Wednesday, June 28, 2017

It was the worst of times. It was the best of times.

Yes, I know the title of this blog is incorrectly plagiarizing a very well known phrase. I promise, it's intentional.

"How do you deal with the bad news?" It's one of those questions, we TV folks get asked often. And it's a really valid question. Thankfully, I work at a place that understands viewers want to watch more than the bad news, but still, we do cover tragic things that happen. 

But the story, hopefully, does not stop there.

I'm reminded by a phrase that often pops up in social media feeds after terrible tragedies. It's attributed to a man who could bring peace to children with the calm of his voice and the flip of his shoe. Mr. Rogers. "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

Tonight as I sit and prepare for the 10 p.m. newscast, I'm reading a report filed by reporter Maya Saenz and photojournalist Kevin Rempe. They went to a home in Farragut, Iowa that is considered unlivable because of a tornado that tore through this afternoon.


The family is okay. It's been just hours since this happened, and yet the report says, "after the storm, came the help..from neighbors, friends, relatives." People heard a family was in need and they came calling.

Look for the helpers.

Sometimes we cover news about the worst of times, but even then, there are glimpses of the best of human nature.

video

(photos and video courtesy Maya Saenz)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

You would've liked this life.

Dear Dad (or should I say Grandpa, Mom has now taken on the title Grannie from virtually all of us),

I miss you.

Just this week, Jack, my oldest, has been spouting out that phrase nonstop. Maybe he knows those words are swirling in mama's brain. I'm not a big anniversary person, but still, every year, when June 22nd rolls around, I remember what I wish were not true.

I wish June 22, 2004 never happened. I wish you were still here. I know you wish you were here too.

It's been 13 years.

You have five grandchildren you never met. You have a daughter-in-law. You have a son-in-law. You have people who love you even though they only know of you.

Listing all of them makes me a bit angry. I suppose the "it's not fair" feelings have not fully subsided more than a decade later.

I wish you could hear Maya sing, Clara laugh, Etta squeal.

I wish you could see Jack give his cynical stare he gets from me which means he gets from you. Emme's smile. I wish you could see that.

I can't tell where my selfishness ends and empathy begins. I think they've become one. I grieve for my loss, but more than that, I grieve for you, and what you're missing. You would love being a grandpa.

Last Christmas, Maya (she's 10) wrote about what she wanted. She said she wanted her daddy to be able to spend time with his daddy again. I say that not to make you sad, but to show you how much you're still a part of us.

My kids will grow up knowing that a good book should be read outside when the weather is nice. That a strong work ethic will get you far, but make the most of your family time. Summer is meant for baseball and grilling out. Never skimp on a good trip. Expand your mind at museums and concerts. And shower children with love. They should never question the love.

Yep. You're here.

If the sign of a life well lived is the mark you make on others, then you succeeded.

It's just...I miss you.

It's a phrase a two-year-old can say clearly. At 36, though, I can't fully explain to him the depth of those words. And as a mom, I hope he doesn't have to really feel their meaning for a very long time.

I love you, Daddy,

Jenny


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The skies certainly are friendly

Okay...how many bottles do I need? Swim suits. Can't forget swim suits. Milk. Frozen milk. Shoot...is there a limit? Gotta Google TSA frozen breast milk. We're all good. Thank you, mothers before me! I need ice packs. I can't do this. Okay, I'll bring the stroller...and the car seat. Shoot, I totally forgot socks. I can't do this alone. Did my breast pump get bigger? Emme needs a jacket. Jack needs a hat. Mittens? How am I going to do this?

My inner monologue while packing for a recent trip likely was not a model in optimistic thinking. Half empty. No, that's not exactly right. My glass was feeling like it had sprung a leak. A slow leak, but I couldn't find it. And how could I patch it without finding it? Yep, that's a much better analogy.

Flying with a child is a daunting task. Some of you are likely rolling your eyes, saying been there, done that. In fact, I do it often. It's not that bad. Or maybe you're thinking, stop with your First World problems, I'd love to fly away right about now. Points taken.

