All Proceeds Go To the Front Royal Pregnancy Center

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Continued Humility

     As promised (for once), I continue the story. The lessons in letting go didn't stop with varicose veins. At our 38 week appointment there was cause for concern regarding preeclampsia. I had some tests run that weekend, and the results were not promising. At my next appointment, the midwife was strongly suggesting to try and induce labor. I was upset. This was not how it was supposed to be, a week early. I had things that needed to get done before Mary arrived. Code Monkey had a project due that weekend. Things were just not how I wanted them to go. I reluctantly agreed to take the midwife's advice, and left the appointment with a kit to try and induce labor naturally. I honestly was hoping that it wouldn't work; this was not how I had planned it. God had different plans. After taking different herbal tinctures and homeopathic remedies every 15 minutes for 4 hours, there was some cramping but nothing consistent, so I went to bed. Around 2 a.m. I started timing the cramps, which were 2-3 minutes apart, and called the midwife around 3 a.m. We packed up the van, headed to the birth center, and Mary Ryan was born at 6:02 a.m. on the 14th. All things considered, it was the best birth experience yet, though I don't think labor will ever be anything remotely enjoyable for me.
     At any rate, it has taken me three births to finally allow myself the "luxury" of taking time off, and actually resting. Three times my body has been pushed to its limits, and it is only now that I am fully acknowledging that, and allowing myself to recuperate without guilt. But even now it is hard to let go of the control, to admit my inability to do things, or to force myself to say "no" to things I really shouldn't be doing, especially when I can see how hard my absence has been on the boys. Particularly in regards to not holding them. I ought not be picking them up, or anything heavier than the baby, really; and it is so hard because Juanito doesn't understand. Jose is able to comprehend that Mama has a boo-boo in her tummy, and can't do X yet, but Juanito only knows that Mama isn't holding him. I know I have a responsibility to take care of Mary, and take care of myself so I can get back to doing things again, but it breaks my heart to have to tell them no, we can't do that thing because I am too broken at the moment. 
     *sigh*  I know it will get better; I know it won't be like this forever; that it's been just over a week, and I'm halfway to the slowly getting back to normal stage; but sometimes that knowledge doesn't make it any easier. 

A Lesson in Humility

     Two weeks ago, I confessed the sin of pride. It struck me, as I was waiting in line, that I could not remember confessing it before. Which is kind of a huge oversight on my part, considering how proud I am, as those few who are close to me can attest. This past year, and definitely this last pregnancy, have been one really long lesson in humility, and I'm afraid I haven't been learning as quickly or as well as I ought. 
     As much as I may seem to be a go with the flow kind of person, deep down I really like, and on a certain level need, to be in control. Not of everything, mind you, but of certain things. I guess that's not really saying much, since it seems to be part of the human condition. Anyway, losing control of those things causes me to feel like my security blanket has been stripped away, that I'm left drowning with no hope of recovery. The feeling is made that much worse when the control was so attached to what seemed like your very essence.
     My two major points of pride were my ability to govern (i.e. hide) my emotions, and how physically capable I was. This past year has derailed me on both counts. Admitting to myself that I could no longer control my emotions was extremely difficult, and admitting that to even close friends was nearly impossible, but somehow I managed. Looking in the mirror, seeing my body deteriorate, even if only a little, nearly broke me. My identity has been so tied to strength for so long that I have lost sight of who I am. In some ways it has been a good thing, being broken down like that; it has lead to some deep soul searching, trying to figure out how I came to identify the way I did, but I am still sort of at a loss for where to go from here. Not that I'm done examining myself, there are still a few more posts that need to be added to Ashamed & Afraid, which will eventually happen some day. 
     What I realized while waiting my turn for confession, though, is that I am still so proud. In spite of being broken down, and even admitting how broken I was, I was still too proud to accept help. Even though I've blogged about it multiple times (here, here, here), I'm still really bad at taking care of me, and I think that stems from a mix of being too proud to allow people to help me out and do things for me, and not considering myself worth taking care of. If I'm not doing the things I usually do, and am instead taking "time off", then it feels as though I am useless, and not pulling my weight. I forget that my worth and value does not come from how strong I can be, how well I do my work without help, but rather from the fact that I am a daughter of God, made in His image and likeness, and that is enough. 

