A New(ish) Addition

Happy New Year! It’s been forever and I have a long-overdue update for you, and it’s the best kind:

The baby’s here.

She’s been here for some time, actually – Baby Girl was two months old yesterday! I wasn’t blogging when children numbers one and two were born, but I think it took me one day to blog a birth announcement for my third child and about two weeks to blog child number four’s birth. If we ever have another, I expect I’ll tell you about it around the kid’s first birthday.

Anyway! Here we go: On Tuesday, November 21 Brennan and I welcomed baby #5 and girl #2, our biggest newborn (9 pounds, 9 ounces!), who was delivered after my longest labor (15 hours).

Introducing: Ilsa Genevieve Walsh.

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Yes, that’s “Ilsa,” like “Elsa” but with an “I”. Poor kid – we’re always going to have to be clarifying that.

Because I rarely name them on the blog and because I’d like to demonstrate how (I think) Baby Ilsa’s name rounds out the others’ so nicely, here’s a full list of our crew:

  1. John Breckenridge – Called “Breck,” he’s named for my great-uncle and great-great-uncle, both of whom were John Breckenridge and called Breck.
  2. Anthony Jude – He’s named for Brennan’s late father, but we preferred his middle name, so our boy goes by Jude.
  3. Isaac Charles – He’s Isaac because we liked it, Charles for my grandfather. He’s our first child to actually go by his first name.
  4. Josephine Marie – Called “Josie,” she’s Josephine for my great-grandmother, Marie for my mother and myself. (For our middle names, that is.)
  5. Ilsa Genevieve – She’s Ilsa because we liked it, Genevieve for Brennan’s grandmother.

In all, we are now Brennan, Julie, Breck, Jude, Isaac, Josie, and Ilsa. B-J-B-J-I-J-I (I am a person who likes lists, and I like that list in particular.)

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I think I’m glad that we’ve hit the two-month mark. While part of me is a little sad that my baby’s gotten so big (I think she’s around 12 pounds now?) so fast, most of me is relieved to have gotten through the newborn haze. I always feel a little more ‘with it’ once we’ve gotten to two months. That’s when things seem a little more normal, a little more doable to me.

My recovery this time was pretty good, I guess. At least it wasn’t very painful; the most bothersome thing was just an extended period (two to three weeks?) of feeling weak and woozy. I always forget how long that can last.

I wasn’t thrilled with how the birth went, though. Like all the others, I was induced. But unlike the others, this time it took what felt to me like foreeever. With each of the other four, I delivered within 7 to 8 hours of getting my Pitocin. This time it took twice that. It also took me longer to push with Ilsa than it took with the previous two. (Thanks, nurse who suggested I up my epidural dosage.)

Maybe because of the birthing situation, but probably mostly because of whatever weird things hormones do, I’ve had my longest-ever period of the Baby Blues this time. With two of my other babies it lasted about three weeks. With the other two I didn’t have it at all. This time I’ve just been very gradually improving for months. It’s been mild, but still – I’m ready to feel like myself again.

Everyone else is doing great. The kids absolutely love her. They coo at her and say how cute she is and clamor to hold her as often as we’ll let them. (Which hasn’t been as much as anyone would have liked. It’s hard to have a baby in cold and flu season!)

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It’s hard for me to say what ‘kind’ of a baby she is. So far Ilsa is pretty easy during the day and difficult in the evening. Then she’ll sleep from midnight to three or five in the morning and I’ll nurse her in bed or in the rocker until it’s time to get up. If I were someone who loved co-sleeping this would be fine. But I’m not. I just don’t sleep well with a baby next to me; I seem to hold perfectly still for fear of hurting her, and then I wake with aches and pains from my efforts.

Oh, well! Do you want to see some more baby pictures?

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Isn’t she lovely?

Welcome to our world, Ilsa Genevieve. We’re so glad you’re here. All the Baby Blues and aches and pains and evasive actions to protect you from your germy siblings are so totally worth it. We love you.

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Twelve Days With Beautiful

Twelve days ago, something wonderful happened.

