His knowledge of so many subject matters, his hunger to learn more, and his incredible conversation skills drew me in from the beginning. I love that he knows so much and that he is so fun to talk to. I love that he can fix anything and that if you have a problem, he will do his best to find a solution. I love that he mows my parents' yard because my dad is allergic to grass. I love that he installed a ceiling fan for a friend at work in her new house. I love that he installed the wood floors in our house and learned how just by reading a book. And I love that if a person is need of zip ties or a screwdriver, chances are he has them in his backpack or just outside in his truck. I am completely in love with and totally fascinated by this multi-faceted and well-rounded composition that is my husband.

For anyone who does not know, Chris is an avid hunter, and has been for most of his life. This is one hobby that I do not understand and have never really been exposed to before. All I know is that toward the end of September his focus completely changes and life revolves around hunting (and Fantasy Football). I know he loves it, and I do understand it a little more after almost 5 years together. I know he loves being outdoors, and the beauty of the woods totally fascinates him. There seems to be something peaceful to him about the solitude and the silence. I also know that the thrill of the hunt is exciting to him. This part I don't understand as much, but I know it makes him happy.

Like I said before, I really don't understand all of it, and in the past, I have not been very understanding about it. I know I have thrown a few fits about him leaving and I know I have cried many times during those fuzzy, about-to-lose-service phone calls. I know this has not been easy on him, and I know I have been manipulative and hurtful. Last year I was pregnant so I had an excuse to be weepy and demand that he limit his travels and not leave the county after December 1st. But the years prior and this year, I have no excuse. So this year, I am trying my absolute hardest to be more understanding and nicer about the whole thing. I know it makes him happy, and I know that in the grand scheme of life, the days he spends in the woods are far outweighed by the days he spends being wonderful to me. Now, I am not saying that I will be the saintly wife who never speaks my mind, but I am sure going to try to be patient and understanding when he needs to leave town for a couple of days. I am going to try not to throw fits and cry every time he calls. I am going to try to help him pack for his trips and I am going to try to send him off with a kiss and smile instead of tears.

I am going to try to do all of these things for three reasons. Reason number one: Seeing my husband smile. There is nothing more satisfying to me than knowing that Chris is happy, and if I can do anything to help him be happy, I am going to do it. Reason number two: the little blue-eyed girl asleep in the other room. I want to be an example to her. I want to show her what a loving and understanding marriage should be, and I want her to understand that part of a marriage is compromise and wanting to make the other happy. Reason number three: bettering myself. I want to be a better person. I want to be a supportive, loving wife. I want to understand my husband, and I want him know how much I love him.

I guess becoming a mommy forces your identity to change. I guess after 29 years, it's time for me to grow up a little and work a little harder for the people I love.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pea gravel and tortilla chips

So, as I was cleaning pureed corn off of the counter, microwave, and coffee pot today (my fault for using a bowl that was too shallow), I started thinking about life and where it has taken me in the past few months. I imagined a lot of adventures when I was a child about where I would go in life, and all of the exciting things I would do. What I have been living the past few months is none of what I ever imagined, but somehow it is better. I have never laughed so much in my whole life. Layla is hilarious and doesn't even know it.

A couple of weeks ago I was cleaning out my closet. There were hangers and clothes all over my room and no safe place for a crawling and very nosey baby. I spotted an empy laundry basket and there was my answer. I put her in the basket with some toys, and she sat there and played for over an hour, never trying to escape. She thought she was hot stuff in her pretty blue basket.

A few days later, we were in the kitchen. Layla loves to find things in the floor - threads from my bedroom rug, tiny invisible bread crumbs, etc. - and attempt to eat them. She was playing beside her swing, and I was making lunch. I picked her up to put her in her high chair. She was chewing on something and did not want to let it go. I opened her mouth, and to my surprise, she was chewing on a piece of pea gravel. Not what I expected. Apparently one of us tracked it in from the back yard, and she thought it was a snack. Keep in mind, I vacuum and sweep 3 to 4 times a week, so I was shocked to find this. It was too big for her to swallow, but I felt like the most terrible mother - both for not spotting the rock before she did and for cracking up when I found a piece of pea gravel in my child's mouth.

