I have two kids, Katelyn Elliece - Age 3; Alexander James - Age 4. They are amazing because they are a part of me, and a part of my husband. I look at them and see us, but I also see things in both of them that neither my husband nor I have. It’s amazing to see them grow and learn and experience things for the first time. Their reactions and their amazement of life leaves me speechless sometimes.
I always wanted to be a mom, and knew it very early in my life. I think this is because I had an amazing mother, and even more amazing grandmothers. The love I have seen with these three women is unmatched and unwavering. I always hoped to share the same experiences I had growing-up with my children one day.
I dealt with almost five years of fertility treatments … different doctors, different approaches, and failed attempt after failed attempt or miscarriage. There was a time I was sitting in a room full of mothers talking about everything from nursing a newborn, to baseball games, to one heading to college. I remember it being the most difficult conversation I have ever been a part of, wishing I could scream at them that it wasn’t fair and why can’t I have a little part of what you have. Instead I sat quietly and had one of many breakdowns when I went home that evening. What I realize now is that it was not my time for that experience and conversation. Things come if and when it is meant to be, and specifically when on the path that is determined for you. This experience taught me that you don’t have to hide the excitement of that first step or first home-run; it taught me compassion -- to be understanding and forgiving when I see another women exit the room during a discussion, as you may not understand their situation. It also taught me that everyone’s path is different and to always be supportive for those that were not as lucky on this path of challenging fertility.
With Alex I found out I was pregnant by means of a post fertility treatment test, just praying and hoping that this one took this time. It was exciting and scary and overwhelming and every emotion bundled into a ball. I couldn’t wait to tell people that had been on this journey of ups and downs with us over the course of several years. It was by far one of the best days of my life! A lot of tears. Tears of relief, tears of joy, tears because you don’t know how else to respond to something you have hoped for so long …. and for what has felt like an eternity.
With Katelyn, it was a complete surprise. I had just returned to work from my first maternity leave …. literally, in my first weeks back. I walked into the bathroom and thought holy crap, this feeling and reaction I’m having about this smell is all too familiar. I walked into my former managers’ office and told her she needed to go buy me a pregnancy test. She laughed (for a while), knowing the struggles we had to have Alex. That pregnancy test confirmed we had another baby on the way. I had tears again, but this was a completely different feeling. I mean, we JUST had Alex. This wasn’t planned and we weren’t prepared for a second so soon. I felt completely overwhelmed for a short time. I wanted to enjoy my time with Alex and experience those firsts with him. I questioned if I could and would be able to do that pregnant. That feeling didn’t last long, because I realized what a blessing and miracle it was to experience this process outside of a doctor’s office. I didn’t have to wait to tell people very long, as I had severe morning sickness, and started to show very quickly. When we told people that the due date was on Alex’s birthday, we had eyebrows raised and looks of surprise. I often said to people, "no … I’m not kidding, and it wasn’t planned!"
I didn’t have a feeling about gender for either baby. I just wanted to get to those ultrasounds and see a healthy baby. Those that know me, know I’m not a girly girl. Selfishly, boys would be easier. I wouldn’t have to play dress up, go shopping, and buy purple or pink clothes. And even thinking about shoe shopping pushes me over the edge. I was thrilled that my first was a boy. I kept thinking during my second pregnancy that it would be great to have another boy. God knew I needed a girl to bless my life. She is the complete girly girl. She loves pink, dressing up, and boy does she love her shoes! It pushes me out of my comfort zone, and I know I’m in trouble!
Both of my kids were difficult pregnancies. I was a regular at the labor and delivery triage once a week when I was pregnant with Alex. Those problems were a precursor to an almost 6 week premature baby. I had a week stay at the 30 week mark to try to stop an amniotic fluid leak. I remember sitting in a hospital bed talking about the risks and then touring the neonatal ICU to prepare us for what was coming. We were blessed that we were in a 2% population of those that this happens to where the leak repairs itself. We walked out of that hospital and made it almost another 4 weeks to deliver a healthy and happy blessing. I frequently hear Alex saying “but it’s taking so long." Oh how true to his personality from the beginning of his life. He can’t wait for anything and the word patient is not in his vocabulary!
