Monday, December 28, 2015

Saturday, December 26, 2015

6 Months a Mom. (with Christmas photos)

The night Eloise was born was the night I learned to change a diaper. I had watched a handful of diapers get changed over the course of my life and I probably changed a diaper or two a long time ago when my mom was running a little daycare in our home, but I really learned how to do it from a nurse at Glendale Adventist who kindly walked me through it at midnight on June 25th. She also walked me through it at 2am, 4am and 6am. Because in my nervousness and fatigue I called her for help every single time Eloise needed to be changed, I also called her for help with swaddling Eloise. I don’t know if she had any other patients that night but if she did I should probably apologize to them for hogging all of her attention. She was an angel and I’m grateful we were admitted into the maternity ward during her shift because the nurses after her weren’t nearly as patient with me. 

During the first week of Eloise’s life I learned how to push a stroller. I thought it would come naturally but no, like diaper changing, it is a skill and it required both learning and practicing. My classroom for stroller pushing was Foothill Boulevard and the lobby of the Sunland Starbucks. I would walk up Foothill toward the coffee shop, nervously trying to maneuver around cracks in the sidewalk because I was afraid of jolting the baby, then I would arrive at the door of Starbucks and attempt to open the door with one arm while pushing the stroller through with my other arm and hip. I was sure people would offer to help but I quickly discovered that people don’t assume moms need help, they assume we’ve got it, but unfortunately... I really didn’t have it. I was elated the day I watched another mom walk into Starbucks with her stroller and as usual nobody helped her, but she wasn’t phased, because instead of trying to go through the door front-in she turned around and backed herself and the stroller through the open door. It looked easy, made perfect sense, and I was thrilled because that woman had changed my life. New moms: back your stroller through doors, it is wayyyy easier! Unfortunately even after I learned the art of backing my way through entrances I still struggled with bumping into everyone and their chairs as I approached the cash register, but it seems that laughter and a bit of apologizing is sufficient for those situations. I found it also helps to show any potentially irritated people my baby, because only a Scrooge would stay annoyed at the sight of sweet Eloise.

I had mistakenly assumed that all other moms felt sure of themselves as they toted their babies on their hips while tackling things like grocery shopping, dinner making and posting instagram photos of their perfectly braided hair, but it's simply not true. While I’m sure there are a few moms who feel totally sure of themselves, most moms are not, and I’m one of them. I will say that as Eloise has grown, so has my confidence in parenting. I’ve never I felt like I know what I’m doing but I’ve grown more comfortable with the idea that my best guesses are good enough. Being that babies can’t talk yet our great challenge as moms is to interpret their sounds and squirms and tears, and then take appropriate action to soothe, nurture and distract them into feeling better. That’s no easy feat. It seems that every 3 weeks-ish Eloise is in a new stage of development which gives me about 2 and a half weeks of fumbling around until I finally get a grasp on her current “stage” and begin feeling like a professional mom, lasting about 3 days until Eloise changes again and I’m back in the familiar place of... “Oh crap ... I have no idea what I’m doing.”

Today Eloise is 6 months old. She says “Da-Da” and wiggles around a lot. She loves to stand, is most content around people and is perfectly happy being passed around a room. She still is strictly breast-fed, though last night Shaun and I picked up some jars of baby food to begin the adventure of real food. I’m not looking forward to smelly poop and her potential constipation but she seems very interested in my meals these days so I know that it's time. Her hair is cute, it looks a bit like a comb-over because it grows faster on top than it does everywhere else, but I trimmed it a little and have her in headbands most days so it works out. It has also gotten really light so it's basically a reverse ombre - light at the roots and dark on the ends. She is so hip. She smiles with a big open mouth and attempts to laugh all throughout the day. The best time to play with her is right when she wakes up because she talks and giggles and it's about the cutest thing you’ve ever seen. I have never bought her an outfit because everyone gives her clothes, but I’m most tempted to do it when we are in Baby GAP. Are you kidding me with those clothes? They are way too cute. Several people have said Eloise should be a Baby GAP model, and if that means they would give her a few free outfits I am all in. 

