remembering mamaw loyce

Most of life seems gradual, moving from one milestone to the next with all sort of busyness in between. Though every so often we stop in our tracks and think, I can't believe we've lived in this house three years already, or when did you get so tall? Also, where did my newborn/infant/toddler go? And even with those moments of realization along the way, life continues to barrel forward without us realizing it.

When we finally pulled up at mom's house the day of Mamaw's visitation, we piled our bags in the keeping room and all landed in mom's bedroom. Audrey and Anna were pulling out my old dance costumes and Lottie was rolling and smiling all over the palette mom had laid out for her. There were Mamaw's three great granddaughters - so full of life and youth, energy and giggles - surrounding mom, Moll, and myself as mom told us of Mamaw's last moments. About the peaceful way she left her earthly home with her daughter holding her hand, by her side like she always had been. In that moment I felt so proud to be a part of that line of mothers and daughters. And in that moment life didn't seem so gradual. We had experienced an ending. And with my precious six month old wiggling on the floor in front of me, the juxtaposition between life and death felt severe, heavy.

During visitation and the funeral, there was a lot of talk about Mamaw's love. It was a love of life and of people. It was spilled onto friends and family and strangers alike. It wasn't just something you say because someone died. She had an above average amount of love, and it was evident to everyone we spoke to over those couple of days. We heard "life of the party" a lot. That was so true. But she also loved us in the quiet, every day moments. Through comfort, through prayers, through food (really good food). It was so strange to be with our very large extended family (my mom is the youngest of 23 first counsins, daughters and sons of my grandmother's eight siblings), and Mamaw not be there. Because of her very large presence, she was easily missed. A Loyce-sized hole, some might say. It made me think a lot about the same thing that their long time pastor mentioned at the funeral - legacy. A legacy of love, simply put. And how desperately I want to continue that legacy - through comfort, prayers, food. Through how I raise my babies and support my husband. Through how I celebrate my friends and love every moment of life I've been given. "I just love this living," she would say. It showed.

Moll and I said a few words at her funeral. We're criers, so it was touch and go. But we knew we wanted everyone to know how much we loved our Mamaw. I added mine below so you could know a little of Mamaw Loyce too.


I’m Meagan – Mamaw’s fifth grandchild and self-proclaimed favorite. Most of my family and friends call me Meg, but my favorite nickname – usually only heard at the occasional family reunion or kinfolk shower – is Little Loyce. It’s probably the Fallin coloring, but I sure hope that I can – at least some day – live up to the name. 

My Mamaw Loyce embodied the phrase “to know her is to love her.” And it sure didn’t matter if you knew her all your life or if it was a matter of minutes. There was never an outing where she didn’t make a new friend – from waiters to cashiers to stewardesses. It was natural and it was effortless because it was Mamaw. I’ll never forget asking her how one of her stints in physical therapy was going. She told me that that day had been better than others because some else was actually in the therapy room at the same time she was, and when she walked in she thought, “Oh look, somebody for me to talk to!”

I have a six month old baby girl. I thank the Lord for His gracious timing – that their precious lives overlapped and that Mamaw was able to love on her several times in her young life. That someone so dear to me was able to share in our excitement and joy at the birth of her third great granddaughter. And I thank Him that I had a grandmother who created such a legacy of love in our family. She walked with Jesus, and we were blessed by His love that Mamaw showed us. Because of Christ in Mamaw, I know what steadfast love looks like – it is firm, never-changing. It was the look on her face or the sound in her voice every time we visited or called. It was her consistent presence in our lives. It was so deep and fierce that its effects will outlive her and effect many future generations. I may never be able to make her hot water cornbread, but I hope and I pray that I can be a fraction of the mother, wife, sister, church member, friend, and – one day – grandmother that she was. And I hope, like Mamaw, that I have the time of my life doing it.