I was pregnant for Katelyn within just a few short months after having Alex, and I was immediately considered a high-risk pregnancy. I had severe morning sickness for about 34 of my 40 week pregnancy. This pregnancy meant three to four NST’s a week, insulin and progesterone shots. I’m so very thankful for my husband. He was the full-time single parent to Alex during his first year, as I physically could not be. This took a huge toll on me emotionally. I was missing important things of Alex’s first year of his life, and I wasn’t able to enjoy him like I wanted to, the way I thought I would. I still look back and selfishly wish things had been different, but then I walk into a room and I am reminded of TWO beautiful children. What was meant to be, is.
The story of my delivery experience with Alex is one made for a movie! I was on limited restrictions working from home. My husband came home for lunch and as we were eating, I had that warm sensation. I remember telling him, I’m not sure if I peed myself or my water just broke. We were almost six weeks early. I had no bag packed yet, nothing was prepped. We headed to the doctors’ office (which was attached to the hospital) so they could check me first. On the way there, I thought I might have had a contraction, but wasn’t sure. At the doctor’s office we found I was dilated to 4 cm, and they sent me over to the hospital. On the walk down to the car, to then drive across the parking lot, and then walk back into the other end of the hospital, I thought I might have had another contraction … maybe. The nurse gave me a gown, asked me to change clothes and get ready for a bag or two of antibiotic IV fluid. I stepped into the bathroom to change and pee. As I sat down, I thought to myself …. I think I need to push. I promptly walked back into the delivery room and told the nurse. She laughed and politely told me it was probably just a contraction I was feeling. I wasn’t far enough along to start pushing, that I had several hours left. I politely disagreed, and she said she would check me out. I wasn’t all the way into the bed and she looked at me, her eyes got big, and she quickly said DO NOT PUSH. She ran into the hall and started yelling for the doctor and other nurses. Dr. Dupler ran into the room, and directly into his gown two nurses were holding up for him. He looked at me and said, start pushing. Two quick pushes and Alex was here. The NICU team immediately took him. It was several hours before I remember actually holding him. They pushed him into our room inside a cart that was covered in hearts. James and I both looked at each other and thought, how sweet. We asked if all babies got carts covered with little hearts. The nurse looked at us weird, and said not every day is Valentine’s Day, so no. We just had a Valentine’s Day baby and didn’t even realize it!!! The humor is that my husband and I do not celebrate, nor did we previously enjoy this Holiday. Now we have something special to celebrate on this day!
The first time I held my children, it felt surreal. You are looking at this little human being … every part of their body is something you created. That little nose and mouth, hand and foot, and beautiful eyes you see for the first time. It’s amazing and wonderful and nothing you can put into words without feeling that emotion rushing back all over again.
Coming home with a new baby was overwhelming for us. But our first time home we had a preemie in tow, which had a whole different level of pressure. He HAD to eat a certain amount and gain weight, or we were right back in the hospital. We weren’t certain we were doing the right things, and constantly second guessing ourselves. We weren’t sleeping with feedings every hour and a half to two hours for the first few weeks. In fact, I’m not sure I slept more than a few hours over a two week period.
A full night of sleep ….. what’s that? I’m still not sure!
I’m a better person for having these two little bundles of joy in my life. They challenge me, they encourage me, and they love me unconditionally. I don’t feel like I remember my life without kids, nor do I want to. They make every facet of my life complete. Everything I do has a larger purpose, and it centers around them, ALWAYS. However … I’m not going to lie … it’s made me an emotional wreck. I cry at the drop of a hat over the most ridiculous things anymore.
The best part about being a mom is the moment I walk into a room and see my two kids running towards me, screaming mommy, wrapping their arms around my neck, giving me a big hug and a sloppy wet kiss. I don’t know that anything in the world beats that!!
