Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Joy to come

Not sleeping much is hard on the body. It's even harder on the mind.

Every night as I climb into bed, I have a moment of insanity where I allow myself to think, "What if tonight's the night? What if, by some crazy chance, he just miraculously starts sleeping through the night? I'll fall asleep now, la la la, and when I awaken, I'll stretch and yawn and say, My that felt good! And I'll look at the clock and - whatdya know?! - it will be 7am."

I think that same exact thought every single night. Sometimes I say it out loud to Adam and he'll laugh and say, "Yep. That'd be awesome."

And, every single night, I hear him cry within 30 minutes of that thought. I sigh, my wish dashed to pieces. And then I hear him cry again a few hours later. And again a few hours after that.
"Nope," I think. "Didn't happen tonight....oh well, what else can I do but just keep pushing forward?" So I groggily get out of bed and take care of my far-too-happy-for-morning baby, his gummy, open smile just daring me not to smile back at him. I always do, and, for the moment, my tiredness is forgotten. If I can, I'll take a morning nap with him. If not, I just zombie my way through the day, until night comes again.

Just like I thought my body would be completely healed by 6 weeks, I thought I'd be sleeping by 6 months. Neither of them happened, and the only solution I've found is time.

I was talking to someone else in a similar situation with their baby. She said something along the lines of: "It's like morning sickness all over again. I'm just waiting for it to pass. I wish I was enjoying this time more but it's hard."

She's right; it is really hard. Every age and stage comes with it's own joys and challenges, and it doesn't really get easier (well, it does get easier than the first 4 weeks with a newborn. Nothing is quite like that) but it just gets different.

Awhile ago, a friend shared this article with me. It's written by a mom of three (four?) kids, and she starts the article off by talking about the little old ladies at the store who always tell us Moms to enjoy every minute of this time, because it just goes by so fast! The author writes that thinking that way just gives her anxiety, it makes her feel like maybe she's doing something wrong if she's not enjoying every second of parenthood. Instead, she likes to cherish her Kairos moments.

She says there are two different types of time: Chronos, which is the time we live in, "the hard, slow passing time we parents often live in." Then there is Kairos time, the metaphysical time outside of this's God's time - "Those magical moments where time stands still." These are the moments she cherishes.

I loved this article because, it's true, people expect Moms to be happy 100% of the time, to live in each moment, to soak up every memory. Well, the truth is, I don't want to remember every second of Axton's life. I don't want to remember the hours he's screamed, the tears he's shed, the tears I've shed, the countless hours of sleep lost to the night. I don't think it's fair that I'm expected to enjoy the hard stuff. Sure, I'll get through the hard stuff, but don't expect me to like it.

An older gentlemen asked me how parenthood was treating me - he asked what everyone else expects to be true: "Are you just loving every minute?" I was honest with him, because I have that type of relationship with him.

"You know," I said, "I don't love every minute." He raised his eyebrows at me and I continued,  "I absolutely, one-hundred percent, with every fiber of my being, LOVE the many, many lovable things about parenting." I paused, letting that soak in. I shrugged my shoulders and looked right in his eyes, "And I don't the things that aren't." He pressed his lips together and nodded his head slowly. "I think that's fair," I said, and he agreed.

There is nothing in this universe that will ever compare to being a parent, and I cherish the opportunity I have to be one. I often reflect on Chronos and Kairos, and if I've been living in too much Chronos time, then I try to stop everything and really look at my son (this typically happens when he's sleeping). Kairos balances things out for me.

Today I had a Kairos moment - one that seemed a little more sacred than normal. In fact, it wasn't just that I was living in Kairos time, God's time, I was actually hearing God' voice. I was rocking Axton to sleep for his nap, and I had just started singing Silent Night. I ran my fingers over his nose and cheeks and stared into his eyes, and my mind drifted to a time in the future - a time when Axton would be singing Silent Night to me. Perhaps it was a school concert, and his dad and I were in the audience. We, of course, were so proud of him, the goofy blonde-haired boy singing up on stage. Thinking about Axton as an elementary-aged boy......Right then, I got so emotional I had to stop singing. And that's when I heard a voice in my mind telling me, "There is so much more joy to come from him. Be patient with him right now, you will see."