For the last 6 months I have been needy. I have needed sleep and support and friends and prayers. I’ve needed somebody to open the door for me when I’m pushing our stroller and I've needed encouraging text messages reminding me that motherhood gets better. I have needed long hugs, special laundry detergent for sensitive skin, and a dairy-free diet to ease Eloise’s achy tummy. I’ve needed someone to watch the baby while I shower and someone to wash my shower while I watch the baby and I’ve needed things like a stroller, a carseat, and a crib to make life with Eloise possible. I've also needed Shaun more than ever. He has been nothing short of a dream husband, caring for Eloise and I both with an ease that makes it screamingly obvious he was born to be a dad, and while I know the demands of my neediness have been weighty, he has never made me feel guilty for my occasional melt-downs and ongoing insecurity in my new role. He has given me space and grace to come into motherhood in a way that best suits me, without comparing to me to anyone else, and I pray often that Eloise marries a man like her Daddy.
My favorite part about today being Eloise’s half birthday is that it is Christmas. It couldn’t be more perfect. Before Jesus came to earth people prophesied about Him saying He would be called Immanuel, meaning God with us. In the depths of my neediness that is exactly what I’ve longed for. My heart has yearned for God to be with me as I’ve taken on each of Eloise’s new stages, hoping His joy would fill me when the tasks of mama-hood feel lackluster, praying extra hard for Him to give me wisdom on the nights when Eloise won’t fall asleep and I can’t figure out why. Every evening before bed I sit in a rocking chair in the corner of Eloise's room and I nurse her. The room is quiet, smelling like lavender, and her warm little fingers pinch the skin on my chest as she drinks. It is in this time that I dream about everything she will grow up to be. Some nights I feel peaceful but many nights I feel afraid. My mind reels about things like terrorism and the always uncertain future, and again my neediness surfaces. I am desperate for God to quiet my anxious heart, and He does, in Immanuel. Christmas serves as a marker in our yearly calendar to remind us that God is not far off, He is near and He is generous. My neediness draws me to God in the same way that Eloise's hunger leads her to my chest and it is good. In love God gave His Son for us, and in love I give my daughter back to Him, raising her to know Him and trusting in Him along the way.

It is fitting that from now on and always I will spend Eloise’s half-birthday celebrating the birth of my Savior, the One who gave me the gift of motherhood and the One who is with me as I learn to walk it out. 

  Thank you Jesus for coming to save us, 
thank you for Eloise Marie and thank you for meeting my needs. 
I love you.

Photos by @sarahgrunderphotography

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

I don't love being a mom.

5 week old Eloise. So stinking cute. She loved when her Daddy would touch her head.

Eloise is almost 3 months old now and we love her so much that we joke about having 50 kids just because we want more of her around. But back when she was about a month old I wrote this blog post and then didn't share it, probably because I was slightly ashamed of my feelings. But upon rereading it today I have decided it's worth sharing, even if its just for the purpose of me remembering my journey as a new mama. I love being a mom now, but I didn't love it then. And that's okay.
Thanks for stopping by! More blog posts to come. :) 

"Do you love being a mom?" 

Today marks 5 weeks and 2 days of being a Mama. I know I was a Mama while Eloise was in my tummy too but right now I’m only going to talk about what life has been like since we started hanging out with our daughter outside the womb.

So life as a new mom has been ...

Well that’s the thing ...

I’m having a hard time finding the right words to describe the experience of being a new mom. My heart so desires to be authentic, I want to be truthful and honest. I want to be positive while also being a person who doesn’t just share my highlights with you. I want to share my not-so-high-lights too, because I feel like there’s power in that. Especially now, in a world and culture where everything is a photoshopped and filtered version of reality. But this has been a struggle for me. For example, I haven’t known what to post on Instagram this week. Firstly that’s because my life is all baby right now and I feel like that might bore some people. But more than that, I just don’t know how to capture both the beauty and battles that motherhood has been for me. I fear that if I only post the happy moments then I’ll become a superficial version of myself, living to convince you of a perfect life that doesn’t actually exist. On the other hand though I don’t want to bring anybody down so this causes me to shy away from posting anything that could be perceived as complaining, because obviously I’m not trying to pollute anybody’s feeds either. This ultimately has left me silent.

So many people have asked me questions over the past few weeks, things like, “Do you love being a mom?”... “Are you in heaven?”... “Do you just melt when you look at her?” And of course the answer they are expecting is the answer I am going to give. Yes. Yes. And yes. But that’s where the struggle happens. Because what I also feel, apart from being in heaven and melting at the sight of my darling little girl, is a whole whirlwind of other emotions. 

When Eloise was 8 days old someone said sweetly, “I bet you can’t even remember what life was like before she was born.” I nodded and laughed as if to communicate agreement. But not because I actually agreed. I laughed because if I would have thought too much into it I probably would have started crying. Of course I still remembered what life was like before she was born. I remembered what it felt like to sleep. I remembered the ease I had in moments when I felt like getting up and leaving the house. I remembered the creativity and motivation I had to write and make videos. I remembered having sex and I remembered when my boobs weren’t milk-machines, and I certainly remembered when I didn’t bleed every time I went pee. Forgive me for being so graphic but that was my reality at 8 days postpartum. So when the suggestion was made that I couldn’t remember life before the baby, this heaviness of guilt came over me. Was I not supposed to remember life before the baby? Had I somehow failed this motherhood thing already because I wasn’t so overcome with butterflies of love for my little one that I still had memory of the way things were before her? 

