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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Continuing Celebrations

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After the holidays, most people talk about there being a slump. Well, in our family we have J’s birthday come at the end of January, then we will have Cora’s 1st birthday in February, a bit of a lull in March, Easter in April, and then we are going to go to California again in May (which is also Sophie’s birthday month!) Many exciting things will be happening for us this year, and I’m hoping to make 2017 a good one.

I wanted to brag about how we will be celebrating well into summer, but also I wanted to share my resolutions with you. Here they are:

  1. Be more aware of spending. I know this is a resolution for many people EVERY year, but this is the first time this resolution has made it to my list. With 2 kids and a mortgage, I need to make a better effort of limiting my spending.
  2. Move more. Notice how I DIDN’T say “go to the gym ___ times a week.” Nope. My resolution is just to move more. Whether that means playing at the park with my kids, taking them to the mall to walk around, or hopping on my stationary bike in the basement, I need to get my body moving!
  3. Eat healthier. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I say it every year. Seriously though? I’m addicted to sugar. Like, once I have it, I keep craving it and thinking bout it until I can eat some thing sweet again. I’m hoping the more I move my body, the more I will crave foods that can sustain energy and therefore keep me moving.
  4. Be nicer to myself. Last year I had a mean battle with depression and anxiety. A lot of the time, I was being way too hard on myself! I am so gentle, compassionate, and understanding with many of my friends, s why can’t I give myself that same courtesy?

What are your resolutions?

Postpartum Depression

I have debated on whether or not I publicly wanted to declare that I am suffering with postpartum depression, and have since decided that it would be more therapeutic and healing for me to write about it, then to put effort into concealing it.

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I have been on a long and exhausting journey, and I wish I could say I have reached my destination but the reality is, I am still on the road to recovery. I don’t know when I will feel comfortable writing about my experience from start to finish, but today I wanted to reveal my very first encounter with a psychiatrist when I first started treatment. This doctor was horrible, and I’m not just saying that because I am “ill” or because she told me things I didn’t want to hear; I’m saying that because she had no clue about postpartum depression and was less than qualified to do her job. To any woman who has attempted to get care and been treated this way, I am sorry. I am sorry that our system failed  you. I am sorry that you may have even given up seeking treatment because of a bad experience. I am sorry that mental health care professionals carry stigmas against their own patients. I know; I experienced it.

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I remember walking into her office, alone, afraid, and completely vulnerable. Her space was the epitome of a psyche ward: cold pale tile floors, white walls with various dents and scratches, and bright fluorescent lights that occasionally flickered.  As I explained my symptoms she interrupted me and in a very brash tone assumed “This is your first baby, huh?” I remember being taken aback that I would A) be interrupted just as I am bearing my soul and B) to have an assumption made about me by some one who had only known me for a total of 3 grand minutes. “No,” I replied, “This is my second child, which is why I didn’t expect–” Interrupting again, she just couldn’t hold back her surprise at being so painfully wrong. “Second child? That is very unusual. Are you sure you weren’t depressed with your first? It isn’t common to have depression with your second child and not your first.” And that’s when it hit me, I wasn’t going to receive a fair assessment and this doctor was going to do every thing possible, even imagine a history of depression in me, in order to make my illness fit her perception of what Postpartum Depression looks like.

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When I thought it couldn’t get any worse, she ended our appointment by asking me, “Do you want to have any more children?” I told her, “Yes, my husband and I would like to have a large family some day.” With a cold, domineering expression she said, “You may want to reconsider. I would probably stop having children in your situation.”

In a society where it is a CARDINAL SIN to tell a woman what she can and can’t do with her body, an incompetent doctor who had assessed me for only 20 minutes decided I should never procreate ever again. This was my first experience receiving psychiatric care for my postpartum depression. Perhaps to some it sounds dramatic, but I am completely serious when I say that the care I received was criminal. It amplified my symptoms of feeling like a failure, feeling guilty, feeling crazy

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I have since found a therapist who specializes in Postpartum Depression, who cried when I told her of this account. She is the one who made me feel human again. She is the one who gave me hope that I could get better and go on to be an amazing, wonderful, loving mother [to even MORE children, if I wish!]

