Premature Labor & Bliss: How A Healthy Baby Changed My Life

Premature Labor & Bliss: How A Healthy Baby Changed My Life

To my precious Wild,

I love you. Happy fourth anniversary of our first big hurdle together. I know we’ll have many, many more challenges because of the way your precious body works. I also know we’ll have many, many more wins because of the unshakeable faith that I have in our Heavenly Father.

To my friends,

Today I want to share a snippit of our adventure with Bliss. And how it was absolutely wild from the get go!

Four years ago today I was 32 weeks and 1 day pregnant with my second miracle baby. On March 13, 2013 I found myself sitting in a room full of health care providers and experts in maternal well-being. The theme of our time together? Preventing and supporting maternal mental health for those experiencing premature birth (and birth loss). I left that conference with a strange tightness in my chest. It was the same tightness that I felt while carrying my son… but I can only recognize that years later. In that moment, I just didn’t feel “right.”

I returned to my office, and sat down at my desk. After a few minutes, I asked a colleague if she would bring me to the hospital. Was it a heart attack?

I don’t remember much about the 24-48 hours that followed (I think that’s a protective boundary my sweet mind has gifted me), but I do remember two things: 1. the moment that my blood pressure crashed due to a medication meant to stop my contractions (No heart attack here! Just preterm labor. Again.), and 2. when I heard the words BED REST.

Millions and millions of women have no idea what it’s like to be on bedrest twice. But thousands of us do. Is it worth it for a healthy baby? YES. Is it pure torture while you’re on that particular path? Oh, friend. You can’t even imagine.

There I was, a mother with severe perinatal anxiety being put on modified bedrest (at home, Praise Jesus!) for 22 hours a day, every day. A mother still recovering from postpartum depression who now had limited contact with her two-year old son – let alone any other human being for weeks and weeks on end. (The second half was a product of living in the sticks back then.)

I will never, ever complain about those five long, medicated, darkest of dark weeks where I wept every day and pretended to be fine. Those weeks gave me a beautiful child of full health born on (wait for it…) her DUE DATE. We both proved our fight. (Thank you Bliss for teaching me how to be bold and brave then, just as you do now.)

My friend, the story doesn’t end with a healthy baby. It begins there. I’m reflecting on that right now because so very many women don’t experience this gift. Nothing can prepare you for all the feelings you learn about as you hold your first healthy baby. Nothing can prepare you for the joy you’ll experience. And nothing can prepare you for the longing and sadness that might rise up, too. When I gave birth to this baby, I realized how very disconnected I had been from my first…

Regrets? I have none. But I do have so much empathy for the woman I was. The woman who didn’t know what motherhood could be – who had no idea that she could fall madly in love with a child at first sight. Oh, how I fell in love with my Bliss at first sight!

In our short time together, Bliss has taught me gratitude. She has taught me big, scary love. She has taught me patience and kindness and loving-awareness and simplicity and balance. Bliss has taught me connection and reconnection and bravery and that it’s okay to not text back right away (life doesn’t stop) and that you can actually give birth to one of your very best friends… And we’ve only been together 4 years.

It feels simultaneously absurd and authentic to write this… but I can’t wait for the next four and the next four and the next forty. A mother’s job isn’t to raise her young and walk away – but to counsel the next generation in her wisdom as she grows old. This season is just the beginning of something beautiful. Today, I get to walk alongside moms who have experienced chunks of life that have look like my chunks. But there will come a tomorrow when I will get to walk alongside my Bliss, teach her what she has unknowingly taught me.

xox

Mama J.

 

She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying: “Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.” Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.” -Proverbs 31:26-31

Feeling All The Mama Feels

Can I go Here and come back whole? I ask myself as I put my fingers to the keyboard this morning. It’s so easy to become lost in thought. Especially for a girl who hides from emotion. Or a girl who hid from emotion. A girl who doesn’t hide from feelings anymore… yet doesn’t particularly care for excessive feeling either. Still.

Perhaps, after months of write-free sabatical, and an exploration into integrative wellness from the other side of the table (as a coach-in-training), I can be Here and return into my sweet little world whole.

