Wednesday, June 15, 2016

This water

This water washed away my tears in 2011 and 2012 when I was totally unsure if my marriage was going to remain intact, and lap after lap, my anxiety turned to prayer turned to peace and exhaustion.

This water gave me a sense of purpose and achievement in 2013 when I was between jobs, and my last outdoor swim of the season that year was with a tiny little baby belly. A little piece of redemption in a place that had seen me through some of my darker times.

This water provided a welcome weightlessness for my postpartum body in all is cumbersome awkwardness in 2014. The silence and stillness was invaluable when I was able to get away from our still-under-construction house and reflux-y baby.

This water was the only place I found relief from lingering postpartum pelvic pain in 2015, and I also loved introducing Noah to my sweet summertime ritual here.

And it's happy to welcome me back again this summer. Always ready to refill my thirsty soul with water and light. I take Noah to another pool right now, due to nap times and whatnot, so this pool is all mine again. A reminder of who I am when I'm not answering to "Mama," and a way to refresh myself before going back to the job of mom that I dearly love.

Overly philosophical? Maybe. A little slice of heaven on earth? Absolutely.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Day in the Life with a 2 Year Old

Yesterday was kind of crummy. Noah and I had lots of meltdowns, so I intentionally set out to make today awesome! I'm learning that there are 3 ingredients to a good day, but it takes time and energy to make the effort:

1. Start with quiet time
2. Get out of the house
3. Get to bed early

This doesn't happen every day, but when it does... we have way more fun!

0615: Noah is awake, babbling in his crib. I turn the volume down on the monitor and roll over for a few more minutes.

0630: Time to get up! Ross gets Noah and gives him a sippy cup of hemp milk while I assemble breakfasts (banana + homemade muffin for Noah).

0645-0715: I retreat to the office/playroom to have some quiet time with the Bible and my Armor of God workbook for the Bible Study that started this week. Ross and Noah play and read books and eat breakfast in the kitchen and living room.

0730-0815: Noah and I take a morning walk. One of my favorite traditions, and I'm so excited it's walking season again!

0830: Drive to a coffee shop in Lenexa to sell some cloth diapers to a fellow mama. Noah starts pointing to the coffee shop and crying, "muppy!" I haven't been to this coffee shop since I was pregnant, but somehow he knows there are delicious things inside. I realize it's been way too long since our last muppy date, so we go inside to enjoy some wheat-free treats  (for both of us) and some iced coffee (for me).

0915: Pool time! We driving back to our part of town to go to Kiddie Pool Playtime at out local pool. I made the mistake of telling Noah we were going to walk, then sell diapers, then swim this morning, and he's been pretty insistent on "swimming" for the last two hours.

0930-1115: So much fun at the pool.

1130-1200: Home for lunch. Super proud of Noah for leaving the pool like a big kid without crying. We were hungry for lunch! He ate some roast beef, gluten-free toast, and carrots (with dairy-free Ranch to dip, because everything's better when you can dip it).

1210-1245: I nurse Noah for 15 minutes and he falls asleep in my arms, which is my fave. I snuggle with him, filled with gratitude for our adventures today and in the past two years. We've come a long way.

(picture: 2 weeks into out breastfeeding journey // 2 weeks before weaning)

1315: I put him in his crib and sit down to start this post, eat a snack, and catch up on older blog posts.

1415: Noah is awake and singing, "Rain, rain, go away" to himself. Not gonna lie, I was REALLY hoping for an epic nap after the busy morning we had!

1430: Noah eats some of his lunch leftovers while I try to brainstorm what the heck we are going to do for the next 4 hours until Ross gets home! I decide to head to the diaper store to get a few things I've been needing.

1525: Finally leave the house 1 handful of GF pretzels, 1 apple, 1 sippy cup of hemp milk, 1 dirty diaper, 1 tantrum, and 3 rounds of a Clifford board book later.

1600-1700: We socialize, play, and shop at the diaper store, enjoying the change of scenery.

1730: Leftovers for everyone for dinner! Dinners I don't have to make are the best :-)

1845: Bath, story, snuggles, and bed for Noah. A little early because we had such a busy day.

1900-2115: Small group with friends! Love this girl time.

2230: Read in bed for a bit, and then sleep!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Here I Raise my Ebenezer

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, 'Thus far the Lord has helped us.' 1 Samuel 7:12

The date was supposed to be June 20 (2016)-- exactly one week after Noah's due date of June 13 (2014). I would've been 38.1 weeks pregnant today. I went into labor with Noah at 38.4 and had him at 38.5 weeks.