We welcomed a daughter.

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Little Miss Josephine Marie Walsh was (finally) born on Thursday, February 4 at 12:38 in the afternoon. She weighed nine pounds even and measured 21 and a half inches long.

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We followed our tradition of choosing a family name for our girl, just as we did for her brothers. “Josephine” is for my great-grandmother and “Marie” is after my middle name and my mother’s. (And my mother received her middle name in honor of her Aunt Marie, so there’s another level of family connection to that one.) I love how “Josephine Marie” hearkens to the Holy Family. What a good reminder her name will be to our own little (well – less little now) family.

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Josie and I are both doing very well at this point, thank goodness. Like her brothers, this little one proceeded to loose far too much weight in her first several days (nearly 16% of her birth weight), so we’ve had to begin supplementing with formula. (No surprise there.) Within days of beginning it, Josie rebounded beautifully: she gained nine ounces in three days, she stopped fussing so much, her – ahem – digestive system began to function normally again, and she started sleeping through most of the night. Amazing. I’m so grateful.

I’m feeling better too. The last time I had a baby, I was so excited (and, apparently, awake) that I dashed off a quick update for the blog, like, that night or the following day. So I thought I’d be able to do the same this time. I was wrong. Unlike my previous three deliveries, which all went something like this: Pitocin administered around 9am, baby born at 4 or 5pm (full day of work: check) – this one stretched on for what seemed like forever.

First there was the getting turned away from the hospital after a half-day’s worth of waiting and monitoring. Then there was the return to the hospital and the round after round after round after round (literally – four rounds) of a drug that was to prepare me for dilation. Then there was the middle-of-the-night start to my Pitocin. Then there was my customary eight hours of labor before finally, blessedly, pushing for less than five minutes to welcome Josie into the world. (Full day’s work, morning shift, immediately following two back-to-back shifts and one false start: check.)

When it was all over, exhaustion overtook me like it has rarely done before: I was nodding off mid-sentence, mid-thought, mid-answer to curiously awake-looking nurses. Needless to say, writing (even to answer emails or texts) was put on the back-burner. So was moving around. And thinking coherently.

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Thank goodness Brennan was such a champ: He stayed up all night long that first night, changing diapers, soothing our newborn, and managing her spit up. (Poor thing was born so quickly she must have taken a gulp of fluid on her way out.) And he’s continued to work super hard for the nearly two weeks of my recovery since then. I’ve managed the baby and some dishes and my own exhaustion/weakness/wooziness; he’s managed the boys and the cooking and did I mention the boys?

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Today will be his first day back to work and are we! going to! miss! him! Thankfully, as of this past weekend, I think I can say I’m emerging from my fog. I think.

What I can say with certainty is that our little Josie is beautiful. Yesterday I sat staring down at her in near disbelief. I cannot believe we have a daughter. I cannot believe how lovely she is. I cannot believe we have been so blessed as to welcome another perfect little baby into our lives.

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Thank you to all of you who kept us in prayer during my pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Thank you to all who have given us help and offered Josie welcome. Thank you.

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Today Is The Day. I Hope.

I have to qualify that first statement with “I hope” because yesterday was supposed to be the day – the day I was to appear bright and early at the hospital, get myself pumped full of drugs, go through all manner of torture, and then joyfully, if exhaustedly, finally get to meet my first daughter.

(I’m such a romantic about childbirth.)

Alas, it was not to be. When we arrived yesterday morning we were ushered riiight into the waiting room, where we remained for more than an hour and a half. (Let’s call that clue #1.) Then we were allowed behind the Big Locked Doors, but still kept waiting. Then paperwork and getting set up in a triage room, not a delivery room (clue #2). Then another hour and a half of attempt after attempt to monitor Baby Girl, who was dancing around so much they could barely find her. And during all that time, there was nary a mention of starting me on any of my get-to-it-already drugs (clue #3).

