Thursday, April 28, 2016

My History with Anxiety

It seems like people are talking more and more about anxiety these days. I love it! It makes me so happy that issues kept quiet in the past are now common talk. I think it helps everyone to be able to openly discuss something like anxiety. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this blog has mostly become a place for me to process life and speak my truth. I am happy for other people to read it, and in doing so I hope that I can be helpful or even motivational.

So anxiety... I get a little anxious even just typing that out, ha! Anxiety can surface in a variety of ways. For me, it appears in jitters, stomach flips, vision loss, sometimes flushing of the skin, and last but not least, panic attacks. My anxiety didn't show up until my parents divorce when I was about 19 years old. Since then it has come and gone with the events that have happened in my life. Here is my story of anxiety thus far.

At 19 years old and a freshman in my second semester of college my parents decided to get a divorce. This divorce came out of NOWHERE! I had no idea my parents were having problems. My family was a solid missionary family, we were the model of the perfect Christian family. Seriously, I had often thought that my family was too perfect. Well, not so. I won't go into all the details, but long story short my parents got a divorce because my mom was gay and felt like she couldn't live the lie of a straight marriage anymore. Both of my brothers were upset so I felt like it was up to me to stay strong. I put on a happy face and pretended like everything was ok, but deep down everything was very very messed up. This is when the anxiety started.

I went to a small college in a small community where a lot of people knew me and my family. After the divorce I was afraid to look people in the face for fear that I would see pity in their eyes. I did NOT want to be pitied for the tragedy that my family had become. I also knew that people didn't approve of my mom's "gayness", so I also didn't want to see those looks of disapproval. (Though, I did see plenty of those looks.) Avoiding people that knew my family was impossible, so the anxiety began to creep in. Anytime I saw or spoke with someone that knew of my parents divorce I felt like my insides were rotting and on fire. My eyes would often blur or my vision just went black sometimes. It was an incredibly crippling feeling. So to get past it I just ignored as many people as I could. Or I drank, or smoked weed. Those helped for a short amount of time, but the relief was never long term.

The summer after my freshman year of college I moved to the beach. I had escaped! At first it felt really good. I didn't know anyone, the anxiety was gone, I felt like I could start over. As the summer went on though, I began to miss my family desperately. I felt like I had just abandoned them for my own sanity and it felt wrong. Then I had my first panic attack. I was driving and another car cut in front of me. It was nothing, no accident, not even close. But it set something off inside of me. I freaked out, then my vision began to go black, and all of a sudden my fists clenched. Luckily I was able to pull my car over and just barely got it into park before I lost all control of my body. From that point, my whole body seized up. It felt like every single muscle in my body was fully tensed. My fists were clenched so tight that my nails were digging into my skin. My chest was heavy and I couldn't breathe. I had to gasp for air. All the while my vision was blacked out and I couldn't see anything. I honestly thought I was dying. Everything inside of me felt like it was failing. Luckily a passing car stopped and called 911. An ambulance came and got me. They loaded me into the ambulance and calmed me down on the way to the hospital. Once my breathing was under control everything went back to normal in my body. I could see again and my fists unclenched. They told me I had a panic attack. After that, I moved back home for the rest of the summer.

Throughout that summer I had two more pretty sever panic attacks, both while I was driving. I began carrying a brown paper bag with me everywhere I went in case I needed to breathe into it to get my breath back to normal. It was a rough summer, especially as my parents finalized their divorce and put our house up for sale. I had anxiety for the rest of college, and a few more panic attacks. I figured out how to manage the panic attacks, but the anxiety never went away.

Since college I have worked SO HARD at managing my anxiety. It comes and goes. If there is a big event in my life it usually comes back pretty severely. When I got married, a wedding was out of the question for me. I knew it would bring on all sorts of anxiety, so Andy and I eloped. While I am sad that we never had a wedding, I do feel like I dodged a huge bullet and was able to escape a lot of anxiety and stress. Big family events still bring on a lot of anxiety, but at least I am not the center of attention, so the anxiety is manageable.