As this post is long enough, I'll continue the subject briefly in my next one. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Called To Be Simons

     I had my first real, in person chat with an online friend today, and it was wonderful. It isn't often that I get to have conversations with people older than 2, let alone conversations that don't revolve mainly around mothering of some kind or another, and this man is just a wealth of information, resulting from both his academic background and life experience in general. As the conversation flowed, it came up that we, as Catholics, are not meant to sequester ourselves away in avoidance of the world, but are called to be missionaries to it. In addition, all people need someone that they can feel safe being themselves with, in all of their woundedness and vulnerability, because everyone, at some level, is broken. It got me thinking again, how we are all called to pick up our crosses and follow Christ. What we often seem to overlook, however, is that Christ did not carry his cross alone. Even He had help. Granted, Simon of Cyrene didn't exactly volunteer for the job of assistant cross carrier, but he helped shoulder Christ's burden none the less. So, too, are we called to help each other bear the burdens that we are struggling to bear in life. Often, like Simon, we end up having other peoples issues sort of thrust upon us. How do we handle it? Do we try to wriggle our way out, saying "It isn't my problem?" Or do we decide to will to take what part of the burden that we are able, and help them carry this cross? I don't know what Simon's reaction was, as it doesn't seem to be recorded anywhere, but I do know that a willing heart usually makes a heavy load much more bearable. This is an area I know I need a lot of practice in, but thanks to people like the Janaros, I am not lacking in good examples to follow. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

9 Tips for 9 Months

     I was recently inspired bythe American Recall Center's new project called "9 Tips for 9 Months" and decided to join in. The goal is to provide future expecting mothers with tried and true suggestions for managing common pregnancy ailments, hopefully resulting in happier, healthier mamas and babies. :)  
     Unfortunately, I've been struggling to come up with 9 things that I have tried and have worked, mostly because I have a tendency to just put up with things rather than put effort into doing things about them. Or I don't think to try things until it is too late, and there isn't anything that can be done about them until next time. Which actually works out well, because there are a few things that will be on my list that I am definitely doing next time!
*Disclaimer:  I am not a licensed medical professional; these suggestions are not meant to take the place of medical advice.*

1. Morning Sickness:  While I have experienced it with all three of my pregnancies, I do need to admit that it hasn't been bad enough to require medication. Which I am thankful for, after reading that Zofran, a popular medication for morning sickness, hasn't been approved by the FDA for pregnant women and even has been known to cause birth defects! My pregnancy nausea is usually the result of an empty stomach, or waiting too long to eat, which snowballs into not knowing what to eat because nothing is appealing at all, and then I end up moping and wallowing on the couch in a pity party. What I have found, though, with each successive pregnancy, the nausea is more manageable when I A. Just pick a thing and eat it (much easier to do when caring for a child who also needs to eat) and B. Keep moving (also pretty easy to do when chasing after a toddler). 

2. Exercise:  This definitely would have helped a lot with the nausea I had with #1, had I actually done it. #2 was my most active pregnancy, in so far as I walked a lot of places to get out of the apartment and to keep Jose entertained. I should have been better at exercising this time around, and am really kicking myself for not. My suggestion here, and one I am definitely going to do ASAP post-partum, is Focus on strengthening your core and pelvic floor. Find a program or gym or trainer that you trust and work with them. I recommend checking out Jessie Mundell and her Core and Floor Restore program. I personally haven't tried it yet, but if I'm super lucky I might get it as a "push present" (though I already have 2 workout programs I've begged for and then not used... kinda guilty about that). I think the most important thing when looking for a prenatal or post-partum workout is to find something that works to help heal your body, instead of inadvertently making it worse (did you know that crunches and sit ups could be making your tummy pouch worse?). I also love the Girls Gone Strong community for workout advice in general. 

3. Food:  Food is your friend, even when it seems the thought of it will make you sick. That being said, Don't stress about it. With  my first two, I was on the measuring small, not eating enough side, and the pressure to eat more caused unnecessary stress. Listen to your body, don't ignore it when it is hungry, but if eating that thing will just cause you to get sick, don't worry about it. Focus on nutrition, but don't freak out about the occasional junk food cravings or binges. Another thing I love about Jessie's posts (I follow on Instagram, and get her email updates) is how much she emphasizes that It's just food, and moderation is key. Focus on good protein, healthy fats, and veggies, and everything else will fall into place. 