feed your baby

I suppose you don't want to tell a happily first-time-pregnant mom of the difficulties awaiting her when trying to do what seems like the most natural thing in the world - feeding her baby. I honestly expected to have no problem breastfeeding Lottie unless I was in the extremely small percentage of women whose milk never came in in the first place. After all, we had taken the class at the hospital. I read the book they gave us cover to cover (except the chapter about feeding multiples, praise Him). I practiced the cradle hold AND the football hold just days before Lottie's birth. It wasn't until I started raking in advice from fellow mamas that I realized that, for the majority of these families, feeding was the most treacherous and emotional and confusing part about having a newborn. It wasn't that some of those feedings took place in the middle of the night and you're all of a sudden sleeping like NOT AT ALL. No. It was that they had low supply or no supply or mastitis or a slow let down or an over active let down or a zillion other possible issues. It was what everyone was now saying that they cried the most over. Which I, of course, now understood since I was shocked to be in the thick of the most emotional three weeks of my life due to nursing issues.

Supposedly I had a sleepy eater with a bit of torticollis which gave her an "unorganized suck" as well as seemingly unsolvable low supply. Whatever. I couldn't feed my baby and I was shocked and heartbroken and exhausted and so very confused.

I'm glad to say that those feelings have subsided. My stomach no longer ties itself in knots every time we give our baby a bottle of formula. I don't hold her and cry hot, sad tears when she hungry cries while I have nothing left to give her instead of happy tears like during that week-o-ecstasy following her birth (and since!). The turning point from those unexpected low moments was one of the clearest conversations I've ever had with The Lord.

Ironically, it happened when I was driving to rent an infant intake scale from the private, in-home lactation consultant that had come to see us a few days earlier. We saw her after our pediatrician, after three visits to the hospital's LC who was finally out of ideas for me and my little non-eater (this was the emotionally low point), and after countless hours of research and picking the brains of loooots of very patient friends. The two days before I had "power pumped" (it sucks as much as it sounds, no pun intended) and was renting this scale so that we could weigh, nurse, weigh again, supplement, and then pump. And by the time it was all done, start over again thirty minutes later. But I was down for it. Very determined. Motivated by love and emotion and, unfortunately, a little bit of pride. I'd do it as long as it helped even though I was so desperate to know what our feeding situation would look like long term. What our normal would be.

This private LC had been amazing and incredibly knowledgeable. I counted eight friends who had used her and all said that she was the reason they were able to breastfeed. She was "magic" and "wonder woman," and I just knew that surely I wouldn't be one of the only people with an unsolvable issue. Plus, her website is literally feedyourbaby.com (SC friends - she really is amazing!), so SURELY she could fix us. See? Expectations are the killer. I was gripping onto expectations within my bigger, disintegrating expectations.

After several more days of that weighing and pumping and supplementing grind, unfortunately this magic-maker was eventually out of ideas for us too. But this time I wasn't as heartbroken as I was afraid I would be if it came to this, and that was because of that in-car conversation with a loving God. There's been few times when I've heard this clearly from the Lord. Most of the time it's through the truth of His Word. Or the encouragement from voices in our families and community. Maybe this time was different because He was speaking directly to the tender heart of a new mother. Maybe it was because all the wonderful people he was speaking through in my life weren't getting through my emotional fog.

I was driving and praying for this next strategy to work and that I would be able to exclusively breastfeed my baby just as I had prayed throughout pregnancy. When we first met with the LC, I had to fill out a form that informed her of any pregnancy and birth issues we had that may affect nursing. I checked a box next to PCOS, told her about a few pregnancy issues, and about the c-section. And when we were getting started with our appointment, she commented that we had had "quite the time of it" or something like that. To me, it was our normal. But as soon as she said that, I started feeling sorry for myself. We battled through a few issues already, couldn't this just be easy? Didn't I deserve to be able to do what was best for my baby?

After days of wallowing in those thoughts, I was reminded that we live in an imperfect, fallen world where our bodies don't work perfectly. Duh. And I was convicted for feeling like I deserved to be able to do this. That's a dangerous place to be. The only thing we deserve in this life is wrath and judgement and separation.