I'm really anxious for it to get here. So much life has happened in the last 9 months, but it's hard not to remember how much life hasn't happened. It's been, quite literally, a pregnant pause. I don't feel like I've dwelt unnecessarily on this day, but as Noah's birthday approached, I couldn't help but know that this day was approaching as well.

I think it's affected me more than I realized. I've always been the hurry up and wait type. Like, I get all worked up for this milestone or that birthday or these anniversaries, and find myself disappointed that life didn't turn into rainbows and butterflies once the obstacle was behind me. This week was no exception.

Ross has been working his butt off on a long to-do list, finishing the last 15% of a whole bunch of house projects for Noah's party this past weekend, and it's safe to say I've been in panic mode about it. Really nitpicky. Mean. Not fun to live with. But it HAD to get done. And it wasn't until I was in tears at midnight on Friday night that I realized... I need closure. I need to feel like we brought our first baby home to an eventually safe place, and to have that whole lost season of chaos behind me. And I need to feel like we did THIS baby justice. Even though we aren't bringing him or her home, I want to feel like WE COULD HAVE. Like the house is READY.

Last fall, I was so worried I wouldn't be able to bond with Noah, to study for my IBCLC exam, to finish the house, in time for this baby's due date. But we did!

And oh, the house. I feel petty talking about it, and I'm sure my bitterness comes through even when I'm trying to make jokes. Is it a first world problem? Heck yes. If I could do it differently, would I? Heck yes. Don't buy a fixer-upper at 28 weeks pregnant. It seemed like a grand adventure at the time, but after the wilderness we'd been through in the years prior to getting pregnant with Noah, I really should've used my third trimester to rest, to recover, to prepare. To draw inward and nest and connect. Not to work two jobs, sometimes both in the same 24 hour period without sleep. Not to come "home" to a suitcase in a relative's bedroom. Not to avoid the actual house we bought because the sights and sounds of a construction site instead of a home filled me with a deep sense of panic and loss of control.

There's still a lot of work to do, but we worked right up to the start of the party, and for the first time ever, our house has a DONE list! Every room except the laundry room has walls, paint, trim, no exposed wood putty... It's amazing. The sense of relief I felt after Noah's party was palpable and surprising, even to me. His party was a birthday party and a housewarming party and a "welcome back to the land of the living" party. I feel like it was a tangible chance to get some closure on his tumultuous newborn days. An Ebenezer stone for where we've been and where we're going. We can move forward into toddlerhood with one baby. We can graciously say goodbye to what could have been with the other.

I don't need rainbows and butterflies now. I just want to make it to Saturday, take a deep breath, and move into Sunday. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Fierce Flourishing

I joined MOPS* back in August and I was kind of stressed about the first meeting. It meant Noah was going to miss a nap. Let's just say that in general, I don't handle change well, and in the throes of postpartum anxiety and new motherhood, I REALLY didn't handle change well. But I went. And I haven't looked back once.

The MOPS theme this year was A Fierce Flourishing, and oh, how I needed to hear that was possible. Even though I'd had my child 15 months prior, I was really only just realizing the depths of my postpartum pain and anxiety. I've spent a lot of time and money since then, trying to make progress in both, and I've seen plenty of ups and downs there. But you know what gave me the most freedom this past year? The most relief? Being in a room full of other moms. Seeing that no two are alike but all of us love our children fiercely. All of us are horribly afraid of 'failing' as a mom, whatever that looks like. All of us have struggles. And never once did I feel judged when I shared heavy thoughts, or cried, or vented about having a strong-willed child.

When the leaders introduced the theme at the first meeting, they read this year's verse to us: "For you shall go out with joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." Isaiah 55:12

It took all my willpower not to start crying then and there. The relief was palpable. Like a weight had been lifted. These words were like a balm to my heart. When I heard this, I'd been waking up each morning with a feeling of dread. With a heavy heart and the assurance that I couldn't possibly do this day all over again. The racing thoughts, the heart palpitations, the frequent night wake-ups with insomnia in between, the baby nap strikes, and always, always, the pain.

To be reminded that God calls us to JOY, and that he promises PEACE was exactly what I needed to hear. It got me to come home and open up my Bible and look to all the places where God reassures us that his promises are TRUE**. That this word does not go out and come back empty. In fact, that same chapter in Isaiah says that!

