This little photo popped up in my Facebook news feed today and it resonates with me.
I don’t often talk about the struggles of being a parent to a special needs child/ren. I feel guilty because my children are for the most part healthy. They don’t need fancy medical equipment, but they have very real disorders that need a lot of my time. Apraxia of speech, oral sensory issues related to apraxia, fine/gross motor difficulties, a phonological speech disorder, congenital trigger thumb, and possible hip dysplasia in my infant. It takes its toll. So here’s a brief glimpse into the mind of a special needs mama.
I feel myself buckling a lot lately, thinking I can’t, but then somehow I always do.
I am lucky. For the most part, my kids are healthy. But I am so, so very tired of specialists and therapies. No, my kids do not have any life threatening conditions. You really wouldn’t know that HOURS of our weeks are spent running speech drills, working on coordination, me researching how to best help them. Am I thankful that our life has not been a revolving door of doctors? Yes. But I’m still tired.
There are still days when I angrily ask God, why??? Why can’t we have ‘normal’. We don’t want to be special today we want to be plain ol’ normal, no speech, no upcoming surgery, no doctors calling to ask if we’ve taken our child for this screening or that screening yet.
Please don’t ask me how I do it. The answer is raw and dirty. I cry. Behind closed bathroom doors. In my van in the front seat before I dry my eyes so they can’t see. In bed silently while everyone else is asleep. I tell myself to suck it the hell up because there was a time when there were no babies. When my womb was empty or healing yet again from another loss. I get so mad at God all over again because shouldn’t I get to have it easy after it was SO HARD to become a parent to begin with.
In brief moments, He answers. He gently laughs and reminds me, this is it. This is what I was preparing you for. You worked for it. And now you work FOR THEM. Cry, let it out, then remember the strength you built through all the waiting and the loss. You get to be the mother of special children, and one day, no one will know the struggle until you tell them.
You’ll use it to encourage others who are crying behind bathroom doors and in front seats of vans. You’ll use it to tell the mom whose child is struggling that one day this will only be a memory. And I move on. And do it. Just do it, do the work to help the child that you prayed for.
Because the child is here, alive, and well.
One of the perks of using cloth diapers is that you can match the diapers to your baby’s outfit or even pick diapers to match holidays and events. Cloth diapers have come a long way from plain white squares of fabric and rubber pants. Nowadays, you can find cloth diapers in almost any color and print. Here are some of my favorites for Valentine’s Day.
Thirsties Limited Edition Sweetheart Collection – A diaper with a fresh white background and a splash of pink hearts make this the perfect Valentine’s Day diaper. Available as a cover, pocket, or AIO diaper you also gets lots of options to meet your cloth diapering needs. Orchid and rose are also great.
BumGenius Dazzle and Countess. A deep purple and a bright, hot pink make these adorable peeking out from under a cute Valentine’s dress.
Rumparooz Spice is a gorgeous muted red. Sherbert’s purply pink is rich while Amethyst is softer. Tulip is the perfect baby pink while Crimson is red hot. Lux would also make a fun valentine’s print with it’s blends of pink and red. Rumparooz offers so many Valentine’s friendly colors you could set up an assortment for the whole day!
Grovia’s Persimmon and Poppy add a little more color variation to the lineup.
BabyKicks Red would be perfect for your little gentleman.
Best Bottom’s Strawberry Shortcake gives us a little pop of yellow with our pink. Very Cherry gives a classic red and white while Wild Berry blends two purples. If you want to mix in a little green, try Plum Pie. For a splash of black and white try Cookies N Cream.
ButtomBumper’s Cherry, Plum and Pixie are adorable. Bubble Gum gives us a little bit of green with all the pink and purple while Licorice gives us a black and white chevron sure to compliment all those reds and pinks. Sweet Cherry mixes it up a bit with fresh cherries and flowers on a pink backdrop.
Funky Fluff offers Love Bug and Pink.
Tidy Tot’s rounds out our Valentine’s Day diapers with Violet, Cheeky Cheetah, Pink Circles, and the adorable Tweet Heart.
Of course, the best part about all of these cloth diapers is that they can be worn every single day to add a bit of love to your baby’s tushy.
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As parents, we spend so much time taking care of our children and our families that we often become the background noise in our own lives. We spend each day ticking off items on a list – appointments for the kids, a project for friends, maintaining our homes, work obligations…. At the end of those long tired days it is very easy to just snip off the end of list that we’ve put ourselves on and forget those tasks. But the easy way, isn’t always the best way.
As I stared down the barrel of what looked like sleepless nights and a plate fuller than what I thought I could handle, I started taking off the parts that were for me. When your days are already filled, it’s hard to imagine adding anything else even if it’s something you want and believe in. I thought taking away those parts would make me feel relieved and at peace, but instead it left me feeling empty. Yes, my days would be clear to fully devote myself to my children and my family, but there would be little room for myself.