I needed to hear that, and God knew I did. He knows I am tired, He knows I am trying to do my best. Axton already brings us so much joy, and I needed the reminder that the joy I feel now will only continue to grow as he does. He will bring so much more light and love into my life than I could ever have thought possible - so I just need to be patient through these sacrifices I'm making now. They are small and insignificant compared to the happiness he does and will bring to me.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Hawaii: My First Semester

I've seen many of these posts floating around the blogging world in the past.

You know the ones.

The ones that make you ache for careless days in the sun, laying on the beach and digging your toes to the cool, dark sand, the steady drum of the ocean beating to a magical rhythm of beauty and power and  mystery. The ones that bring you back to palm trees and waiting for The Bus and fresh pineapple juice dripping down your chin. The ones that remind you that once upon a time, all you had to worry about was your hair going flat, not getting caught by the Honor Code, and turning an assignment in on time (though that last one really was a big worry of mine).

I'm talking about the sickly sweet blog posts of Nostalgia. And I don't think anyone but BYU-Hawaii alumni reallllly know what I am talking about. But it's my turn to reminisce.

Here's my Hawaii story, beginning with my first semester:

The first week in Hawaii was spent with my mom and Grams, who had flown out with me. I did some silly freshmen orientation stuff and met a few friends along the way. It was hard to say goodbye to my mom, but we both knew it was time.

After my mom left, things went downhill for awhile. You see, I still had a boyfriend back home - one that would be going on a mission in a few months, one that my mother hated, and one that my dad thought was a joke....It wasn't until I moved a couple thousand miles away from him that I slowly began to realize what my mom had been trying to tell me for the past 6 months: This kid was manipulative and downright emotionally abusive. I spent the first two months of my college career - IN HAWAII - stranded in my jail-cell of a dorm room, my hands glued to the phone, talking to this boy who claimed he loved me. If I wanted to make friends, he accused me of not loving him anymore because he should be all I needed. If I wanted to go to the beach, he needed me right then or else he wouldn't believe I still wanted to be with him. Now, I don't put all the blame on him. I obviously was wrapped up enough in his roller-coaster emotions to care more about his well-being than my own life. But slowly, ever so slowly, I began to stick up for myself.

I wrote in my journal:
"It seems I can't have much happiness these days because once I start to smile, the guilt creeps back up again."  -- September 11, 2008
"I am not doing good today. I'm very depressed, lonely, sick. I called [name] looking for comfort and only found more sorrow." --- September 21
"I'm so tired everyday. and I don't even do anything on the weekends. I've spent so much time trying to help [name] that I don't have any time to help myself." ---- September 28
"[Name] was in a bad mood and I just....I want to be sensitive to his feelings, but I also want him to grow up a little." --- October 19
"This week has been hell with [Name]. So many hurtful events - I've been stretched to the limit, far too much stress for my poor heart to handle. He has pushed me to the point that I have bitter feelings towards him. I have put a wall up, I've reached that "I honestly don't care anymore" point. I think I got the point across tonight that he has some major problems. He sees how poorly he treated me, that he abused me. And I see that, too. I see I don't deserve that." ---- October 25

After two months of the darkest days of my life, my lowest lows - I finally conquered my scariest demons. And I had Hawaii to thank for it. Let me show you why:

My roommate (who I had harshly and falsely judged before meeting her) became one of my best friends and a great example of a strong, independent woman.

I made other friends, too. Like Katie B. We would take the bus to Waimea and spend all day in the sun, eating our squished Caf sandwiches and jumping off the rock.

And then there was Katie S. We met in Beginning French class, where we both got bumped up to the next class up. She had family in Idaho and we just instantly clicked. I liked her the second I saw her. I knew she was a special one.

My first (and only) bike in Hawaii. It got stolen a few times, and I'd randomly find it in various places.  

