Stop Blaming the Hormones

It’s another early morning, like all the mornings before it. I used to choose to wake up in the space between night and day, when everything is new and quiet. When I steeped in the silence of sunlight trickling through my kitchen window.

Now I wake to whimpers that grow into groans that grow into cries over the monitor on my bedside table. I’m awake. I want to start the day. Come get me, Momma.

After a night of pitch dark feedings and groggy pilgrimages up and down the stairs, I pass the baton to my husband who goes to get her while I attempt to grasp the last remnants of sleep in the ten minutes it takes to change a diaper and get her dressed and ready.

A photo by David Mao. unsplash.com/photos/m0l5J8Lqnzo

I spend those early mornings sitting up in bed now, feeding my daughter her first of many meals for the day. I watch my husband get ready for work as I snuggle her closer.

It will come over me then, welling up out of nowhere.

It’ll come to me again later in the day, as I bend over her and she grasps my fingers. I’ll be in the middle of a refrain in You Are My Sunshine. She’ll smile and tears will gather at the corners of my eyes, threaten to spill over.

“My hormones are out of control,” I’ll lament to a friend over Facebook. “This post-partum stuff is for real.” She agrees, a new mom herself. The roller coaster of emotions is enough to make anyone feel a little crazy.

I’m not talking about the post-partum depression so many women struggle with. I had my touch of the “baby blues” at the beginning. This is different. And I don’t think it’s going anywhere. It’s as if once Eliana was born, instead of leaving an empty space behind, I was filled with twice the amount of emotion my body was capable of containing before. And my body is trying its best to catch up, to expand, to adapt to this new capacity.

Every emotion I have now feels razor sharp and intense in a way I’ve never experienced. Even happiness. Mostly happiness. When she’s content, staring at me, completely focused on my face, there can be such a fierce joy that springs up from me that it’s almost frightening.

And if happiness is this heightened, you should see fear. I have never feared for another’s life and well-being in the way I do for my daughter’s. It’s indescribable.

And I stop to think: why am I so quick to blame these overwhelming feelings on hormones? That it’s just my system righting itself like a boat after a storm? That it’s just chemicals and neurons in my brain?

And I realize it’s because stopping to let those feelings sink in for what they are is actually kind of scary.

God has given me one of the greatest gifts of my life and it’s scary.

I’m quick to fill my days with tasks and errands. The quiet moments I used to savor are paved over with scrubbing dishes, making meal plans, and an ever-open social media page. I find it hard to grapple with the hugeness of what I’ve been blessed with. That I’m not the one in control of it. I’m not, seemingly, even in control of my own emotions.

But now that I’ve stopped to really observe this change in myself, I find that now is the time to revel. To feel my emotions in all their fullness, even when it’s frightening. Even when it feels like I’ve been cut loose in a storm to be battered and bruised. I will exult in this new depth of passion for the gift that it is.

Instead of brushing these feelings aside with excuses of raging estrogen, I’m learning to face them headlong, letting them wash over me and praising God with each wave for this child who started it all.A photo by Sunset Girl. unsplash.com/photos/FjAD28N8-IQ

Back…with a Tiny Human

The best laid plans…

…are interrupted by tiny humans. At least, that’s what I’ve come to learn over the past five insane, beautiful, sleep-deprived, wondrous, monotonous, incredible months.

When last I left you, I was smack in the middle of My 500 Words Challenge and a series of Letters to My Daughter from Fictional Characters. I was making progress and sailing right along, counting down the weeks until my daughter’s arrival, and then suddenly Eliana decided her time was now. Not in three weeks, not when we’d scheduled the c-section for our stubborn breech baby, not on her April Fools due date, but NOW. (I have a feeling this might be a theme with Eliana. Her fussiness can go from zero to sixty in 1.5 seconds when she decides she needs something AT THIS VERY MOMENT. Or maybe, you know, that’s because she’s a baby…)

Thankfully, her timing wasn’t all bad. We’d finished our maternity photo session less than 48 hours before which also meant our best friends (the photographers) were staying at our house and got to be there for the birth. She also gave my parents just enough time to rush out of church and drive the two and a half hours up to the hospital.

This is all to explain why I disappeared so suddenly and haven’t been heard from for the past five months. I am still alive, though barely if you account for the fact that I haven’t had more than four consecutive hours of sleep since March 12th (we spent the night before Eliana’s arrival in the hospital, not sleeping).