But even though my brain knows all that stuff, I was stressed.

On our way to our destination, my husband and I had to fly on different days. He took Jack and I took Emme. I had a lot of stuff. My mother-in-law is a flight attendant and was flying out that day too so she was actually able to help me to the gate. Life seemed doable. I mean I still looked like a hot mess and felt like I was leaving a trail of bread crumbs (if bread crumbs were personal, baby items) throughout the airport.


Then she had to leave. I found myself trying to move a jogging stroller through a small space while carrying multiple bags. I was still okay. But Emme wanted to be held. So I did. A nice woman who was impeccably dressed (I was jealous in my sloppiness) asked me how old she was and commented about flying with her own child. It was sweet to know she was in the club.

Then I got to the bottom of the jet bridge. How was I going to remove the car seat (which requires two hands) while also holding Emme. Sure I could put her back in the seat, listen to her cry, then remove the seat, then breakdown the stroller. That's what I was all ready to do when two people came to my aid. An older man started trying to help with the stroller which was so sweet even though he didn't entirely understand how the darn thing worked - I can relate. And then that woman who had the clothes of a businesswoman but the eyes of a mom, looked at me and put her arms out. "If you don't mind," I said as I handed her my little girl and quickly got everything situated.

Before I had children I don't know if I was always as kind and aware of that mother quietly trying to hold everything together. I should have been. I am now.

While preparing for the trip, I had planned to do it all myself. I forgot the x factor. We don't live in this world alone. Sometimes we just have to open our eyes and receive the goodness around us.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Eye on the prize, mamas

"Jack's bowls!" Yes, buddy, those are your bowls. "Jack's cups." Uh-huh, yep. I'm slowly loading the dishwasher and watching Jack stack up the dirty dishes already loaded. My tired brain is watching him undo my work, but it takes me a moment to realize that I am putting dishes in and he is essentially taking them out.

I move into the living room and pick up some toys while he is coloring at the table. Satisfied with the fact I can again see the floor I walk out, go to the bathroom, return to the living room and stand in complete awe of the number of toys scattered on the floor, the couch, the fireplace. But I left the room for about one minute, I think to myself. He's back at the table with his Lightning McQueen toy.

This is motherhood.

I'm constantly cleaning, picking up, coaching, teaching and often times I feel like my words and actions are unnoticed or instantaneously undone.

Then I remind my tired brain, eye on the prize. I'm not trying to win the award for fastest dishwasher loader or cleanest house keeper.

I think back to the dishwasher. Jack was putting the three stackable bowls in correct order by size. He's learning. I wasn't there to witness his toy-throwing tornado event, but I have before, and typically it involves him dumping out toys because he's in search of something specific. There's something he would like, and he has taught himself how to get it. It's a messy process, but it's an accomplishment.

And I look over to my buddy, and he is smiling.

That.

That is my prize.

I am trying to raise good, caring, thoughtful people.

No trophy. No finish line. Just life. Exhausting, beautiful life.

To all the moms out there, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY.



(pro newborn photos by camithompsonphotography.com)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

I just said no to drugs

Newborn photo by: camithompsonphotography.com
"I'm scared." "What if it hurts?" "I think it's going to hurt!" {husband: You'll be fine} {Do it quickly.} "I don't want to." {Quickly! Like a Band-Aid. Because we're literally talking about you ripping off a Band-Aid.}

My husband speaks of this moment as the one that made him quite fearful of childbirth. I was a few months pregnant and decided I would try to hide my already protruding belly button with a Band-Aid. I didn't want the little bump on my big bump to show through on TV as I anchored the news (it still did, by the way).

After more fearful groans (possibly even a tear or two) I tore it off. I whimpered and then silently admitted to myself it really wasn't that bad. I heard my husband shout from the bedroom, "and you think you can have a baby without pain meds?"

I laughed.

