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. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

The photoshoot we didn't win

About a month ago I entered Axton's photo into a contest sponsored by a local mothers' magazine (and I'd be surprised if many of you didn't already know this, considering how much I plastered it all over Facebook). The editor and owner of the magazine was the lady we took our Hypnobirthing classes from, so I thought I might as well give it a shot. The winner of the photo contest would receive a Rolly Pollies Play something-or-other party, a photoshoot with a local photographer, and their picture on the cover of the magazine. I was mostly just excited for the chance to win a photoshoot, as we have minimal shots of us together as a family (at least not ones that know...cute or anything like that).

So I posted my picture on her site, and asked a few people here and there to vote for his picture. The more people who liked it, the more excited I got. Maybe we actually would have a chance of I posted it on family's walls, church group walls, and my photography page. A few weeks went by, la dee da, I checked it once in awhile and occasionally people would ask me about it. We would flutter between first and third place. I was already really pleased with how many friends were supporting us, so I decided to do a giveaway as a way to thank them. This also helped boost our numbers. As more likes came, so did more comments. People I didn't even know were telling me they hoped he won and good luck! Winning this contest quickly became more than just a free photoshoot - it was now something I owed to those who were rooting for him. It was now a matter of pride.

Well the last day to vote finally came around. In the morning, we were in first place. And I may have been just a wee bit too confident at that point, because I just went about my day as usual. I thought I should maybe check on things around 7pm.....Gasp! I was not in first or even second place anymore! I was in third place, and down by forty whole likes! So I posted on my wall, telling the world of FB I needed help!

And then the crazy broke loose.

Boy did I ever get those forty likes.......and much, much more. I got those forty likes and we were back in first place, but not for long. By 9pm I knew I wouldn't be going to bed until the end of the night was over. I needed to put my game face on. It was Axton and another little girl's photo who were fighting for first place for awhile. But then, out of nowhere, tractor boy comes hauling in with the big votes. We were getting serious now.

I started texting people, calling people, messaging people. I had a team of me, Robyn, Sadie, and Rachel. We were all, quite simply, addicted to making sure little Axton won. Rachel would IM me, "What's the stats?" and Sadie would keep me updated. Robyn started all-caps-ing: DON'T LIKE THE LINK, LIKE HIS PHOTO. YOU COULD BE THE DIFFERENCE!!! Rachel had her brother gather high school friends, Robyn had her college friends, and Sadie faithfully posted Axton's photo at least every hour. The four of us were nuts! I had absolutely no clue what I had gotten myself into. I was sweating and my heart was racing and I was giggling like a mad man! Every once in awhile Adam would look over at me and just think I was a weirdo. I would be sent into a laughing fit, my hands covering my mouth, with every 10 likes. In the course of the next 3 hours, I got over three hundred likes - one hundred likes an hour! I could not believe my eyes.

At one point I was pretty sure we were going to win. Sadie and I began to calm down a little, and we were just nonchalantly chatting about life. I had even started to read a page or two out of my book (to give my eyes a break!) in between checking the stats. Then, suddenly, impossibly, tractor boy was winning by ONE HUNDRED LIKES. Do you understand how incredibly intense this was getting people?????

I started saying, "I don't know how we are going to do this. What else do I do?" I ONLY KNOW SO MANY PEOPLE ON FACEBOOK! I ONLY KNOW SO MANY PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD!!!! I went psycho. I started messaging WHOEVER was on fb, whether I had talked to them in years or not. I started even sending messages to people whose phones were connected to fb, so they would get an irritating and irrational text from me: VOTE FOR AXTON AND LIKE AND SHARE AND LIKE AND SHARE!!!
I was saying things like: Hey, this is totally random, and I know we haven't talked since high school - in fact, I'm not even sure we talked then, either, but I think you're a pretty cool kid so, hey, would you mind voting for my son's photo?
Yep, I really said that.
And then other times I'd feel bad asking for a favor from someone I hadn't otherwise talked to in a really long time so I'd add, Oh, and how are you anyway? And then that would begin a conversation. So I had about 10 windows up, trying to juggle re-connecting with long-lost friends, getting likes, and checking the stats. I was typing about 100 words a second it felt like. I was typing like my life depended on it! Any interruption was one less like, one less click, one less vote.

....I know it sounds silly.

and really, it was silly. I know that. And that's why I was having an absolute blast with it. When I say I was laughing the whole time, I mean it. I was laughing and giddy and a little loopy and running purely on adrenaline.

And, at 11:55pm, five minutes before showdown, we were winning by 9 likes. I knew our win was such a delicate balancing act, and I had no idea which way the contest was gong to teeter.

At 11:59 Tractor Boy pulled a stunning and almost unbelievable 20 likes in a matter of seconds.

That was the end. The clock struck midnight and we had lost. It really came down to that. Seconds.