On the first day of one of my classes, I overheard a woman talking about how she needed a babysitter. I don't know why I did it, but after class I walked right up to her and told her I would babysit for her. I had to completely change around my schedule to make it work, but I did it. That was one of the best things I did for myself that semester. These boys and that family were another contributing factor to my happiness. They were the quintessential Polynesian family: worked at the PCC, treated me like family even though I was a stranger, welcomed me into their home, and just showed me what the spirit of Aloha truly meant. I loved them so much. I spent so much time in their little apartment - it just felt good to be back in a family environment. 

I also worked as a dishwasher at the PCC for a few months. It was a dirty, hard job. I came home every night smelling like throw up - but I loved my co-workers (one of whom invited me to smoke pot with him. On campus. Silly kid).

Hawaii is where I took my first photography classes and bought my first camera --- and I honestly think that photography is what dragged me out of my cave of depression. I started taking pictures - of people, of the beautiful scenery around me, of everything. I saw that I was good at something, and realized I was worth more than what I had previously thought.

I started to really miss playing soccer, as I had played it all four years in high school. So I would occasionally take pictures at the girl's soccer games. 

That's when I decided to take a risk and apply for a job as a photographer for the school newspaper.  I got the job.

(I liked the "taking pictures" part a lot better than the "being in the office" part)

Once I even attempted to go sky-diving. We took the bus out, I signed the papers, I was waiting my turn, my nerve was built up: And then they had to cancel our dive due to weather. I never made it back.

In November I started dating a guy who failed to mention to me that he would be graduating the next month and therefore moving off-island. It turned out alright though, because I found out when he broke up with me on Facebook that he was a pretty big pansy. Not much of a loss there.

December came around and I had finished my first semester of college. My dad came to visit me for a week and we flew to Maui and Kauai. 

Unfortunately my dad left two days before Christmas. I spent Christmas Eve alone in a dorm room. I read my scriptures and called my family, but still ended up sobbing through the majority of the night. If Christmas alone doesn't teach you to appreciate your family, I'm not sure what will. The next day I moved in with the family I babysat for until school started back up in January. 

During the break is when I got really close to two awesome people: Allyson and Chas. Since we were pretty much the only ones left on the island for Christmas, we hung out all the time. We went on tons of hikes, watched New Year's Eve fireworks, watched movies, went to the beach, and cruised around. Ally is one of the wisest girls I've met - she is intelligent and deep and probably the least judgmental person there is. 

I will tell you a story about Ally to illustrate how dedicated she is. Right before Christmas break, Laie flooded. Big time. Like, electricity-out, school-cancelled, rivers-in-the-street flooded

That morning I had gone out to Hukilau beach where people were filling trash bags with sand to put in front of people's houses. I helped fill sand bags and then carried them around the neighborhood to whoever needed them. When I was about to head back to my house, there I found Ally, walking her bike (because, for some reason, she couldn't ride it through the feet of water) to campus. I caught up to her and asked her what in the world she was doing. She huffed and puffed, still heading in the direction of the school. "I've got to get to the library. I have to print this paper I just finished and turn it in."

I said, "Ally, are you kidding me? The library's not even open. School's cancelled."

It was like she was oblivious to the rain around her, so focused was she on turning in that paper. I loved that girl.

Borrowing Chas's shorts after drudging through the flooded streets

Lastly, what healed me the most was....

The ocean. Nothing heals like the ocean. I felt closer to God, closer to myself, closer to being the piece of this universe that I wanted to be - when I was near the ocean. When I chose my off-campus house to move into the next semester, I chose one closest to the beach. I was right across the street from it, and I spent many solo hours in the cool, clear water or lying on the sand, listening to the waves and just thinking and soaking up the beauty. It's what I ache for most when I think about Hawaii.

After those first rough months, Hawaii was a dream. An absolute crazy world of happiness and doing exactly what I wanted to be doing when I wanted to be doing it.  I started having adventures. I started seeing I was good at things - really good. I started dating again. I started excelling in my classes. I started to find out who I was and who I wanted to be in this life. 
I started to grow up.