"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord.
'As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord's renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.'"
Isaiah 55:8-13 (emphasis mine)

I notice the twin threads of peace and joy everywhere now. The words stand out on any page. It's been funny to see how they've played out in the last 9 months. I got pregnant shortly after that first meeting, and when the panic overwhelmed me, I cried out, "how is this joy?!" I had just emerged from the newborn haze, I had a plan that felt manageable, and I was seemingly on the road to recovery. I was deeply fearful of how a pregnancy would impact that. But several friends were able to whisper, "there is joy here." And when I let go of my fear and my plans (again) and started to get excited about another baby, literally a bundle of joy from a good, good Father, we lost it. Again I cried, "how is this joy?!" And God rushed in with peace beyond understanding.

And now, as MOPS wraps up for the year, that's where I sit. Alternating between peace beyond understanding, and fear that I will do something to somehow ruin this peace. So yeah, I still have a ways to go.

This year, we focused on embracing rest, noticing goodness, and celebrating lavishly. Our devotional for the year notes that, "we become more ourselves when we celebrate, rest, and notice... and that looks a lot like flourishing." I LOVE that I can claim it fiercely. That I can take all my pent up anxiety and direct that energy into flourishing instead of floudering. Into activities that refresh me instead of drain me. And MOPS has absolutely been an activity that refreshed me from the inside out.

I'm so grateful to the MOPS ministry for reminding me of God's sovereign rule even as I adjust to this new role of motherhood. I looked forward to every single meeting, when I knew I would be able to rest in the presence of other adults and feel cared for. It has meant the world to me, and I'm so excited for next year!

*MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers, but is actually available to anyone with children under the age of 5. I wish I'd joined when Noah was a baby!

**See Hebrews 10, 1 Thessalonians 5, Deuteronomy 7, 1 Corinthians 1

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Day

What a funny holiday. I feel like I'm still in the new mom trenches enough to be learning the weight this job carries, and I'm hardly able to vocalize my gratitude to my mom, who did this x 4!

As for my own little family, it's been fun to start new traditions. Ross has been really good about utilizing my favorite love language (words of affirmation) to cheer me on and refuel my mothering tank. I love that. I love learning to accept compliments and grace, even though I have plenty more failures than successes in this parenting gig. I love that it's a new holiday for us, and not fraught with the pitfalls and failures and dashed hopes that have come with past birthdays and anniversaries.

I love the HILARIOUSLY excited face Noah made when he got to help me eat gluten-free donuts in bed this morning. I love the equally excited face he made when I opened the gift he made for me in Parent's Day Out. (And I really love the sweet photo album his teachers put together.)

I will say, though, one emotion caught me by surprise this year: sadness. Our pastor at church prayed for "all the moms who lost babies this year," and I found myself fighting tears for the rest of the day. Everyone's story is deeply personal, but the more time passes, the more comfortable I am sharing mine.

We miscarried a baby in the winter of 2009 and it took me a long time to grieve that loss. I finally started to process it a year before we got pregnant with Noah, and I spent the majority of the first trimester with him so anxious about every little thing going wrong.

Carrying and delivering Noah was a delight, and life with him is a grand adventure, to say the least! We got pregnant again last fall, and experienced a lot of highs and lows in the short 3 weeks between the first positive pregnancy test and the subsequent abrupt loss.

Among all my worries about having two kids under two, postpartum depression, pelvic pain... the one that didn't really cross my mind was fear of losing this baby. I was bigger and sicker than I ever was with Noah, and I guess I took his eventual full-term pregnancy for granted because I was genuinely shocked when I woke up one morning in October to signs of a miscarriage.

But even there, I found love. I was surprised and humbled by the support and care I received for a life that was so short. It meant the world to me. I grieved a lot of the milestones that come with the first 20 weeks. Since this baby's due date was so close to Noah's, I would be caught unaware with memories of announcing our pregnancy at Thanksgiving, feeling him kick for the first time on Christmas, and finding out we were having a boy during Restaurant Week and celebrating with a steak dinner.

But as the holidays ebbed away, so too, it seemed, did my grief. I noticed a quiet stillness in my heart. Welcome after months of panic attacks and sleepless nights and prolonged postpartum pain.

As spring comes, again catching me unaware is the memories of the burgeoning belly, the baby showers, the anticipation, the Braxton-Hicks. And I find myself mourning the loss of the baby even as I see God's lovingkindness woven throughout this baby's whole story. In wisdom and hindsight and what can only be Divine Intervention, I'm often filled with gratitude for a good, good Father.  Most days I'm well aware that God is a better parent than I will ever be, and that two of our babies are living in the presence of Goodness and Light and that's okay. I'm even happy about that, actually! But as we approach this little one's due date, the sorrow is creeping back in. Noah has legit baby FEVER and points them out everywhere. He asks for his friends all day long and I know he would love the company of an impending arrival.

