7 Months Pregnant

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I had every intention of sitting down and blogging over the past, cold, holidays. Obviously, that didn’t happen; and once again, I underestimated the exhaustion that comes with pregnancy!

I am now 7 months pregnant, with another little turning 2 next month, and our oldest approaching 4 in the spring. With almost three kids, we decided to stay home and not travel for the holidays. It was really relaxing when I was ironically expecting it to be lonely. I’ve been learning to be more aware of my limitations and finding peace in respecting them, even if it means missing out.

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Both S and C are becoming more helpful to me as they see my mobility limited each day by an extremely swollen tummy. They pick up the things that I drop, bring me their cups, and throw away their trash. Of course, they still act like normal toddlers still… but these little acts of childlike kindness have been a huge consolation to me.

The one thing still making me anxious is giving birth. Even though I have done it twice now, each time has involved fighting with doctors, arguing with nurses, and having to advocate for myself and the kind of birth that I want. I’m afraid I’m attempting a medication-free birth this time around, which is typically met with a lot of resistance from the medical community. Just the thought of having to advocate for myself is exhausting. There is also the fear in the back of my mind, one which the medical community would love to convince me of, that I can’t actually do it naturally, on my own.

The truth is, I actually have been complacent in preparing to have a natural birth. Despite gathering books on different methods and downloading birth meditations, I haven’t read or listened to any. I’ve made the excuse of being busy, and surely I am with 2 toddlers, however, the time has come to make it a priority. This gives birth to yet another fear… the reality that this IS happening. I’ve been able to just daydream about those ideal moments one has with a newborn: the cuddles, the coos, the surprise smiles. I’ve ignored the trial that will come before those treasured times to the point where I now resist the inevitable.

Well, it is a goal for me in the next week to crack open a book and listen to a meditation. The time has come!

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How PPD made me lose control.

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I know, this title makes you think “the devil made me do it,” but some thing I had to discover when struggling with postpartum depression was that, it wasn’t my fault. This was some thing that happened to me, not a reflection of me. So many women, present company included, think that the symptoms of this condition are a reflection of themselves and their character, when in reality what they’ve experienced is a severe chemical imbalance in their bodies after childbirth that has brought on certain symptoms.

I remember wanting to yell, even scream at my baby. This urge was so strong, I had to run into my bedroom and scream into my pillow while punching the mattress. I knew it was an inappropriate response. I knew that babies cried, that it was normal, and that I shouldn’t scream at a baby for age-appropriate behavior, and yet I literally could not stop myself from releasing this rage.

Flashback to the birth of my first child. Yes, I do say that she is what you could call and “easy,” or “good,” baby… but it was still hard. I was still sore, she still cried, and the exhaustion was still unbearable. There were times that I wanted to scream and cry, but instead chose to care for myself and my child. Postpartum Depression took away my ability to choose, and therefore robbed me of my ability to act like myself. It was identity theft, plain and simple. I could see the options, what I wanted to choose versus what my mental illness was suggesting, and more than half the time, I was unable to make my own choice. The helplessness was overwhelming.

Now, I’m going to give myself a lot of credit. While I was unable to make appropriate choices [i.e. screaming versus not screaming] I had the ability to remove myself from my children and let the mental illness have its way without harming anyone else in the process. Much like Dr. Jekyll would lock himself away before transforming into Mr. Hyde. Obviously the trouble is, there is always the risk of Mr. Hyde taking over completely, or strong arming his counterpart, which is ultimately why I went for help. That, and because I was sick of having to remove myself from my children when all I really wanted was to cuddle them in estrogen filled bliss. I was in the most powerless position I’ve ever been in, and the strongest. I clawed and climbed my way from rock bottom to where I am now. I fought doctor’s and nurses who wanted nothing more than to lock me in the hole I was already in, in the name of “safety”. I fought multiple healthcare systems who told me they couldn’t help, until I finally found women who would.

I wish it didn’t have to be a fight. I wish it had been easier… but the silver lining in all of this is that I got to see how strong I really am. Hind sight has shown me that what I thought was my weakest moment was actually my strongest. I am a badass, and I pray that moms everywhere will find and embrace their own inner strengths, even if they find they are cloaked in weakness and dusted with shame.

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

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I’ve been slacking in the recipe department, so I thought I would share a recipe for my father-in-laws favorite cookies, chocolate thumbprints. I’ve attempted to make these for him every Father’s day for the past 3 years, and I could never quite get the flavor right. This recipe is a keeper though, as it is has the closest taste to the cookies he loves from the bakery. Sophie loved helping me roll the dough and dip some of the sides in sprinkles. This is a great project for little bakers to help with.

Cookie Dough:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 4 oz. (3/4 cup) whole almonds
  • 12 oz. (1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, cut in large chunks and slightly softened
  • 4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. pure almond extract
  • 13-1/2 oz. (3 cups) bleached all-purpose flour

Chocolate filling:

  • 1/4 cup coarse sugar, such as turbinado, OR sprinkles (we did a variety)
  • 2-1/2 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 5 tsp. unsalted butter (or you can substitute 3 tsp, karo light corn syrup… like we did when we ran out of butter.)