Christmas break was coming to a close, and the second semester of college was about to begin. I was moving off campus and into a house, and I was starting to think that maybe, instead of transferring to BYU Provo, where my  major was, just maybe I would take a risk and just.....stay. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

This month I....

- Became a Nanowrimo Winner for the second year in a row!! Don't know what that means? It means I wrote 50k words towards a YA novel I'm working on. I did not "finish" the novel, but am about 2/3 of the way through what I have outlined for it.

- Started watching Switched at Birth. One of the main characters in my novel is deaf, so I like to call it "research."

- Voted "in person" for the first time. Last election I voted absentee-ballot. I really actually liked standing in line, waiting to vote, surrounded by other Americans doing the same thing. It showed me Americans valued their sovereignty, and even though I did hear a lot of complaining, they still stuck around. Voting still meant enough to wait.

- Experienced that moment when I got into the shower and stepped on my baby's bath toys and felt like I wasn't old enough for this to be happening yet.

- Celebrated Axton's 6 months birthday. By "celebrated" I mean I sent a text to Adam that said, "P.S. Axton is 6 months old today." And got a text back from him the next morning that said "Happy 6 months and 1 day Axton!" Then I took a picture - this half laugh/ half scared of whatever Mommy is doing behind the camera is the best face he'd give me.

- Watched as my son started to crawl!

- Payed for someone to cut my hair for the first time in two years. Every other time I've just waited for my mom to be around to cut it for me.

- Bought a pair of size 3 skinny jeans and was feeling pretty hot and all that jazz....

...until I found a hole in the crotch. I'd like to believe that it was there when I bought them (since I did buy them from a thrift store) and not caused from me actually not fitting into them...

-Hopped on the Twilight Bandwagon....I know, I know, I'm about, what, 6 years late? And maybe you think this is weird or unexpected or lame, but there will be a post about this soon, so just hold your horses!

- Laughed till I cried at this link: I love people.

- Cried till I laughed at this video:
Not really, but I did think, "Man I was a dork in high school." (I'm the one at the far left with the ridiculously long and blonde pony-tail).

- Have woken up more times in the middle of the night this month than I EVER did when Axton was a newborn. Like, 10+ times some nights. We are trying to do things a little differently around here and Axton is struggling to adjust. Plus, it didn't help that he slept with me practically the whole time we were traveling and now I'm forcing him to sleep all alone in his crib in the closet.....

- Traveled to Minnesota with Axton and without Adam. And it was WAY harder than when he was only 8 weeks old.

Don't let that cute face fool you. Look what happened while we were trying to get through security:

....Yeah that was no fun. And neither were his sleeping habits. But hey, at least he was able to meet his great-grandparents! And of course, spend time with his Grandpa Seely.

This picture is beyond priceless to me. I get a little choked up every time I look at it.

Hanging out with Gramps. Studiously.

- Traveled to Pennsylvania with Axton and with Adam AND with Kaleo. We are VERY pleased and proud to report that Kaleo only threw up ONCE the entire 12 hours of driving, and that was five minutes before we got to their house. We couldn't believe it. We didn't even drug the guy, he just did it himself!!!! Yay!!!

Axton looks so grown up to me in this photo! :(
- Caught a glimpse of what life would have been like had I had twins. Yikes.

- Re-realized how much I love Taylor Swift and was supremely sad to learn her concert had sold out minutes after opening for purchase. Here I was thinking I could buy tickets a whole week after they were available! So naive. Adam bought her cd for me and I feel a little better.

- Got to visit my dear friend's sweet baby, Rylee. She only weighed 6 pounds. I never got to hold Axton when he was that small. In fact, I've never held any baby that size before her, and I cried just a little bit at the miracle-ness of it all.

Then I took some pictures.

There is the month of November! Can't believe December is tomorrow....

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Physical therapy, The H Word, Depression, and Other scary things about postpartum recovery

This is your official warning. This post talks about lady parts, other sensitive holes, poop,  pee, scary thoughts, and who knows what else. If you are at all affected by any of them, please stop reading and return at a later time. (Just what will I write about when I run out of baby-related topics?? Don't worry, I am still planning on a breastfeeding post!)