Needless to say, writing has been… a challenge. And I know: I shouldn’t be worried about getting back into my writing routine or about how my finished novel has been left to moulder in a corner. I know I need to focus on caring for the new little life I have attached to me 24 hours a day, but as new moms will tell you, after surviving the first few months which, like a trial by fire, transforms you into someone you don’t recognize, you will do just about anything to get back at least a small vestige of your former self.

Don’t get me wrong, I most certainly prefer this version of myself, one that is more selfless, more patient, more tender (though I will admit, those things had to get worse before they got better- or at least until I’d had more sleep). But I’m also ready to have at least part of my writer-self back. I’ve been lucky enough to still make it to my every-other-Thursday critique group most meetings even if my submissions aren’t always new writing or even submitted in the first place. It’s enough just to put on real clothes and talk about something other than the rate at which my daughter poops or how many times she woke up last night. Doing something I love apart from motherhood is a way of taking care of myself.

So I hope to be back on the blog on a somewhat regular basis, maybe even continuing My 500 Word Challenge, though modified. I will leave you with a video of our first days in the hospital and some of my favorite newborn pictures, because let’s be real, she’s the best thing that’s ever happened and I can’t help myself.

Eliana’s Birth Day from Grain & Compass on Vimeo.

 

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Curled toesies

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Straight to the heart.

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“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. what matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” -Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

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EXPECTO PATRONUM!!!

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Video and pictures by the talented, marvelous husband and wife team at Grain and Compass.

Letters to My Daughter

Letters to My Daughter

From Fictional Characters

New to this series? Check out my first post here.

enders-game-poster

Ender Wiggin

Ender’s Game

Dear Eliana,

I hear you might be a little bit on the small side. You gave your mom quite a scare when the doctors measured you and thought you might have to arrive early. But now you’re measuring in the 18th percentile– healthy, just tiny.

Well, I know a thing or two about being small.

First off, people will underestimate you. Almost every time. So, surprise them. Some of the most important decisions ever made were made by people who go unnoticed. You just don’t hear about them as often. Skillful leadership has nothing to do with stature. When I got put on Bonzo’s squad, I found that leadership is better accomplished using quiet, but firm methods rather than with a lot of bluster and posturing.

Battle School taught me a lot and one of the most crucial lessons was to ask questions. Ask them when no one else will. And don’t be afraid of who you’re asking. Question the people in power, who have control, who outrank you. In fact, they might be the most important people to question of all.

Even more important was what I learned about empathy. I don’t think we can ever measure the full value that another person’s (alien or otherwise) perspective can bring to our understanding. “Those people” is a dangerous phrase. Everyone has a certain degree of light and dark. They say I’m the best balance between my compassionate sister Valentine and my violent brother Peter. But I know it all comes down to who I choose to be. I alone am responsible for my actions.

Yeah, you might be small, but I can already tell you’re tough. I think you’d make an excellent cadet.

Best of luck,

Ender

Like this post? Don’t forget to check out my other posts from this series under the Letters to My Daughter tag. Here’s the first post.

I’d love to hear from you! Like, share, and comment away!

 

My 500 Words Challenge: Week 1

I have made it through the first week of my challenge without falling flat on my face and I call that an accomplishment! First, here are my stats:

Day 1: 611 words/Blog post (My 500 Words Challenge)

Day 2: 503 words/Writing Workshop Exercise

Day 3: 523 words/Random reflections about the Oscars

Day 4:500 words/ Writing Workshop Exercise

Day 5: 652/ Writing Workshop Exercise

Day 6: 569/ Blog Post (Letters to My Daughter)

Day 7: 546/ Plot Treatment for my WIP (work in progress)

Total for the week: 3,904

What I’ve learned so far:

Having announced this on my blog did wonders for my accountability. Anytime I even considered slacking off for the night I remind myself that “people will knooow!” Maybe I should tell you all when I intend to do laundry or the dishes…

As I expected, writing in chunks of 500 words isn’t all that challenging in itself, it’s really the commitment to do it every day that has been tough for me.

On the other hand, knowing how many words I’m writing while I’m actually writing can actually put a damper on how much I write sometimes. If I know all I have to do is write 500 words, then I’m not as motivated to do more. In the long run though, I’ll have more cumulative words because I will have written MUCH more frequently. So I might cover my word count bar with a sticky note until I feel like I’ve done enough writing for the day.

I expect my word count to increase as I get used to my new routine. I also have a lot of writing projects going on at once (blog, final revisions on my novel, drafting a new novel, outlining the new novel, a writing workshop course I’m taking, etc.), so although I may not be getting as many words down in a sitting as I’m used to, I know that I’m getting a lot done in other areas of writing that can’t be counted by words.

