Mother of Gems

Reflections on raising 3 daughters

Organizing Through The Fog

Those damn blogs back in the day set me up. All the ethereal lighting on artfully arranged textiles, neatly filled Bento Box sections, and creative clothing/photography situations had me on Pinterest just  a-planning and GRINNING about my time with 3 little girls.


Not with my demanding full-time job at the office and this close to an hour in traffic drive home. Not when I hate cooking and the kitchen. Not when I’m nursing one baby and the other 2 have things to get done before their bedtime. Not when I still gotta feed all of these people in my house something somewhat cohesive. Not with a non-functional core from severe diastasis recti aggravated by back-to-back pregnancies and c-sections. Not with the part-time work from home job also. Not when this load hasn’t been washed and I can’t find socks in that other load that needs to be folded. Not when Ruby has to now be at pre-k at 7:30am.

I got tools now though. It’s a work in progress but got dammit there is progress. I thought about putting pics in the post but I don’t want my actual notes on here and the app store ones are pointless so just visualize all of this in your mind palace.

Tool 1: The Ipad with the Apple Pencil has saved my life. I used to love a Paper Planner. I looked forward to lovingly selecting my new one each autumn. Differently colored pages. Maybe a vague but romantic screenprint on the paper. You know I got the fresh pack of colorful pens just waiting to color-code some shit. When Pearl arrived I could not keep up with a paper planner for shit. I NEEDED that information. But I couldn’t do an ugly and not always intuitive electronic calendar/planner either. The Ipad allows me to have the best of both worlds with the Apple Pen letting me write in my own handwriting, in different colors, on a calendar PDF that I saved (through the Notability app). Now I can keep up with everything and it’s nothing to erase and edit things as needed (unlike paper) but in MY handwriting and color-coding which helps the information actually stick in my brain (unlike a standard electronic planner).

Tool (App) 1A: The Notability app on the Ipad. Within this app I also save free PDFs I found online of monthly meal plans and other lists and long-term plans/goals that I use with the Apple Pen to write in my own handwriting.

Tool (App) 2: The Reminders app on the Iphone. This is one of those standard apps that come with the phone. I have broken down tasks to their most elementary, and set an alarm for when I need to remember to do them. I’m talking “Check Ruby’s homework binder (6pm alarm).”  “Weekly Amazon order (once a week at noon).” So on. All the little things that can collectively add up and ruin your day if you forget them, I have a little reminder alarm set up for them. What I specifically love about this particular app is the reminder will show up on your lock screen until you go in and clear it. That lets me see immediately what I still have to do without having to unlock the phone and open an app and scroll through a bunch of other b.s., all of which would reduce the likelihood of me actually checking my to-do list.

Those are mandatory for my (and the household’s) sanity on a day-to-day basis. The ones below are not as necessary but have proven to be very helpful.

Tools (Apps) 3a-3c: Sticky Notes, Notes, Wunderlist. I use the Sticky Notes app for philosophies or mantras I want to keep in mind every day. For example, if I find myself getting impatient with one of the girls, I have some brief parenting philosophies to help re-center me. The Notes app is another built-in app on the Iphone. I use this as a catch-all for when I’m on the go and need to quickly jot some thought or something I need to remember to look into later, or if my girls say or do something funny I’ll put it in there to later add to my comprehensive Memories and Quotes books that I am working on for them. I used to use Evernote for this, but it got too glitchy. I use Wunderlist specifically as an event or packing to-do list. Like if we are spending an afternoon at a park, I’ll have a list for everything that needs to be packed for myself, my diabetic husband, and an infant/toddler/pre-k combo. I like this app specifically because I can touch the little box next to each item to “check” the box and the item disappears. That makes it easy to see what I have left so I don’t waste time reading redundant information and it makes it quick to grab what I need.

All these apps, used responsibly (ha) have made what is currently an extremely hectic life, somewhat organized, efficient, and simple. And lately, simplicity is what I crave. I simply do not have the time or energy for things that don’t result in some kind of favorable outcome for myself and my family, be it short or long-term.

In my next post, I will break down how I organize my days. I assign different parts of life maintenance to different days and I know on any given day what I am focusing my energy toward. This has proved invaluable to me and this stuff is transferable to other working moms, stay-at-home moms, or any person with an incredibly packed schedule and seemingly very little free time. Stay tuned.



Newborn Graduation

Baby Pearl is 1 month old today. I’ve unlocked a new Mother badge today of successfully graduating 3 children from newborns to infants.

In line from my previous posts mentioning peace and going with the flow, here are some things I’ve learned about the newborn stage.

Day 1 they’re sleepy little bubbies and day 2 they turn into adorable blood-sucking lampreys. I’m convinced Day 2 is responsible for a lot of new moms feeling like they need to supplement with formula because they’re “not making enough.”  But having gone through this twice before Pearl, I knew to expect it. I also knew to expect a clusterfuck….scuse me, clusterFEED session sometime in weeks 2-3 and not get frustrated about my prisoner status.