At 5 weeks old things have gotten easier, just like my friends promised they would. I have gotten more confident, Eloise has gotten more sturdy, and my hormones have simmered down which is probably the best news of all. However I still struggle to know how to communicate what I’m experiencing with honesty but without sounding like I’m not enjoying it. Earlier this week I was asked again if I loved being a mom, and of course I smiled and said yes. But last night I was thinking about it and I decided that if I’m going to be perfectly honest then I need to refine my answer, because actually I don’t love being a mom yet. Not in the way that they mean when they ask. I still think being a mom is scary a lot of the time and I haven’t quite found a rhythm for how to do life with a baby. I’m still sleepy and un-showered most days, my parenting is made up of the guess and hope technique... guess what to do ... hope that it works. And literally every day presents me with new challenges to overcome. So in that sense, no, I really don’t love this Mama role quite yet. I’m grateful for it. I wouldn’t change it for anything. And not a single part of me regrets getting pregnant. In fact I already dream about having more babies so we can do this all again. But still, I don’t love it. Not like I loved traveling to Barcelona or working backstage at fashion week or even leading a ministry. I don’t love being a mom like I loved doing those things. Not yet anyway.

But in processing all this I realized something else too. Though I don’t love being a mom yet, if you ask me if I love my little girl, the answer is an all consuming YES. I love everything about her with everything that I am. I even love her cry. On my hardest days, the ones where she cries and I cry and she cries some more, I still love her more than I knew I could love anything ever. I love holding her in my arms and snuggling her precious body. I love her bright eyes and the funny faces she makes. I love that she farts loud like her Dad and I love that people think she looks like Shaun and my little sister. I do still remember life before Eloise but I don’t desire life without Eloise. Actually if I think too much about ever having to say goodbye to her I end up in tears. She is a gift beyond gifts and as tough as it is to be a mama sometimes, I sincerely pray that every woman in my life gets to experience the treasure of being a mom. It has been the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done. 

So that’s where I’m at today. I don’t love being a mom yet, not in the excited emotional way anyway, but I love Eloise and I love that I get to be her mom. And I think that’s okay. 

One day when Eloise grows up and has a baby of her own I want her to know that she doesn’t have to love being a mom right away. She might, and that would be wonderful, but if she doesn’t then she is not failing. The most meaningful things we will ever do require sacrifice, and often sacrifices don’t feel good until later on, when we have realized all that we gained through laying our lives down. 

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

How Shaun's love for Eloise is teaching me about God. (video)

Hi friends! Yesterday during on of Eloise's naps I was thinking about God and how much I'm learning about His love through watching Shaun care for Eloise. I decided to turn on the camera and share my thoughts out loud in case they could be an encouragement to somebody. I didn't spend too much time making this video so it's nothing fancy, but I'm praying that if anyone needs to see it then they'll find it. We will be posting more videos soon. Grateful for you and hope you have a wonderful week. 

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Monday, August 3, 2015

5 things I've learned from 5 weeks of being a Mom

Number one. I've learned to apply eyeliner with one hand. 
In fact I've learned to do a whole lot of things with one hand because often times baby girl just wants to be held and she doesn't care if her Mama's got things to do. I'll probably start putting her in the baby carrier more so I can wear her on my chest and still have both hands free, but until then I'll continue tackling life Bethany Hamilton style. 

Number two. I've mastered the art of getting ready quickly. 
I thought I was pretty good at that in the past because I lived with a whole bunch of low maintenance skateboarders who don't tolerate high maintenance women, but having a baby has taken it to a new level. I'm officially at a point where I can be dressed with my makeup ready and hair done in less than ten minutes, and sure I'm usually wearing the same outfit I wore earlier in the week and my hair & makeup are staying pretty simple these days but still, I'm counting it as a success. 

Number three. I've learned to live without dairy. 
This one is painful because I'm a HUGE dairy fan but our babe was having a heck of a time digesting my breast milk, crying at every feeding, so in desperation I took the advice of loved ones and fully cut dairy out of my diet. It worked. Though I miss mac and cheese with my whole heart Eloise has been 100% happier about life so I'm sticking it out for a while until her digestive system is more developed and able to process dairy protein. 