But guess what? I did it without pain meds.

How?

1) Know what you need. From the moment we got to the hospital I knew what I wanted. I immediately asked for a room with a tub (they aren't all equipped with one). The nurses told me they were all taken but one should open up later, and I could move if that's what I still wanted. I tried to telepathically send that mama good thoughts for a speedy labor (both for her sake and for mine). Wouldn't you know, as I was later hunched over a large yoga ball thinking "man, contractions suck!" the nurse said we can go to the other room. That hallway walk was rough, but I still remember the most beautiful sunrise shining through the window. I thought to myself, today I'm going to meet my baby. I could do this.

2) Support. Support. Support. My husband had a brief lapse in being husband-of-the-year when he asked quickly after we arrived at the hospital, "so if this is going to be awhile, would now be a good time to nap? I'm really tired, and I want to be on my game." My head did a "what the hell did he just say" tilt as I snapped, "how about you're on your game starting now." Aside from that interaction (I did end up granting nap permission as I took a peaceful walk to try to get labor going and get my brain in a good place) my husband rocked! He was there for me. He was a cheerleader. He was a source of peace and hugs. And he had a look of such pride. He was proud of his wife - having someone be proud of you is a really good, empowering feeling. I also had incredible nurses. If I did it again, I would research getting a doula, but thankfully I had nurses who were so kind and helpful. The nurse I had while I felt the strongest pain supported me and my decision to go meds-free. My doctor also had my back the whole time. With them, I could do this.

3) Baby steps. I went into the process thinking I really might end up getting an epidural. I had this thing in my head that if I could think of someone I knew who went meds-free, I could use them the whole time as inspiration. I'm very competitive so there would also be a little feeling of "if so and so could do it, so can I." However, this did not work. I spent my entire pregnancy thinking of a person who fit the bill. The only people I knew who did not get meds were really strong women. I have nothing but respect for them. Even if they could do it, I wasn't sure I could. So I went with baby steps. It was about 7 a.m. when I was told it was likely the last chance to get an epidural if I wanted one. (You can tell people not to bring up pain meds if you're totally sold on the idea, again, I wasn't.) I remember thinking, "I can't answer that question." I couldn't say, "no, I don't need an epidural" because I'll be honest my body was screaming at me, "what the heck do you think you're doing?" Instead I asked, "is it going to get a lot worse?" My nurse told me, "they will get stronger and then you'll need to push and that will be a different feeling too." I also couldn't say, "I want an epidural" because I'd come this far. I never answered the question. I could do this.


10:18 a.m.

Doc: "Jen, open your eyes! Open your eyes" {screams} {loud, loud scream} "It's a girl" {newborn cries} "Oh my God, it's a girl" {husband joyously cries and nervously laughs} "Hi sweetie!" "Can you believe it's a girl?" {husband cries and laughs more} {"You did great"}"She's perfect" "I'm sorry! Did I yell too loud?" "I think I yelled too loud"

I did this. And it was beautiful.

I completely understand why a woman would choose to have an epidural. I completely understand why a woman would never have a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section). I completely understand why a woman would learn her baby's gender pre-birth. But I loved the pure, raw emotion in that delivery room on 11/11/16. My husband cried in the most passionate way I've ever seen a person cry. One moment I was feeling a pain unlike anything I'd ever experienced before. The next moment, ultimate joy. I've never felt so alive in all my life.

All pregnancies are different. All women are different. All deliveries are different. All babies are different. And all are beautiful.

Just know this, if you are a competitive woman who wants to give birth without pain meds, you can do it. I mean, if the lady who threw a fit about ripping off a Band-Aid can do it, so can you.


(Mamas, I cannot recommend the birthing gown I'm wearing in the below photo enough! My dear friend got it for me. It is from her sister-in-law's company, Della B.. Since I was in the tub right before I gave birth, I did not have it on for my actual delivery, but it has all the snaps, zippers, etc. to be functional for delivery and breastfeeding. There's a recovery gown too. I think I wore mine the whole time I was in the hospital and when I got home! It was such an incredibly thoughtful gift!)






