Monday, March 7, 2016

Sewing in Real Life

Our first family picture after Mouse was born -- you all know how careful I am with my daughters' privacy, but for this post, I wanted to share a few pictures from the past.

I gave birth to three daughters in four years. We didn't plan it that way -- it's just how things worked out. And though I now love having our girls so close in age, it was really, really hard when they were little. 


Taken in our back yard, this was the photo we used for our last birth announcement.

I will never forget that first year after Mouse was born. My husband and parents would head off to work in the mornings, and I would sit in the upstairs back bedroom with my three little girls, the only room where I could contain them by myself without help while I was recovering from my c-section. I did it almost every day for months on end, exhausted and emotionally raw from the 2-3 hours of sleep I was getting each night due to Mouse's acid reflux condition. I cuddled toddlers, watched cartoons, rocked the baby's bouncy chair with my foot, played Solitaire on my computer...and wondered if I was going to survive. Maybe that was the hardest part of it all. Being a mother had always been one of my lifelong dreams, and it wasn't turning out the way I thought it would. I wasn't just struggling -- I was drowning. 


My three little pumpkins...

I often remember telling my family, "If I could just get enough sleep at night, I could deal with everything else." But it wasn't to be. All three of our daughters had sleep issues from the very beginning. I kept thinking it would go away, that they would grow out of it, but none of them did. My husband helped as much as he could, but I would only let him get up with the girls on weekends, since I felt the California freeways were dangerous enough without him trying to commute to work on too little sleep. I read every book and article I could find on getting your kids to sleep through the night, talked to other mothers, tried every new method I came across. Nothing worked. I would listen to other moms who said, “Oh, my baby started sleeping through the night at 2, 3, 4 months. She’s just so easy!” and I would want to cry over what felt like my own failure.
The girls grew older, and I was sure that we would get past this stage. "Wait till they stop taking naps," people told me. "Wait till they're in school. It will all be so different." But the years passed, and nothing changed. The girls were each still getting up one or more times every night. I can't tell you how many evenings I sat rocking a weeping child, tears running down my face as I silently begged God to fix this part of our lives that seemed like it would always be broken. Sometimes my mom would be up in the night when I was, and she would listen to me pour out my heart over the girls. I was so overwhelmed at times by how difficult it was to be a mother. "Maybe someday it will get easier," I would say. And Mom would shake her head no with a meaningful smile and reply, "It never gets easier."

I've been getting hand picked bouquets from my girls since they first started toddling around the front yard. 
  
It was during all these years of struggle that I discovered sewing, started my blog, and wrote my book.

I keep the focus mainly on my creative work here at Fabric Mutt, but every now and then I try to pull back the curtain and give you a glimpse of sewing in real life. There's such an irony to social media and blogging. We want to keep it real, but the truth is that you get a lot more "likes" on the pretty photos. After all, what's more inspiring -- a) pictures of me cleaning up after the dog while I holler at the kids to stop climbing under the table and eat their lunch already, or b) pictures of my latest patchwork project? (Trust me, the answer is b.) My ongoing battle with sleep deprivation has been a huge part of my life over the last decade, but sewing and blogging have helped me cope with it in a small way. It's true that not everything in my life is picture perfect, but this creative outlet has given me the push I needed to look beyond the craziness of life to find the little bits of lovely that are all around me. It's taught me to take time to enjoy them, and most of all, to share them -- with my precious family and with all of you. 


Sunday morning smiles from Spring 2013.

My girls are now 5, 6, and 9 years old, and for the past three months, I've enjoyed the closest thing to uninterrupted sleep I've had in 9 years. We've relapsed a few times with bad dreams or illness, but those few setbacks just remind me how far we've come. I'm grateful, more grateful than I can say, to be finally coming out into the light after so many years struggling through what felt like such a dark valley. It’s been one of the most difficult things in my life, but we're making it. My darling girls are the joy of my heart -- I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world. My husband and I have come through this, seeing each other at our worst and knowing we can still count on each other. My parents have been a fount of wisdom and sanity that I've come back to time and again. And while we looked back through our photos to choose some pictures for this post, my husband and I shared a few tears and lots of laughter. As hard as those days were, there were so many great moments mixed in with the tough ones.
More than anything, this journey has reminded me to have grace for other women who struggle with issues in their children that they can’t control. It's so typical in our culture today to point out what others are doing wrong, but most of us as moms don't need to hear it. We have a personal guilt recording playing in our head 24 hours a day that reminds us of all the ways we feel we're letting our kids down. You have no idea how much it means to a struggling mom when you come alongside her with love and encouragement to say, “You’re going to make it through this. You're doing better than you think. No one loves that child like you do.”

