This thing called love

“Mama, hand. Hand, Mama”

Lili reaches for me blindly in the night and grasps onto my hand tightly. She’s supposed to be sleeping. We’re supposed to be sleeping. And from the strength of her grip I know she’s still awake.

I listen to the hushed breathing of Ella suckling me, while I savor the small, but mighty grip of my firstborn.

She’s so independent these days. She’s fierce and funny. She’s trying her boundaries…testing ours. She’s exercising her voice and mastering her will.

She pushes us.

She teaches us.

She teaches me to stop. That life isn’t so busy and nothing is more important than pretending to be horseys or dinosaurs with a toddler. 

She teaches me money is nice, but imagination is priceless.

She teaches me there’s nothing more beautiful in the world than joy. Joy bursting through a roar of laughter. Joy twinkling through the crinkle of scrunched up eyes. Joy heard through the excitement of a tiny human calling you over to “Here! Sit Down!”  

She clutches me as she falls to sleep. If I make a move to reposition she’s instantly grasping to keep my hand wrapped around hers. In her tiny fingers I feel the love of a million hearts.

As my brain runs through all the things I need to do at work. All they ways we need to balance finances. All the ways life would be better if just…

Her little hand wraps itself around my distracted thoughts. “Here Mama, sit down. Hand Mama.”

And my three year old does what I still can’t seem to master after thirty years. She quiets my wayward inner dialog. She teaches me there is nothing more perfect than this. A little hand. A little voice.

“Hand, Mama. Hand.”

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#LifeExtraordinary

mermaid

Like most people I have been tirelessly chasing “my thing” since I was old enough to realize when my mom said I could be anything, she didn’t mean a mermaid…except THIS

And recently I had a revelation, which I shared over at Stratejoy. The thing I’ve realized as part of this magical year-long journey with Elevate is that maybe we’re not destined to do just one thing. Also I firmly believe we’re not meant to be just one “who”. Because that would be boring.

No. Life is not meant to be lived in a plotted line. You’re not meant to reach upward, upward, then hit this point of revelation of “Ah ha! This is it!” then just stay the course. Life is meant to be messy. Have ups and downs, moments of speeding light years ahead and sometimes looping back and rediscovering a forgotten joy. Life is meant to live in circles. It’s why I started this blog. A Circular Life has always been about discovering and journeying. It’s been about embracing my present state, while not being afraid to simultaneously explore in all directions. The heart of A Circular Life has always been to serve as a reminder for me to never lose contact with the little girl I used to be. The one who is still very much a part of me. She’s the one twirling. Singing. Staring in awe big sparkling eyes at each new wonder as she plots how to make magic happen. She’s the one I answer to, because she keeps it real. She keeps me honest with myself and what I need vs. what I feel I should be doing. She whispers to my soul the secrets that remind me to reach for who I want to become.

Throughout life I have tended to take the sensible route. In pursuit of the most practical decisions. Want to be a Mermaid? Too bad. Maybe a Marine Biologist? But how would I be successful? How would I provide for a family? Business. That is the way of viable success.

But now as I look at the sweet, sleeping face of my baby girl, I can’t help but admit I’ve been living fear and not toward fear. The difference is letting fear push me. It means choosing the safe path. Making decisions based on comfort and financial obligation. More obligation, less passion. Less joy. Living toward fear is to step up and claim my dreams. To not feel selfish for spending my energy to make life magical. To make life extraordinary.

That is what I want for my baby girl. A Life Extraordinary. I want her to dream big dreams. Chase sparkles. Live her life comfortable being with the fear. The kind of fear that comes from being connected to your soul and listening, really listening to its calling. The kind of fear that allows her to follow her heart even when she doesn’t see the end goal. Because I don’t want her to live life in a line. I want her to live it in circles, with the promise of adventure beyond the horizon. Just as Columbus knew the world wasn’t flat and paradise might just be found if he could sail “off the edge”. I want her to dive into the unknown.

To raise our little Shimpress with the confidence to live in circles, I have to step up to my own fears though. I have to make my own magic. So here it is. Out in the universe just as it’s been secretly inside me these last number of years. The fear I am following is acting.

My life extraordinary is as an actress.

As with the other circles of life, I’ll be sharing tidbits of the journey among the wedding, baby, fashion, soap box moments of this blog. I’ll be sharing my sparkles hoping that it might just encourage you to follow your fear too.

xo

A Shrimpress Story

This is the story of how my heart exploded.

Bucket List

On May 17, 2014 Zee Hubs and I paced around the apartment counting contractions. We snacked on what we expected to be the last “real food” for the weekend, tried to bide our time with a movie and counted…minutes….seconds….contractions.

Contractions had actually started on Thursday when our doctor had informed me I was already 6 cm. dilated (DOUBLING DOWN from last week’s 3 cm.). Zee Hubs had canceled the conference he was supposed to speak at in San Diego under the knowing proclamation that she’d be seeing us later that afternoon. But that afternoon came and went and though the contractions were technically in the holy grail of the 5:1 ratio they didn’t seem to “hurt the way I thought they should”. So we tried to sleep through the night, which meant Zee Hubs snored away while I awoke every few min. with each sharp jab in the gut.