Finally, after we’d been at the hospital nearly four hours, we were told to go home. “There is no room at the inn,” they said. They were slammed, they said. I guess everybody who was fortunate enough to not go into labor during the blizzard decided to do so in the first 36 hours of February instead.

Everybody except me.

Because my body refuses to do something so normal as to go into labor on its own. (Just like it refuses to produce enough milk to sustain the fruits of those labors.)

But let’s not wallow right now. Let’s recognize the benefits of getting sent home from the hospital without a baby to show for our efforts: First, there’s the fact that I didn’t have to start a long, drawn-out, uncomfortable process in the afternoon, my meager breakfast a distant memory and my baby likely not to arrive until late at night. Second, there’s the fact that I got to have lunch. (Food on the brain, Julie?) Third, Brennan and I were both able to fit in afternoon naps. Fourth, we got to spend a reasonably relaxed evening with our boys – a big difference from the rushing of the night before. Fifth, this morning we didn’t have to leave two boys crying at the kitchen table like we did yesterday. Sixth, overall we’re much better rested and prepared to meet our daughter today than we were yesterday.

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So as long as they actually do take us today, I promise to not be too fussed about the delay. (And anyway, this way I get to give my dear old Uncle Tom a birthday buddy. Love you, Tom.)

I have to break here to share with you a clever little something my big five-year-old said the other day. On Monday (one day after my due date and one day before the originally-scheduled induction), our neighbor, who was bringing our guy home from the bus stop, asked him something like, “So, are you ready for Baby Yesterday? Or Baby Saturday?” (Our nickname for the baby during the pregnancy.)

“How about Baby Tomorrow?” he replied.

Then last night, when I said to him, “Hopefully your sister will come tomorrow,” he said “I’m sensing… she will.”

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Love this kid.

I have to share something funny I did a couple of weekends ago — something that seems ironic given my current please-baby-just-come-already situation. I was interviewed on CNN about the possibility of going into labor during The Blizzard of 2016.

Yes! Isn’t that funny?!

The Friday afternoon the storm started, I received an email from a woman at CNN who’d read my “(Please No) Having a Baby in a Blizzard” 7 Quick Takes post. She said she worked on CNN Tonight (anchored by Don Lemon) and that they were wondering whether I might be interested in appearing on that night’s show to discuss my concerns about potentially going into labor during the impending snowstorm.

After a good laugh and about three seconds of hesitation, I said yes. I did a quick Google search and dashed off a Facebook post – “Tell me what you know about CNN Tonight with Don Lemon” because – yes, Julie is a dweeb who watches zero television. I knew nothing about the show. (If it had been an NPR program/host, I would’ve been set.)

A few hours later, after everyone else in my house had gone to bed, I found myself changing into some semi-decent clothes and putting on make-up for my television appearance. I called CNN via Skype from my hastily-cleaned-up bedroom. I sat in front of my laptop and followed the tech guy’s instructions. I found a pen to fidget with while I talked.

Around 10:40pm, I was on. And it was so much fun! The whole thing was good-natured and laid-back – the exact opposite of my few previous experiences of being interviewed for radio or television. (For work, on topics like emergency contraception, immigration, and poverty – much more stressful than snow and babies!) Don and I chatted baby names and contingency plans and how my friends had suggested that I pretend to have contractions during the interview. (He seemed a little nervous at the prospect of any such thing occurring.) Our conversation was light and fun and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. If you’d like to see the interview for yourself, you can find it here.

There was, of course, no blizzard baby after all. I’d say I’m about seven parts relieved that it didn’t happen. (The stress! The safety concerns! The wanting to deliver at my own hospital, which is not the closest one to us!) But I’m also about three parts disappointed: One because it would have been a cool story, one because my parents came out to be snowed in with us for “nothing,” and one because I wanted this baby here by now. I didn’t want to be driving into the hospital three days after my due date to induce labor for a baby estimated to already weigh something like 9 pounds, 12 ounces.

I am so impatient.

I am also so afraid for my pelvis and baby’s shoulders.