Last weekend, Layla woke up on Saturday morning with her usual full diaper. I laid her on the changing table and opened it up. When I opened it, it was the usual shade of sweet potato orange, but there was something white right in the middle. When I looked closer, holding my nose, I realized what it was. All of us have done this, cut a tag off a new item of clothing, and pop! the little plastic end that attaches it to the clothes, disappears into the rug never to be found again. Well apparently my magical Dyson missed this one, but my little blue-eyed vacuum found it. She ate it, and it came out the other end! I was shocked. Why does she eat everything? And how do I miss it. I never take my eyes off of her. She is a sneaky little thing, that's for sure.

And today, we were again in the kitchen. You would think I had learned my lesson by now, but I keep a bucket beside my pantry with a ton of snacks in it, such as 100 calorie packs, granola bars, etc. We had an occasion last week where we ate tortilla chips and there was a partial bag of those in this bucket. I did not realize that I had failed to put a clip on the bag to hold it closed. Layla found the bag and started playing with it. She loves the crunchy sound the bags make. She was laughing and playing, and I reached into a cabinet to get a bowl. When I stood up and put the bowl on the counter, I looked over, and hundreds of tortilla chip crumbs were scattered on my kitchen floor. A very shocked little baby looked up at me with those big blue eyes and just smiled. And, of course, she chose not to eat these. She will eat pea gravel and plastic tags, but she won't eat tortilla chips. I don't get it.

But what I do get is that through all of this, I have learned to laugh and not panic. I have also learned not to be angry at myself when these little things happen. I have learned that no mommy is perfect. We all make mistakes, and at the end of the day, that sweet little baby has no idea that her mommy is not perfect.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Call me June Martha Roseanne Carrie

Once Layla arrived and we came home from the hospital, real life could begin. Chris and I could start learning the ins and outs of parenthood. It's very different when there is no nurse or doctor coming in once an hour to check on us and and the baby. Hoping my maternal instincts were going to kick in, we set forth to care for this tiny baby. I jumped at every funny noise she made, and I second guessed every tiny decision. I was trying to recover from a long labor and major surgery, but somehow, those needs took a backseat to the needs of this wimpering little lump sleeping beside me. Chris went back to work, and I did not. Goody's sent all of their employees home the Monday after Layla was born. I did not have a job to go back to. My work has always been part of my identity, and now, along with the many other changes, I must add "unemployed" to my list of words that describe my identity. That is a word that I have not used to identify myself since high school. I am going on 8 months of joblessness right now, and frankly, I don't quite know what to do with myself. My mommy identity is slowly developing and transforming. This time Layla and I have had together has been amazing. The fun we have had far outweighs the lack of paycheck in our bank account.

I have been experimenting with my creativity, learning to cook healthier and tastier meals, organizing the heck out of my house, cleaning like a crazy person, working out daily, and enjoying an occasional nap in the afternoon, but mostly, I have begun to know and understand myself more than I ever have before. This June Cleaver, Martha Stewart, Roseanne, Carrie Heffernan - like woman I have become is a person that I like very much. All of the books say that a person changes the most from birth to the first birthday, and I believe tha,t not only for a baby, but for the mother as well. I have not changed this much in such a short amount of time since my first year of life. My definitions of the titles mother and wife are developing daily, and the person I am at age 29 is a woman I am learning to love and finally beginning to understand.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The big day

Now, to step down from my soapbox. Refocusing on my sweet baby, that at 38 weeks was measuring well over 8 pounds on the ultrasound. On Monday, January 5th, I visited my doctor's office because I was so sick and afraid I had Istrep. After enduring the 3rd strep test of my pregnancy, I was told I did not have strep and that I should just go home, take Tylenol, and sleep. The strep test is one of the most horrible diagnostics out there, and for a pregnat woman, it is sheer torture. Shoving a foot long swab down the throat of a woman with a very heightened gag reflex is not only disgusting for the woman, but very dangerous for the person on the other side of that swab. Yuck! I remember going to work that day sick, miserable, and surprisingly cold though I was carrying a giant heater in my belly. I left work early that day, and the following day as well, spending the time I was at work cleaning out my officeand packing up the past 3 years of my life. Not normal procedure just for maternity leave, but with the dark cloud hanging over the Goody's building, it was the smartestthing I could do. On Wednesday morning of that week, I had a routine doctor visit scheduled. During the 2 hours that Chris and I were there, everything we had planned for the last 8 1/2 months became reality. Following an ultrasound, we met with the doctor, and he matter of factly said to us, "Guys, you need to have this baby tomorrow." Completely stunned by this, I am pretty sure my jaw dropped to the floor while Chris' heart simultaneously skipped a beat. The only thing I could think to say was, " I am so sick and can't breathe. Won't that be a problem when I am trying to deliver a baby?" The lovely doctor said to me, "Yeah, but you'll live." With that, he was out the door, and Chris and I just sat in silence for what seemed to be 2 hours. It was really only about 2 seconds, and when we realized this baby was coming 2 weeks early we were thrilled and terrified. Our plan was for me to go home and rest all day, Chris was going to work, and that night, we would get everything together and head to the hospital the following morning. My sweet husband brought fried rice, spring rolls with very hot mustard, and extremely spicy miso soup home for dinner. Yum! And quite good for clearing out the sinuses. Following my dinner of fire and rice, we settled in to rest a little and head to bed. Between the coughing, stuffy nose, and the anxiety over what would happen in the morning, sleep was not on my agenda for the night.