Friday was not much different except the pain had increased and I was frantically trying to wrap up projects at work that I’d thought I’d have at least another week to finish based on her revised due date of May 23rd. Turns out the German genes are strong with this one, as she chose to stick to her original ETA. Friday night I was a bundle of nerves. While Zee Hubs slept, I was beyond able to sleep with regular contractions so I finished packing the hospital bag, bounced on the exercise ball, took a bubble bath and to Instagram (See Also: Without my husband I’d probably have ended up delivering at home with my insane avoidance of any form of doctor).

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But Saturday sh*t got real. The pain was escalating, but more than that was receiving very good advice from a friend that if I waited too long I might be too exhausted to push from lack of sleep. #truth

So being the good German he is, Zee Hubs declared the game plan would be to go in at noon unless my water broke any earlier.

Surreal.

Surreal is willingly going somewhere knowing that your life will be irrevocably different when you return.

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My water hadn’t broke by itself, and I was slightly terrified that if I waited too long the baby would end up being delivered sans epidural because SIX CENTIMETERS you guys! So we checked ourselves in with excitement, dread, impatience and all the oh-my-gosh-this-is-happening feelings.

As Lilibean took her sweet time making her way to the world we decided to have the doctor break my water if it got much later. At 6 PM she was still playing “not touching, I’m not touching” with that last barrier keeping her safely swimming in her little amniotic pool. This barrier being insignificant in size, yet paramount as the only thing separating me from pregnancy and mamahood. Game on.

After the doctor broke my water all fears of water breaking in public or on our new king sized bed were realized – Holy Old Faithful! With every contraction a new gush of “Lili’s pool” flooded out. Along with it was the sudden pain of full on contractions, which seemed to go from zero to ONE HUNDRED immediately. The nurse knowingly smiled as she noted, “now it feel like a real 7 on that pain scale, huh?” – I stabbed her repeatedly with my eyes.

At this point I was playing how-long-can-I-last-without-an-epidural, while Zee Hubs looked at my face and made the decision.

Not long. The answer was not long at all.

Again I am reminded that without him I am pretty sure I would be dead somewhere for my crazy anti-medical ways.

The epidural was pure bliss delivered from a saint. And basically if any of you are med students you should just go ahead and become an anesthesiologist, because you will be reminded every day of how you are God’s gift to Earth from sweaty beaming, crazy-eyed gracious mamas-to-be.

{Warning to all future mamas when they say the epidural will take about an hour to kick in they are not messing around. Plan accordingly.}

By the time the pure, liquid gold epidural kicked in I was swept away to a beautiful land of sparkles and unicorns bouncing around on pink puffs of heart-shaped, cotton candy clouds. Having never done any form of drugs previously, this may have just proven to become my gateway experience (I kid. I kid.). But pink, sparkly dreams were interrupted when the doctor swung by to see when she’d have to come back that night. Turns out life without her pool was decidedly less fun and Lilibean wanted to join the cool crowd. With plans to come back later canceled, the nurses prepped us for pushing.

Around 8 PM I started pushing. With Zee Hubs dishing out ice chips and supporting my back, I followed the nurse and doctor’s requests to bear down and push for the count of ten. This is where I would like to say all my exercises with the epi-no truly paid for its outrageous shipping and handling cost. This is not the case.

After thirty minutes the doctor may or may not have caught on that sometimes I didn’t push for the whole 10 seconds (HEY! I WAS EXHAUSTED AND THE DRUGS PROMISED SWEET, GLORIOUS SLEEP). They asked if I’d like to have a mirror brought in to see the baby’s head. Rational me said “Hells to the no”. Unfortunately drugged up me was much more assertive and convincing, so by the next contraction I was peeping at the perfect circle of Liliana’s little head of hair – also known as the end of sexy time.

The doctor thought this would motivate me, but in actuality it really just pissed me off as I saw the miniscule movement I made with every push sink back as soon as I finished. Gonna. Be. Like. That. Huh.

But within another 30 minutes I was being told to stop pushing as our doctor brought our daughter into the world.

In an instant, the landmark moment of our lives, she pulled Lilibean into our world, placing her tiny body on my chest for us to meet her. Our daughter.

Zee Shrimpress was the most beautiful, breathtaking thing I have ever seen in my life. My heart bursts daily when I look at her and realize this little person has somehow been brought into our lives, and that the universe miraculously entrusted us with the honor of being her parents. Any doubt of whether she’d be cute or fear that I may suffer from postpartum depression was swiped away with one look at her tiny, perfect being.

And then I threw up. (epidural aftermath y’all)

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Liliana Irene Armstrong

Born May 17, 2014 at 22:42 PST

7 lbs. 19″ of pure perfection