If you are struggling with this horrible, awful illness I want you to know 3 things: You are not alone, it is NOT your fault, and with the appropriate care you can get better. For great resources and tools to help you find a specialist, visit http://www.postpartum.net/

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Last week was a blur of trying to get caught up with housework. We all have weeks like that. The one good thing was that I was able to get together with some local moms, and have them over in our new house for some coffee and donuts.
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I had been having a tough week with Cora, the house was a wreck, and I had a friend hurt my feelings. I was a hormonal, emotional wreck. The local community of moms had no idea how I was feeling and yet just their presence, lighthearted conversation and fellowship completely cheered me up. As much as I struggle living outside of the Golden State, those are the moments that remind me why I decided to settle here in the first place.

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In other news, Cora is basically crawling. She can army crawl like a banshee, and can crawl short distances on her knees. Physically, she is so far ahead of where Sophie was at this age. She impresses us every day! Who knows what God has in store for a girl with her determination…

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One of the cons of such determination is that it makes her a fighter against every thing. We have had to resort to “crying it out” with her at nap and bed time. Sophie was easily soothed by my voice or my touch; Cora screams whether she is being held or left in a crib. Crying it out allows her to work through her tantrum and gives me the permission to separate myself from her fits. It helps me to calm down and not take her screaming rage personally. In fact, I would even go so far as to say the CIO method has made me more patient and loving toward her. We let her cry in 10 minute increments before going in to pat her on the back for a few minutes.  We repeat the cycle until she falls asleep. The longest she has cried is 50 minutes, but it has gotten to be less and less time the more we have practiced letting her cry it out.
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When she is awake she is such a happy, charismatic kid! There are many families in our little community who have kids around her and Sophie’s age, so I can’t wait to strengthen some of my own relationships with other moms, which will hopefully lead to solid friendships for my kids.

How do you expand your network of local parents?

Unconditional Love

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When you think of toddlers and babies, your first thought is probably not “unconditional love.” I mean, they tantrum when you won’t run on the TV, cry when you walk in the room, and even say “No like you, mama.” The unconditional love I’m talking about is one that doesn’t see my weight, skin color, or life accomplishments. My kids don’t care that I never went for my masters degree, they don’t care that I’m a solid 40 lbs overweight, and they don’t care that I’ve been swearing under my breath since 6 am.

All they see when they look at me, is the mama who has nurtured them from birth, snuggles with them on the couch, and plays with them during the day. Even on my worst days as a human being, Sophie still wants to give me a good night kiss. Her love sees beyond my failures as a mother. When I am at my limit, and exasperated because Cora won’t sleep, she gives me the biggest grin as I attempt to swaddle her again for the 1,000,000th time. At this stage in life, my babies don’t hold grudges (even if I WON’T turn the TV on). There is a bliss to their innocence and ability to be easily distracted. A simplicity and forgiving spirit that I wish I had, but one that I am thankful to be the recipient of.

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Recovery

We had a busy weekend and J and I are still recovering. Summer is always a busy time in our little town, because the university puts on retreats for high school youth to rekindle their interest in the church. Honestly, those conferences are how I ended up in the Buckeye State to begin with. Anyway, J has weird work hours as the retreats take place over the weekends. Between that, the wonderful wedding we attended and Cora’s unpredictable sleep schedule, we are simply exhausted.

I stopped nursing Cora last week, and like many moms know, that decision came with a ton of different emotions. I went out and bought myself a few new clothes to help with the transition. No, I didn’t go to Macy’s or anything like that, just picked up a few things from Walmart to get me through summer, since the majority of my clothes are currently nursing tops and nursing bras with various clasps and openings that make it convenient to nurse, but aren’t overall that comfortable to wear.

The one thing keeping me smiling is Sophie’s amazing attitude. She is definitely bordering on the “terrible two” stage, but even with that being said, she is a total sweetheart 99% of the time. She is starting to interact with Cora more, becoming more responsible with the little chores and tasks we give her, and more affectionate (my personal favorite).

We have a busy week ahead, but I’m hoping to find respite by watering the garden with Sophie, cuddling with Cora, and going to the weekly moms group I recently discovered.