Let’s give it a try.

Today, I want to talk to you about these emotions I’ve been burying for years and years (and years). Today, I want to be brave enough to tell you that you are not alone if you have had big, scary emotions begin to rise up – and then you completely freaked the freak out (with or without knowing it). Today, I want to be brave enough to share this space with you. Because maybe, just maybe, if we share this space it will be easier to tell you about Jamie. And maybe it will be easier to tell you about growing into an emotional being, too.

Jamie was the first mother that I chose a relationship with shortly after becoming a mother myself. My peers didn’t have kids, especially sick ones, and I was crawling out of my skin most days pretending to be someone I wasn’t… yet. But in those conversations with Jamie – a friend and employee at my day job – I wasn’t pretending. I could tell her about the sleepless nights and the worry. She held a space for me. And in return, I held one for her. Our sons were only two weeks apart in age, and we could connect on so many different experiences. Including this one: Jamie lived with a physical dysfunction that was wreaking havoc on her life. That dysfunction took her from our beautiful world five years ago today.

That experience that we connected on has absolutely wreaked havoc on my life too. And five years ago, I had just recovered from an autoimmune crash and back injury. I was teaching yoga, contemplating leaving my job in veterinary medicine, and feeling nothing (still). My son was 20 months old, and I was completely disconnected. But on the day that Jamie passed away, I felt something for the first time since becoming a mom. I felt something real and raw and vulnerable. And it wasn’t fear – quite possibly the only thing that I had been feeling for quite some time. What I felt was one of the deepest sadnesses that I have ever known. And, home alone with my little boy when I received the news, I felt one of the deepest loves that I have ever known too. My mild child sat upon my lap as I crumbled that day. He sat upon my lap and he wiped away each and every tear that fell.

The little boy that I didn’t know how to love, loved me. I can’t put this experience into any more words than this. At least not today.

Flash forward through the next year, and slowly but surely more emotions bubbled up to the surface. And of course, one by one, I pushed them back down. When I became pregnant with our second baby, I decided immediately it should be a boy again. I was raised to believe that boys were less emotional. Which would obviously make life much easier for me!

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This little boy might be the most emotional being I’ve ever met. He breaks down gender stereotypes daily. And I love it.

But alas, God’s hand placed me on a healing path – and that second miracle child ended up being a sweet (and wild) little girl. Not only did I begin to learn emotion through her, but I learned that all people have emotion through having her. Emotion isn’t just a girl or woman thing. It’s a people thing. (And it is safe to have them.) I’ve seen the emotion of a little boy learning to grow into a relationship with a lost mama bear; and then watched his emotions expand and contract as he learns to grow into relationship with a special needs sister. I’ve seen the emotion of a man who almost lost his father. I’ve seen the emotion of a child lost in her world. I’ve seen my emotions twist and turn and churn and bubble up through it all.

And while I don’t love the idea of being so hugely vulnerable as to feel all the feels all the time, I do feel a lot of feels a lot of the time now. Feels that don’t pull me down into a deep dark hole, but inspire me to lift someone else out of theirs.

How do you live in your emotional body? Does it feel good and safe to you? I would love to know.

To Jamie – thank you for being on my heart daily. You remind me always that being present means being grateful for all of the gifts that Papa has given me.

xox

Mama J.

 

Acceptance In Motherhood

Dear Mama,

9 hours. Did you know that it takes 9 (interrupted) hours to take a 2 hour defensive driving course online at home on a Sunday afternoon? If this isn’t motherhood in a nutshell, then nothing is! Pretty much everything that we do – once we enter the realm of nurturing other little beings – takes at least double the time to complete. Are you okay with that?

Yesterday, I was not. I was not okay with the distractions and the interruptions and the crying and the screaming and the tattling and the nose-picking arguments. (You know the one. It starts with “please, sweetie get your fingers out of your nose,” and ends up with you raving over the 15 different reasons why you should not stick your fingers in your nose… to a three year old, who at the end of the conversation is still picking their nose. #JesusFixIt) Yes, yesterday acceptance was long gone and I was being hung out to dry by two precious miracles who sucked all of the love words right out of my soul and replaced them with responses like, “really?” and “I can’t even.” Please note, hands were being thrown in the air during both responses. Signs that you really have a frustrated mama bear.

