Love, Strength and Learning

On the night you were born,

the moon smiled with such wonder

that the stars peeked in to see you

and the night wind whispered,

“Life will never be the same.”

Because there had never been anyone like you…

ever in the world.

{{On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman}}

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

These last few years have been nothing short of amazing – they’ve also been filled with unexpected growth and strength. Becoming a mom is easily the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I have always wanted to be a mom and dreamed of the day I would have a child of my own – sometimes it still feels surreal. Today is my daughter’s THIRD birthday. Three. I remember the day of her birth so vividly – like it happened yesterday. The very first time I looked into her eyes, I instantly knew that this little being was going to change everything for the better. Three years later, that’s exactly what’s happened.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

Our sweet Willow Rayne came earthside on April 15, 2012 at 7:52 PM measuring at a healthy 8lbs 3oz and 21 inches long.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

The days leading up to Willow’s birthday have been emotional, for so many reasons. It feels like just yesterday we were celebrating her first birthday and now she’s this little independent being who has developed quite the personality. I look at her and I no longer see my baby girl, but rather a child with determination and strength. How did we get to three so fast? Sometimes I miss the baby stage – the constant cuddling her in my arms and being able to fully protect her. But you know what? I love the toddler stage! Good grief, it’s filled with anxiety and stress as they discover new fun ways to get into trouble, but it is by far my favorite stage yet. I still get to cuddle her every day and night, but now she’s the one to initiate. Out of the blue she will run over for a hug and it is the best feeling in the world. I will take all the hugs and kisses from this kid while I can. Hearing her talk, watching her run and witnessing her thirst for knowledge brings so much joy.

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We have watched her develop, not only physically, but in personality, too. She has gained confidence through finding her voice and is not afraid to use it. Being able to tell us what she does and doesn’t want, asking for help and saying, “I love you.” Words that I patiently waited to hear for a very long time.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

Willow on her First Birthday!

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

Future vegan chef?

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

Shortly after her Second Birthday! Our little fashionista.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

Never a dull moment.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

She hates anything in her hair, but here is a rare moment full of hair clips!

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I’ve learned a lot over these last few years and grown so much more than I ever imagined. Like anyone else, I’ve had my fair share of challenges, tears and disappointment, but I’m a better person because of it all. I won’t bore you with all the details of what I’ve learned over these last three years, but I will share some of it.

What I’ve learned:

  • The importance of patience.

Discipline is helping a child solve a problem. Punishment is making a child suffer for having a problem. To raise problem solvers, focus on solutions not retribution.

~ L.R. Knost

Age two was a true test. Countless meltdowns, screaming, declaring her independence and finding her voice. As many of you already know, we believe in gentle parenting – being engaged, empathetic, respectful, listen, supportive, respectful and loving. There’s no harsh punishment in our house, just gentle discipline – rather than reacting in an angry way to an outburst and sending her to her room, we choose to talk it out – let her feel the emotions that she’s feeling and always end with a hug. When you scold a child for being upset, you’re teaching them that they “shouldn’t” feel a certain way. I certainly wouldn’t want someone telling me not to cry when I’m sad or upset. Kids are learning to express themselves; they’re learning to communicate. Crying, tantrums and meltdowns are their way of communicating. It’s certainly not always easy, but we take a breath, stay calm and patient and work with her to figure out what’s going on. Just like adults feel stress, anxiety, sadness and anger, children do, too. By adopting a more patient, gentle approach, we’re providing her with a sense of security and it paves the way to effective communication and problem solving. We followed our hearts to this approach and reading The Gentle Parent by L.R. Knost sealed the deal. I realize that this way of parenting doesn’t work for everyone, but if you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend visiting her website: http://www.littleheartsbooks.com/

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

Fresh air + a long hike = nap time

  • Love. Unconditional LOVE.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

I thought I knew love, but becoming a parent brings about a whole new meaning. Never in a million years would I have imagined a bond or the ability to feel a love so deeply. This little girl has my heart – she makes the days brighter and everything worth it. I have also learned the importance of showing love, not just saying, “I love you.” I truly believe that all of the love this kid receives (not just from me) has taught her, not only how to be a loving, caring and kind human being, but also confidence in herself. Kids learn by example. She knows that she is loved through all of the hugs, kisses, cuddles and verbal affection. No matter how upset I may feel, my love for this child is ever-present. Unconditional.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

LOVE

  • No one is perfect.