But, here we are. I finish writing this post on my phone, in traffic, just a couple of miles away from the hospital where, God willing, we’ll meet our baby girl later today.

Please pray that she arrives safely, with all of us in good health. (Praying for a not-horrible birthing experience would be cool too, but at the end of the day, I’ll take safety over everything else.)

Thank you kindly. I’ll update here after baby’s born.

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We’re now here and they’re all set up for her arrival. I guess this is real.

All My Life, Preparing For This

(Alternately titled: Ms. Smarty-Pants Becomes A Mother And Finally Realizes She Doesn’t Know Everything)

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A little over four years ago I lay on a hospital delivery bed, reeling not only from the intensity of having birthed my first child, but also from the other-worldly experience of having prayed a continuous loop of Hail Mary’s, pleading for the child’s life.

He had been born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck.

As soon as the baby emerged, the feeling of the room had changed. It became cool, focused, urgent. First my nurses tended to him, then the NICU staff rushed in. I felt as if I were in a tunnel, the sounds and activity muted, only the Hail Mary’s ringing loudly in my mind.

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Soon enough, though, the activity abated and there at the end of the tunnel was a screaming baby boy. He was fine – completely, totally fine. Thank you, Lord.

I looked up to my left and saw him lying in a sterile plastic basinet in the corner of the room, screaming, panicking. He seemed so scared, so alone. I couldn’t reach him because I was being tugged and pressed and stitched up by my doctor. But my heart went out to him and I did what I could: “It’s okay, Baby. It’s okay, Baby.” I cooed to him, over and over, five feet from his side.

He stopped crying. He became still and he listened and my mother said, “He knows your voice.”

An incredible feeling washed over me: gratitude and joy, fear and wonder, all mixed together. An incredible realization, too: This is my baby. He knows my voice. I am his mother and I can calm him like no one else can.

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I had spent years holding and loving and caring for other women’s babies. Now I finally had one of my own.

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I come from a big extended family (including twenty-five first cousins younger than myself) and my parents had always surrounded our little, immediate-family unit with a large network of good friends, most of whom had children. So I knew my way around a baby. And a toddler. And a little kid.

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I had been baby-crazy since I was a little girl, preferring to spend most barbecues and holiday parties “mothering” the little ones, rather than hanging out with kids my own age. I babysat – boy, did I babysit – more than any other teenager I knew. When I was a single young professional, I’d swing by my aunt’s house to take her kids on outings. One time I even cared for them for several days running while their parents were out of town. I told everyone I was “playing working mom.”

So I went into parenthood feeling pretty well prepared in the childcare department. I was an old-hand at diapering and bottle-feeding and bathing. I had kissed boo-boo’s and paced with screaming babies. I had a pretty good sense of which kinds of discipline worked and which didn’t.

I had also heard enough of my aunts’ and my mom’s friends’ chatter to know that parenting was hard. I had no illusions of serene domesticity.

Which all made me a pretty smug, smarty-pants kind of first-time mother. I felt like I had spent most of my 31 years watching, practicing, preparing for this opportunity. Why should I read parenting books? Why should I seek advice? I already had enough knowledge to get it right. On my own. (Or rather, with only my husband.) Pity the mother who tried to give me tips.

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It probably sounds like I’m setting you up for a tale of complete and utter failure, doesn’t it? But that’s not quite what happened. In fact, if you’d asked me, a year or two into motherhood, whether it was what I expected, I would have told you (as I did, in fact, tell many people) that the only thing that surprised me about motherhood was how physical it was. (i.e. Having to wrestle toddlers into submission so that I could change their diapers.) Just call me Ms. Smarty-Pants.

But now, four years and three children into motherhood, I have more perspective. I now realize that those first couple of years were really hard on me. I realize that while I may have been prepared for the nuts and bolts of the work that goes into caring for children, I was woefully unprepared for dealing with the emotional strain of motherhood.

Just because I knew what I was doing, doesn’t mean I knew how to deal with the intensity of doing it all the time, without a break, for little people who relied almost entirely on me. It doesn’t mean I knew how to get through the baby blues or withstand the sound of my baby crying for hours on end or handle the heart-wrenching truth that I couldn’t produce enough milk to feed my own child.