But guess what? I have no guilt. I have no guilt that acceptance wasn’t even slightly on my radar. I have no guilt that I’m human. And that I’m okay with. Are you okay with your humanness?? Are you okay that sometimes your mission field is full of explosive mines and that sometimes, you’ll get struck – you’ll go down, down, down – and then you’ll reappear as Mommy Mary Poppins the next morning? Are you okay with that?

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She’s okay with it. She is more than okay with my humanness. Because interestingly enough, she already recognizes HER humanness.

 

Mama, I want to know if you’re okay with that because our mission field might always be filled with tiny explosive devices – some that might be concealed for weeks or months or years – and then boom. You trip one, and you are no longer the magical mama bear you’ve worked overtime to become. You’re just a bear with limited maternal instinct, but your survival instinct is still on fleek, so you roar and you run… And then Monday morning comes and you gush over how blessed you are and it brings you so much joy to see your kids excited for school – and that bow, did you see that bow my wild is wearing today?

We’re an interesting bunch, aren’t we?

This morning, I imagine that Big Papa is rolling over our interestingness. I believe He finds enormous humor in our innocence – and not in a roll-your-eyes-at-that-mom-over-there kind of humor. A genuine, childlike Joe Biden meme kind of humor. Have you seen those meme’s yet? Mama, just x right out of this post right now and google it. Okay, okay, we’re mid-conversation – so check it out later at the very least!

He finds humor in how one moment we’re on cloud nine posting on every social media platform that our miracle child has a wonderful new skill (like peeing on the potty) and the next minute, we’re barricaded in the bathroom with a glass of wine and some chocolate, while Frozen is playing on repeat in the living room. We somehow believe that our “Frozen moment” is a sign of our weakness and our failure – meanwhile, we’ve got a savior that died for our sins so that our failures would be absolutely unrecognizable to our Heavenly Father!

Y’all, Jesus fixed it! Can we be okay now? Can we be okay that while striving for being more, we have a good, good Father that loves us the same even when we’re not? Can we accept that no matter how wobbly we personally feel, that we are always on solid ground with the One who loves us enough to have given us these challenging miracles? I hope so. I hope and pray that we can be okay with what is while working for what can be. Because I promise you, you are worthy of okay. Actually, you’re worthy of a whole lot more than okay.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.” – Psalm 19:14

Let’s rock more than okay. Catch you soon, sweet friend.

xox

Mama J.

Seek Not – Why I Gave Up Control

Dear Wild,

Seek not control, for it won’t be given.

Seek not, sweet baby girl. It’s one of the only things that I can truly say that I have learned in mothering a sensory child (you). After what felt like (or actually was) over six weeks with few breaks from the wildness, we’ve hit our longest streak of calm in the last two years. (If you consider bite wounds on your brother’s nose calm. And after many of our other adventures, I certainly do.) This calm will potentially be disrupted by the multi-sensory, emotional experience of being reunited with family in a few short days – but alas, we have seen you my wild child. We have seen you. The you that lies far beneath the squirming and anxiety attacks and sensory meltdowns and obsessive compulsive cleaning and tidying tendancies. And you are beautiful, Wild.

Let me clear the air and tell you mother to daughter that you have always been beautiful. The rolling over within 24 hours of birth? Beautiful. The wide eyed (insane-looking) smiles you gave at just three weeks old? Beautiful. The 24/7 demand to nurse for 10 months? Beautiful. The asphalt-stained face after your first public meltdown? Beautiful. The way you scream with excitement? Beautiful. The confused and dazed look that overcomes your sweet face on a challenging day? Beautiful. You are always beautiful.

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There is nothing like watching your child thrive in a social experience. You absolutely amazing me, Wild. Your fight to be the best version of you continues to push me to be the best version of me!