4. Water:  Drink lots of it, from the very beginning! I shoot for at least a gallon a day, though often times I can tell I need more. Start early on, so as to develop the habit by the time the third trimester comes around, and your insides feel like they are too squished to hold both food and drink. Now that I'm in that stage, I find it helpful to have at least one protein shake a day to help with the "Should I eat or drink right now? I only have room for one" dilemma. Nutrition and energy while hydrating is a win-win situation in my book. Staying hydrated is also supposed to help lessen swelling and varicose veins, though I haven't noticed much difference in either of them; but I'm also not going to stop drinking to see how bad they would be otherwise, either. 

5. Swelling and Varicosities:  As mentioned above, water is supposed to help with both of these conditions, but I'm not going elaborate on my experience in regards to water a second time. Many people know that varicose veins in the legs occur often in pregnancy, but in 10% of women they can occur in a more sensitive area. Pregnancy support belts are your friends. I have a V2 Support Belt for those 10% veins I have, and a Baby Belly Band with support for that area as well that I use. The belly band is also supposed to help with leg varicosities by helping to relieve the pressure the uterus is putting on the veins. Putting your legs up above your heart also helps with both the veins and the swelling, but make sure your head is also higher than your heart lest too much blood flows to it. 

6. See a Chiropractor:  I'm pretty sure I have symphysis pubic dysfunction (SPD), and seeing the chiropractor has definitely helped with that. I wasn't too sure until my most recent appointment, because my pelvis bothers me, especially at night even with seeing the chiro, though it pops more on it's own than it did with #2. I had been going every other week for a bit, and last week my pain was really bad. Rolling over in bed and getting up in the morning were really bordering on excruciating. There were even a couple of days that I couldn't even hobble the 10 or so feet to the bathroom without assistance, it hurt so much. After my appointment yesterday, though, I was able to roll mostly pain free, and getting up this morning I hardly felt a thing! There are exercises I probably should be doing, but my 10% veins have left me a little wary of anything that stretches like a squat does. 

7. Prenatal Depression is a Real Thing:  Don't be afraid to ask for help if you think something is wrong. There is a certain amount of ebb and flow emotionally that seems to come with being pregnant, but if you or someone close to you feels that what you are feeling is not normal, don't be afraid to ask your care provider about it. You are not alone, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. Hormone imbalances can do awful things to people, and it is not your fault that you are feeling and acting this way. My midwife recommended an amino regimen from the book The Mood Cure, by Julia Ross, some of which helped, though I'm still narrowing it down to exactly what. I have also found that working to center myself spiritually is also helping. The human psyche is so complex that it may be a multitude of things causing the imbalance. But you can't get better if you don't acknowledge something is wrong.
On a related note, this article says acupuncture may be more effective than antidepressants for prenatal depression.

8. Constipation:  I have found Magnesium to be extremely helpful in this area. Plus, it is helpful for muscle cramps and general relaxation as well. I've read that it is best absorbed through the skin in some sort of lotion, but haven't gotten around to making my own magnesium lotion, or buying one someone else made. However, I have been taking Natural Vitality's Natural Calm as often as I can remember, and it seems to work well. I use the original flavor, and put it in my pregnancy tea. I usually make a quart of tea and drink it throughout the day. 

9. Have an Open Mind and Trust yourself. You really are the best judge for what is best for you, your baby, and your family. Growing up, I always thought babies were born in hospitals, and that was it. My husband's family, however, used midwives, and he suggested we check some out when we were expecting #1. I said ok, why not, and decided to go with an out of hospital birth. While we did end up in the hospital (story for a different day), I was pleased enough with our midwifery experience to continue choosing them for subsequent pregnancies. As for breastfeeding, that was my husband's suggestion as well. While it took a bit for #1 and I to get the hang of it, I'm really glad I kept it up, as it was the best fit for us. There is a lot of information out there, and sorting through it all can be extremely difficult and stressful. Don't let fear paralyze you. Try to keep things in perspective. There are a lot of scary stories out there, like how it is possible to get listeria from cold cuts, or that GBS contracted by a baby is more often than not fatal, it is also true that most accidents occur within 5 miles of home but we don't let that stop us from going about our business. Use your judgment, and try to find the middle ground. You are strong, you can do this.