Motherhood was so much harder than the “making dinner while trying to calm a screeching baby” kind of hard I expected. It was “feeling useless because my mother was making us pancakes” hard. And “crying on the kitchen floor because my toddler won’t leave me alone” hard. And “sobbing in the front passenger seat because my husband wasn’t being the right kind of supportive” hard.

It is less hard today.

It’s not less hard because it’s less work. (With three boys now, parenting necessarily involves much more work today than it did at first.) Motherhood is less hard simply because I’m more used to it. The idea of being constantly on-call has by now been absorbed so completely that I wouldn’t know what to do if I weren’t responsible for my boys. And now when I find myself emotional and despairing of whatever it is that seems so hard at the moment, I know enough to recognize that whatever it is is simply the next in a long line of real but passing hardships.

I know that I have more hardships ahead of me and I know that some of them will make their season of motherhood feel more difficult than the one I’m in now. But at least then I’ll have the benefit of even more perspective – that which I will have gained from my own experience and that which I will have gained from parents whom I’m not too much of a smarty-pants to listen to.

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When I was Little Ms. Smug, Smarty-Pants, First-Time Mother, I offered lots of advice to newer moms than myself. I may have personally eschewed parenting books and advice from other mothers, but I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to tell somebody else what she should be doing. These days, I try to bite my tongue. I don’t always succeed, but I try to remind myself of how much I wanted to find my own way when I was in those shoes.

These days, I try to offer words of comfort rather than advice. Because I think the best thing you can say to a first-time mother is, “It gets easier. It gets better.”

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This post is part of a “blog hop” hosted by Amy of Go Forth And Mother. Amy has just kicked off a year-long life betterment project called “The Happy Wife Project.” To get things going, she’s asked ten bloggers to post about their expectations of motherhood… and how reality stacked up. In the coming days, please be sure to “hop” on over to the other participants too:

July 21 – Amy @ Go Forth and Mother
July 22 – Julie @ These Walls
July 23 – Kelly @ This Ain’t the Lyceum
July 24 – Sarah @ Fumbling Toward Grace
July 25 – Nichole @ Yackity Shmackity
July 26 – Colleen @ Martin Family Moments
July 27 – Lindsay @ Lindsay Sews
July 28 – Olivia @ To the Heights
July 29 – Ana @ Time Flies When You’re Having Babies
July 30 – Jamie Jo @ Make Me a Saint
July 31 – Michele @ My Domestic Monastery

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 10)

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Maybe I should call this “7QT: Uncomfortable Revelations Edition.” Or how about “7QT: Grumbling Introspection Edition”? Or maybe I shouldn’t classify it as a Quick Takes anyway, because it’s anything but quick. (And by the way, I’m still embracing the Friday in the title, because even though I’m posting on Saturday, 90% of the post was written Friday. So it totally counts.)

Whatever you want to call it (or not call it), this week’s 7QT is a departure from my usual peppy jumble of household goings-on and NPR recommendations. I’m simply not feeling them this week. That said, to perk up this otherwise serious post a bit, I’m throwing in some wholly unrelated, happy pictures from the week. So if you’re not in the mood for discomfort and grumbling, just take a quick glance at the cute kids and move on to greener blog pastures.

— 1 —

First, the set-up: Wednesday evening I came home from a long, tiring day out with the boys and I wanted to just sit still for a few minutes in front of my computer. I was hoping that a few of my favorite bloggers had posted something new so I’d have fresh material to read. But when I discovered that a bunch of them had, was I happy? Nope. Not a bit. All I could think was: “Look at all those bloggers posting new material. They’re busier than I am, they have more kids than I do, and they were able to get something posted mid-week. Why couldn’t I?” Mope, mope, whine.