A Mommy’s To-Do List

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Last night, for the third night in a row, my big toenail caught on the sheet as I slid into bed. Oh yeah, I meant to cut that yesterday, well — really, I meant to cut it 2 nights ago. I should put that on my to-do list.... and as I talked to myself about my toenail, I began to laugh. My TO DO list?! Really, I need to write it down on a list for my toenails to get cut? What has become of my personal hygiene? So I decided to take a screen shot this morning, of my to do list. I make a list every week of the things I hope to accomplish, and it is usually some variation of this list.

Typically, there are three components to my list: stuff for the girls, chores, and personal hygiene.  Never in my life would I have thought that personal hygiene would end up on a to-do list, but until you’ve been a parent you just don’t realize how much of your time caring for children takes up. And if you think that’s gross, then stop reading here because I’m about to explain item #1 on the list…

“Soak Cora’s clothes” you know what that means? Whenever Cora has a diaper blowout, I try to soak the poopy clothes ASAP. Some times we’re out shopping when this happens, so the soiled outfit gets wrapped in a bag and thrown in my purse. (yep, that’s another thing I never thought I’d do…. carry poop in my purse.) So at some point during the week, I have to gather up all the soiled clothes, pre-treat them, and then soak them because they literally have been soiled for DAYS and I’ve either forgotten about them, or they honestly got lost in the abyss of my enormous diaper bag.

Now chores are what you’d expect to find on a to-do list. These chores are pretty run-of-the-mill, but notice how there are no deep cleaning chores such as “clean base boards” or even “dust.” It’s a miracle that week old poopy clothes get washed and not just thrown out, ok? In addition to all the other BS on my to do list, I am keeping my babies alive and happy, while also trying to keep myself alive and happy which takes roughly the same amount of effort.

 

I Wore A Bikini

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While we were on vacation, I wore a bikini. And I don’t just have a few stretch marks, I wasn’t “fit” before I got pregnant, only to be left with a slightly sagging stomach. I don’t just have a bit of cellulite on my butt from only 20 lbs. of weight gain during pregnancy. Nope. I was over-weight when I got pregnant, gained a nice 35 lbs, doubled the amount of stretch marks I got from my first pregnancy, and some how acquired new cellulite dimples and divets all over my thighs.

This is not a post about how confident and comfortable I am with my body despite its imperfections. While I’ve said before that I’m not rushing my weight loss, that doesn’t mean I love what I see every time I look in the mirror. I’m writing this post and sharing this picture, because it illustrates a genuinely happy moment. In this moment I didn’t care how much I weighed, I didn’t care how much motherhood had taken its toll on my body, I cared about having fun at the pool with Sophie, and that’s it.

I like this swimsuit. I think it looks cool, trendy, and flattering. Did I feel 100% confident in it? No. Do I want to cry when I look at toned pictures of myself on our tropical honeymoon from 4 years ago? Yes. But this is not about that. This is about [mostly] embracing who I was that day, in that moment. This is about throwing self consciousness to the wind in order to have fun with my daughter at the pool.

Nowadays, a woman is considered confident if she posts a picture, stripped down, in a bikini or less, and that’s not the message I want to perpetuate. I don’t think exuding confidence comes from showing off your body. As I said, I wore a bikini and did not feel confident. Also, just because a woman refrains from stripping down doesn’t mean that she’s self conscious. No, these photos aren’t pushing either agenda. These photos communicate a happiness to be alive and to be a mom.That’s why I’m sharing them, as a reminder to do what makes you happy, and not let what other people think stop you from wearing some thing that you think is cute, doing some thing that you’ll have fun doing, or making memories with your child.

I stumbled across this quote from Alyssa Milano the other day, that really captures how I feel, “Our bodies are not made to look good in a string bikini! Our bodies are made to nurture and cuddle and all of those amazing things that come along with being a mom.” When I saw this picture of Sophie and I at the pool, I saw a mom who was doing both. Having fun, feeling cute in a bikini despite not looking perfect by society’s standards because I am in the middle of caring for my girls. And that is just fine by me.