When I gave birth to Hazel I had an inkling that my anxiety may come back, and it sure did. After bringing Hazel home the anxiety settled in like a dark cloud. Not a depressing cloud, just an uptight anxious one. I was anxious about leaving the house, anxious about breastfeeding, anxious about visitors. Pretty much everything caused me severe anxiety, and I was so overwhelmed with having a newborn that I couldn't control the anxiety like I had in the past. When Andy had to go back to working out of town during the week, my anxiety would get so bad right before he left that I would vomit. It was embarrassing and I was so overwhelmed. I didn't even tell Andy at the time that I was anxious because I was embarrassed for feeling out of control of myself. While Andy was gone all week I would just hole up in the house with Hazel out of fear of leaving the house. If we needed something, too bad, I wasn't leaving.

I finally realized that my anxiety was taking over my life. I began setting small goals for myself to leave the house with Hazel. Slowly, little by little, I got out more. In the beginning it felt horrible and wrong, but I left the house anyway. Then I started to exercise and eat better. That's when I noticed a HUGE difference in my anxiety. I began feeling more confident, more healthy, and that helped with leaving the house. I didn't mind talking to strangers anymore, or doing multiple errands in one day. I still have anxiety, but I finally feel like it is under control again. I don't think my anxiety will ever completely go away, but I know how to control it for the most part. Now I also know that exercise helps with it, SO MUCH. I am happy to constantly be arming myself with little things to combat my anxiety.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Finally...A Birth Story

Now that I am 8 months past giving birth I finally feel like the trauma is gone! Since giving birth, many of my friends have had babies and I can now confidently say that I think the whole process is beautiful and magical. Looking back at my newly postpartum blog posts, I surely did NOT think anything about having a baby was beautiful. I have finally come around though!

I want to record the birth story of Hazel before it slips my memory too much. I know big parts of it have already dissolved from my memory, and I'm sure Andy would dispute the way I tell the story, but this is my birth story and how I remember it. Be forewarned, I wrote out the long version. :)

I was diagnosed with melanoma just a few weeks before my due date. It was a mole that had spread and become discolored. Luckily we caught it early, so all they would have to do was a minor surgery to remove the mole and a large area around it. The surgeon did not want to perform the surgery until I had delivered my baby though. I passed this news on to my midwife and OB who then consulted a variety of other doctors about this issue. They concluded that it would be best to induce me so that I could have the baby before the melanoma spread or got any worse. I was induced the same day they made that decision. Andy and I had approximately 5 hours to prepare our house and ourselves to welcome a new baby. Eeek!

So it was two and half weeks before my due date that I was induced. I had an appointment early afternoon where my midwife swept my membranes. (Don't ask what that is, because I really don't know.) It was uncomfortable and I actually felt contractions start immediately. She said that might happen. Then I went home to clean the house before heading into the hospital for my actual induction. All afternoon I had light contractions while I cleaned like a crazy person.

At 5pm Andy and I checked into the hospital and I was given Cervadil. I had already been having contractions, but the Cervadil was supposed to ease me into labor even more. That night I slept a few hours through light contractions. I woke around 5am pumped full of adrenaline because I knew we were going to have a baby that day. Unfortunately, my contractions were still very light, so they left the Cervadil in for another 6 hours. Since my labor was light we decided to let a few visitors stop by. We joked about painful labor and had a pretty good time despite my contractions slowly getting stronger. Once all the visitors had left, Andy and I decided to walk laps. We walked and walked and walked around the labor unit! This helped and definitely brought on stronger contractions to the point where I would have to stop walking, grasp the railing on the wall, and moan my way through the contraction. It was quite dramatic!

Around 4pm we went back to the laboring room because walking was too exhausting for me. At that point I bounced on a ball, rolled around the bed, moaned like a banshee, vomited, cried, rolled around the bed some more, and finally I got into the whirlpool. The whirlpool was pure bliss. I was able to relax, but unfortunately that just made my contractions come on even stronger. After an hour they forced me out of the whirlpool to check my progress. I was butt naked, dripping wet, shaking, crying, and moan-yelling. I was a complete mess!! When they checked me I was 6cm...only 6cm after 24 hours. This came as a huge disappointment to me, as I was in the most miserable pain I had ever been in.
 Andy thought this was funny and texted it to all of our friends...he didn't mention it until after I gave birth. (shame on him!)
Despite not wanting to get an epidural, I was at my wits end. On a pain scale of 1-10 I was a 12! I didn't know that kind of pain even existed. The pain was so bad that I was shaking uncontrollably and felt like I had zero control of myself. Through shaking and yell-moaning from pain I demanded an epidural. They said the anesthesiologist was with another patient and couldn't come for another 15-20 minutes. That was unacceptable to me. I told the nurse I would die if I had to wait that long, so she hooked me up to IV pain meds. The IV helped, though I just felt like I was high and in pain at the same time...definitely a strange experience.