Do you know what else is beautiful?

Handing over the reigns. Letting go of what you can’t control. I’ve been in awe this past week of who you are and who you are becoming. Yet, these last few days I’ve been waiting in fear – forgetting to breathe – because barring a miracle, this will not last. Oh, but imagine if it did?! I have to remind myself to hope for it, still. That while we treat you and work to prevent challenges, I can still pray for your complete recovery. And I can still know that God is God and that if it’s not his plan, then that’s okay too.

Motherhood is one of the few places where I’ve ever felt so in control, yet so out of it. Wild, I’ve been gifted you and your brother and I have worked so very hard to be a better version of me – for you. A place where I felt in control. Yet, without God’s great hand that lifted me out of a troubled stretch with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders combined with an epic autoimmune crash, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Seek not control, sweet girl, seek not… for it won’t be given. And it’s truly not worth your time. What is worth your time? Enjoying seven mostly-awesome days with a child that you wanted more than anything else in this entire world.

Until my fingers meet these keys again, you are the most precious gift little one.

Love,
Mama J.

 

But Not Right Now

Dear Mild & Wild Ones,

I went to bed the other night feeling a bit broken and beat down. What has transpired from that unrest, blows my mild. For so many years, I have been the jack of all trades. It was during the space created on Sunday night that it came into my attention not everyone will understand why I must have my hands in ten different things at once – and that sometimes, I will also forget why I dive into everything that calls my name.

But then I think about who our God is, and I know that when He puts your name on a task – you don’t say no. In the last few years of building our family’s business, I have not said no. What I have said is “but not right now.” And he’s still blessed me. In January, I first wrote down that I should begin writing. And immediately thereafter in my journal, I wrote “but not right now.”I think there is such an interesting web we can weave for our future when we say those four simple words. Sometimes, he’ll respond so that you have no doubt that “not right now” is now. And other times you’ll have a prompt (like I did late one night for a manuscript I just sent off to four different publishing houses). And still other times, you’ll make a guess about when it is “right now.”

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I know how easy it is to spiral into a space of constant busyness. And I am thankful for amazing friends and family and a Father that remind me how important it is to say “not right now.” If no’s are hard for you too, this might be a good place to start!

And through it all, you’ll be offered grace. Through it all, you will carry out his plans. Because you are known, my sweet children. You were knit in my womb by a maker that has predestined you to a greatness that neither you nor I know of… yet. In Jeremiah 1:5 it says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” And in Psalm 139:13, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

How awesome.

How awesome that we are offered free will each and every day to pick up the staff and move onward, or leave it there and be still. How awesome that God already knows which you’re going to choose – even though you don’t until that moment. I think of David often lately, and the temple project he worked laboriously. A project he didn’t see come to fruition, but his son did. What if everything he’s placed on my heart isn’t meant to flourish in my time? Maybe that’s why I don’t say no. Because I could begin to build the legacy that one or both of you will fulfill.

So many thoughts as I allow myself to dream without limits again (for the first time in maybe a year or so!). So much joy in realizing that my greatest dream is alive and well. I’m home with both of you. Exactly where he’s called me to be for exactly two years this month.

I love you sweet babies. I treasure the good and the rough and the sleepless and everything in between. And I am so hugely, enormously, awesomely glad that I don’t have to say “but not right now” to you.

“I have heard You calling my name
I have heard the song of love that You sing
So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore
Into Your grace
Your grace

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way.”

-You Make Me Brave, Bethel Music

Love,
Mama J.

Turnip Pasta

Dear Mild,

I’m supposed to be working on a new project to be released next month, but felt compelled to rock life The Mild Way – without limitations or time constraints, and with ease. I can’t say that you’re always an easeful child, but your perspective… oh sweet boy, your perspective is often easy and, come to think of it, light.

Praise God that you are resilient, because we both know that living with a sensory spectrum wild child little sister can be a hard experience to praise through. Though baby boy, we prayed through for sure!