So to those of you dear readers who are still fighting your own battle, I beg you...don't give up hope. Keep doing your best. Keep loving your child. You will get through this. I promise.

50 comments:

  1. Heidi, I always love your blog posts and your honesty. I'm definitely fighting a battle this year, and I really needed to hear your words tonight! Thank you. Oh, and your girls are the CUTEST.

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  2. I only had one with sleep issues and I thought that was going to kill me. I think it was some time in her 7th year that I could actually go to bed expecting a decent night's sleep. I'm so glad that you seem to be on the other side of this as well.

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  3. Thank you very much for this post... I'm reading it at 3am while rocking a little 8-month old girl who also has sleep issues and it definitely helps my sanity

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  4. my experience was much like yours. After we made it to the "other side" I remember saying to my husband - we should have a 4th. I am feeling so energetic and know I could handle it. He gently reminded me that I felt that way because we didn't have a nonsleeping child in the house and that a 4th would finally do us in:) crazy how we think.

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  5. Thank you for sharing! Sleep deprivation, overwhelming fatigue or other issues we deal with during the early years of our children 's lives can be very isolating. I dealt with post partum depression, my children are adults today, well adjusted, productive and happy. My hubby and I are, too!
    Families deep 'in the trenches' need to hear they aren't alone, don't be afraid to let people know you need help and know it will get better, eventually.

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  6. Oh boy do I so understand this. I don't think my experience is quite that bad but I can relate. Jammer has been tough with sleeping since he was a baby because he has a bad anxiety problem. And Sunshine typically crawls in with us practically every night. It is a rare morning when we wake up without at least one extra body in the bed with us.

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  7. You are so beautiful Heidi! I can relate to the sleep issues; I would always wonder why people would continually tell me that their child has slept through the night since they were 6 weeks old. Great - I'm happy for you! But just keep that to yourself please, because it is really not helpful to me!!! I always make sure that I only share positive and uplifting things with new or younger mums. I am so glad that you are getting a bit more sleep now (what a difference it makes!). My kids are older and sleeping pretty well, but it was wonderful to read your post and be reminded that I'm doing okay as a mum. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I managed!

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  8. Thank you for sharing. When we see pictures - all looks perfect - right?! I can totally relate,though!! You have such sweet looking children - as hard as it is - enjoy these ages as much as you can! Yes, sewing is a great outlet!

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  9. Heidi, this is nicely written account of your struggle in those early years.
    I believe part of this has to do with that most of us had meaningful careers before we settled down and got married (and I am 60 now!)
    Before I married I was an RN, very efficient and task oriented, with a plan and a vision of what the result should be. Just think back in the olden days when that was really not part of a woman's mindset.
    We loved our jobs and because of that we were sort of perfectionists to do the best job.
    Now the kids. I had two daughters. The first one was a piece of cake, the second was a premie. I just remember praying a lot when the girls were little. I also went to a really great church with so much support.

    I am certain all of us can relate to your experience. Oh my gosh, those days you just wanted to face plant the carpet and let the kids walk all over you or whatever. You know there were days that were hilarious, and sometimes hysterical with the silliness of it all.
    Now that your kids are older, you are right, it is easier, or just different. I think SLEEP is the primary cause of so much of the adjustment to your extreme brain fatigue.
    I am a gramma. My daughter lives just up the road 5 miles in Leesburg Virginia. I really enjoy my first grand baby.
    I am living in what is called the sandwich generation. I am also taking care of my 93 year old parents.

    Have fun with your girls. You are the example they will learn from and follow

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  10. Thanks for the peek into your world, Heidi. Your girls are little beauties. As moms, we need to encourage each other more, and compare ourselves less, right? Good words of encouragement in your post!

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  11. My daughter struggled with the sleep issues with my grandson until I stumbled upon the Sleep Sense program. I know it literally saved her sanity. Maybe someone else can benefit from this program. It really works.

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  12. Dear Heidi, I am proud of you for your honesty. As mothers, we would do anything for our children, but at some stages it takes every ounce of our energy. It was sure challenging for me when the boys were young, but I wouldn't trade those years or them for anything. Bless you for sharing your heart and the struggles you've gone through with your blog friends. Love, Mary

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  13. Dear Heidi, I just subscribed to your blog and the first post from you that greets me has the most precious pictures! I'm glad you posted them as well as the struggles you had with your angels sleep issues. Obviously you are not alone but it certainly seems that way when struggles hit. I'm going to share your post with my friend, who can relate to the rest of us that feel like bad mothers when things go wrong. My kids were good sleepers and nappers, but there were other heartaches in store for me. My baby turned 33 yesterday but I really feel like we can do a good thing for others if we share encouragement. Well done!