A funny picture we took while friends were visiting, before my contractions were bad.
Around 6pm the anesthesiologist came in and politely explained the procedure to me while I balled my eyes out and vomited again. I was in immense pain, but I was also scared of getting an epidural. After some more drama from me, I finally sat still and got the epidural. It was a piece of cake and I really didn't feel anything. Very quickly my body numbed, the pain went away, and a feeling of peace flooded my exhausted body. It was like night and day. I fell into a deep sleep. Around 8pm I was 8cm dilated so they broke my water...I didn't feel a thing. Though apparently I pooped myself, lovely. I slept for a few more hours and around 10:45pm I woke up to the midwife checking my progress and saying, "Ohh, you are having this baby right now!"

A flood of nurses came into the room, two giant spotlights were turned on, my feet were placed in stirrups, and we were having a baby! I was not prepared at all. In fact I asked if it absolutely had to happen at that moment, ha. I had been sleeping and was out of it. I felt like I needed a good hour to process what was about to happen, but no such luck, they could already see the head! Everything was very frantic. Andy held my one leg, a nurse held the other, and the midwife was at the base of the bed. My body was still very numb, but I could feel a strange painful pressure in my lower abdomen. They had me hooked up to the monitor to see when my contractions were coming, and it felt like I had a contraction every 30 seconds, no lie. I pushed hard and strong and intensely while everyone yelled at me for a good 15 minutes. (Seriously, it felt like chaos.) Right before the last push I vomited one last time, just for good measure...and then, Hazel was born! Just like that. 11:07pm, 30 hours after my labor had started.

They put Hazel on my chest, but she wasn't crying so they gave her a good shake and sure enough she started wailing. Andy jumped into bed with me and we all had a good cry....and now I can see the beauty and magic in birth. The end. (Or rather beginning.) :)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Glimpses of Myself

My biggest fear with having a baby was losing myself. Before getting pregnant I repeatedly heard from new moms that they didn't know who they were anymore, and that they had lost any personal interests. While I tried to understand them, I had difficulty because I have always been very sure of myself and who I am. The idea that having a baby would change everything, even ME seemed so foreign. Well...I get it now!

For the last 7-months my life has been filled with everything all consuming baby. I expected this. I just didn't realize that I would not have time for myself in all of the baby craziness. Or that when I was given opportunity for me-time I would rather spend it just sitting and staring at a wall not thinking about anything. Lately though, I have been carving out little bits of intentional time just for me to be creative. If I have heard any parenting advice loud and clearly, it has been to take care of yourself so that you can better take care of your baby. This is SO TRUE.

The more time I make specifically just for me, the more energized, positive, and creative I feel. It is exciting to have creative juices flow through my veins again. I am a creative person, so to be without creativity, or time for it, makes me feel stifled and unmotivated. A few weeks ago I took a walk through the woods at our local arboretum and stumbled upon a rock labyrinth. I walked it and let my mind wander. It was the most wonderful thing! Since then, I have been in creative project mode. I have all sorts of ideas bursting forth and I have even completed some of them already!

It is exciting to see these glimpses of me coming back. I had a baby, but she is not my whole life. I am my own person, with my own ideas and aspirations outside of my child and husband. It may have taken me 7 months postpartum to act on that, but I am glad to have gotten here. Like I said, the best advice given to me about having a baby was to make time to take care of myself. I am, and it feels so GOOD!

Here's a funky little short film that I just made as part of re-discovering my creativity.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Dealing with Baby Weight...

Bear with me while I rant about my weight...Or, skip to the bottom of the page for some humor.