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Like turnips, praising through is an acquired taste. Fortunately, we have many, many teachable moments where turnips and praising through can be experimented with – and better yet – experienced. Especially, when you live on the wild side.

My son, I’m pausing today for an ah-ha moment. One I want to share with you, after seeing you praise through it all – the work and the play. The therapy sessions with your wild sister. The incredible gift of raising baby bunnies. So, here’s what I found myself stopping for:

Sweetness, in watching you, I have found is that there is a difference between praising through and praying through. Praising through means you’re eating up those Turnip Spirals and giving thanks for them and their provision and their provider and their nourishment – even if you don’t particularly enjoy the taste or texture. While praying through might mean that you’re asking Big Papa to take the wheel, possibly to avoid an experience or perhaps even to heal it (even if that isn’t in His will).

Praying through is good. Our prayers are important and God surely takes notice, whether or not it’s in His plans to change the course. But our prayers can sometimes miss out on an incredible experience: praising through the storm. I call it the truest healing space. To praise through pain is a battle I didn’t even put on the map recently.

But I am now.

Anyhow, since starting Kindergarten, you are filled to the brim with sheer enthusiasm over pretty much everything again – from coloring for hours to classic television shows (cue I Love Lucy as the highlight for an entire Sunday morning) to playing sports. Your world is how I want mine to be: passionate and sure. Even at the end of a wild day, you find things to give thanks for. Your trust is awe-inspiring.

YOU are awe inspiring. Example: Just the other day, we noticed that our bunny was falling asleep as you pet him. Your response, “Oh, I get it! He must have sensory processing disorder!” It’s funny that I didn’t even think of the impact her therapies have on how you look at the world! This path is making you someone it otherwise would not, sweetheart. And I love the person you’re turning out to be. A place for praise in the storm.

Now, let’s chat those Turnip Spiral’s you loved so much!

All My Love,

Mama J.

Turnip Spirals (Pasta)

  • 2 organic turnips, peeled
  • choice of organic cooking fat
  • garlic
  • basil
  • sea salt

Mama Friends, If you don’t have one, buy a spiralizer (here’s mine on Amazon)! Grab those turnips and turn them into medium or thin noodles in under 5 minutes. While grinding away, add 2-3 tablespoons of your choice fat. I love using duck fat for these! I highly recommend finding a local source so that you can always have some on hand. If you’re an autoimmune-paleo-approach mom, fats are a huge key to your success – and a staple in your house. Veggie mama’s can use coconut oil and produce the same results!

Add spices about halfway through. If you’re using fresh garlic you can saute it in the pan before adding the noodles. Saute your noodles in the pan until they become mostly transparent and slightly browned. (You’ll see what I mean.) Remove from heat, and eat!

I hope you enjoy!

 

How To Get Everything Done

Dear Wild,

Someday, you might just have a business of your own. Or maybe for reasons other than changing lives or paying the bills,  you will crave “getting all the things done,” but there will come a day or many days that it seems impossible. Let me advise you today, that business ownership is for everyone (especially the attention-shy wild one and the mama who feels so very hopeless about her world) and that you can get all the things done.

But not all in the same day.

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This is a picture of my wild, naked, knife-wielding sensory processing miracles and self care all in one. Sometimes on really incredible days, I can actually combine two of my priorities – and everybody wins. Refuse to go to bed feeling like a failure. Because you aren’t.

 

Just a few weeks ago, I was blessed to sit in a room full of business leaders and pastors. Me. A stay at home, work at home, leggings-as-pants-wearing mama bear. And, while I missed you every single moment my sweet and exhausting child, I was given fruits for my labors times ten. The fruit for working hard these last two years – with you – was listening to Bishop T.D. Jakes talk about balance.

Wild, we’ve been fooling ourselves! We can get all the things done. Just not all in the same day. Something is going to slide each day, as Jakes put it. “Just don’t let it be the same thing two days in a row.” Boom. That was GOLD. So, let me think out loud for a moment here. This means that…

  • if today we only read one book, mama can make it up and read you five tomorrow
  • you watch an extra show today so that I can pay the bills (aka work next to you) we can go television-free tomorrow
  • we eat organic, vegan, gluten free ice cream for dinner tonight – I can make a fabulous paleoish, green-filled dish for us all to enjoy on Saturday night

and I can do all the things and do it guilt-free. (If you’re a mama reading this right now, I beg of you to do life guilt-free with me!)