Excerpts from this week’s writing:

My first blog post about this challenge was included in this week’s word count My 500 Words Challenge

My second Letters to My Daughter from Fictional Characters blog post was also included.

Here is a quick first draft (as in very rough draft) of a scene from my WIP:

The curtain went up with a silence that catches in my throat. The dark silhouette of the audience behind the blaring lights is somehow menacing tonight.

As if they are waiting for disaster.

Franco begins his intro and my stiff limbs are forced into motion. Carby could be anywhere in the theater– the front row, the balcony. He was here, I was sure of it. I tried scanning the audience, but couldn’t make anything out. Sarah hissed at me as I narrowly avoided a collision with her. There was sweat rolling down my back now.

I hated the not knowing part the most. Was he going to arrest me up here on stage or wait until the performance was over? He didn’t seem to be the waiting type to me, but then again, perhaps there would be less civilian involvement if he waited until the opera house cleared out. Unfortunately for him, I would be long gone if it came to that.

I hit my stage marks but Links knew something was off. I could see him watching me out of the corner of my eye. I tried to relax my shoulders. My part was coming up and I was determined to sing it without giving myself away.

Franco’s last note echoed to silence. I crossed to center stage and took my stance, one arm outstretched dramatically towards my lover. The violins took up the melody, soft and sweet. I took in one long steadying breath and began.

As the song filled my lungs, I felt steadier and steadier. Maybe it had all been nerves. Maybe he wasn’t here after all. I was getting too jumpy these days. I stole from people while they stood right in front of me. How could I possibly be losing my nerve now?

I was working my way up the trills to the climax when I saw it. A shadow, separating from the rest, walking down the far left aisle.

The shadow had a limp.

In that moment, my voice abandoned me. The music kept playing and the cast, frozen in place, eyes bulging, silently begged me to get a hold of myself. But the shadow limped closer and my traitorous voice would not follow my orders.

When it was obvious the man was making for the stage. An attendant walked quickly down the aisle after him. The audience was so wrapped up in my apparent fall from grace, they didn’t even notice what was going on in the aisle.

Bianca suddenly appeared on stage. She immediately took up the thread of melody that I’d lost and smiled at the audience like they were all in on a little joke together. When she turned, her face crumpled into a hateful glare at me. But I was paying her no attention. The man was within arm’s reach of the stage, but the lights still kept his face hidden from view. I would take no chances.

I started to inch myself sideways off the stage. I could still make a run for it. He didn’t know the maze of backstage like I did.

And that’s my wrap up for this week. Have questions, tips, or stories about your own writing experience? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Letters to My Daughter

Letters to My Daughter

From Fictional Characters

New to this series? Check out my first post here.

Scout Finch

To Kill a Mockingbird

Hey Eliana. Scout here.

I hope you’re soaking up everything right now because growin’ up can be hard. It’ll happen to you eventually, whether you believe me or not. One night you’ll be catching fireflies in the summer heat and the next, wham! You’ll be hit hard over the head with the world the grownups have so successfully up ‘til now, kept you oblivious to.

And it’s not always nice, this new world, let alone fair. I think it’s best to let you know this now and not sugarcoat nothin’. The truth is always better in my books than a nice lie tied up with a bow. Sometimes, even when you do the right things, even when you follow the rules, even when you listen to the people in charge like they tell you, things can turn out wrong. That’s just how it is. But that doesn’t mean you should stop tryin’ to make it right. Actually, the worst thing you could do is give up just because something wasn’t fair.

And don’t think you’ll always have everyone on your side either. My daddy had the whole town just about against him at one point. But he kept fightin’. The people that really matter will have your back anyway, so don’t worry about the rest.

One more thing. You know that kid no one likes to sit next to? Or that neighbor that seems kinda weird? Have nothin’ but kindness for them. Don’t let folks have nothin’ but good to say about the way you treated them. Try and get to know them. There’s a lot more under the surface than you could ever know.

Well, I think that about covers it. Maybe don’t wear any big bulky costumes while walking home in the dark.

 

Love,

Scout Finch

 

Like this post? Don’t forget to check out my other posts from this series under the Letters to My Daughter tag. Here’s the first post.

I’d love to hear from you! Like, share, and comment away!

 

My 500 Words Challenge

The habit. It’s the one thing that can make or break a writer. Either you show up and sit down to write or you don’t. It really is as simple as that. And as complicated. With the explosion of writing communities all over social media, the ways in which we can fool ourselves into thinking we are being productive also expands.