The following morning, we were at the hospital at 7:00am. As soon as we got there, I received my IV, had bloodwork, and was hooked up to the heart monitor and the fetal monitor. I will spare you the details of the following 14 hours, except to say that I was the envy of every nurse in the place. My husband was a hero that day. He was so loving and patient. He stayed right by my side for every single second of the day. The only time he left me was when I forced him to go eat lunch with my dad. I can not even begin to describe the how amazing he was. I have always known that I married a man that loved me every minute of every day, unconditionally, but our love rose to a new level that day. I fell in love with him that day, again and again. In a matter of hourse, I watched this sweet boy become a strong man. It was the only thing that kept me going that day. After 14 hours of coughing, crying, and contracting, we were faced with a huge decision. Keep trying, keep waiting, or go in for a C-section. Layla's safety was at risk, as well as mine. Therefore, we decided that a C-section was the best choice for all of us. This decision was made at 9:00 pm, and Layla arrived at 9:53 pm. The time in between is a complete blur. I know Chris was a rock through every second of it, and I know that the second I heard her cry that my life changed forever.

I could hear the echo of her screams in that cold, bright room, and when I saw her, I felt something that can only be described as a combination of what I felt the day Chris proposed, the day I married, him, and the day that pregnancy test showed 2 lines. The events of the previous 27 years finally all made sense. I knew why I had been put on this earth. I understood that my life had purpose. I knew something huge was happening in the tiny operating room in that tiny hospital. In that brief second, that is when my name changed from Ashley Breanne Blankenship to Layla's Mom... the greatest name I could ever have!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

From Peanut to POP!

Once the pregnancy was confirmed, life began to change daily. The visual changes much slower than the physical and emotional changes. I was transforming from the girl who was terrified of being pregnant and becoming a mother into a safehouse for my little peanut. Almost in an instant it was no longer about me. It was about this little tiny life inside of me. My thoughts and my emotions were consumed with this person that was no bigger than my fingernail. I immediately started reading every book I could get my hands on, surfing the web at work and combing through every baby site out there. I was absolutely amazed by the process that I once feared. I could not even fathom the change my body was about to experience and could not have been more grateful to God for equipping a woman's body with the tools and processes necessary to nurture a child from the second her life began.

Keeping this baby a secret, even for just a few weeks was so difficult for me. I had to tell my boss since I was going to be out for doctor appointments, and since we weren't telling anyone until 8 weeks, I had to keep my lips buttoned for 3 torturous weeks. I couldn't do it though. I was weak. The second I got in the car after my first doctor appointment, I grabbed my phone and searched my contact list furiously for my friend, Lindsey. I landed on her name, hit send, and for the next 5 minutes, I have no idea what I said. I know there was squealing involved, a few tears, and excitement that could not be controlled. It felt so good to tell someone, and I knew she wouldn't tell anyone since she lived 3 hours away, nowhere close to our families or any other friends.

After the initial shock, reality set in. The constant, gnawing hunger, the ever-swinging pendulum of my innter thermostat, and the continuous nausea brewing in the pit of my stomach. My only vice - ice cream - in all of its glorious forms. I was so sleepy some days. I remember sliding my keyboard to the side of my desk, and just putting my head down on my desk for a nap, praying that my phone would not ring and that my boss would not walk in and catch me. I would come home from work, starving of course, but I was always faced with the difficult choice - to sleep or to eat. This is where my sweet husband would swoop in and save the day. His culinary skills and patience were definitely tested. I would be sent to bed the second I walked in the door, only to be awakened about an hour later to the sweet smell of dinner that I didn't cook! Eating food that I had cooked was barely possible, so the nights Chris would cook and let me sleep were my most favorite nights. Propping myself up to eat, most nights in the bed, took all of the strength I could muster, and I would usually pass out again sometime between 8 and 9. I have never felt so exhausted in all of my life.