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  14. I also had 3 non sleeping daughters! But they were not close together, so my sleep deprivation lasted years...But it is so worth it! Hang in there and rest when you can. Love your blog posts.

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  15. You never know the struggles someone else is having- be kind. I'm so happy to hear that you are finally getting some sleep.

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  16. When my oldest daughter (now 35y/o) was born, a nurse came in my room and was just talking to me about when I went home with her to take care of her by myself...she said to me. Your daughter has nothing to compare you to, so for her, you are the most perfect mom! Every time I had any issues, or other people gave me their "opinion" on how I should be doing something, I would remember what that nurse told me.

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  17. Thank you for sharing a glimpse into your real life. We all have issues that we tend to hide from others but I'm so happy things are getting better for you and your adorable family. As a mom of three daughters I can relate to the sleepless nights when they were little. There's nothing quite as fierce as a mother's love! Stay strong and God bless.

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  18. Thanks for sharing and nice to meet you.Great pics.

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  19. Before you embark on parenthood NOBODY tells you that sleep deprivation is considered a form of torture. Sorry that you suffered it for so long, it is different for everyone and every child, but the general consensus from all the professionals seems to be "suck it up" which I never thought was fair OR would apply if it was men that did 100% of the parenting in that first year of a child's life.

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  20. I have enjoyed your blog...and great projects!......for a long time, but this has to be one of your best posts! I am glad you are coming out into the light from what sounds like the end of a very long tunnel, and still loving those who came through it with you. Best to you all!

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  21. So sorry for the hard times you've had with your daughters sleep issues. My eldest daughter slept horribly as a baby and was coming into our room every night till she was 9. But I didn't do 3 kids with sleep issues!! You are a really tough woman and I'm totally amazed at what you did!! Thank goodness for your parents and the help they gave. I guess God only gives us what we can handle, and gives us help if we need it in the way of parents or friends. Keep up the good work!!! And through it all you wrote a book: amazing!! You need to pat yourself on the back!! Hugs, H in Healdsburg

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  22. Heidi- thanks for your honesty & glimpse into real life. The one thing that really bothers me about social media is all the "perfectness"- some even make their bad times look cutesy & fun. I do believe in the value of looking on the bright side of things- but lets face it- life has ALL kinds of issues. I'm glad you are finally getting a bit of a break.Hang in there!

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    1. I also want to add- praying for you, for strength.

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  23. Thank you for your lovely honest post Heidi. I am a Grandma now but still remember the 24 hour days when my twins were born. I was just 21, wore a brace as a result of polio, and was determined to be the perfect Mum! Impossible goal!! Now my children have children of their own and have all gone through the 24 hour days. I still value a full nights sleep and will never take it for granted.

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  24. First, your girls are adorable! I feel the need to protect my daughter too but thanks for sharing them :-) And you are NOT ALONE!! My daughter had an extended NICU stay and I felt like that set up our horrible, broken sleeping patterns for the first year and a half of her life. I can completely relate as I remember just sitting and crying as the sun came up on another day of utter exhaustion. I thought I was losing my mind. I was afraid it would never get better. I'm so happy to report that IT DID! And I'm so happy for you and keeping my fingers crossed that you've turned the corner and good sleep continues at your house!!

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  25. Oh Heidi, I used to be the mom saying my babies were perfect sleepers... Till my youngest came along and nothing worked. He finally sleeps all night since this year but those two years with interrupted sleep were rough. Most days felt like survivor! I love your makes but these honest posts of yours are my favorite, they really speak to me. Thank you for the honesty and inspiration.

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  26. Wow - you are obviously very creative and productive in your awake time with all your lovely work, not to mention being a wife and mother. Thanks for sharing your journey, and keep up the inspiration to all

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  28. Lovely post. Posts with honesty are my favorite. My husband died last year after a nasty two year bout with ALS. My mother fell out of her wheelchair and broke her neck. My son and his wife were arrested for Heroin and I got three grandchildren to raise. They are 6, 7 and 10 I have had them now for 2.5 years. This all turned my quilting blog into my therapy blog..a great help. My favorite saying is that I try to play the hand I have been dealt with grace. Often, I fail with the grace part, but I keep on keeping on as you did. xxoo

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  29. Thanks for this! I just recently stumbled across your blog, and this was very encouraging. We're in the thick of the no sleep thing--my son (5) sleeps with a ventilator at night, and on the rare nights when he sleeps well, the machine acts up and we spend the night fighting with pointless alarms! My daughter is also a terrible sleeper, and there are days when I think I'll live in a sleep-induced fog the rest of my life. Thank goodness for coffee! Sewing/quilting has recently become my therapy, but then I make the mistake of staying up too late doing it. Oops! But all that to say, I appreciate your honesty and your encouragement. Thank you!