Writers love to talk about writing. They love to talk about their process and their current WIP (work in progress). They love to tweet about how difficult it is to get the words out. They love to post instagrams of their notebooks, pens, laptops, and steaming coffee mugs. They love to declare #AMWRITING! (Read all of this really as “I” love… I am extremely guilty of every one of these things.)

But when it comes down to it, it’s just you and your blank notebook or screen. Only you really know how productive you’ve been, no matter what facade you’ve subconsciously built on social media. If you’re not putting words on paper consistently, you’re not going to get anywhere. You can keep chasing that dream of authorship all you want, but it won’t happen without the true sweat and effort that no one else sees.

I write this as a pep talk to myself as much as to anyone else. I struggle with consistency in my daily writing habit and I’m always looking for ways to improve. Now, with the impending arrival of my first baby, the stakes are even higher. If I let myself slide now, in the month before my due date, all chaos will break loose after she’s born.

“Don’t overdo it!” you say. “Be easy on yourself- this is your first baby.” Don’t worry. I know. Those precious first days and weeks with my newborn daughter are highest on my priority list. The most common remark I get at this stage? “Sleep while you can!” (which I find ironic, seeing as how the last trimester is usually when your ability to get a good night’s rest completely disintegrates). I plan on taking at least a full month off from a “work schedule” after she’s born.

But that itch to write, that groove of habit I’ve dug, must be there in the background and this is my last chance to dig it in deep. When I’ve found some semblance of “normalcy”, I’ll need to be able to jump back into writing even though my routine may look completely different. This is where My 500 Words Challenge comes in. The challenge is simply this: write 500 words every day, no matter what, for the next month. It can be a blog post, drafting, journaling, whatever. Just show up, get at least those 500 words down and go from there. Super simple. And simple is where it’s at right now.

500 words is not a lot. It’s really not very ambitious. But it’s the habit I’m concerned about more than the word count. I usually only write on the weekdays, so getting those weekend words will be more of a challenge. But most importantly, it feels doable enough to continue even after Eliana is born (though the actual challenge only lasts a month).

To hold myself accountable and share my experience with you, I’ll be posting weekly updates on my progress and include excerpts of what I’ve been writing with those 500 words a day. Want to join me in the challenge yourself? Comment below and link up over at Jeff Goin’s Blog to get started. You can begin your challenge on any day that you choose. I’ll also be tweeting updates with #my500words. I would love some company!

Letters to My Daughter

Some of you may know that I’m about to embark on the biggest adventure of my life thus far: becoming “Mom” to a little girl due on the first of April. I’ve never been a mom to anyone other than my two cats, so needless to say there is a LOT going through my mind these days.

As I started to build one of the most important aspects of the nursery, Eliana’s own little bookcase, I began thinking about all the lessons I’ve learned from fictional characters growing up, how much they’ve molded me and shaped my world view. I began wondering what lessons my own daughter might glean from some of my favorites.

That’s when a writing friend and critique partner had a brilliant idea- what if I wrote letters to my daughter while she was still young (or in this case, still in utero!) from the voice of some of my most beloved characters. I instantly took to this idea and all those fictional characters of my childhood began clamoring for my attention at once. Now I plan to make this an ongoing series here on the blog!

Letters to My Daughter

From Fictional Characters

hermione31

Hermione Granger

Harry Potter

Dear Eliana,

I hope this letter finds you well. I hear your mum is going to let you open it on your eleventh birthday, right after your acceptance letter from Hogwarts arrives. Though the list of required school books that will accompany your acceptance letter is a great place to start, I’ve attached my own list of recommended titles that should really round out your reading list.

I know what you must be worried about: the Sorting. It’s what every first year worries about but I promise it won’t be as bad as you think. I might be a proud Gryffindor, your mum, a Ravenclaw, but know that however you’re sorted, you have permission to strike out on your own brave path, finding that mix of qualities which make you who you are.

You might have thought I would give you advice about good study habits or the best quill to use for tests (eagle, for the record), but remember: books! Cleverness! There are more important things– friendship and bravery. Choose the people you surround yourself with wisely– friends who will remind you where the trick steps are and will distract Ms. Norris when you’re caught out of bed. Chances are you’re going to get into quite a few scrapes with them in the future and you don’t want to be stuck with the ones who trick you into eating the bogey flavored Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans.

As for bravery, stand up for your beliefs even when no one else will stand with you. Whether for the mistreatment of house elves (I’ll send you a S.P.E.W. button by owl!) or regulations for the thickness of cauldron bottoms, don’t give up! Your bravery will soon attract others.

I do hope you will find my advice to be helpful in the coming years. Good luck in all your endeavors and remember: when in doubt, go to the library!

Yours truly,

Hermione Granger