Number four. I've learned to always always pack a second outfit. 
Because this little girl can poop! My friend Hillary told me yesterday that it's even a good idea to start packing an extra shirt for myself in case our lady has a poop blow out while I'm holding her. That's wisdom. Since we are on the topic I'll also say that Eloise passes gas like a grown man and it is so so funny. Literally there have been times where I heard her and thought it was Shaun. The other day she farted so loudly in church that her Auntie on the other side of our row heard it. Shaunny was so proud. 

Finally... Number five... This lesson has come with plenty of tears and it is by far the most significant thing I'm learning... 
I am learning to embrace my limitations as invitations to grow. 
On the days when nothing feels normal and I'm consumed with all things baby and all I want is a shower or to get up and leave the house real quick but I know that neither of those things are possible because Eloise needs my attention and nothing ever seems to happen "real quick" anymore, I have found that I have two options. I can either get frustrated that things aren't going the way I wish they were or I can look for ways to make my new life as a Mama the best it can possibly be. I can enjoy the luxury of dry shampoo when a shower is not going to happen, or turn on great music and make my home a place I love to hang out when going out isn't feasible. I can put different systems in place so that I am a boss at leaving the house with a baby, like always having the diaper bag packed so I can just grab it and go. And those extra sleepy days that follow the extra long nights I have when our little Elle-baby wants to nurse every 2 hours? I can make myself a yummy coffee, snuggle sweet Eloise in my arms and marathon watch episodes of the Office on Netflix, because Michael Scott is hysterical, Jim and Pam are my favorite TV couple, and all of that together makes fatigue so much more bearable. 

Mostly I'm learning to just adore this stage of life that Eloise is in, knowing that in a week or two she will have already changed again and I really won't ever get this time with her back.
Praise the Lord for 5 weeks of being a Mom and all I get to learn along the way.
Photos by @sarahgrunderphotography when #eloise_marie was 2 weeks old. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

2 Weeks of Eloise Marie

Eloise will be 3 weeks old this Thursday and we are loving doing life with her! She is growing so quickly which aches my heart a little but also makes me so excited for the wonderful things to come. This weekend I was looking through my phone and realized I had lots of little clips of footage from the Eloise's life up until now so I decided to make another video. This one basically is a family video but I wanted to share it with you too so that you can continue to be a part of our lives. 
Thank you so much for watching! 

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Moving Vlog! Part 1

Hi friends! About a week before the arrival of our baby girl we moved out of the church we have been living in and into a house with my sister and her husband. We documented the experience so you could be a part of it! Here is part one! Hope you enjoy! 

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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Labor & Delivery Vlog | part 3 of 3

Welcome to the world sweet Eloise Marie Hover!
Born June 25th, 2015
7 lbs. 11 oz. 21 inches long.

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Labor & Delivery Vlog | Part 2 of 3

Part 2!! 
Because why not experience part of your labor in Starbucks???

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Labor & Delivery Vlog | Part 1 of 3

Shaun is an amazing video-maker and during our first day in the hospital with Eloise he whipped up three vlogs that document our delivery process. We are excited to share them with you. Here is part one! Thank you for being a part of this adventure with us! 

PS. Having a baby is awesome. Get married and do it. That's my advice now that I've done it. :) 

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One Week of Eloise Marie

((Written on Thursday, June 2nd, 2015))

I have officially been a mama bear for one week today and it has somehow felt like the fastest week of my life full of the longest nights I've ever experienced. All I keep hearing from moms who have gone before me is that I need to soak up these early months of her life because though they are challenging they will be some of my favorite moments ever. So that's what I've been trying to do, to focus on the sweet parts of being a new mom & remember that the hard stuff ... Like the absence of sleep & my buck wild emotions ... will pass. 

Eloise is a sweetheart baby. She has a gentle demeanor and doesn't cry much, she mostly squeaks or whimpers when she wants something. Today someone said she sounds like a baby lamb making the "baaaa" sound. Shaun and I can't seem to get anything done with Eloise around because we are so enamored by her cuteness. We photograph every minute of her day and the moment one of us walks away from her the other one is already excitedly saying, "Babe! Come look at how cute Eloise is!" And then we do. We come back and adore her. Oohing and awing over the perfection that she is. It's funny too because mostly she just sleeps. I've never in my life thought sleep was so adorable. 