Physical Therapy
After delivering Axton, I had in my mind that the number 6 was magic. Six weeks was when I'd have my postpartum check up. Six weeks is when most women go back to work. Six weeks was when I'd be fully healed, well-rested, wholly knowledgeable, and "back-to-normal." I was fully geared up to just plow through those first 6 weeks. But when that six week mark hit, I wanted to feel better. I wanted to look better.

Well, about 4 weeks after delivery, it was still burning whenever I used the bathroom. This seemed a little unusual to me. I thought maybe I had an infection, so I went to a walk-in clinic to get an antibiotic. The meds did nothing for me, but I decided to wait one more week until my 6 week check up to talk to my midwife.

I also wanted to see how things were know, down there. I didn't have the guts to do it any sooner, but because I thought surely everything would be fine by now, I'd venture a peak. .....Well, things didn't look normal. My tear had healed fine, there was a light scar but I could handle that. No, it wasn't that that was bothering me. Something was ....bulging.....that really shouldn't be bulging. I was seriously scared. First the burning and now the bulging? I was for sure broken and would definitely need surgery and would most likely never be able to have kids again and maybe I would die, too. I think I cried that night to Adam and he told me I didn't need to freak out, that I'd be going to my midwife the next day and she would probably tell me it was normal.

The next day, at my appointment, my midwife did not tell me that that bulging was normal. She told me that my muscles were weakened, and that my bladder had sunk a bit, and that was causing the bulging. This typically happens with big babies and hard, long pushing - bingo! Perfect candidate! She referred me to a physical therapist.

Coming out of that appointment, I felt like just giving up on my body. I felt betrayed. I thought this was unfair - hadn't I gone through enough already? More than most women I know who have had babies? Or were they just not talking about it?

So I went to a Women's Health Physical Therapist (thankfully a woman and thankfully a non-awkward woman) who taught me exercises I could do to help strengthen those muscles again (mostly ab work and kegels. Yay.) She also stretched me out down there (yes, it really was as uncomfortable as that sounds) - she said my muscles were very tight, and that the tightness was causing the pain when I used the bathroom. If you're wondering, as one of my friends did, "Why did you need stretching out? Did you just push a baby out of there?" It's a fair question. My PT told me there was two reasons for the tightness: One was that trauma, such as labor and hard pushing, causes your muscles to freak out and tighten up, and two was the scar tissue from my tear. So, I had weekly appointments for 6 weeks to have a nice lady to chat with while she was all up in my grill working her magic. It was odd at first, but meh, you get used to it, I guess.

The "H" Word
The one and only reason I have the courage to post this is thanks to Lil Blue Boo (see her post here). Before reading her post, I felt like an all-out freak. I felt gross. I felt weak. I felt embarrassed and mortified. I felt depressed. I never realized how large of a role using the bathroom played in my life until it hurt every single time I did it. As I mentioned above, it already hurt to pee. And then, at about 8 weeks after delivery, it started hurting to go number 2. Like, killing. Like crapping bricks hurting. No, more like razor blades or broken glass or shreds of barb wire. It hurt like hell. And I had to face this pain every single day. I started getting scared to eat because I knew eating would later mean I'd have to poop it out, losing a lot of blood and tears and sweat along the way, too. I was too embarrassed to go to the doctor about it for the longest time. And when I did finally get the courage to go, it was just as awful as I had been imagining it would be. I would rather have someone look at my hoo-ha every week for 6 weeks (and, hey, that happened!) than look at my bum once (and yeah, that happened too). It didn't help that the doctor acted more sorry about the whole thing than I was.

Anyway, so, Lil Blue Boo. She wrote about getting hemorrhoids (yes that was the "h" word I was going for) from chemotherapy. And then she spilled the secret that made me feel like a person again, instead of some disgusting scumbag:


Hallelujah. So there. I'm not the only one in the world to ever get hemorrhoids from delivering a baby. Hmph.