Specific to me, I’ve also learned that I create babies with lip and tongue ties for funsies (let my DNA tell the story) and to expect painful breastfeeding, excruciating even, until I could get the baby to the pediatric dentist an hour’s drive away to water-laser those shits to hell for the bargain non-reimbursable by insurance $830. Hopefully you felt the dripping venom of sarcasm in that sentence. 

I now know to expect to be on house arrest, save for doctor appointments, for the first 2 months. Yes I know many moms who have their new limited-edition babycakes out among people, the world, and various microbes at 5 days old but I am not that mom. So I cautiously invite visitors and indulge in the best of Planet Earth and Beachfront Bargain episodes, organize my planner, and eat.

I know to expect RAVENOUS breastfeeding hunger. I never ate much before I became a mother. I ate more but not much when pregnant due to nausea. But breastfeeding hunger, gotdamn. I’m trying not to be a complete fat-ass this time and am avoiding my beloved jumbo blueberry muffins in favor of mini-pretzels, bananas, and yogurt. That’s about as healthy as it’s gonna get but I already see a difference in my weight loss (weight gain with Ruby and Jade). I hate a Healthy Snack and life is too short to suffer through celery sticks dipped in hummus. I’ll be gotdamned.

I’ve learned to not fear swaddling. If it doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work and I’ll find another way. What is currently working for us is I nurse Pearl at night, when she’s finished and in a milk coma I swaddle her and put her in the crib. I used to try swaddling after a diaper change and before nursing when the baby would be yelling all sorts of wee little expletives and throwing wee little rap hands, making swaddling a nightmare that they would bust out of. Pearl doesn’t even wake up when I’m tilting her and tucking swaddle folds hither and thither. I feel very smug in Mom Righteousness right now.

I’ve learned not to fear pumping at home. I started at 2 weeks, just once a day (I hope to build a grand stash of 100+ oz like I was able to do with Jade). I plan to introduce the bottle today. I used to stress about timing when to pump, is the baby going to wake up and starve?!?! Now, I pump during a morning nap and if she wakes up, she’s just gonna have to be and stay mad about the lack of milk for a while. She’ll be aight. Ain’t nobody tell your little ass to wake up this fast.

Finally, I’ve learned that the Newborn stage really doesn’t last forever. It took 3 kids for me to truly realize this because I was trying not to curse out everyone who said that very thing all of the time. But this time I really feel the sands of time in the hourglass. Though the intensity of the sleep deprivation, adjusting milk supply, wondering why does this baby cry SO DAMN LOUD, don’t last….the hilarious baby coos, and perching them high on your shoulder with them in the fetal position…won’t last either.

So go with the flow, this too shall pass….but seriously take lots of photos and jot down memories in your Notes app or on an actual notepad. You’ll be glad you did because I’ve learned the things you think you’ll remember, you just may not.

Motherhood in Theory and Context

When I was young, I always imagined myself a mother of four children. I grew up an only child, my mother’s only child. Starting at age 12 I would begin visiting my 4 half-siblings from my father and stepmother in Michigan and I always had so much fun. In my mind I thought 4 was the perfect number of kids to ensure a full and warm, happy household. 2 girls and 2 boys. Hahahaha (that’s the sound of life laughing at me).

It took years for me to get pregnant the first time, in 2011. I distinctly remember the elatedness and giddiness, the dreams, the plans, all inspired by 2 pink lines on the right test. Then it all fell apart a week and a half later when I had a miscarriage. A year and some change (is adding “and some change” strictly a black thing? Or regional/southern black?) later saw my dreams of expanding my family finally realized with the pregnancy of my first daughter, Ruby.

The only problem was the pregnancy was god-awful. Debilitating nausea. Daily vomit. Projectile vomit. Vomit after eating pizza where the tomato sauce acid burned my throat so badly I could not speak the rest of the evening. Desperately looking forward to the second trimester then bleakly realizing my nausea would continue unabated. In the third trimester, back and pelvic pain so bad that I could barely walk and resorted to working from home in the final weeks.

Maybe that was a fluke. Every pregnancy is different! The exclamation point is from the chipper Pregnancy Propaganda People. You know the ones. Who talk about how glowing and magical pregnancy is. Who tell you to just drink some ginger tea for your cute, containable nausea that disappears after the first trimester. Who tell you the baby moving is the most magical thing you will ever experience. Who don’t tell you how stressful it is when you can’t remember the last time the baby moved and shit is there a dead baby in there now? Who don’t tell you about ultrasounds, scans, and tests that catch every little thing and thus worry you unnecessarily that something could be wrong because this or that result was elevated or fluid this or umbilical cord that.

So, with some trepidation but still my undying Gemini optimism, I wanted another child. Along came Jade’s pregnancy! And guess what, this pregnancy WAS different!

In that I woke up the morning after Christmas slammed with a bad cold AND nausea so bad I couldn’t even keep water down. This time I got on anti-nausea medicine. I had to stay on the pills through 8 months. So this pregnancy was different, in that it was WORSE. The icing on the cake (I hate icing, by the way) was being due in the hottest month of the year, then being A WEEK OVERDUE in the hottest month of the year. A baby who wouldn’t stay in the gotdamn head-down position, and through a series of hijinks I’ll write about later, ended up with me having an emergency c-section.

