breastfeeding · Family · Mental health · motherhood · Travel

Our only family photo on vacation


Our only family photo from our very rainy beach weekend. There is a lot behind this photo and I want to tell you about it.

(This started as an Instagram post…and then it wouldn’t fit)

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I’m going to be very honest and authentic in this post. This 3 night getaway was extremely challenging. Pre-babies, John and I lived for weekend getaways, especially to the beach! We looked forward to laying in the sand and sun for hours and diving into the waves at high tide. I love lying in a bikini and soaking in the heat and then jumping into the ocean and swimming as far out as I feel brace enough to. John and I are beach bums and we could not wait to bring our kids to he beach to enjoy it as much as we did. I don’t consider myself bikini worthy and have lowered my expectations on when I might be again one day. I packed 30 minutes before we left in a very stressed state. This trip, the ocean water hardly went above my knees and we spent 30 minutes together on our beach mat. John Fredrick was absolutely terrified of the (extremely rough) sea and I had to carry both him and Juliet back up to the room by myself when John was picking up dinner. It rained for 1.5 days out of the 3. While we never spoke a word of it, John and I must have exchanged a million looks of disappointment and exhaustion that this getaway has been more stressful and strenuous than it was relaxing. Travelling with two small children is hard. Really hard. Hard on the head, heart and body. John Fredrick was sick a few days before we left and was far from being His happy go lucky, excited and enthusiastic self. He is sick with something of a mix of a virus, hard cough, runny poops and a bad diaper rash, an unwillingness to eat, and to top it off, or maybe the cause of it all – 2 year molars. He is extremely defiant, disobeying us at every opportunity and frustrating the heck out of us and then begging to be held and cuddled, and then back to a defiant state. And wanting to nurse every waking and sleeping moment. My heart hurts for his discomfort and my head hurts from having to parent through his extreme mood swings. John and I have been stressed and I’m pretty sure JF has been as ticked off with us as we have been with him. But we love him so much and blamed ourselves that maybe the steroidal prescription that his doctor gave him is partly to blame for his complete personality change. John felt sick to his stomach worried about his illness, and my heart broke seeing the man I love scouring the Internet trying to figure out what could be wrong with him and what sort of interactions this medication could have. One thing I can say about John and I regarding parenthood is that…we are trying so hard. So hard. Harder than anything we have ever tried at before. Singing songs to get JF to eat when he has been ignoring us for 30 minutes. And we are so tired but we both know that we couldn’t do it any other way. 

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I have also been sick for the last 3 weeks with some kind of upper respiratory virus that is making me absolutely miserable and my body is exhausted from trying to fight it off, while breastfeeding two babies, trying to sustain myself and so on. I cried for a good bit yesterday afternoon while my husband and kids tried to give me kisses to make me feel better but I am one burned out Mama. 😥

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But I am grateful. I am trying so hard to work on my gratitude. I am grateful for my husband who does his best and plans all of our trips to help us get out of our routine and nurture our family. He will come home or call me in the middle of the day to tell me, “I booked us a trip!” and I know that is his love language to us. They aren’t fancy or foreign trips but they are experiences that build our family and our relationship. I am in awe of my two amazing and beautiful children, whom I love more than life itself. JF is full of life and energy and love and just wants to be heard and understood. Juliet constantly tries to get in on the action, adores her brother and loves getting hugs and kisses. They are my life and my whole world and I am beyond blessed that God chose these amazing people to be *my* family.

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An older lady we met in the hotel bar offered to take this photo of us. She and her husband had been watching us for awhile smiling sweetly at our family. (We get that a lot these days!) Juliet had been sleeping in my sling and once she woke up, and I pulled her onto my lap, the lady ran over to us. “I’d like to take a picture of your family for you!” We never get approached for photos from strangers so it was so sweet and kind! I grabbed my phone from JF who was zoned out watching PBS kids, and he nearly threw a fit. As you can see in his expression he’s pretty ticked this lady interrupted his screen time. After she snapped a few photos, she said to me, “All of my grandkids are in their 20s. Enjoy this. It goes too fast. They grow up too fast.” 
I can’t tell you how many people have told me that since becoming a mother. And i can’t tell you how much guilt I have felt at the end of the day remembering that reality after being frustrated at my toddler and being too tired to get up to comfort my crying daughter…all day long.
It’s a hard reality. But it’s so true. I cried to John saying how much I hate feeling so exhausted these days. Like so exhausted that I can hardly find the joy because I’m just too tired. That I have no idea how God wants me to persevere because I literally have no energy. And how much I hate that I am so tired that I’m afraid I’m not enjoying these early years to the best of my ability because I literally just physically and mentally cannot. I cried and told John I thought something was wrong with me. That was the PPD/PPA talking. I never thought parenting would be easy but I never knew how much it would change me, almost feel like it’s breaking me. I’m the photo…The smiling Mama was crying all afternoon yesterday and has many sleepless nights. The handsome and sweet little boy has been 90% tantrums all weekend long. The wonderful Dada feels guilty that he can’t help his wife more. And little stunning Juliet…well let’s just say she is just so full of love and she is our saving grace at the moment 😄
This is what is behind this photo. So many big emotions. Loving emotions. Frustrated emotions. I absolutely and beyond a doubt love this photo. I will be the first to admit that social media is not a reflection of reality or truth in the least bit. They are snapshots of “perfect moments” amidst a lukewarm or even awful day. And I want to be authentic about it. Because I don’t live a perfect life and I literally have nothing together. I dream of a time where I can “get it together” My kids watch too much TV. Our house is a disaster. We have too many toys, too much clutter and too much laundry. I’m drowning in my life most days and barely surviving and sometimes funny memes don’t even make me laugh about it. 
But I’m also drowning in love. In love with two babies that are like barnacles. That through my exhaustion, stick to me and love on me and touch my face, sweep my hair and cling to my breast all day long. My toddler throws himself to the ground in fits of rage and then wraps him body around my ankles begging me to pick him up and hold him. Juliet literally wakes up with a smile on her face every morning and just snuggles into my kisses and makes every moment of postpartum stress worth it. They are my lifeline. They are my reason for my exhaustion…and I couldn’t imagine it any other way. And the thought of neat and shiny perfect vacations in the future are like a dream come true…but there will never be a weekend like the one we just had. There will never be perfect moments like this photo and imperfect moments like most the rest of the weekend, exactly like this one. Everything is fleeting and it’s so hard to make peace with all the feels.
This is our only family photo from our summer beach trip 2017. No other photo is social media worthy because we didn’t do anything particularly fun or unique. But this is us. And we love each other so much. And that is what is most important and most authentic. 

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