I'll admit, I was a little crushed at first. Not really mad (okay, just a little), but mostly sad. I was sad that our hard work had gone to waste. I was sad that all those votes we had magically conjured up vanished into thin air in the blink of an eye. I was sad I would not be showing off my son on the cover of a magazine! And I was sad that the child who won was someone who already did a lot of photoshoots and modeling apparently (yes I may have done a bit of facebook stalking....) and I just wanted to say, "Hey, why don't you let someone else have a turn?" And I didn't like that the mom had lied and said she was going to bed and didn't care who won, and then later admitted she hadn't gone to bed, but had instead employed her "backup group" to help push them over the edge.

.....Alright, now I was being really silly.

So at about 12:30am, I went to my closet (because, remember, that's where my son sleeps now), and I leaned over his crib and stared at him. My adrenaline was starting to fade, and the sleepiness was beginning to creep in. When I saw his face - his real flesh and felt his warm skin, I was a little shocked. I had been staring at his picture - the same, unchanging, frozen-in-time face - on the computer screen for the last three hours. And yet, here he was in real life. Alive and breathing and older than he was in the photo....He was stunning. He was absolutely beautiful. He had no idea that his photo had just lost a contest. In the morning, he would not feel disappointment. He would just be smiling and happy to see me.  I felt overwhelming relief and joy and gratitude just pour over my whole body. I didn't need 30 likes or 500 likes or 999 gazillion million trillion likes to tell me that my son was cute and deserved to win.

I knew then that I had already won. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

No Fear November

I met Erin Jane of Jane Reaction while I was going to school at BYU-Hawaii. She's a super talented freelance graphic designer (and just as cool in real life as she is on her blog!). She recently wrote on her blog about an invitation she received to go to a design retreat. She said that at first she was so excited to go, but then the inevitable happened: Fear crept in. She started comparing herself to the other women that would be at the retreat, and was intimidated by meeting them all at once. But then, she thought about how many questions she wanted to ask, how much she could learn and contribute. So she sucked it up and went - and she had a blast. She came back from the retreat inspired and ready to work hard.

I related so well to this situation. I thought about how many times I've been given opportunities - really cool opportunities that would show off my talent and perhaps put me in the spotlight (a place I don't really like to be in), and how many times I've thrown them away because I was afraid. Afraid to do wrong and mess up and everyone would know. Afraid to do right and succeed and no one know. And, usually, those are times that I regret. I regret not giving myself the chance to try.
For example, I was given the opportunity to be an intern as an English teacher at BYUH the semester after I graduated. I even had the head of the English department calling and asking for me. They wanted me. And yet I still feared saying yes. It would have been my dream job - getting paid to read books and lead discussions on them and making other people write essays. But there was a small chance I would fail. That my students would hate me and think I was boring or unqualified or weird or lame. And I got scared. I think that that is a small reason that I pushed for us moving to Maryland - because I knew if I stayed in Hawaii I would take that job and I would be scared. And now, it's my only regret about leaving Hawaii.
Or when I moved to Maryland and immediately got a nanny job instead of a "real" job because the "real" world terrified me.

And then I thought about the times that I felt that fear so strong in my gut, felt the back of my throat closing ever-so-slightly, and my stomach unable to settle. Felt adrenaline coursing through my body and the shakiness of my hands.....felt all of that and just did it anyway. It wasn't that I had somehow shut off the voices telling me I would fail. It wasn't that I had found a magic switch to calm myself down. I did not push aside my fear ----- I jumped head first into it and wallowed around in it  and made myself cry and get dirty and uncomfortable and vulnerable. ...And then when I was done I climbed out of it, dusted myself off, and found that I was just a little bit stronger, just a little bit wiser, and just a little bit braver than I had been previously. I've found that doing things that scare me become monumental moments in my life - experiences that completely alter or shape the person I've become.

For example: In one of my posts, Doing is Becoming, I wrote about how I wanted to be a photographer, and in order to do that, I must photograph (seems simple enough, right?) Well I started praying for opportunities to do just that, and an answer came to me in an unexpected way. What I had meant in my prayers was for families or couples to ask me to take their pictures. But what I got instead was the chance to photograph the governor of Maryland and a regional church official. This was yet another time that I almost threw away a chance to do something cool - something I had even been asking for - because I was scared. I felt totally under-qualified, I didn't want to talk to the "big guys" about model release forms and PR people and all that business....I emailed the guy who had asked me to do it and told him I couldn't make it when I totally could have switched my plans around to make it work. When I told Adam I had said no, he pretty much told me he thought that was the wrong choice. He made me realize I was being pretty lame, so I emailed the guy one more time and said nevermind, I'll do it.

It turned out to be so chill and a really great chance to get my name out there. I had a ton of fun and learned a lot and met some cool people. I'm so glad I didn't miss that chance, and I've even heard rumors that my photos might be used for the church website.

I have another friend, miss Jeanna. She's a writer and she is brave. I didn't say she was fearless, because she is not, but the awesome thing about her is she is doing it anyway. Despite the potential rejection, she is putting herself out there and talking to editors and sharing her writing and receiving critiques and sending letters. She is doing it. When I even just think about sitting down in front of an agent with 5 pages of my own writing I clam up and my heart skips a beat.....and I'm not sure I would be able to do it.