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    1. And of course, I meant a lack-of-sleep induced fog. Sheesh. I guess there's your evidence right there. Ha!

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  33. It such an important point that you are making here. I have three children, and my first was extremely challenging as an infant. It seemed that he only slept when he was being driven around in the car or bounced on an exercise ball--two very impossible things to do while sleeping. It was six months before I could get a few hours of continuous sleep. Those women you mentioned who doled out advice about preferred sleep training books and talked about regimenting my schedule to help my child get day and night straightened out had a death wish. After all, if I had time to read a book, I would have used it to take a nap. My subsequent children have been better sleepers, so people say it's because I'm so much more experienced, that the baby has to fit into our schedule, or that I'm calmer. Well of course I am! People who get sleep are less deranged; it has nothing to do with expert knowledge, and everything to do with having a kid who's willing to go back to sleep after being fed. Thanks for speaking up for the moms that are at their wit's end.

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  34. oh Heidi, I don't know HOW you have made it through that. Nine years?!! Bless whatever strength allowed you to soldier through, and I pray that indeed these three months become four, then five, then six . . .

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  35. What a beautiful family you have! You are such a strong woman too. Never forget it. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  36. Your girls are beautiful, Heidi, and that post was so special--tops any of the "pretty quilty" posts. Thanks for being so candid. You are beautiful, too! Thank God for your perseverance.

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  37. Your family is beautiful, you are doing such a great job with them. I am so sorry to hear about the sleep issues, and I am so glad that they have subsided now.

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  38. Amen. You never know what people are carrying on their shoulders. Thank you for sharing this! And such a beautiful family!

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  39. I love your post! Thank you for keeping it real. Sometimes all the pretty pictures across social media are frustrating, as they lead us to believe that everybody else has it all together/has the perfect life, etc....we know it isn't necessarily true, but sometimes it can feel that way. Posts like this just make us all realize that we are indeed human and have our own challenges. I am so happy for you that sleep has returned to your life! You are inspiring!! Also, your children are beautiful and obviously so very loved. That's awesome!! Good job!!! Thank you for sharing your story--I am sure you have touched so many moms out there that need reassurance that they can survive this, too!

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  40. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. You're right, we certainly had no idea that's what was really happening behind the scenes! I'm sorry it's been so hard. I only had a year or so of sleep deprivation, with my first, and especially the first 6 months, and it was one the hardest times of my life. I'm so happy to hear that it sounds like things are starting to improve! I hope it stays like that xx

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  41. Thanks for keeping real life a part of your blog!! I have no doubt that you are an amazing mother and wife along with being a very creative and talented quilter. You are an inspiration to so many people!

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  42. Your writing always touches my heart. This will be of great inspiration to many mothers suffering sleepless nights.

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  43. Agree, agree! I've spent a lovely half hour catching up with your blog. It's a beautiful thing to spend the morning with, Heidi. So refreshing and real and beautiful. Thank you for opening your heart up to us. I can't imagine what 10 years of little sleep would have done for me. But I also know I started my blog for exactly the same reason. A way to seek out beauty and joy in a confusing, and disappointing (compared to the dream) time. Much love to you my friend! xxx

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  44. Thanks for being real. Your girls are lovely and congratulations for getting through the tough times, and thank you for starting your blog in the midst of it all! Personally, I found myself ill-equipped for motherhood and struggled with shame and guilt over my self-imposed shortcomings for years. I'm better now;my kids are teens. I look back now with such fondness, and I can truly say it all does pass so quickly but it sure felt like forever in the middle of it all!

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  45. Heidi, I'm an old lady now but I can tell you that your post has taken me right back to my time as a new mom struggling with three little boys under five and no sleep. Those years just about sunk me and I have never forgotten how desperate I often felt. It has made me I hope so much more compassionate toward my own daughters in law and other young mothers I meet and my message to all of them and to you is that you are doing just fine and this too shall pass. My kids are grown, they do speak to me in spite of my often surly attitude when they were young and they are wonderful, caring, loving parents to their own children who unfortunately have sleep issues too.

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  46. Beautiful! Love from Kingston, Ontario.

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  47. Thank you Heidi. As a mum not being in control of issues and conditions affecting our children is the worst. Sometimes its not something you can get through but hopefully it will become easier to deal with. Thank you for sharing, it means more than you know. x

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  48. Not playing Solitaire on your phone? Download From This Cool Link (Available for Android & iOS)

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