Preheat oven to 350. In an electric mixer, mix all the dough ingredients EXCEPT the flour, on medium speed. 1 cup at a time, add in the flour until a thick dough begins to form and there are no lumps of flour. Scoop up a generous teaspoonful (2 level teaspoons) of the dough and shape it into a 1-inch ball with your hands. Roll the ball in the sugar and set it on a tray lined with waxed paper. Repeat with the rest of the dough, setting the balls slightly apart. Press a thumb or forefinger, dipped in flour, into each ball to create a depression. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes. Gently redefine the depressions with your thumb or the tip of a wooden spoon’s handle, if necessary. Rotate the sheet and continue to bake until the tops are lightly colored and the bottoms are golden brown, another 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a rack and let cool completely.

When the cookies are cool, prepare the filling: Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set in a wide skillet of almost simmering water, or in the top of a double boiler. (Or microwave on medium power for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring after the first minute.) When the chocolate is almost completely melted, remove the bowl from the heat and stir until completely melted and smooth. Using a spoon, fill the depression of each cookie with the chocolate filling. If the filling hardens while using, reheat it in the pan of hot water. When each cookie is filled, let the chocolate set for at least 15 minutes, then you can store them in an air tight container.

ENJOY!

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Summer Trips: Pittsburgh Zoo

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Before we had gotten married, Justin and I took a trip to the zoo, so it was pleasantly nostalgic to take our kids there. We usually take a big vacation in the spring or summer with my in-laws, but this year we decided to give ourselves a break (vaycays with kids are hard work!) and just do little day trips on the weekends.

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It was completely crowded and a little hectic, but the girls enjoyed themselves so much! I loved seeing the wonder and curiosity in their eyes! I can’t wait for the rest of the adventures we will be taking over the summer.

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Leaps and Bounds

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Some times I feel like I’ve made no progress; like I am still that woman who, when she looked at her children felt nothing. Even when they were pleasant and smiling, every neuron in my brain was telling me to run and I didn’t know why. Was is because I was a “bad mom”? Was it because I just wasn’t cut out for family life? Ever since I hit puberty I had been daydreaming of a husband walking through the door to greet me as I sat on the couch with our children. Where did that desire go?

There are times when I still feel like I’m not good enough, empathetic enough, or strong enough to be a mom. There are days when I just want to sit and cry, and I wonder Have I even made any progress? The answer is yes, and I see it most in my relationship with Cora.

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A newborn baby, fresh from Heaven, with a clean soul filled with innocent wonder. She had done nothing to wrong me, offend me, or cause any other kind of strife where one feels “owed” some restitution. All she demanded was my presence and my love, and I felt like I hated her for it. There was resentment, confusion, anger, and depression. Not always in that order, but those emotions were felt intensely by me on a daily basis. I knew it was wrong. I knew that wasn’t how motherhood should feel, and that’s when I knew I had to fight for myself and my baby.

I fought the good fight for appropriate mental health care, but still get angry and frustrated — what mom doesn’t? — and it is hard not to fall back into the depressing cycle where I tell myself I *can’t* do it. Some times the fear that I will slip back into that numb persona feels consuming. However, when Cora smiles, I smile. When she runs, I chase her and we both laugh. I want to snuggle with her, I want to shower her with kisses and play with her hair. If you can believe it, I am having these desires for the first time. She is 16 months and only now am I bonding with her. Pity me, highlight how depressing it is, call it sad, call it unfortunate… but I call it progress.

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Spring

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Even though the past few days have been dreary (gearing up for April showers, and all that…) We are still trying to make it outside during the small intercessions of sunshine. This winter was tough for numerous reasons, so I am pleased and relieved to see Spring on the horizon.

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We are tying to hit the potty training a little harder with Sophie so she will be totally comfortable to use the bathroom at school this fall. She will be 3 at the end of May and I can hardly believe that she is this walking, talking little person with her own ideas about the world.

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I am also eager to see Cora begin walking. She has such an adventurous spirit, that I am surprised she isn’t already walking. She can take a few steps at a time, but she knows crawling is more efficient at this point, and chooses to do that most of the time.

I’m hoping more time outside and spent with other kids will both help them to overcome these developmental milestones.

I’m Back!

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My last post was on self-care which is ironic because we slowly slipped into a week of unhealthiness. The kids got sick with various ailments, one of which led Cora and I to urgent care on Sunday morning, and we definitely indulged in some early Easter treats and sloth. I don’t think the latter did our immune systems any favors, so now that we are on the mend I am recommitted to the health and over all wellness of my family.

The good news is, our weather is warming up which means more running around outside with the girls and going for strolls before nap time. It no coincidence  that my health thrives when the weather warms up. Not only am I more motivated to maintain my healthy habits, but my kids encourage me to because they want to be outside and I enjoy the sunshine as well.

In other news, I have decided to focus more on my photography. The picture above was taken by a professional in a studio, and it was a very stressful and embarrassing session. My mother-in-law and husband both agreed I could get similar results with my own skills, and the kids might behave better in the home environment. I have been looking for an excuse to buy more gear and learn programs like photoshop and lightroom, and I think I have found my chance. I hope to be doing portraits professionally by the summer. I’ll keep you updated on the blog, especially because I think I will be using this blog’s namesake as branding for my potential business.

Exciting opportunities lie ahead, and I hope you all will join me for the ride!