Cora Update: 1 Month

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I was going through some of my old posts, trying to decide what to write about for today. I have some exciting new content to share, but I noticed we haven’t done a Cora update in over 2 weeks! Ok, so that’s not a lot of time… but babies change so quickly! Not to mention I have some new, adorable photos I took of her that I want to share. 😉

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She is a whopping 10 lbs now and has grown 2 inches since birth. I was concerned she wasn’t eating enough, but those worries are long gone. She is really smiley when you make eye contact and talk to her. She is so strong and loves to be kept upright for as long as her little neck muscles will allow. Speaking of neck muscles, she can hold her head up, moving it from side to side, for short periods of time.

Sophie has become increasingly affectionate toward her baby sister. I truly think having them close together (21 month age difference) has helped to keep any jealousy at bay.

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Cora sleeps fairly well at night. She will usually give me a 5 hour chunk of sleep before waking once in the middle of the night. Overall she has been a more difficult newborn than Sophie was. She demands to be held for most of the day, hates lying flat on her back, and is extremely gassy! So much so, that the pediatrician and I are on a mission to see if she has a food allergy. Otherwise, she is a total  doll who is slowly stealing bits of my heart each day. I haven’t had the same quality time with her, that I had with Sophie, but we get little moments together during Sophie’s naps that have helped us to bond.

Be on the lookout for more updates on this little sweetheart, as well as some more original content.

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Good Friday

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I’m going to be really transparent with you: This was an exhausting week. Not exhausting like “I’ve been really busy and got an hour less of sleep than I normally do…” No. This has been a week where the baby cried every 20 minutes, the house was chaos as we started transitioning our winter things to spring, I was running on only a few hours of sleep every day, and the toddler decided to test some boundaries (as they do…) J came home for lunch one day to find me on the floor crying because I literally didn’t know how to handle everything.

We’re human, and some times we can’t handle everything. It doesn’t matter if we should be able to, it doesn’t matter if the task seems easy or hard, some times we just can’t handle what’s on our plate and we need to call reinforcements. Luckily for me, I have awesome reinforcements. That afternoon, J took the rest of the day off to help me handle what I couldn’t do alone. He let me get in a 4 hour nap that my body was begging for, and after that, a couple of my friends dropped in just to see if I needed any help with the kids. Just when I couldn’t feel more loved, a mom from church delivered me a home cooked dinner and brownies.

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I am loved and I am lucky. When Jesus suffered, he was alone. I can’t imagine how that must have felt, as I just explained, I am easily overwhelmed and isolated just with the work of being a Stay-at-home mom. He took on unbearable pain, and he did it alone. My week has been rough, but ending it with Good Friday has certainly helped me to keep things in perspective. He did it alone because he loves us, and he was capable of doing it alone because he was the Son of God. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree in that, I’m more a kin to Eve than I am to Christ. She was also alone when she decided to eat that apple. I’d like to think that suffering alone would help me be closer to Jesus than to Eve, but let’s be honest: I’m a sinner… 99% of the time, I’m going to drift closer to Eve. I’m sure suffering alone has its merits, but for me holiness comes through humility and admitting that I need help. I can’t do it alone. Holiness is being seen stripped of all my armor and perceived strength,  lying in a puddle of my own tears. So that is what I did this week. It was hard, exhausting, and embarrassing at times, but it’s what I needed, and I can’t help feeling like a new woman as I emerge out of Good Friday and head toward Easter Sunday.

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Part of the reason our house is in such disarray  is because we have another BIG change we’ll be experiencing soon. Some of you may have guessed it already but,  we bought a house! OK, so the sale is still “pending” but we are so excited and I’ve been wanting to announce it here for a couple weeks. Yes, I am overwhelmed because we just had  a new baby, switched to a new church, and now we’re going to be moving into a new house. These are all fabulous changes of course, but to a person with anxiety it has been overstimulating to say the least. Anyway, I’ll be posting updates about the house when I can (be on the lookout for pictures soon!) because we have exciting updates planned for it!

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Most importantly: have a happy Easter everyone! and don’t expect too many posts for the next few days, as we will be celebrating this joyful feast with family, and I want you to, too!