The day I awoke to just hunger and not that barfy feeling was so exciting, and then I made it through the entire day without needing a nap! It was strange yet welcome feeling. Entering into my second trimester, I felt like the energizer bunny. I wanted to go every where and do everything! Shortly into my second trimester, the pregancy became obvious to everyone else. My little belly pooch was becoming a definite baby bump. I had already gone up 2 bra sizes, and now the rest of clothes were snug, to say the least. Sundresses and flip flops became my best friends, but the unsolicited advice from every human that had ever come in contact with a baby or a pregnant woman, were not my best friends. The next identity change began to transpire. I no longer just blended in to the rest of society. No, I began to stand out, or rather poke out. My belly began to attract a great deal of attention. I have seen pregnant women all of my life, and if I have ever done the things I am about to write about to you when you were pregnant, I apologize. My second trimester was relatively uneventful except for the very obvious physical changes. But with those changes came some of the strangest human behaviour I have ever witnessed. I guess because I was so aware of my body and the daunting presence of my ever-growing belly, I became much more aware of the reactions of others to my 5 foot frame and basketball belly. I have never in my life been stared at by so many people that I did not know. I have never had so many fingers pointed at me and my body. And I have never felt so on display and so aware of the eyes watching me and following me. When you just want to go on with your life and cross things off your list, the ensuing discussions in Target or Kroger, make it rather difficult. I mean, I don't spot a woman with a giant butt, point my finger at her, and say to my friend, "Wow, her butt is so big. I bet she is miserable." If I see a man with beer gut, I don't stare and whisper to Chris, "His belly is so big. He looks like he is about to POP." So, if it is socially rude to that, let's just add another social rule to the books. If you wouldn't say something to or about a woman with a giant butt or a man with a beer gut, then don't say it to or about a pregnant woman. And while we are adding rules to the socially acceptable rule book, unless you are related to the pregnant woman, the father of the baby bump, or a dear friend that asks permission, do not touch or rub a woman's baby bump. Just as I would not point and comment about man's gut or a woman's butt, I would not pat or rub either of these appendages. For someone all respect for a person's personal space become null and void when there is another human growing inside you.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

My new identity...

Legally, my name has been changed only once in my life, but in January of this year, my name changed again. This change did not come with a marriage certificate, a new social security card, or a new driver's license photo. No, this name change came with a birth certificate and a permanent attachment on my left hip. I am no longer just Ashley. Now, I am fondly referred to by most as simply, Layla's Mommy. Don't get me wrong, I love my new name and everything that comes with it. I especially love the little blue eyes that light up every time I walk into a room.

The last 8 months of my life have brought on the most change in the shortest amount of time. My life before Layla (we will call that BL) changed but over months and years, but life after Layla (we will call that AL) rapidly changes every single day.

Looking back on my childhood makes me feel as though it went so slowly and stayed relatively calm. High school and college carried on seamlessly, and post college had some rough spots, but maintained consistency and order, for the most part. Meeting Chris, dating him, and getting engaged to him only took a mere 8 months (the same amount of time I have now been a mommy), but that time feels like it took 100 years in comparison to this new life I have, AL. In my life BL, Chris and I had a wonderful engagement, a beautiful wedding, and 2.5 years of marriage that were absolutely amazing. But something was missing, something was unbalanced, something inside of us wanted more. We wanted more love, more hugs and kisses. We wanted one more person. Thus, we commenced to the "trying" stage of our marriage.

In our minds, I guess we thought, "OK. We will start trying for a baby." Thinking this would take 3 or 4 months, or maybe more, we went on with life. About 9 weeks into this process, I realized something had been missing for the entire 9 weeks. When I finally clued in, one Sunday afternoon, I called Chris and asked him to pick up a test while he was at the store. He brought it home, I excused myself, and several minutes later, I emerged. With hands shaking and tears in my eyes, I revealed the results to Chris. He didn't believe me. After the initial shock, he said to me, "There were 2 in the box. Go take the other one." So, I did. When the second one turned positive almost immediately, our suspicions were confirmed. During the following week, I called the doctor, took about 5 more tests, and thus commenced the first step of the inevitable name change...