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...