Monday, February 13, 2017

He got the bananas

That was a rough one.

My husband and I are a solid team. We have each other's back. When you move to a city where you know no one and have no family and then double the number of people in your family, your marriage can go through some ups and downs. We recently hit a down.

I don't say this to scare anyone, but going from one kid to two creates unique challenges. I seriously need to find a way to create 28-hour days. 24 is stupid. 24 hours was obviously designed by a person who wasn't a working mom, wife, person who desperately just wants to watch an hour of Shameless every couple nights without losing a full hour of sleep and then wake up the next day and get a workout in without cutting into her precious family time. Mr. 24 Hours In A Day doesn't get it.

Last week I was feeling a little extra sorry for myself. I like to take on a lot of challenges, but again, I just need four more hours a day. Every day last week I seemed surprised the day hadn't gotten longer. My husband got the brunt of me being a tornado. "I need to be a better wife. I'm failing as a mom. I have so much other work I'd like to do." It was a rant like this that my husband played back to me. A moment of feeling too overwhelmed.

I wanted more support in the way I wanted it. He wanted me to be lighter with my life outlook.

As I got ready for work one day, I started writing down stuff that needed to get done and groceries we needed. I wrote down bananas. The list was a bit of an out-of-body experience. I just jotted things down as I thought of them while carrying a toddler and a baby at the same time because the toddler thinks it's cool to say, "mama. both."

My husband and I still felt distant. He went to bed early that night. He had to head out of town early the next morning. We typically always hang out for a bit when I get home around 11:30-midnight. We hadn't talked much.

As I passed through the kitchen I saw the bananas sitting in our fruit basket. I hadn't asked him to get the items on the list. They weren't even that important. But he did. I pictured him at night while I was at work with both kids in tow, stopping at the store to pick up a couple things. He likely looked at each kid before walking into the store and assessed if either was a ticking time bomb. Would they hold off long enough for him to pick up some fruit? Maybe it went smoothly. Maybe it was rough. But he did it.

He didn't double check with me first. He just did it.

I wanted support. I got it.

And that was my wake up call. My teammate was there for me. I needed to let him know and check back into the game. We had a wonderful weekend together.

So this Valentine's Day, I don't expect candy or flowers (I accidentally took his keys to work so he probably couldn't get them if he wanted to), but I'm incredibly thankful I have someone who catches me when I unexpectedly do a trust fall.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Why my 11-week maternity leave is not too long



I've said it before, I'll say it again, I love what I do. My career does not define me, but it is a big part of who I am. I've never (okay, rarely) thought to myself, maybe I won't return from maternity leave. I plan to work again. But taking time off allows me to feel that way. Yep, you heard me right, I believe longer maternity leave begets happier mommy employees. (Daddy employees too.)

There have been reported examples of this as well. (In case you're curious: "Paid Leave Encourages Female Employees to Stay")

Why is this the case? Here are a few reasons I've observed.

5) DO YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IN CHILDBIRTH?: I've done it both ways. Neither is pretty. Sure it's beautiful, but it's not pretty. During my c-section with my first child, I vividly recall my husband looking at me (eyes like saucers), then at the production happening beyond a sheet separating me from my mid-section, then back at me, then back again at the team of doctors, then at me. Finally he said, "does that hurt? because they aren't being gentle." Indeed, gentle is certainly not the correct descriptive word for surgically removing a baby (in my case, a breech baby). The recovery process is also no walk in the park. In fact, shortly after my c-section, I tried to take a walk in the park, and it was difficult and painful. The recovery was markedly quicker during this most recent vaginal delivery. I won't get into the details of what happens after a child is born, but let's just say this, have you ever needed to wear an ice-filled diaper? have you ever worn hospital-grade underwear with diaper-sized pads? have you ever had a cut in your mouth and then tried to drink orange juice? (this is a metaphor for a body part and urine) Okay, this is getting more visual than intended. My point is this, that stuff doesn't just happen for the days you're in the hospital. No siree...you happily, greedily take as many hospital mesh panties home as you can because you know you'll need them. Working during that? Sitting at a desk? Interacting with coworkers? No thank you!!