And, with some colace, fiber pills, lots of water, and just a tiny bit of my pride back, my bum and I are on the road to recovery.

The word "depression" gets a pretty bad reputation. Most people think that Depression = crazy, psychotic, insane, suicidal. And when you pair it with "postpartum" then I get the feeling people take it another step - that you might harm your baby. So, I don't really blame women for not wanting to talk about their postpartum depression too much. But I do want to talk about it, and I am making it clear now that I am not insane or suicidal or anywhere close to harming my baby.

I'm not sharing this with you to pity me, or to beg for reassurance or love, and I definitely don't want you to think I'm out of control or in need of "help." I'm just writing these things down because it helps me sort out my thoughts, helps me realize how silly some of these things really are, and helps me get past them. I'm also writing because I want other moms and moms-to-be out there to know that, if you feel similar things, you are not alone.

I recently finished reading Jennifer Lauck's Show Me the WayIn it, she describes a "meltdown" that she had shortly after her first son was born. A nurse called her to check on her, and, after asking some questions, concluded she must be depressed. Jennifer said, "I disagree with her. I'm not depressed, it's just that I don't feel like myself, I'm weepy and sad and very tired."

That was something that really affected me, starting from pregnancy and going clear through about 4 months postpartum: I just simply did not feel like myself anymore. The first 3 months after Axton's birth I felt like I was swimming in the murky waters of a swamp. I didn't know which way was up or down, nothing came clear or easy to me, everything was muddled, and I couldn't even express myself. I've never had writer's block the way I have with trying to write about my postpartum experience. I felt like I was just barely keeping my nostrils above the mud, just barely breathing, just barely surviving.

As that 6-week mark came and then went, me not feeling much better, that's when the depression really kicked in. Everything set me off.

Getting dressed was depressing. Nothing fit me anymore. My hips were too wide, my boobs too big (ha! Never thought I'd say that!), my waist too wide, my stomach too fluffy. Nighttime was depressing. I wanted sleep so desperately, but knew I wouldn't be getting any. Laying down in my bed was just basically teasing myself. Daytime was depressing - Axton and I were alone in our tiny apartment doing the same thing we had done the day before, just trying to merely keep each other occupied. Trying to exercise was depressing, too, at least at first. My body ached so much and when you're not getting any sleep, working out is the last thing you want to spend your energy on. And like I said above, going to the bathroom was depressing because it was so painful. And I went to the bathroom quite often.

I gave myself more time because really, what choice did I have? Time was the (only) cure for the worst parts of it all. Time for my body to heal more. Time to get used to Axton and my new schedule and establish a routine. Time to take naps and get more sleep. Time to get back into shape. I think it was about the 4-month mark that I started being able to say that I was beginning to feel like myself again.

It's now been almost 6 months since Axton was born. Can I still label this as "postpartum depression"? Or is this just part of my new life as a mom? Dealing with hills and valleys of happiness and frustration, pride and loneliness, accomplishment and failure? Here are some of the things I still struggle with. Some of the following thoughts are gruesome, terrible things to think, and again, I don't want you to "worry" about me or pity me, I'm just sharing the truth.

Sometimes I lie in bed in the middle of the night, just staring at the ceiling and thinking, over and over, about doing it all again. And perhaps not even just once more, but twice or thrice times more. Getting pregnant, delivering, my poor body recovering, only slower this time since it's round two, going through that hellishly divine first 4 weeks with a newborn, the next 4, 7, maybe 18 months of no sleep at night. I often end this conversation with myself by just shaking my head. No, please, no. Please don't make me do it again. I can't do it.

Sometimes I feel lonely. Like no one really likes me best or cares a whole lot about me. That I could easily be replaced and forgotten. Deep down, I know this isn't true. I know I could call quite a few different people and whine to them and they would be concerned, and reassure me that they love me and think about me often. I try to reason with myself when I get this way and say, "If you're really that lonely, do something about it! Call one of those many people and tell them how you're feeling....or don't! But either way I bet they will make you feel better." I think those words, and then I flick them away and say, "Leave me alone, self. I just want to wallow in my loneliness."

