How We Measure

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Coffee + Crumbs is five years old today! We are so grateful for all of the love and support you’ve shown us the past five years. Thank you for being here, for telling your friends about us, for buying our book and listening to our podcast and subscribing to our newsletter and taking the time to e-mail us notes of affirmation. We love creating for you.

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Five pounds, four ounces. That’s what my second baby boy weighed at birth. He arrived a month early much to everyone’s surprise—including my husband and me, who appeared at the birth center without a clue, a car seat, or a packed hospital bag.

It was not my plan to give birth vaginally, and certainly not my plan to do so without drugs, but there we were, one month before my scheduled c-section. A midwife quickly waved a signed VBAC consent form in my face. “Do you remember signing this a few weeks ago?” she smiled.

Cut to me screaming like a dinosaur.

I remember the pain, the sounds involuntarily erupting from my throat, the burning sensation all over my lady parts, and then a gooey baby magically appearing on my chest. It was several minutes later when they placed him on a scale and finally called out the number: Five pounds, four ounces. How could a baby that little hurt so badly on the way out? I remember thinking of my friends who had delivered eight, nine, ten-pound babies and cringing at the thought.

He dropped down to four pounds, fourteen ounces before working his way back up to birth weight. Every doctor appointment his first year of life consisted of a weight check, followed by a lengthy discussion about those numbers.

How many ounces of breastmilk does he get at each feeding?
How many times a day does he nurse?
How much do you pump?
How many ounces do you get when you pump?
What else are you feeding him?

Numbers lived in my head—growth charts and ounces and statistics—as I nursed on demand, all day every day. When he started solids, I mixed avocado and olive oil and butter into everything, per the pediatrician’s recommendation. I took fenugreek twice a day, made lactation cookies every afternoon, and pumped after every morning feeding.

It never felt like enough.  

We went to the pediatrician for weigh-ins every two weeks, and I always held my breath while the numbers flashed. I started to associate the number on the scale with my overall performance as a mother. A successful weigh-in (one in which the doctor smiled) would fill me with temporary confidence. A non-successful weigh-in (one in which the doctor frowned) would crush me until the next appointment.

I think it was around the one-year mark when I finally worked up the courage to ask the doctor point-blank: What exactly is the concern with his weight?

Our pediatrician stared at me, blinked a few times, and muttered something about wanting to make sure my son grows up to be taller than five feet.

I laughed out loud.

He was just doing his job, and, sure, ideally, our son would grow to be more than five feet tall. But THIS was the main concern? It had nothing to do with his actual health? His milestones? His development?

I walked out of that office relieved for the first time in a year, and also felt like an idiot.

How many nights had I worried and panicked about my son’s weight? How many days had I pulled up the stupid Internet growth charts and compared his dot placement to that of the rest of the world? How many times had I paid more attention to his physical measurements than the whole picture of who he was?

My baby was fine. He crawled and babbled and did all the typical things babies do. He was just … small. Four years later, he is still small. He currently weighs 28 pounds and still rings in at 0% on the growth chart. He’s a head shorter than everyone else in his preschool class. I’m optimistic and hopeful he’ll hit a growth spurt in middle school, but I’m also not losing sleep over it.

Because when I look at Carson, really look at him, I see more than a number on a scale and a BMI reading. I see the whole of him: his sunny disposition, his generous heart, his sense of humor, his fondness for action figures.

As mothers, it’s our job to see the whole picture, not just one set of numbers.

But that can be challenging in our culture today, because we love to quantify our lives. We are goal setters and counters! How many of us have pledged to drink 64 ounces of water each day and lose eight pounds before vacation and read twenty books before the end of the year?

I’ve been tempted, more than once, to count what everyone else is counting ... to quantify my life as Americans especially are taught to do. Number of assets. Number of Instagram followers. Number of dollars in my bank account.

Over the past few years, I’ve attended conferences and listened to experts preach the importance of growth, growth, growth. I’ve had numerous people tell me how to get higher website traffic, more podcast downloads, more Instagram followers, more money.

You’d think as an avid goal-setter and type 3 on the Enneagram that these instructions would be inspiring to me. But the truth is: those conversations always leave me with a pit in my stomach.

Because when it comes to Coffee + Crumbs—the Lord has always nudged me to measure us by something else.

Every Christmas I mail the writers a little package. It’s usually filled with the same types of things: candles, face masks, coffee mugs, notebooks, candy, a thank you card, and a check. Gift giving is one of my favorite love languages and every Christmas, I’ve turned my dining room table into an assembly line of sorts before heading to the post office with a huge stack of boxes.

This past year, however, on the fifth Christmas running C+C, I found myself 33 weeks pregnant and desperately wanting to simplify everything, including the team gifts.

It took about three seconds of brainstorming to realize what I wanted to send the writers instead: a collection of love letters from you, our beloved readers and fans.

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I went back through two inboxes dating back to 2014 and collected quotes we’ve received about the impact our work has had on your hearts, your faith, your mothering. You’ve told us over and over again, in a hundred different ways, to keep going.

What a generous gift you’ve given us.

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As I read through old e-mails and Patreon threads, my eyes brimmed with tears more than once. I thought about how we “measure up” according to the world and the experts. I wondered if we were sitting in the pediatrician’s office right now stacking Coffee + Crumbs against a growth chart, if he’d be smiling or frowning. I thought about all the numbers, which are constantly going up and down.

Podcast downloads: up.
Website traffic: down.
Instagram reaches 30k.
Last book royalties statement: $0 and negative 3,000 units for all the copies that never sold at Target.

Up, down, up, down.

The older I get, and the more seasoned of a mother and business owner I become, the more I am learning to measure the Whole Picture. And today, on our five year anniversary, I want to thank you for that. Not for how many of you are here, or for how many podcast downloads we receive, or for how many books we've sold, but because YOUR words of affirmation have become my best measuring stick for this space.

Thank you for being that. Thank you for taking the time to e-mail and leave comments and write reviews. Thank you for helping us make this space exactly what we want it to be: a kind, safe, encouraging grace-filled community for mothers.

I’ve said it 100 times before but I will say it again today: Five years in, this is still my dream job. Every day I wake up and pinch myself that I get to be here, that I get to steward this space and these stories and encourage moms as an actual job. I am able to do that because of you.

Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.

May God continue to hear our hopes and dreams, turning them into sacred things that can never be measured in numbers.

In overwhelming gratitude,

Ashlee Gadd
Founder, Coffee + Crumbs