4) BABY GOT BACK...with some words interjected. (after) BABY (I have) GOT (to get my body) BACK: Alright, this is one is admittedly vain, but I work in TV. I think most women are like me though and after the baby is born I am not thinking about the pregnancy pounds. We don't have the time or energy and nor should we. Again, my career is different, but a person wants to feel good (at least okay) about themselves before they return to their job. Heck, they also don't want to have to buy a whole new wardrobe to return to work and look presentable. It takes a little bit of time to feel human. I believe confidence is needed in almost any job. To moms who don't have this insecurity, good for you! I mean it!

3) BABY BLUES WITH A TINGE OF RED: Postpartum depression and baby blues are talked about more openly than in the past which is a wonderful thing. I cannot describe the stress, the hormones, the lack of sleep that happens after a baby. Shortly after each birth, my husband and I have probably experienced the greatest disconnect in our relationship (wedding planning is up there too) because it's tough. And I wouldn't categorize myself as having postpartum depression. Thankfully we're on the upswing. Why? Because we care deeply about each other and made sure to communicate but also because time passed. We got in more of a routine to combat the sleep deprivation (or maybe just adapted), my hormones have balanced a bit, and we're figuring how life works as a family of four. I mentioned red in this heading because when I hear blue I think depression and feeling down but many women also feel anxious. I don't know the color of anxiety and red is probably more appropriately equated with anger, but I went with red for anxiety (work with me). In talking with moms who have more than one child, I've found they feel it even more when they're faced with returning to work after a second child. At this point I agree.

2) ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER: The previous one threads into this. My brain has been all consumed by baby. For the first few weeks of maternity leave, the thought of work just stressed me out. Recently though, I'm getting my stride back in terms of life balance. I'm able to think about work again. And I miss it. It took me time to miss it. If I had returned too soon, I know I would question my choice to work. I'm sure that happens to a lot of people. I'm sure women feel like it's too much and just decide it's not worth it. That's why companies have sick time and vacation time and holiday time. A lot of Americans work a lot. The weekends and the breaks help you recover, regroup and move forward.

1) I DIDN'T BREAK MY LEG: Most importantly. The reason I don't apologize for my maternity leave is because I have a baby. I went through a lot physically and emotionally, but the bottom line is I have a beautiful baby girl who needs me. I'm not recovering from a broken bone. My pains are only part of the equation. The biggest part is bonding with this precious person. I've been able to fully commit to her as we try to work through breastfeeding issues. I witnessed her first smile. I am there when she cries during the night, during the day, during the afternoon. I will never regret a single moment I spend with her or my son. This is most important. This should be celebrated. This should be supported.

So to the person who recently told a friend of mine, "that's too much time to take off," I say, "cool opinion, bro (single man with no kids), but I couldn't disagree more."

I will happily take my 11 weeks maternity leave without feeling bad about it (I have enough self-induced anxiety when it comes to motherhood), and I wish I could take more. It doesn't make me a bad employee, it is making me a better one. And it makes me an employee who is forever grateful to my bosses, coworkers and company. Forever grateful. I know many people would love to take more time off and can't, I truly feel for you. And to moms and dads who are returning to work after family leave, take a deep breath, you've got this!

(Disclaimers: I always hate when people tap into some small comment in a blog and spin, spin, spin. So here are my disclaimers: 1) my list focuses on some childbirth-related reasons, but I strongly believe adoptive parents, dads, etc. deserve a lot of time off too! 2) I'm not talking about or advocating for federally or state-funded paid leave. I'm leaving politics and finances out of it and just saying why I think time off is important. 3) If someone wants to take less time, she/he should!)