What Bishop Jakes did not touch upon is the essential foundation for BAU, or business as usual, is… (wait for it) priorities. There are priorities and necessities and wants that make you the best version of yourself. Today, I want you to ask yourself two simple questions:

  1. What is a daily priority? For me, It’s God, my family, and my well-being. The first one is always first; the second two are interchangeable in order depending upon the day.
  2. What helps me focus on my priorities first? I call this my oxygen tank. What is filling me up so that I can focus? I am the mother of a sensory processing child; a seeker; a child that has anxiety and OCD – and quite honestly, I’ve never been quite so great at focusing either. My go-to’s include: a good cup of tea; great jams (usually worship music), comfy and cute clothes (I really, really hope to go the sustainable route super soon… I’ll share when it comes); patience; presence; and an easily accessible source of dark chocolate. For real, the chocolate needs to be like Right. There.
  3. What do I feel guilty about? Can I let it go, and sing “There’s always tomorrow” with Ms. Annie herself? If not, should this be added to my daily Top Three priority list? I (somehow) am walking around with so little guilt right now, I don’t have an example for this one. But one that I did have guilt over was having a nanny four years ago when I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t walk because I didn’t take care of myself. And that was all on me. So, I changed it. My well-being is a Top Three priority. And it will stay that way.

I’m going to end here, sweet wild baby – and friends who will someday have names attached to likes – with a verse to reflect on. Trust that you’re choosing right, because of who you are trusting in. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” – Isaiah 26:3

Love,
Mama J.

Labels

Dear Wild,

This morning I woke up and I read this amazing article. I knew that I needed to dive into our story, again. I instantly felt that others might need to know why I share our story (even if I know why I share our story). Too many people might feel that this is unnecessary, and it might be uncomfortable for them to read these posts – often with raw emotions and vulnerable hearts. Others might even feel like this is invasive. We’re opening the door into our private lives to share some of the experiences that we’ve had with you, my sweet miracle child. But to not share these, would be detrimental to our growth as people and as a family, and it would perhaps halt the impact we might make on other people going through something similar.

What I want other people to know, from the moment that they dig into our conversations here, is that you DO have a label! And I’m okay with that. But, what I didn’t realize until last night, was that you don’t know you have a label. It made me really quite sad to see your confused little face as I explained an outburst to your big brother. I knew in that moment, you weren’t prepared to listen, but one day very soon you will be. Listen, my sweet girl. Mama is about to tell you all about your label. The label that describes your quirks and disposition. The quirks and disposition that make you, you.

Let’s pause here. Some people might think that’s a great thing! That you, my wild child, have no idea that you have sensory processing disorder, or that you are most likely on the spectrum. But to me that means you don’t know who you are. And sweetheart, I will give everything I’ve got for you to know and accept the kind of different that you are. You are wild; you are funny; you are fantastically smart; you have the most interesting perspective on the world. You amaze me every single day… even as I dress you because you can’t quite do that without prompting; even as I feed you when we are on a timeline, because I know otherwise you’ll get distracted; even as I remind you to use the toilet, because I know that again there might be too many other sensations going on for you to process, and you won’t recognize the sense of urgency. You are amazing, even though I jokingly refer to you as my tiny Alzheimer’s patient. (Because let’s be honest, even though you’re amazing, you take work.)

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One of those moments where I would do anything to see your beautiful face, but your comfort is in hiding behind a pirate hat – in your own sweet little world.

But it’s harder for you. And that is why I shout out your label(s) to the masses! It’s so much harder for you – and you should know that. Not because it’s a place for you to grow weary and complacent and weak, but because you need to know that you are a force to be reckoned with. Every day you face unseen battles that typical kids don’t face. I watch someone like Dr. Temple Grandin and her accomplishments, and I think YES. The obstacles you are navigating will allow for you to make a far greater impact on the world than I can.