But because I haven't gotten what I deserve and have been given so much grace that nothing else should really compare, I could hear Him telling me to simply trust Him with feeding Lottie. I could hear Him remind me that He loves her so much more than I do. I'm sure it was the beginning of letting go of lots of control over her life. D had said that the Lord would give her all she needed, and that finally rang true with me. He even said that Jesus could turn that formula into breastmilk in her belly if He saw fit! I'm so thankful for his steady faithfulness. And I'm sure he's thankful for this clear conversation with the Lord so that I could finally talk without crying.

I had asked Him to make it clear to us how we should provide for her and for me to be able to joyfully follow His direction. I knew it would be hard to officially make the decision to stop all of the crazy remedies (even though they were officially not helping), and I'm so thankful for the peaceful transition into nursing and then offering Lottie a bottle since she was always still hungry. I was (and am) a peaceful appetizer. I am thankful for all the help that we received, but I had read so much and asked so many questions until I could feel my mothers intuition getting louder and saying STOP IGNORING ME. Because the Lord answered our prayer for direction, I was able to do what was best for us as a family instead of having "breast is best" flashing in my brain at every feeding. And though I agree with those annoying websites and blogs and message boards, I also wanted to punch them in the face every time they said "you CAN do this!" Nope. Can't, unfortunately. And that was (finally) ok.

It's not always super easy. Sometimes I still don't like that I have to pack a bottle and formula in the diaper bag (even though we've been really happy with The Honest Company's new formula, if you're curious about that option). Sometimes my heart still breaks when I read things like, "there's no way to replicate a mother's milk exactly, because it contains living cells, antibodies, enzymes, and hormones that can't be added to formula." But most of the time I embrace the peace and encouragement given on that turn-around day. And, most importantly, I check my perspective. She's healthy, she's growing, and she's ours. Three things (among many more) that we certainly don't deserve.


lottie's arrival

It's taken me between now and when we brought Lottie home from the hospital to process and write down the experience of meeting our perfect little girl. I was so afraid I'd forget the details that were so precious to me over those first few days. It'd be understandable with the lack of sleep and general brain power. So I've spent the last several weeks scratching down all those details in a journal, picking it up every few days during a successful nap time (those, as I'm sure most know, are not a guarantee). And as I've read over the pages and pages of obviously sleepy hand writing (looking much like my notes from a 7:30 Old Testament class from my freshman year of college), I realized that, even if I had not obsessively recorded every little detail, there were many moments that'd be impossible to forget. Maybe because of how pivotal they were in our life - much more than any other event so far. And far more precious. 

I'll never forget how gracious the timing was of Lottie's arrival. I'd always skip over the chapters in the baby books that had anything to do with a c-section, expecting that information never to pertain to us. A section to meet our little stubborn, breeched babe was the beginning of unmet expectations that momentarily rocked my world. But the sweetness that it brought was a consolation prize: Lottie's long distance grandparents and Aunt Molly were all able to arrive the night before, enjoy what we called "the last supper" together, and be there anxiously awaiting Lottie's entrance into the world. We were also able to spend the morning before her birth with our church family. I'll never forget how I felt when we left both the service and Sunday School that day - supported, cared for, and that so many from our community shared in our excitement. 

I'll never forget the quiet nervousness between D and I as we waited in the prep room. We prayed, we laughed about how D's "scrubs" looked more like a hazmat suit, and we more just stared at the mounted TV instead of actually watching whatever HGTV show was on at that moment, our minds too full of expectation and thoughts of how this whole process would play out. I remember this because of how it stands in contrast to when D and a nurse rolled Lottie’s little bassinet into the recovery room where I was anxiously awaiting their arrival. All of that nervousness had melted away, and he was – for lack of a better word – beaming. I’ll never forget the look on his face. 