Nevermind that I had just spent 7.5 hours at the county fair with two toddlers. That I had risen and left the house a good two hours earlier than usual. That I’d wrangled my boys into (mostly) quiet behavior for hours while we (er, I) watched my cousins show their pigs. That for the second time that week, I’d caught my younger son’s vomit in my hands because on-the-fly fair eating (that is, not bothering to cut everything up into teeny tiny bits) doesn’t agree with him. That by the time we came home, we were sweaty, sticky, thirsty, dusty, muddy, and (dare I say it?) smelling of manure. And that – despite or because of it all – we’d had a great day together.

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I was coming off all that busyness and stress and fun, and I allowed myself to be plunged into the doldrums because bloggers I like had actually, you know, blogged. Because people I admired were doing something I admired. Because it wasn’t me.

Enter: Julie’s latest round of introspection. (They come frequently.) Between my observation of the aforementioned situation and the content of a few of the blog posts that I (reluctantly) read that evening, I began to think in earnest about how this (still new to me) blogging thing is affecting my mood, outlook, etc. Grumbling and thinking about it all in the most haphazard of fashions, I had the following uncomfortable revelations:

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My old, familiar insecurities live on in my blogging, just as they do in the rest of my life.

Surprising, isn’t it? I don’t know why I hadn’t expected this. I guess I thought of starting the blog as turning a new page – a bright, shiny, open-horizon kind of page. Just like I once thought that becoming a stay-at-home-mother would cause me to shed my old work-related hang-ups. But of course, we are who we are. We have backgrounds and inclinations and personalities that affect how we act and how we interpret what happens around us. They don’t go away when we take on something new.

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To touch on a few of my insecurities (because they should add meaning to the rest of this post), let me just admit the following:

I often feel inadequate, particularly when it comes to matters of the mind. I compare myself to those whom I admire and I tend to feel like no matter how hard I try, I’ll never fit in with the truly intelligent and articulate. Or the holy.

I am unhappy with my appearance, especially insofar as it relates to my weight. This unhappiness is not a reaction to my age or to having borne children, nor is it simply some perception thing. I have been actually, technically, officially overweight for much of the past 20 years.

If it seems to me that someone easily masters those things which I find particularly challenging (see above), I’m likely to be jealous of them. I work on this one, I really do. But it lurks.

These are really unique insecurities, aren’t they? I mean, nobody else has feelings of inadequacy or jealousy or unhappiness with their appearance, right?

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— 3 —

People don’t simply have different tastes, they react with astounding difference to the same innocently-conceived material, based on their own struggles and hang-ups.

Let me point you to the following three blog posts:

Pretty, Gritty, Real: How to Read Blogs, by Simcha Fisher

Glimpses of Momentary Victory, by Hallie Lord

5 Favs (Fav # 5), by Jenny Uebbing

I feel like this is like a Russian doll version of blog suggestions: Hallie’s post is a focus of Simcha’s post, which is a focus of Jenny’s post. (And if you’re going to read only one, go with Simcha’s, which is the most thorough.) The moral that I took away from reading all three is something like this: People write blogs for different reasons; they read blogs for different reasons. Something that appeals to one person may agitate another. As a reader, you should know yourself and avoid the blogs that make you “want to punch somebody” as Simcha and Jenny put it. As a blogger – not that you should sweat the divergence in tastes too much – you should be thoughtful about how you present your life in your writing, because even innocent stories/remarks have the potential to cause pain for your readers.

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As far as taste is concerned, I like a pretty decent variety of Catholic mommy blogs. I like a few of the “gritty” ones, which share stories of messes and meltdowns and parental failures. They make me laugh and take myself a little less seriously. I like a few of the sentimental, pretty blogs, which cause me to daydream of loveliness and which inspire me to try harder to make the home and traditions I want my boys to grow up with. I love the blogs that jump into deeper subjects and challenge me to adjust my thinking and to live more fully/thoughtfully/prayerfully/generously, etc.

The only classification of mommy blog that I avoid entirely is the fashion blog. Because if I’m not feeling great about my weight, why would I want to look at pretty clothes and the prettier women wearing them? So on this count, I plan to keep on taking Simcha’s advice:

You can just stop reading, you know.  Or just read something else.  It’s in your control.