I have been keeping track of my postpartum progress including the physical, mental/emotional aspects, and I seem to be improving everywhere except for the weight loss category. I am five months postpartum and something has got to give! My pregnancy weight gain was only 20 pounds, and while that isn't much, I haven't lost a single pound of it. About 1-week after giving birth I had lost half the weight and felt great. I was even doing yoga and taking walks around the neighborhood. Five weeks after giving birth though, I had gained all the pregnancy weight back. I am completely baffled by it! Why on earth am I still the same weight as I was at 9-months pregnant?! I guess I'll blame it on hormones, stress, less sleep...etc?

People like to say, "don't be so hard on yourself, you just had a baby", or "the weight will come off, just give it time", or "it took 9-months to put the weight on so it will take 9-months for it to come off". While I appreciate people being positive and supportive, those comments don't help. Instead, why don't you tell me about a great workout program, or a diet pill that works, maybe give me some healthy recipes to try, heck- why don't you just cook me a healthy meal? Unfortunately, those things are not happening, so it is in my hands to deal with this.

I am tired of not fitting into any of my clothes, I am tired of aches and pains most likely caused by extra weight that my body is not used to, and I am tired of feeling bad about my body. Before I got pregnant I loved my body, even the flaws. In fact, I really didn't care that much about how I looked. I felt good, and my clothes fit, so I was happy with my body. End of story. Now though, I am having body image feelings that I haven't had before! These are feelings that I can't turn off. I know that I grew a whole human and then pushed her out, but somehow in my head that doesn't justify the body that I currently have. It isn't so much the lumps and bumps that bother me, but the size that I am. It is a size I have never been and I don't like it! And my breasts...don't even get me started. I fear I may never see perky breasts again!

So now that I have gotten all my whining out of the way, here's what I am going to do about it. I am going to lose the weight! Maybe it will take me all of the 9-months, maybe it won't. I am tired of sitting on the sidelines "being a mom" and waiting for my body to go back to normal. This blog post is a motivation for me to get to work on losing the baby weight. It is my hope that by you reading it I will be held accountable to lose the weight.

Now for some humor...

A few days ago I went to the gym (go me!) and I jogged(!!) for the first time since having a baby and gaining 20 pounds. Let me tell you, I am not a runner. I struggle to run. I dislike running. However, I was invited to a "run 100 miles this year" group, so I joined and I started. Yikes, it was interesting... Let me just say, my breasts are currently NOT built for running...neither is my butt. I never could have dreamed that I would be one of those women jogging with bouncing boobs practically hitting me in the face. (Is that even possible?) Talk about uncomfortable. I may look into duck taping my bra before the next running attempt. But it wasn't just my boobs, it was my butt too!! Never, NEVER, have I felt my butt cheeks flop around while jogging! It was a strange sensation. At first, I thought it was my t-shirt hitting the backs of my legs. After a few shirt adjustments I quickly realized it was not a wardrobe malfunction, it was MY BUTT CHEEKS flopping around! Can you imagine the horror? No really? Never have I imagined such a sensation! I almost stopped right then and there, just got off the treadmill and walked away pretending like it never happened. -But I didn't! I ran the mile, and then walked a second mile after that.

So all of this to say: I had a baby, my body isn't the same, but I'm going to do something about it. If it takes flopping butt cheeks and bouncing boobs to get there, then so be it.


Edit: A few months later and I finally found something that worked for losing the baby weight. I feel amazing and have lost 18 pounds, not to mention I am SO much more healthy now. Check out my story here.

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Breastfeeding Story

This is a story that I have tried to sit down and write numerous times. Each time it is too painful to get anything down, so I have successfully pushed it aside until now. It is a story about pain in my heart, guilt, and shame. I wasn't even going to write this story, but I feel that I should so that it can be a support to others who have had/are having the same issues.

Before giving, before even getting pregnant, I knew I would breastfeed. To me, breastfeeding was the most natural, beautiful thing that a mother and her new baby could do together. I dreamt about it and couldn't wait until I was able to breastfeed my own baby someday. When I got pregnant I was sick and uncomfortable and unsure about giving birth, but more than anything I was excited about breastfeeding. I was sure that breastfeeding was where I would find joy in this whole process of having a baby.

After giving birth they placed Hazel on my bare chest. I asked the nurse if I should try to breastfeed and she said "no, wait until the baby finds your breast and she will nurse on her own time". An hour passed and Hazel had not found her way to my breast. They took her to clean her, weigh her, get her vitals etc., then she came back to me and I put her to my breast. Nothing happened. All of the beauty and magic that I believed would surround Hazel and me during our first time breastfeeding was not there. With each try to get her to latch, then each fail, my heart broke.