Sometimes I cry about The Lee's baby. I think about the fact that him and Axton were just a few days apart, and if he were still alive, he'd be doing the same things Axton is now. I think about what if the roles had switched? If it was my baby that had died and theirs that had lived....where would I be right now? Would I know even a shred of happiness? Having experienced life with Axton, I know now what I would have been missing out on, and I torture myself with the thoughts.

Sometimes days like yesterday happen. Yesterday started off bad, with a long, sleepless night leading up to it. When I finally gave up trying to get Axton back to sleep, I just stared at Adam lying in bed next to us. He had somehow, impossibly, slept through the majority of what I'd gone through, and was now softly snoring. The longer he slept, the harder I glared at him. I knew that the later the hour he went into work, meant the later the hour he'd get back. I'd have 9 1/2 long hours with Axton from the time he left, and it hadn't even started yet. Axton's afternoon nap was a mere 20 minutes, leaving me with just enough time to waste on stupid things like Facebook and email. He spit up about three times his usual amount, and each time I felt the warm liquid seeping through my pants or my shirt I'd sigh a little louder. When Adam did come home, my relief was short, as he had to leave again for Young Men's. Of course this is the night Axton does not want to go to bed easily, and he spends the hour after Dad leaves crying. I pick him up and rock him and we cry together, my tears mixing with his, my sobs tuning out his screams, my quaking stomach against his quivering chest. "Please stop crying," I whisper, and I'm talking more to myself than to him.

Sometimes when I take Axton out onto our 3-story back porch, a fear cuts through my chest and I envision the ugliest of things. I see wiggly Axton falling off my lap and somehow slipping through the bars. I feel the immense pain of what those short seconds would be like as he is falling in the air, the frozen moment of panic, the thud of my heart stopping, and my hideous scream that would pierce the world. I ask myself what my first move would be, following the sound of his body making contact with the ground. Would I even be able to move at all?

While we're on that terrible thought, I also sometimes wonder what I would do with our little family if Adam were to not make it home from work from day. I see myself aimlessly walking in circles around our apartment, throwing random items into boxes, not really caring if I just left it all behind. I'd move in with my mom, and I'd probably get a job, or something. I imagine I would cry myself to sleep every single night for a long time, perhaps years. I would keep a picture of Adam up on my dresser and tell Axton everyday how much his dad loved him. My heart would never heal, for any progress that could be made would be torn back open every time I looked at my son's face, for I would see Adam in him.

I think about my labor and delivery a lot. Not every day, but almost. I think about how I could have done things differently, how I should have been stronger at certain points in my labor. I am now nearly obsessed with hearing birth stories - partially because I compare mine to theirs and am jealous of easier, shorter births and I find a strange comfort in hearing about longer labors because it tells me I wasn't weak and my body wasn't broken, I was just a first-time mom and that happens sometimes. I think that a small part of me wants to pregnant again just for the sake of proving to myself that it wasn't a fluke, that I could do it again, and that it might even go "better" the next time around.

But, alas! I do not go crazy. Wanna know why?

Because I run. I felt so vulnerable during labor, so weak and tired, like this one thing that should have defined me as a woman was actually the one thing that undid me. And then when recovery was slower than I was anticipating, and when I was uglier and fatter than I wanted to be, I just felt so bad about myself. But running solved (most of) that. Starting out on a jog filled me with so much jittery anticipation - how far would I go today? How fast could I push myself? Running made me feel powerful again. Running made me feel capable, accomplished, and worthwhile. I would recite mantras in my mind, over and over again, especially on hills and near the end of a run. I would play scenes in my mind, of Adam and Axton waiting for me at the end of the finish line, so proud and cheering. Axton would kiss me and call me Mommy and I would know that he was my proudest moment, my dearest accomplishment. During my runs I write my novel, I sing my favorite songs, I think in peace and without interruption, I praise myself, and...I cry.