But even here, on the days I'm frankly quite overwhelmed with Noah's sheer TODDLER-ness, I find comfort in knowing that maybe God knew I wasn't ready for two just yet. And yeah, there's a lot of guilt that comes with that comfort. It's not that I'm glad we miscarried. Not at all. But I'm glad God cares for me and knows what I need.

And I'm so very grateful that he made me a mother.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

When Acute Becomes Chronic

I've been thinking a lot lately about self. As in, two years later and I'm still not myself. In a grand sense, I'm so very grateful. To remain unchanged after becoming a mother is unfathomable. I don't necessarily miss the self who was a little more "put together" with plucked eyebrows and painted toenails and daily quiet time (okay, I miss the daily quiet time). But let's be honest, I've always been pretty low-maintenance when it comes to exterior perks and that's okay.

I haven't been the same since I had my son. I love him infinitely. He makes me smile like nobody's business-- far more than anything else makes me smile these days. But it's not fair or possible to draw my light from him all day every day. I cry to the Lord, and He hears me-- He's molding my heart to be more like His-- but He's not healing me the way I want. Physically, emotionally, mentally, I'm not myself anymore. It doesn't feel fair to my son, to my husband, to my family and friends, to me... for me to be... not me.

Even my future self, the one I see at the other end of this chain of lights, the one I draw toward me one or two bulbs at a time, on a good day, remains ever far away.

I miss the part of me that had inner vibrance. Some spontaneous, uninitiated joie de vivre, at least sometimes. I get glimpses of her, when I'm clear-minded enough to hold a thoughtful conversation. When I'm spilling over with words that need to find a page. When I have energy to move my body.

I wouldn't say I'm depressed. My counselor concurs, as does my paradoxical response to numerous anti-depressants and anti-anxiolytics. Dare I say? I'm sick. I don't look nearly as sick as I did a year ago, and my level of pain is decreased by at least 80% on a good day compared to this time last year. Once or twice a month, I can muster up a "real" workout and enjoy the adrenaline rush immensely, even though I pay for it for the next 5-7 days. I can have a good "normal" weekend from time to time, but it's always followed by a truly horrible week.

I can't help but feel like I've fallen into the doughnut hole. Of course, there's the political one, where health insurance (which I'm so very grateful to have) only skims the surface when the doctors who are willing to step out on a limb charge by the hour, and don't file with insurance. (Because when you're sick and overwhelmed, it's no big deal to collect paperwork and navigate insurance bureaucracy, right?!)

But this is the doughnut hole where I fear acute becomes chronic. The one where you sense very few people still take you seriously. The one where you doubt yourself, even as your gut tells you, there's more out there! This cannot and will not be how you feel forever!

How long do you have to be a shell of yourself to call it chronic fatigue? I know it has to be long enough and low enough to bring you to a point where you're willing to admit this is a real thing, even though it terrifies you to your Just Do It core.

As a healthcare provider, do I respect my clients enough when they bare their "please tell me I'm not crazy" secrets? As a patient, is it worth staying up late to write a narrative of the last two years for a doctor who may or may not want to read it?

At what point is it optimism to get my hopes up that maybe this next doctor knows that how I feel is real, and at what point is it foolishness?

At what point is is helpful to cut out this food or add that supplement, and at what point does the trying and failing do more harm than good? The kind of harm that makes you feel like this is all your fault even though surely you just drew the short straw. (And how long does it take these dang expensive vitamins to work, anyway?!)

At what point, I wonder. At what point does acute become chronic?

See also: these fascinating essays on women and pain.

See also: the genius spoon theory.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Oven 'Fried' Salmon Cakes

I looove crab cakes, but haven't had them since going gluten-free years ago. I've seen recipes for salmon cakes, but they always intimidated me. After last night, I have no idea why. These were so delicious and so easy!

The original recipe is here. Below is the recipe with my modifications based on ingredients I had on hand:

Salmon Cakes

  • 1 (14.75 ounce) can wild-caught pink or red salmon
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 2 Tbs diced onions
  • 3 Tbs Tessemae's Lemon Chesapeake Dressing
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 425 and line a large baking pan.

Drain the liquid from the salmon and crumble the fish into a large mixing bowl, removing the bones. Add the pumpkin, eggs, almond flour, onions, dressing, salt, hot pepper sauce, paprika, and black pepper. Mix well and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Brush the pan with some of the melted ghee, then use a 1/3 measuring cup to scoop the cakes and drop them onto the parchment. Flatten slightly with the back of a spatula. Brush the tops of the cakes with ghee, then bake for 20 minutes. Then carefully flip each patty with a spatula and return to the oven. Bake an additional 10 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and your sauce of choice.