Over the next few days in the hospital I continued to try to breastfeed Hazel. I had a variety of lactation specialists come in and help me. They said I had flat nipples, so I was given a nipple shield. That helped, but Hazel's latch wasn't very good and my milk wasn't coming in as quickly as I thought it would.

We took our new baby home and promptly had an appointment with the pediatrician. Hazel had lost about a pound since being born (down to 5 pounds!) and needed to gain weight. My milk still had not come in. I was given instructions to drink dark beer, take fenugreek, drink mother's milk tea, use brewers yeast in cooking etc. I tried it all...still, my milk didn't come in. Hazel was not gaining weight and screamed day and night, probably due to hunger.

Breastfeeding was becoming frustrating. Where was the magic, the feel-good-feelings, the bonding? None of that was happening. I was taken over with sadness and stress by the whole situation. We were at the pediatrician every other day weighing Hazel and trying to get her to feed properly so that my milk would come in. She was diagnosed with a tongue AND lip tie. We had the tongue-tie corrected and that helped with her latch, but she still was not nursing well. She would cry at my breast, then I would cry. My days were filled with trying to breastfeeding, then pumping about a 1/2 ounce, repeat...all-day-long.

After a month of very little weight gain for Hazel, my milk STILL not fully in, an emotionally drained me, and a very cranky baby, we resorted to formula. When I began to supplement breastfeeding with formula, Hazel started to gain weight. She didn't stop crying, but she was gaining weight. I had overwhelming feelings of guilt giving her formula, but at the same time relief because she was gaining weight. All the while I was still trying to increase my supply in the hopes that Hazel would exclusively breastfeed.

At month-two Hazel's weight was still very low. She was gaining, but not enough. So the pediatrician and I went back to the drawing board. I took Hazel to the hospital for lab work, it came back fine. The pediatrician suspected a milk allergy so I cut out all dairy from my diet and we changed her formula to a hypoallergenic brand. Finally, finally Hazel's weight gain picked up and she started crying less. Over the next month Hazel had packed on a few pounds and wasn't crying at all anymore. It truly felt like a miracle!

Through this whole process though, what little milk supply I had tanked. I started with very little supply which has slowly gone down to just a few drops. Hazel is 95% fed on hypoallergenic formula. She uses my breast mostly as comfort once a day, sometimes none. I am happy that she is fed, growing, and content now, but I still feel pangs of guilt and sadness that it is not my body feeding her. We have not been able to have the breastfeeding relationship that I so desperately hoped for. The only way I am getting through this is by telling myself that she is getting fed and that is what's important.

So here I am, five months after giving birth, mourning something that I never really had. I had hoped breastfeeding would be the joy that I was seeking in this whole process of having a baby, but it has been the opposite. I have never felt so hopeless, stressed, and sad about anything else in my life as I have felt about breastfeeding. And that, is my breastfeeding story. It may be the biggest heartbreak of my life thus far.

Monday, January 4, 2016

5-month Postpartum Truths


Wow, I haven't written a post like this since I was 6-weeks postpartum! I guess I haven't had time. I also haven't had the head-space to organize my thoughts. I have so many postpartum thoughts these days and this post hardly brushes the surface. Shew-whee, where to begin...

5 months ago I gave birth. I have since forgotten the pain, but there is still trauma. I have to admit though, I am more traumatized by being pregnant than giving birth. The birth came and went in 30 meager hours, done. Pregnancy however, seemed like it lasted half of my life!!! Despite not being pregnant anymore, I am still horrified by the experience. That just goes to show how sick and uncomfortable I was. I am not a fan of surrendering my body to nine months of uncontrollable reactions and growth.

On to somewhat more pleasant things. Hazel, is a doll. No literally she looks like a doll. It's a good thing she is cute, because she definitely tried our patience those first three months. It is one thing to have a new baby and adjust to a different way of life. It's another story altogether to have a baby with colic...or whatever it is that makes them so cranky all the time. Hazel cried nonstop for the first three months. I often found myself crying along with her because I didn't know what else to do. We were/are regulars at the pediatrician's office, everyone knows us by name now because we were there (no-kidding) every other day for the first month, then twice a week after that. Only at month-three did we finally start tapering the visits to every other week. Most of Hazel's problems had to do with "colic", low weight gain, and breastfeeding, but I'll write another post about that later.