Room for self – that’s an important part of being a parent that many people forget. It’s easy to do. From the time you become pregnant people’s reaction to you changes. It goes from, “Good morning, how are you,” to , “How’s the baby, have you picked a name yet?” For nine solid months your life will revolve around your growing baby and that growing belly. When the baby enters the world, your own focus is fully centered on feeding, diapering, bathing, and loving this new being. You will think of your child almost every single second of every single day. Their care will, at first, leave little time for your own. You may feel guilt when you leave them for the first time even and if you aren’t careful, you may very well lose yourself entirely.
The role of mother does not have to be the only one you take. It does not have to replace your role as wife, friend, daughter, co-worker, even business owner. While it can permeate each of your other roles, molding and shaping who and what you are, that isn’t a bad thing! Motherhood can teach you patience, compassion, and perseverance. It can show you just how strong you always were and how much you can accomplish when you are dedicated. It can teach you to be humble and you will learn to multi-task with far greater ease than you ever have before.
Last week I gave up. At least temporarily. I threw in the proverbial towel and I resigned myself to give up the roles I wanted for myself. Lucky for me, I’m not alone. I have friends, family, prayers, and a power greater than myself. Thanks to a combination of all these, I was guided back on track. I realized that deciding to give up on the parts of myself that were just for me might make completing all my daily duties easier, but it wouldn’t be living in its truest sense. When we exist without passion or goals, we aren’t truly living and I want to do more than exist – I want to truly live.
There’s a popular saying that God only helps those who learn to help themselves. In one sense, I very much believe this. I believe that God helps those in need, but I also believe we have to play an active role in bettering ourselves and our lives. When you’re given an opportunity – take it. When you’re given a chance to try something you’ve always wanted, you owe it to yourself to do it. To be the best parent you can be, you must also take care of yourself and learn to let go of guilt when you do. An evening away or a decision to take on roles in addition to that as a parent are good for you and your children.
There was a time in my life when I couldn’t imagine anything more fulfilling than being a mother. I longed desperately to be a mother and finally, finally got my wish. A struggle with infertility had made being a mother feel like the only thing I needed to be complete. And for a while, it was.
Before having children, I worked full-time. I enjoyed working and had no intentions of becoming a stay-at-home-mom. However, once my oldest son was finally here and those weeks were speeding by to the end of my leave, I realized that I just couldn’t leave him. I trusted the daycare providers we had chosen and visited, but there was a strong bond between my heart and this new being’s that pulled me ever so close to him. There was no way I would be returning to work. That was just over four years ago and I’m now a stay-at-home-mom to TWO little boys. My boys are still young, but they are no longer babies. They are capable of playing independently for longer stretches of time and I’m no longer caught up in bottles, naps, and mountains of diapers and spit-up laundry. I’m still quite busy being their mother, but I’m often not nearly as content as I was in those first three years.
Being a stay-at-home-mom has awarded me the luxury of witnessing so many of my children’s firsts. I saw first steps, crawls, rolls, laughs, words. I’ve watched fine motor skills become more precise and language skills flourish. I’ve watched my children began to discover just who they are and what they enjoy in life. It has truly been miraculous. When they were infants and still loved to nap, I reintroduced myself to sewing and learned that my talents and passion for it were stronger than I’d remembered. I learned to crochet, cook from scratch, and grow a garden. I became an advocate for living more naturally and frugally. I learned to help moms learn to cloth diaper and embrace more natural products. My children not only brought me (and my family) joy, they brought me back to life. They were an awakening I hadn’t known I’d needed. It’s almost painful for me to look back on a life before them because there was always such a strong emptiness with me back then. There was always anger covering a pain where my soul was aching for these little beings that I didn’t even know yet. There was part of me there…but my kids brought back the rest of me.
I love being able to stay home with my kids. We make sacrifices so that I can be so involved in their lives and I truly wouldn’t change that. I would be lying though if I told you that it still left me totally and completely fulfilled as a person. I wish it did! I know mothers who are truly content and happy being ‘just’ moms and I admire them so much. While my children changed me for the better, I am and will always continue to be an individual. My own wants and desires did not fade to black when the occupation of mother was added to my résumé. I am very proud of the me who was so content and happy staying home and devoting her every being to the care and love of her children. I’m still that mom, but one wants to add in parts of my old self once again. After all, isn’t melding parts of our old and new how we evolve into something better?
We all too often doubt who we are as mothers. We shouldn’t. Whether we’re the mom who is juggling a career and motherhood, the mom whose whole life is staying home, or the mom whose found a balance somewhere between – we should embrace the parents we are today. We won’t get to relive these moments, we won’t get do overs. If we’re teaching our children to love and we’re loving them back, we’ve got at least part of it right. Love yourself mama, your kids already do.
For me, the scariest part of transitioning to cloth diapers was learning to successfully use them while we were out. Almost three years later, I can’t believe I ever felt like cloth diapering was difficult, even for the diaper bag. As a cloth diaper veteran, it all seems like second nature now. I often get emails, messages, and comments from parents who are new to cloth and feeling a bit overwhelmed when it’s time to take their cloth diapers on an extended outing or even a quick trip to the store. Let’s be honest, EVERYTHING is new when you’re a first time mom or dad. You over pack the diaper bag, or you forget key components altogether. It happens. Here are a few tips to make taking your cloth wipes with you while you’re out easy and stress free.