Labeling allows for you to know – and one day soon process – how very strong you are, my sassy girl. And labeling allows others to “see” you. So often the world runs about without focus. When we share your label, we give them somewhere to set their sights on. Expectations change, and understanding begins.

So, I’ll end my ramblings here. I want you to know that you are different, because different equals powerful. I want others to know you are different, because all types of different have a place in our world. If we were all the same, no one would step outside of normal. Spectacular change comes from life outside of normal; and the greatest contributions that we can make come from being different! And you my sweet baby girl you are so different.

Have you heard yet, baby girl? You. Are. Different. And praise God for that.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

– Romans 12:6-8 NIV

Love,
Mama J.

Priorities

Dear Mama,

Today, I’m writing to the mother who cares for everyone else. I know you. I know you well, because I’ve been you. And in case you’re in the midst of scrubbing endless dishes, and floors, and bottoms… and no one has said this yet to you today, let it be said: You matter. Your wellness matters. And as you’ll hear me say thousands of times going forward on this blog, Well Women Rule The World. Period. You can’t be unwell and live the life that you are meant to live. It’s just not possible! But what is possible is listening to your body, your mind, and your spirit so that you can become the best version of yourself.

Yes, it is possible.

I know this because I lived it and I presently still live it. And to be honest, for the first time in my short and long 31 years, if assessing my personal wellness was a job… y’all, I might just get a raise this year! After countless hours and days – and a counted 10 + weeks – in physical therapy learning everything possible about my 47 percent-able body in 2015, I identify my wellness as a Top Three priority every single day. If you know me just a little bit by now, you know some of this… I have chronic autoimmune disharmonies; I have a special child (my sensory processing disorder miracle) with therapies; I have a second miracle a few years older than Ms. Bliss with sports; I am married; I am a sole income provider and a work-at-home mother; I am beginning to write; I travel often; and I advocate for women in motherhood. And still, I put my being well as a priority. Why? Because none of that gets the attention that it needs, if I don’t get the attention that need.

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My number one priority is my being well, because she needs the best version of her mother – not just some days, but on as many as I can wrangle! It feels good to break the generational chain of self-imposed guilt and lack.

If you have read this far into my post, you are either thinking that 1) I am the master of all trades and have it all figured out, or 2) you have realized that I have nothing figured out – except for Top Three. About a two years ago, I read an article that quoted Jim Collins in saying, “If you have any more than three priorities, you don’t have any.” And it was like a lightening bolt went through my body as those words made their impact, and suddenly, I got it! I have zero priorities when I’m focusing on everything: (cue drum roll… wait for it… wait for it) nothing – yes I said nothing – gets done as intended or as well.

Being a sensory mom, I’m going to now bring us face-to-face, mama. I’m going to put one hand on either cheek, with your permission. And I am going to ask you to look at me. You are in the midst of a battleground, friend. But the battle has truly already been won. You are worthy and you are loved and you are whole. You need to be your number one priority, because you value yourself. You know that others depend on you, and without being the best version of you, you can’t be there for them. Not fully.

This leads me to re-read the words that I have given myself and my son – both chronic quitters when the going gets tough: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7. You are fighting the good fight. You are finishing the race. And the foundation of it all rests on your faith – because you have already taken action.

I’m ending today with a reflection: What action – beyond reading this – do you need to do to make yourself a priority – a Top Three? Is is a support system? Is it quiet time alone?? There have been many tools in my tool box throughout the years: from self-help books to humor; from church to therapists; from journaling to community… yoga classes to personal practice… painting, drawing, retreats… each has played a significant role. Stripped down bare, what will it takes for you to draw out the perfect child within that is hugely, wholly, and unconditionally loved? Find her. Find her because she will make a far greater impact than you ever could.

Coming from someone who has found her, and knows her… whatever lengths it takes, it is worth it.

Love,
still a child, always His child, an imperfectly perfect Mama J.

We’re better together.