And so, my dreams of having 4 children went up in smoke. My husband and I wearily agreed to keep it at 2. We read a study that said the happiest most harmonious households have 2 children, 2 daughters. Heyyyy that’s us! Plans begun for travel, career, education, activities.

Then, out of nowhere, the woman who had always had to try to get pregnant found herself 6 weeks pregnant with a baby. No, my cycle is just delayed from nursing Jade. No bitch, said the 2 pink lines. You thought!

But my body was ruined from Jade’s pregnancy. I had a hernia and severe diastais recti (separated abdominal muscles) that required surgical correction. I would have to have a c-section at 37 weeks due to the rare classical incision I had to get during Jade’s birth. I’ve likely shortened my life span getting pregnant so close together. I’m going to be losing money for miscellaneous bullshit like Sonic loses rings. The NAUSEA. THIS WAS NOT IN THE PLANS.

Life didn’t give one single damn about my objections. That was the beginning of my journey to true adaptation and peace. I cannot control all of the road, but I can control my car. I can make the best out of the car I have, to navigate these roads smoothly.

That sounds like bullshit probably, but I’m sleep-deprived so just nod your head and say “That’s deep.”

Anyway, I’ve just expanded my plans to include Pearl, who we did not expect, but will fully welcome and nurture. Never did I imagine myself the mom of 3 children. It was either 2 or 4 because 3 is odd. No, YOU are irrational. I CERTAINLY never imagined I would have 3 girls. The weight of responsibility for my part in guiding 3 (black) girls through this world is heavy. But it also gives me a strange clarity that I lacked before.

That will be a lot of the focus of my posts. This is Motherhood in theory and context. Your plans, dreams, ideas mean little to nothing in the context of real people, real interruptions, real stressors, reality period. But it doesn’t have to mean everything is ruined. As Corinne Bailey Rae sang in one of my favorite songs Diving For Hearts:

Worlds will all end

And new worlds will begin

It’s a thought so stark 

Three’s Company Too

Wow. We had been chilling with BabyGem1 and BabyGem2, our two beautiful, planned children. I wanted desperately to get to the next step in my career, feeling very much on pause while I nurtured and raised my daughters. I made myself release a lot of stress and pressure by focusing solely on the girls during BG2’s first year. After I weaned from breastfeeding when she turned 1 year old, I would have a bit more freedom to get back to “me”, whoever that was at this point. My husband and I would finally get some breathing room. More structure, more routine. More vacations! A 10-year anniversary trip to Maui was booked.  A winter trip to Costa Rica was planned as soon as the airline opened seats that far in advance. The abdomen and hernia damage from BG2’s pregnancy would be surgically repaired. I met with the surgeon for a consultation and nodded affirmatively when he asked if we were finished having kids.

That, I was in the process of coming to peace with. Before kids were a reality, I always daydreamed I would have 4 children. The big family I never had and always wanted. Then I in turn had 2 awful pregnancies (3 if you include the miscarriage) that had me feeling like I was a prisoner in my own body. A labor turned emergency C-section with BG2 (that’s a crazy story for another post) that transitioned into the most pain I have ever endured via surgery recovery. Hellish breastfeeding experiences both times until well into nursing (thanks lip and tongue ties). We projected into the future and agreed that 2 really was the perfect number for us personally, and our family goals.

Fertility was always a struggle. I definitely had to try and plan to get the girls here. So when I was 2 weeks late, I chalked it up to breastfeeding messing with my cycle. YOU THOUGHT, said my body. Plot twist, 6 weeks pregnant! While I was laughing with my co-workers about being done with pregnancy, while my husband and I made plans, while I booked flights, while I bought new clothes, while while while….Yung Fetus was in there smirking.

My world has been upside down ever since. What are we going to do with a 3rd baby?? This was not in the plans. How are we going to be a traveling family of 5?? Do I have to get a minivan! How are we going to put 3 car seats in my car? Are we going to be broke forever? Will I ever be myself again???

What will be, will be. This baby will have a place at the table and we will be very happy to meet it.

Things I am currently swirling in my head:

-I have to have a 37 week c-section because I had a classical incision with BG2. I am not happy about that at all. Will the baby be too small or have other issues? Google assures me that most 37-weekers do just fine.

-Who are you, baby? We are assuming girl even though you had jokes at my 16 week check-up and kept your legs mostly together. What is your name?

-If this is a girl, how am I going to survive doing 4 heads of natural hair every day/week?

-I have to get organized. I have to get a system. I have a planner, a separate to-do list with categories, and a Midori/traveler’s notebook. It’s happening.

-Please baby, be healthy. And don’t have a tongue or lip tie please lawd.

-Is my body going to be completely destroyed after this? When will I be “myself” again?

What a fork in the road the middle of this year became. I do feel peace, and I feel determination. See you soon.

If anyone knows who the artist is in the featured header pic, please let me know. I absolutely love it!

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