Take a good look at what happens to your state of mind if you check out this blog or that website or so-and-so’s Facebook or Twitter or Instagram persona.  Is something having a bad effect on you?  Every time you read a certain author, does it make you feel inadequate or self-righteous, discouraged or contemptuous?  Do you spend the rest of the afternoon criticizing yourself or other people?   Then just skip it — or look elsewhere…

Know thyself!  Take control!  It’s a big world, and one of the few parts you can actually do something about is deciding where to spend your time.

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— 4 —

Though I flatter myself as someone who is easily able to see different sides of a political issue, I’m often unable or unwilling to understand where people are coming from on personal issues that are particularly touchy for me.

With that one (fashion) exception, I don’t exclude whole classes of blogs because of my personal hang-ups. But I consistently come across material – single posts, single phrases, even – from my favorite bloggers that really push my buttons. Here are the primary examples:

Skinny bloggers who complain that they’re not skinny enough.

  • During their pregnancies, they say things like “Look at this picture of my HUGE baby bump! Strangers keep asking if I’m going to pop!” when they look all perky and thin with a lovely, smallish round belly – way smaller at 9 months than mine ever was at 5 months.
  • Post-pregnancy, it’s “I still can’t fit into my pre-baby jeans and s/he is FOUR months old!” Sorry, lady – no sympathy. Your stomach is flatter after three babies than mine was in high school.
  • And of course they always seem to be going on about their diets/exercise regimens and how they’re going to hell-in-a-handbasket because they indulged in one full-sugar soda. Excuse me while I throw a pillow or something.

The following also get to me, albeit in more of an eye-rolling, huffing kind of way:

  • Extreme purgers. I understand needing to declutter because your home is actually cluttered. I do not understand tossing 90% of your possessions because you get some kind of high out of it.
  • Romantic home/natural birthers. For one, I’m just not interested in birth stories. For another, I simply don’t understand some women’s need to have a spiritual/meaningful/transcendent birth “experience”. The only things that matter to me about giving birth are ending up with a healthy baby and mommy at the end. Pump me with drugs; brighten the lights; bring a half-dozen medical students through my room; I don’t care. Just give me a healthy baby and a healthy me.

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I realize that much of that was rather uncharitable. But it was the “before.” Here’s the “after” – the charity that this week’s revelations inspired:

Those skinny ladies? Reading between the lines, I sense that some of them have really struggled with their self-image. Maybe they’ve suffered through actual eating disorders. Maybe they’ve dealt with less severe, but still unsettling issues with food, exercise, and weight. You don’t have to reach a certain number on the scales to feel insecure about how you look.

And me? Even though I’ve been technically, medically overweight for most of the past 20 years and even though my weight always has and still does bother me, I am crazy blessed that I never had any inclination to confuse my appearance with my worth. For that reason, I escaped so many of the issues other women struggled through. I am so. incredibly. grateful.

And pregnancy? Pregnancy makes every woman bigger. No wonder that every woman feels bigger. Whether you wear a size 0 or a size 20, pregnancy changes and grows your body into a form that’s likely to feel uncomfortable and strange. I need to just go ahead and give the pregnant skinnies a break.

The purging thing? Even though part of me (I always say I have a bit of the Great Depression in me) cringes at the idea of throwing away objects that are still useful, that’s me. That’s my preference. Who am I to peg it on someone else? Maybe for some people it’s not so much that purging gives them a high, but rather that being surrounded by things makes them feel low.

The birthing thing? The home birthing trend will always bother me, because I think that every mother has a duty to do what she can to ensure a safe outcome for herself and her child. And removing oneself from the medical care available in a hospital just doesn’t make any sense to me. (Think of how many women in impoverished parts of the world would love to have the luxury of giving birth in a hospital!) And whether we like to think of it or not, women and babies still die in childbirth. We are not immune simply because we live in a wealthy country.