Because his laugh is the best sound in the world. It fills my heart with happy and recharges me for the tears I know will come. Because eventually the crying stops and he is sleeping and peaceful. Because I have video footage of his tiny, weak cries and his sleepy, blinking eyes from when he was a newborn and think I could maybe do this again. Because I have a wonderful husband who takes Axton while I jog, run errands, go out with friends, or just breathe and work on the things I love to do. Because I have people who love me and let me vent to them and remind me to just keep pushing through it, that none of us are perfect.

....It wasn't all that fun sharing some of these things with the public, but isn't it great to know, dear readers, that if you've experienced some of things, you're not alone? I know I felt that way when I figured that out.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Losing the baby weight

I dutifully and shamelessly shared with all of you my slow, but inevitable weight gain during my pregnancy. I gained an above-average amount -- a whopping 65 pounds. My ankles were as big as an elephant's (and stayed that way for a few weeks even after Axton was born) and my body and joints ached from carrying it all.

Axton's been out for 5 months, and it's been a long, long road to (physical) recovery and my new definition of "normalcy" (though we'll need a whole other post for my mental recovery). And, well, I think it's only fair now to share my weight loss with you all, if only to redeem a bit of my pride.

Here are some photos of my weight-loss journey:

This photo was taken August 27th. I'm holding a photo of myself taken at 38 weeks pregnant.

So, how did I do it? 

I am quite positive that the number one contributing factor to my weight loss is breastfeeding. It can burn up to 500 calories a day. It does not come easy. It does not come pain-free. But it is best for mom's body and baby's body! Win-win! However, I did do a few other things to help speed along the weight-loss.

I started counting calories on August 1st. I kept a food journal and wrote down everything I ate. I made homemade meals and calculated individual serving sizes and the calorie count. About two weeks into it, I realized there was only one problem with this: It was affecting my milk supply. I had not calculated enough calories for my body to produce 30+ ounces of milk everyday, and my supply was decreasing. Axton had started to get very fussy when nursing and I couldn't figure out why for awhile. One day I decided to pump to see how much I was producing - I could only pump 2 ounces, when I used to be able to pump 4 ounces on one side. Within one week of stopping my diet, I was back up to my normal production. I no longer counted my calories (though I could have, and just set a higher limit for myself). However, two weeks of writing every single thing down and its caloric value had taught me some lessons. I did little things that added up: I dramatically decreased my cheese intake (I lived in Wisconsin for over 5 years; this girl likes her cheese), I swapped white for wheat (including rice! oh the anguish!), and started using plain yogurt for my sour cream.

I also started running. I set a realistic date (October 13) and a realistic mileage (5k). I did not care how fast I ran it in, I only cared that I ran the entire way. When I first started out, I could hardly run for 5 minutes without needing a break. I would walk for another five minutes and then start up again. At times I felt like my pelvic bones were going to give out on me. But I just kept at it. Eventually I could run for 10 minutes and only need to walk for 2 minutes. Then I could run for 20 I'm running 40 minutes without stopping. 

And, sad story, I tried to sign up for my 5k a wee bit too late, and it was already booked up. I was put on a waiting list, but still didn't make it in. But that did not stop me from running my 5k on October 13th. I just did it indoors. By myself. On a treadmill. In 29 minutes and 30 seconds - a far faster pace than I was expecting.

Running did more for me than just get me back into shape. It also helped me keep my insanity and push away the depression that I fear would have otherwise taken over me. There were days that I would be dressed in my shorts and running shoes an hour before Adam got home from work, just so I could remind myself that very soon I would be receiving a break and could run out my emotions. I even stopped taking my dog with me once he started to slow me down - I wanted running to be my thing, my time. 

From pre-pregnancy, to conception, to pregnancy and growing a human being inside of me, to pushing a 9 1/2 pound baby out of the very center of my self, to feeding that baby with milk that I made, to watching my stomach shrink back down to its (almost) original size, to witnessing my legs and lungs regain strength and stamina.....I have been absolutely amazed and blown away by my own body. I have never had a greater appreciation for a woman's body, heart, mind, and soul than I do today.