With Andy out of town for work most weeks and Hazel's nonstop crying, I was worn pretty ragged those first few months. I survived on showers at 2am, 1-minute breaks sitting on the back porch with the sun in my face, long cries into my coffee, granola bars, and netflix. I tell you, single/solo parenting is HARD. I don't wish it on anyone. If you know a single mom, or one whose husband works long hours (or out of town), help a mama out! I don't mean ask if she wants help, just show up and help. (I'm not gonna lie, I could have used a lot more help...I was just too proud to ask for it.)

So now that we are past the I-have-no-idea-what-I'm-doing-and-my-baby-won't-stop-crying phase, things finally feel good. Hazel is a completely different baby than she was those first few months. She laughs and smiles and we like each other. We are starting to get into some sort of routine and my anxiety about getting out of the house is almost all gone. Life is still challenging and I am often frustrated with my loss of independence (especially when Andy is not around to give me a break), but all in all I feel better about being a mom. It is crazy how much a little human can change your life. I love my child, but I truly don't understand how people can do this over and over again with multiple children. Mad respect to them! One-and-done will be my story. :)

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Motherhood is Humbling


Yep, motherhood is humbling. Never before have I contradicted myself so much or been proven wrong time and time again. I went into this parenthood-gig with perfect ideals, saying I will 'never' do this or that...and then it came down to survival and I did just that thing I said I wouldn't do. I am learning, slowly but surely. There is usually a consistent feeling of guilt, especially when mentioning these things to other parents, but I am trying to get past that. We need to not guilt each other as parents, but support and lift each other up. So here are some of the things that have humbled me, these are my truths and realities:

-I use formula. *gasp!* Something that I always thought was the devil. When boobs aren't working though, and baby isn't thriving or gaining weight, you do what you need to do.

-I have (and use) cloth diapers, but I really prefer the disposables. Cloth diapers seem like such a great idea. They really do save money at the end of the day and are a much cleaner option for the environment, but they are such a HASSLE. I do laundry every two days, they don't wick the moisture away from her as good as the disposables, they are more prone to leaking, I have to change them more often...and the list goes on. Each time I use a cloth diaper I quietly and guiltily tell myself this will be the last time.

-Even though I am not working I put my baby in daycare. *Another gasp!* "But you have the privilege of staying at home and spending the whole day with your beautiful child!" Yes, it may be a fantastic privilege that I don't have to go back to work, but mama needs a break. Especially when papa is out of town all week. Yes, I felt guilty at first, but then I started getting things done and taking care of myself and the guilt faded away. I love my child, but I can't spend every waking hour of my life with her or I will go crazy. (side note: she's only in daycare two days a week)

-I have always loathed those super colorful, eyesore floor gyms that babies can lay under. (see picture at top of page) Yeah...we have one of those now and she loves it.

-Before having a baby I swore we would only have natural wooden toys. Nope- we definitely have plastic toys covered in all the colors of the rainbow now.

-I like a good schedule and planned to put Hazel on a schedule right out of the womb, that didn't happen. She's almost 5 months old and we still don't have any type of schedule. Each day is different and that is fine.

-I promised myself that I wouldn't litter facebook and instagram with baby photos, but some days she is just so damn cute that I can't help myself!

-I always figured we would co-sleep. Andy and I even bought a bigger bed so that she could sleep in it with us. She sleeps in the crib though. I just can't sleep with her in bed. I tried and tried, but something in me would not turn off when she was in the bed. Now that she sleeps in the crib my body is able to shut off and I can sleep soundly! (Not a single bit of guilt there!)

-Before having a baby my dog was my baby. Now, I can't stand him! He smells, he barks, he annoys the crap out of me. I feel incredibly guilty that I don't love him anymore, but that's the reality of it. I am not openly trying to find another home for him, but I'm not going to deny that if someone wanted him I would totally give him away.

These are my truths. I have some guilt, but I also feel relief in areas. I am humbled everyday and life with a baby is definitely not what I expected it to be, but that's ok.