Being a parent is the most difficult job. You constantly wonder if you’re doing the right things, saying the right words, modeling the right behavior. You influence this person, you help determine how they grow-up and help to mold them into who they become. There are days that are storybook written. Everything is wonderful and beautiful. The next day could be a complete disaster. They cry, argue, complain, and don’t listen to anything you say. It’s a complete rollercoaster ride, but one I want to stay on the rest of my life. Every turn and hill offers a new experience. While either a challenging experience or a blessing, you experience it with them and nothing else in this world matters.
My husband is my rock. We are both full-time working parents, and I’m not sure what I would do without him. The biggest challenges about transitioning into things related to motherhood are all of the unknowns and unexpected circumstances. My husband and I can ebb and flow with each other during those circumstances to a point it is now natural for us. Those times I have a complete meltdown he steps in. Those times he is at his wits end, I step in.
It’s also being around other parents that don’t judge and are respectful of the decisions my husband and I make with our kids (and vice versa). Every parent needs to do what is right for them and their circumstances. Being around those that are supportive of those circumstances or decisions, and don’t in turn criticize them, mean everything. It’s a safe place to vent and share frustrations without a crazy reaction. I’m not sure what I would do without those friends who have created that safe place.
I don’t think anyone can fill you in on everything you will experience before becoming a mother. There are always the people that say get sleep when you can get sleep, ask for help ….. but those are small in the grand scheme of what changes over the years. I really think it’s about the range of emotions you experience. I always thought I could imagine that feeling of having a baby and that I was prepared. I wasn’t even close. You are responsible for another human being -- one that you have a love for that is unmatched. You can’t put that kind of love into words, but I often find myself expressing those words through tears, smiles, and just pure happiness.
Of course you wish you could always have those little hands and feet and chubby cheeks to kiss all day long. And that baby smell. Oh, that baby smell is like no other smell in the world. But more than anything, I wish I could hold onto their innocence. That look of surprise when they learn something new or the look of awe when they see something for the first time. If I could capture that moment for eternity, I would.
I think a majority of parents have fears of their child growing up at some point. I fear that they won’t be liked, that they will be teased or bullied, that they will make bad decisions, or that they won’t grow-up with the values I raised them with. I need to teach them to be fearless, so I don’t have to worry so much!
First and foremost, I hope my children grow up to be individuals that love themselves. I hope that they grow up having faith, and that they are loving and respectful human beings. I hope they grow up to have strong values and morals, and that they act on those with conviction. I hope that they love whatever they choose to do, but know that that love doesn’t have to mean sacrificing everything else to get there.
My philosophy is that parents are there to love unconditionally, but also to guide and teach children responsibility and respect. I’m there to be a parent first, and a friend second.
Don’t wish the years to go by faster to get to the next big milestone. Live in the moment that is and take it all in. I find myself wishing I could slow time down. It’s weird to wake up one day and realize the last time they did something was yesterday. Moments come and go … oh so quickly.
I do think moms have the power to change the world because we have the ability to raise a child that could change that world.
Dear Alex and Katelyn
I had no idea the amount of love that was possible until the moments you arrived. You both are blessings that I am thankful for every day of my life.
Alex, I hope you always believe in yourself and that you can accomplish whatever you set out to do. I often worry about your shy, reserved, and cautious demeanor. However, the amount of love that comes from your kind, caring words and big hugs brings such a balance to who you are.
Katelyn, you are my strong-willed and confident child. Some days I don’t know how I will make it to bedtime dealing with your sassy personality. But, then comes your wittiness and humor. You make me laugh and smile just as quickly as you pushed the limits. I worry about your teenage years, and my ability to handle what I think is coming. I know that same determination will take you wherever your heart desires. Use that personality for good things in life, and life will give you so much more back.
I can’t wait to watch you both grow and to see who you both become … but not too soon. I love these moments now, and wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. My wish for the two of you is that you grow to be the best of friends and biggest supporters of each other into your adult lives. That you both stay close and know that family is the most important thing in this world.
I hope you always know and never doubt that I am so very thankful and blessed to be your mom.
I love you both as big as the sky, and the sky never ends.
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If you have a milestone or special moment you want to remember forever, let's chat! Ashlee loves to photograph in the woodlands and around downtown Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, Zionsville, and Greenwood. She also has a professional studio space available for sessions.