- Designate a certain amount of wipes for diaper bag use. Luckily, cloth wipes are pretty cheap whether you make or buy them. Make sure you buy enough wipes that you can leave a stash in the diaper bag . Obviously you’ll need to restock when the diaper bag stash is all dirty, but you won’t have to worry about leaving yourself with no clean wipes at home if you’ve purchased or made enough to have extras.
- Get a small wet bag to keep clean wipes in. It’s always easier to grab your wipe pouch when you need it than rifle through a diaper bag for clean wipes. A pouch keeps them together and easily accessible. It also allows wipes to be moistened before a trip.
- If you’re out and about daily, wet your wipes before you leave home. If you’re going to be out a few days in a row, go ahead and wet your diaper bag wipes before you leave the house. This way they’re completely ready to grab and go when baby needs a change.
- If you’re not out daily, store diaper bag wipes dry and take a travel size spray bottle. If cloth wipes are wet and left to sit more than a few days, they get stinky. If you and baby aren’t making daily trips out, it’s easier to store your diaper bag wipes dry and fill a travel sized spray bottle with wipe solution so you squirt the solution as needed. These spray bottles are easily obtainable at most dollar and big box stores.
- Keep a small stash of cloth wipes in your car. Cloth wipes can be made very cheaply which means you can afford to have extras. There will inevitably be a time when you forget to restock the diaper bag wipe box. If you’ve left a small stack of wipes in your car and you can get to some water, you can get your baby’s bottom (or sticky ice cream fingers!) cleaned up quickly and easily.
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Life. Stuff. Me. Mostly me.
It’s all those little things that get in the way of what I want. And what do I want? Most of the time I don’t really know. I’ve always been filled with too many thoughts that all race at once. Good ideas, good intentions that normally don’t come to fruition. Granted, some do. Some things I stick with and see through. Others fall by the wayside of being mother, wife, friend-titles I take seriously. A few fall to the wayside of laziness and for those I have no excuse.
Yesterday was one of those days where everything builds up and then you break. The anger, the frustration, the I-don’t-give-a-damns all tumble out of you in a sobbing mess. Much contributed to my dam breaking; to do lists that were too long but somehow got accomplished, except the things I wanted to do for me… Those things I want to do just for me are the ones that always get cut. There’s no blame, it’s just part of being an adult.
I poured myself into a sunken pile on my bed and I sobbed. As I reached to my bedside table for a tissue, my hand skimmed too low and hit a row of books nestled inside the table. I pulled one out, unsure what it was, where it even came from. I began to read and the book resonated within me. Words leapt from the pages and they touched my heart and warmed my soul which had grown as cold as my uncovered feet. I lay in my bed among soft pillows and I read. I could hear chaos ensuing in my kitchen. Children who weren’t listening to their father anymore than they had listened to me, but in my bed, with my door closed I stayed. I could hear dinner ending and bath time ensuing, but this book had a message I needed to hear.
I read through pages that turned into chapters, said a prayer of blessing for the person who had sent this book my way. It wasn’t needed when it arrived many months ago, but now, in my crumbled mess, it was vital for my sanity. By the time my boys were ready for goodnight kisses, the book had calmed me. I marked my place and sat it aside. I walked to my youngest son’s bedroom where I could hear him asking for mommy kisses. I nestled that little head in my hands and I covered him in kisses as he giggled, wrapping his little arms around my neck. I thought that this, this is what I live for. Not that part of the list that never gets accomplished. Not these things others expect me to do or all these avenues I feel I’m being pushed down. This is my happy, this is my purpose.
I tucked my son in and traveled to his brother’s room. More kisses, more hugs, more of my head resting on his chest a bit longer than usual as I said goodnight. I soaked up that little heartbeat, cherished that kiss and hug.
Later in the evening, when it was too late and I was too tired, I sank into the couch with still wet hair and I browsed through my Facebook feed. Not looking for or really at anything. But a video pulled me and I clicked it. Again, it was what I needed in that moment. To hear that we’re our own worst enemy. That we fight ourselves, deny our potential and our purpose far too often. He was there…the book, the hugs, the video. All pieces to the puzzle I’ve tried to put together while begging Him to answer.
For a moment all was clear and I knew my path, my purpose, my light. However, doubt doesn’t fade immediately. The seeds, once planted, weed their way through our being. They’re intertwined with all that we want and those hopes and dreams can come to feel like a burden instead of wings to freedom. The book though…it reminds me. Be thankful for who you are NOW. Be happy where you are NOW. The rest will come, but only when we lay our doubts to rest and learn to be thankful, not critical. It will all come when we learn to be content and joyful.
I lay in bed this morning, ticking down that to do list. As if I had learned nothing at all yesterday. I could feel my head starting to ache, but as I reached for my glasses, I saw the book they were resting on and I stopped.
Be present…be here…now. And be thankful.
Present. Thankful. Now. Here.