But the rest of it? The high value on having a certain birth “experience”? Why should I care if a woman wants to birth naturally, with low lights and scented oils? Maybe this is how she’s dealing with her fear. Because we might not want to talk about it, but we women are afraid when we head into childbirth: Of the pain. Of the lack of control we have over our own bodies. Of how our lives are about to change. Of something going wrong.

I need to remember these things when I come across blog material that bugs me. I need to be better about giving people the benefit of the doubt. And I need to be better about clicking away from something that bugs me, without taking any annoyed or self-righteous baggage with me when I go.

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They’re in a boat, surrounded by big, blue waves. Can’t you tell?

— 5 —

We often don’t see the hard work behind someone else’s attractive life.

It’s not just the sadness and hardship we miss when we look longingly at something that seems to come easily to another – we miss the hard work, too. In my single days, I saw the love and companionship in my friends’ marriages; I didn’t see the compromise and the tolerance and the putting someone else first. Before I had my own children, I saw the dimples and the curls and the sweet little dresses. I didn’t see the many hours my friends spent on their feet, the crumbs they swept off the floor, the vomit they caught with their bare hands.

Lately, a few kind souls have complimented me on my boys’ good behavior in public. I should be gracious enough to simply smile and say thank-you. But on the harder days, I’ve grumbled out an, “It’s hard work!” Because for all they know, I’ve been blessed with two amazingly compliant little cutie pies. But I’ve actually been blessed with two very real little boys – two very dramatic, energetic, independent little boys. They behave well in public because their father and I have worked our butts off in an untold number of small, tedious ways, teaching them to listen, to respond, to sit still when we need them to.

Recently I had a little “aha” moment when I realized that all those skinny ladies – the ones who are more attractive and fashionable than I think I’m capable of ever being – the ones who complain about their diets and workouts – those ladies work hard to be that way. Exercise is hard work. Eating right is hard work. Doing both while mothering a bunch of little kids is really hard work. I may look at their figures and clothes and see ease, but they most certainly do not.

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— 6 —

My own blog – this little thing that hardly anybody reads – can cause pain even when I’m careful.

Before reading Simcha’s post, this hadn’t really occurred to me. I knew I had to be careful about how I dealt with touchy political subjects. I had a sense that I should present my life as fairly and realistically as possible – beauty and warts. And I knew that I had a fair chance of annoying somebody with any given post. But I didn’t think about how my thoughts, my ideas, my ways of parenting, my home, my marriage, and heck, an untold number of things I can’t even think of right now could actually cause pain to someone who’s been nice enough to stop by to see what I have to say. It’s a weighty thing and there’s not exactly a solution to it. I suppose it’s just something I need to remember.

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— 7 —

As much as I aim to write things that other people will want to read, at the end of the day, I have to write this blog for me.

Yes, there is this and this. Yes, I’d love to attract readers and get some interesting back-and-forth going in the comment sections. Yes, I love hearing that something I’ve written has amused or touched someone. Yes, I’d like to avoid hurting or even annoying people with my writing. But These Walls is really for me. It gives me an avenue to work through my thoughts and ideas and it allows me to feel like I’ve said my piece on subjects that matter to me.

I also write this blog for my boys. Hopefully I’ll live a long life and I’ll always have strong relationships with them both. But you never know. One of my worst fears is that something should happen to prevent me from raising my sons. And almost as bad is the idea that something should happen to estrange us in their adulthood. Unfounded as those fears are, I am comforted by the idea that should they (heaven forbid) ever materialize, the words I write here give me another shot at reaching out to my boys. I like to think they would give my boys a sense of my love for them, of the way I see the world, and the values I hope to impart to them.

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Besides, These Walls has got to be for me (and my boys). There’s no possible way I can please or even interest everyone else. And there’s no way I can wholly avoid annoying/offending/hurting every single person who stops by this blog. All I can ever do is write posts that I like and that I can confidently stand behind. That’s it.

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Now, go on over to Jen’s and check out all the other Quick (much quicker than mine, I’m sure) Takes!