We say that Eloise is "jet-lagged" right now because she seems to have her days and nights mixed up. She is up all night and sleeps most of the day, like us when we arrived to Spain. It's easy to type about but actually that part of being her mama has been really stretching for me because I am the one who feeds her during the night which means I'm up every 3ish hours, and I struggle to sleep in between that time because of anxious thoughts about her. I think last night was the first time I slept more than 3-4 hours in a 24 hour period and I woke up feeling like a brand new person. I love the daytime with her because there are people around and though I've found it difficult to nap I feel energized by sunshine and friends. Usually by the time the sun is setting I am holding back anxious tears and Shaun is praying with me and Eloise that our nights would continue to be blessed as I learn to breast-feed, and that we would all stay healthy and be able to sleep well. I don't think I've ever prayed as much in a week as I have been praying this week. I feel as dependent on Jesus as Eloise is dependent on me & Shaun to keep her alive. If we don't meet her needs Eloise will die. Literally. And if Jesus doesn't meet my needs, I too feel like i will die. Even if physically I remain alive, my heart & soul & mind & strength will be gone if Heaven doesn't bend to sustain me right now. 

I will say that every day has gotten a little easier and my emotions have continued to feel more and more normal. The emotions are more intense than before, both the good and the bad, and I cry daily for no reason, but my friends tell me that I'm normal, and even if they're lying, I appreciation the consolation. It helps. 

Yesterday we had our first well-baby appointment and we literally cheered when the doctor told us that Eloise was healthy. She feels so fragile and we love her so much, all we want is for her to be healthy. 

Since Eloise is sleeping as I type this and it's likely that won't last much longer I'll go ahead and wrap up this post with some final things I'll want to remember as our little darling grows. Everyone says she will change and grow quickly so this post is my attempt to bottle up this first week's goodness so we can continue to treasure it for years to come. 

7 things to remember about 7 days of Eloise Marie ~ 

1) Eloise likes to pee when her diaper is off which makes diaper changing that much more adventurous. It's not uncommon to find me, Shaun & Meredith changing her diaper together to see if we can conquer the wild pee as a team. Even if she has already peed, or poo-ed her diaper, the moment she feels the freedom of no diaper she pees again. To date she has peed on our bed, our couch and on her daddy... Multiple times. One time she even pooped with the diaper off. It was hilarious but we would be okay if that stayed a one time thing. 

2) Her favorite way to sleep is on her Daddy's chest. We call it sleeping in his "kangaroo belly". We love it as much as she does because it is so stinkin cute. 

3) She is a wiggly girl. She likes to have her legs in the "criss-cross applesauce" position, as our God-daughter Lily says. And whenever she gets the chance to stretch out tall on our bed she kicks her legs like she is riding a bike, really fast, getting her little feet caught on each other with each peddle which makes a flicking sound. We love the flicking sound. We felt her doing the same movements in my womb so it is extra sweet to see her doing them now. 

4) She is a champion breast-feeder. She learned to latch quickly & by the end of week 1 has been having full feedings. Full feedings means she sleeps better too... Which means we sleep better. Praise the Lord for that. 

5) Eloise loves to be with her Auntie Meredith. Every morning Meredith comes to get her from me at around 5am after she has finished nursing and Meredith looks after her until she wakes up again around 8am. Her Auntie helps with diaper changes, burpings, bath time and she holds Eloise every chance she gets. 

6) Eloise has already been out of the house 4 times. She has been to the YWAM LA campus, Ross - Dress for Less, Starbucks, and to the barber shop to sleep while her Daddy got his hair-cut. She either rides in the stroller or her Daddy wears her in a wrap on his chest. I think she prefers being on Dad's chest. 

7) On the second night of being home with Eloise I was looking at her adorable feet and realized that they didn't get stamped at the hospital. I immediately started to cry (hormones anyone?) thinking that we needed to stamp them immediately so we could know how little they were before they grow. I literally felt panicky as if they were growing right before my eyes. (I'm laughing as I type this because of how crazy it is.) It was around 3am and I was trying to find an ink pad in our house to stamp them right that second. Obviously I didn't find one. So then I got on Pinterest and tried to find out other ways to capture a baby's footprint. Eventually I came to my senses and realized what a nut I was being so I relaxed and decided to ask Shaun & Meredith for help getting her feet stamped then next morning. They laughed at me when I told them about my 3am crazy sesh and then together we got ahold of some black paint and pretty paper and managed to stamp her little feet so I could frame the footprints and remember them forever. The footprints are precious & the whole endeavor was raging with postpartum hormones which I think is worth documenting just so I can laugh at myself some more later. 

And now for some newborn photos by our incredible friend Sarah. If you don't know her you should get to know her and if you ever need a photographer you should hire her today. There's nobody better. // @sarahgrunderphotography

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

38 Weeks Pregnancy Update!! (video)

Hi guys! We made a little video to update you on the baby growing that's happening over here! 
She could come any day now and we are SUPER excited. 
Thank you for being so wonderfully supportive! We love you & hope you are having a great week!

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