We learn through trial and error. You can read a million books about how to parent, but the best way to learn is through experience. Yes, you’re going to make mistakes…we all do, but we learn from those mistakes and move on. We also all have our bad days and probably could have handled a situation differently, but make a mental note and move on. Ignore those on social media who post “perfect” photos – a spotless house, a gourmet meal, clean/presentable kids, well dressed and hair combed…truth is, there are times when I don’t get a shower for a couple of days or we ate frozen veggie burgers for dinner. My time is better spent playing with my daughter and enjoying every moment of our time together rather than fussing over a clean and organized house. If you are so busy striving to be the “perfect” parent, you’re going to miss out on what’s right in front of you.

imperfection

  •  Embrace differences.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned since becoming a mom, is that everyone grows & develops at different rates and that there is not some magical one way to parent. Milestones happen in due time. Never compare your child with another. Willow may have been “late” to crawl, walk and talk, but she is a happy, healthy and smart little girl. The world would be very boring if we all looked, talked, and acted the same. Differences are what makes us all unique and special. Rather than wishing to be like everyone else, be proud of who you are. Don’t compare yourself as a mother – we’re all doing the best we can.

quote-roosevelt-comparison-joy1

  • Self love.

I’m an imperfect human raising an imperfect human in an imperfect world, and that’s perfectly okay! ~ L.R. Knost

Oh, this has been such a battle for me since I was a teenager. Shortly after I published my story of her birth, I felt the need to reach out and get support from other like-minded moms and connect with women who had been through similar experiences. At the time I felt very alone and was still, in a sense, grieving. That sounds silly to some because we had (and have) a perfectly healthy baby girl, but I struggled for quite some time regaining love and acceptance of the body that I felt let me down. After years of battling body image issues and anorexia, not being able to have a “natural” birth caused quite a bit of inner conflict. I grew to hate my body – not for the size, but for being unable to function as it should. I found a few groups through Facebook during the first year – natural parenting, natural birth, vegan mom groups. When I say “natural” I’m referring to a more holistic, gentle approach. I remember being excited and even connected with a few women who brought a sense of normalcy back. Unfortunately, not everyone in those groups were as open-minded and respectful as I had hoped. I was ridiculed, shamed and criticized for having a cesarean and not being able to breastfeed. I heard everything from “all cesareans are unnecessary” to “you just didn’t try hard enough.” Obviously, I left all of those groups and deleted Facebook.

A few weeks ago, I got up enough courage to finally watch a video about a cesarean delivery. Having skipped over all the chapters in the books I read, I was clueless as to what was involved. I never thought it would apply to me. While looking through the “explore” or “search” page of Instagram, I stumbled upon a photo discussing cesarean and the comments were beautiful – women lifting each other up and others expressing an overwhelming sense of emotions after watching a video. I knew right then that I needed to see it for myself and it was exactly what I needed. Watching the process, what the body endures and the beautiful baby that comes from that major surgery. I used to look at that five-inch scar where the incision was made and cry – not because I wanted it gone, but because I was reminded of the sadness of not having the birth I envisioned. Today, I run my fingers along the scar and smile. That video left me feeling strong and empowered. I may not have pushed a baby out the “natural” way, but my scar is a reminder of survival, strength and love. I no longer look at my body in disappointment, but instead I am proud. My body was a home, a warm place that provided nourishment to a healthy baby. I’m wearing this scar proudly now. I am grateful for the doctors and nurses that acted quickly and delivered my sweet Willow. My daughter is a constant reminder of strength. I look at my daughter and want her to grow up with a healthy body image and self-esteem. I don’t want her to go through the battle I did, so I made a change within to love myself – to appreciate my body and what it is capable of.

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So, today we celebrate love, strength and learning. Happy Birthday to our Willow Rayne – our bookworm, dinosaur obsessed, Lego building, car loving kid! Here’s to the little girl who has brought about endless smiles, joy and laughter. You will forever be my baby girl. I’m looking forward to what’s in store.

Love, Strength and Learning // Be Sol-Ful

7 thoughts on “Love, Strength and Learning

  1. Beautiful post Mandy! Your body is amazing and giving birth is magical no matter how it is done. Before modern medicine many of the babies and women wouldn’t have survived and so having a healthy baby in the end should be celebrated no matter how she got here. So sorry you’ve experienced some awful people but happy you’ve found yourself in a good place now. Happy bday to Willow!!!

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    • Thank you so much, Sophia! I agree 100%! At the time, and during the first year, I really struggled emotionally with it all and I was in a sense, traumatized. It was a very long and painful healing process and while I encountered a lot of negativity, I also had a wonderful support network. I am grateful for where we are today and for all the amazing people in my life. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Lots of love to you! ❤️

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  2. This was the most beautiful tribute! To Willow, to yourself, to your husband and family and to unconditional love. Happy Birthday dear Willow!

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    • Awwww!!!! Thank you, Diana!!! I got a little teary-eyed while writing it. It’s amazing how far we’ve all come – we’ve learned so much and I have no doubt we’ll be learning lots more! We’re pretty lucky to have such a great little girl ❤️

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  3. Pingback: One Lovely Blog Award | Feeding Your Beauty

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