I’m certain that I’ll never forget the moment I saw our girl for the first time. Her birth was such a quick process – I had an extra good dose of anesthesia so I literally felt nothing (including my arms and chest) and didn’t expect to see a quick flail of purply arms and legs so soon. They whisked her to her little bed and told D to follow. While they checked her out, D backed up to where I could see him and gave me the most reassuring thumbs up, letting me know that she was as perfect as we prayed for. It wasn’t long before the moment I had waited for – being face to face with our baby girl. I’ll never forget her beautiful scrunched little face between her swaddle and hat, eyes squeezed shut because of the brightness of the operating room. She laid so still, only letting out a few tiny squeals from her perfect rosebud lips. In the days to follow, I found myself so wishing that I could relive that moment over and over again. Being together for the first time as a family of three, we were full and complete and more in love than we ever knew possible. 

I’m sure I’ll always love watching people fuss over Lottie, but there is nothing like watching your parents and in-laws and sister hold their granddaughter and niece for the first time. I’ll never forget the pride and excitement in their eyes as they responded to each new little move and noise. It’s such an extraordinary thing to watch your family grow before your eyes, knowing that it’ll never be the same as it was just a few hours before. Knowing that these are the people that will love your daughter so deeply throughout her life. 

I’ll never forget how obsessed I was with the hospital staff. Every single nurse and aid that we came in contact with was incredibly kind and helpful to us novice parents. I had never stayed overnight in the hospital and did not know what to expect. By our third night there, I was really wanting to stay. Or pack them in my bag and bring them home with me! I’ve always said I’m completely impressed with anyone in any kind of medical field, but I’ve never been so appreciative of their work until now. Shout out to Jean – my first nurse who let me eat much sooner than I was told to expect to be able to because I was feeling better than expected (praise the Lord!). Sixteen hours is a long time for a McMahone to go without food or water. You’re my girl for life! 

There are plenty more details scribbled in my journal for Lottie to be able to read one day that I won’t bore you with here. What is most unforgettable to me from this entire experience is watching Dustin transition into fatherhood with such grace and filled with so much love. I still feel rather clueless at times as a mother, but I’m convinced that I could write the book on how to be a supportive new daddy just from watching D during our days in the hospital. And since then! I fell deeper in love with him with every diaper change and every encouraging word. I’ve never felt so loved by him serving his new family of three without any complaint and by him being so intentional to be so uplifting to me, always knowing exactly when I’d need it. And watching your husband, who you fell in love with as a young college dude, fall deeply in love with your daughter so instantly – there are no words to describe it. 

We are thankful for such a positive experience of meeting our Lottie. In the grumpiest of moments, I try to remember what a blessing it is to have had such an experience and to have gotten to bring her home from the hospital just as we had prayed – perfectly healthy and whole. 

Lottie, you have split our hearts wide open and have caused us to experience a love like we've never known before. A love that causes me to physically ache with pride and concern and to stare at you and cry the happiest of tears. For the time being, you are all we can talk about, all we can think about. We hang on your every squirm and noise and sleep grin, and we can't think of anything we'd rather do than watch you grow and discover. We understand now why children are a blessing from the Lord. He blessed us far beyond anything we ever deserved when He gave us you. This parenthood thing is a whole new world for us, a completely new realm of emotions and experiences. And we're so glad we get to experience it with you (even if it's 3 o'clock in the morning).


lottie's room [for real this time]

Lots of people kept telling me that it would go by so fast, that before I knew it she would be here. During a lazy summer of partial bed rest, I smiled and nodded and kind of, sort of rolled my eyes in my mind. Because those days were long. Those were the days of waiting and hoping to feel her move, of over-Googling symptoms I was experiencing or if something I had just come into contact with would be unobviously harmful to this baby. The days of lots and lots of ultrasounds where I'd pray over and over that she [or he at that point!] would be "perfectly healthy and whole," and then they'd tell me she was growing just as she should be each and every time. What a gift that was.