But no! I need to do it. And one day I will. (When those 5 pages are written.....!)

How much more could we accomplish if we had no fear? How much life are we missing out on simply because we are scared? What if, instead of letting fear rule our lives, we let our dreams rule our lives? Fear won't just simply go away, but what if we told ourselves we could do all we wanted to do despite our fear?

November is NaNoWriMo - and in honor of this, Jeanna's got a wonderful challenge on her blog to do something big this November. It doesn't have to be writing a novel if that's not your thing, but it does have to be something you push yourself to do. Something that maybe you've been putting off because you've been scared of the outcome, or scared of the time it would take. Whatever it is, November is the month to be stronger and bigger than fear.

So, what are you going to do this November?
Me? I'm going to write a novel.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

(Not) Sleeping Through the Night

This post has been swirling around in my brain for the past month now. Starting at about the time that (everyone else thought) my baby "should" be sleeping through the night. I honestly struggle with talking to most people about this because I feel judged that my four-month-old, 17-pound baby isn't sleeping through the night yet.

It's such a everyone. It seems the topic of how well he sleeps becomes the sole determining factor of how "good" my baby is or how "good" of a parent I am. It doesn't matter that he is a happy, easy-going baby who goes down for naps every two hours pretty easily and quietly, who loves meeting new people and going on adventures, who touches your face with his chubby little hands as delicately as if he were blind and could only see through his fingers. Nah, if he's not sleeping through the night, well then, something's got to change.

I got told I was "doing it wrong" when I mentioned to someone that my baby still slept in our room.
I'm fully aware, though others like to remind me, that all the books say he is capable of sleeping 6-8 hours without being fed or without interruption, but he's simply not doing it. And I can't force him too! I'm also fully aware that the AAP says it's fine to let your baby cry, but I can't handle it. I don't know if I'm doing more harm than good (not teaching him independence, whatever, blah blah blah) but it feels like I'm going against every single cell in my body when I don't come to him when he's crying.

I've read certain chapters of No-Cry Sleep Solution several times now, hoping for something new to pop up for me to try. One of the things it talks about is evaluating why it's important to you that your baby start to sleep through the night. Are you doing it for the right reasons? It also asks, "Are you really ready to give up nights with your baby? Are you really ready to do what it takes for change to happen?"

I've skimmed over that section so many times, waving it off with a giant, "Psh....Yes! Please! Give me my nights back!" Recently, however, I probed a little deeper:

"Really, Meghan? You mean that? ....Because, you know, once Axton does start sleeping through the night, that means you will only have 12 hours a day with him. And 12 hours may sound like a lot still, but that means that your time with him will be cut. In. Half. No more middle of the night reassurances that he's still alive, that he still very much relies on you, that the heat of your body and the taste of your milk is the only thing that could lull him back to sleep. No more sleepy eyes blinking back at your own, no more excuses to just let him stay in bed next to you, his head resting on your arm and your bodies cuddled against each other. You sure you want to give that up?"

And I realized that maybe.....just maybe, a small part of me wasn't ready for Axton to sleep through the night. And maybe, just maybe, that was contributing to him not doing it.

So, the next day I moved his crib to our walk-in closet (anything to make our son more like Harry Potter, yes?). Seriously, though, I felt it was a happy medium. I wasn't ready to move him to the other side of our apartment where I would need a monitor to hear him cry and a light-switch to see where I was going. But with him in the closet, we can shut the door while we are still awake, it's much darker in there, and it's a small step towards independence - for the both of us - while still keeping him close for the nighttime wakings.

I was reading a friend's blogpost today about potty-training her little girl. She said that they had tried previously to potty-train her, but that it didn't go over well. Her mother saw that she simply wasn't ready, and dropped the issue. She gave her daughter the time and patience she needed. She waited until her daughter was emotionally, physically  and mentally mature and, most importantly, until she was ready to do it. Now, a few months later, her daughter practically potty-trained herself with no fuss or trouble. There was minimal bribing, fighting, or crying. She just did it. I thought to myself, That makes sense. And if that works for potty-training, then why wouldn't it be similar to sleeping? My little guy is just simply not there yet, and I just have to be patient until he is.  (In my opinion, 4 months is still pretty young anyway, but what do I know?) For now, I can do things to encourage healthy sleep habits and provide an atmosphere at night that would be most inviting for sleep. Oh, and I can pray. Lots of praying.

If you have advice, feel free to offer it. I may or may not follow it, but I will certainly read it and appreciate your kind efforts. Also, I feel the need to say that since becoming a parent I've learned a lot about judging others - or rather, NOT judging others (particularly other parents). The love that I feel for my son? It's a big, big thing. It's an all-encompassing, tremendous, delightful thing. It's the kind of bond that could change the world. And to think that the way I love my son is the exact way someone else loves their son? Well, that's very powerful to me. So, regardless of how I parent, I don't judge you for the way you parent. Because I know that I do the things I do out of love, and I know that other parents do the things they do out of love, too. And that's all I need to know or say. Us parents, we love our kids and we're all just doing the best we can to raise them as such.