But all of those people were right. All of a sudden, the showers and celebrations that were, of course, highly anticipated have come and gone [and were so wonderful!]. The fruits of the third trimester that almost didn't seem achievable in our blueberry and kiwi stages are ever-growing on my baby apps: small pumpkins, honeydews, winter melons. What are winter melons? She's squirmy and strong and, even though I'm so ready to see her face, I know I'll miss her middle-of-the-night [and day!] kicks and twists. Diapers have been purchased and we've preregistered at the hospital and all of those sweet little clothes and wonderful hand-me-downs that had been staring at me for so long have been washed and put in their place. Speaking of their places, I am the perfect example that nesting hormones are a real thing. Not one to care too much about order [right brains unite!], I am - what one may call - obsessed with things being clean and organized, especially in the nursery. So much that I hardly know who I am any more. Beyond that, me and my full-term self would rather scrub my baseboards than do pretty much anything else. Hormones, y'all.

The nursery was slow to get started until Mama and Molly were here at Christmas to help light a little bit of a fire under me and help to get all the big items in their places. Before that, the incredibly patient Dustin painted [which I learned that he actually reeeeally doesn't like to do] and put together what furniture we had. And then, all of a sudden and just like this pregnancy, we're just about there. It's my favorite room to be in, peaceful and, well, especially clean.

There are several things in the room that are incredibly special to us, and I am in love with the creations of two extremely talented friends. Lydia outdid herself on the banner [which we finished like Lay Baby Lay did this photograph]. And my textile-loving and extremely talented best friend, Abs, made Lottie's precious lamb mobile. It is priceless to me!

Even though I'm loving the peacefulness and order of her room at this moment, I can't wait for it to be a working space. A space for sleep and play and reading and sometimes-needed disorder and, of course, plenty of diaper changes. Because when it is that, I hope that means that Lottie is a happy and thriving and growing little girl. We can't wait to see those [supposedly] chubby cheeks!


normalcy and not

I have a dear friend here in town that is newly pregnant. She recently ended that torturous wait time between finding out you're pregnant and your first appointment sometime between 8 to 10 weeks. As we were talking, I remembered my countdown app where I plugged in my first appointment date and obsessively watched the numbers tick away. It was one of the gazillion pregnancy apps that I neatly organized in a "Baby!" app folder on the first page of my iPhone. Later that week, I was filling out my weekly desk calendar [that I've decided I would not want to go on living without] and realized that I had almost forgotten that my 24 week appointment was the next morning, and, all of a sudden, I was super proud of myself. Not for the almost forgetting about my appointment part but because it seemed like a small representation of a pregnant lady who could have potentially chilled out a little.

But even with what seemed like a little chilling out [which, I'd like to think, was some growth in trust that pushed out some of that fear], I could sense a new rhythm of life slowly encroaching. A rhythm of being very much consumed in all things pregnancy which, I would imagine, could easily translate into being consumed in all things Lottie after she arrives. Now I totally expect for her first few weeks or months to be survival mode: all Lottie all the time. As I've heard it is and as it should be. But there have been a few instances lately that made me realize how all-consumed I've been. You know, like that time I forgot my best friend's birthday. Me. The birthday-lover. The best friend whose birthday I've been celebrating since we were thirteen. I pretty much hated myself for a solid 24-hours even though she was wonderfully gracious and understanding.

I expect for life with Lottie to be our new normal. For there to be less time for other things seeing as how I'm responsible for physically sustaining her to a certain extent [which, I couldn't be more excited for, by the way]. But I'm telling myself now that it'll just take a little more effort on my part to walk closely with this God-given community: family and friends, local and distant. To physically remember birthdays and prayer requests and important appointments. Because baby brain is a real thing, y'all. With each checklist made and each appointment attended all the while everyone else's lives also speed along, I'm reminded that community is a beautiful, messy, breathing thing. Something I'm passionate about, something I pray will be instilled in Lottie, something I'll have to work a little harder at in the coming months. And, when I forget someone else's birthday, I will give myself grace and remember that we're learning our new [and precious] normal.