Making the Change

For the first (almost) two years of motherhood, I was a working mom.  I worked full time, Monday through Friday.  Luckily, my mom, and other family members, watched Madeline, and I was able to see her on my lunch break every day, but after a while, that just wasn’t enough for me anymore.

I felt like I was missing everything.  My girl was growing so, so fast, and I spent half of her life sitting at a desk staring at a computer screen.  This broke my heart.  My husband and I decided that it was time to change that.  We decided that it would benefit all of us to be home with Madeline.  We decided that we would figure out how to make it work on one income.

I just knew, in my heart, that this was what I needed to do.  I was not, in any way, passionate about my job.  There was never a time in my life where I felt like I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up, until I had Madeline.  The second I held her I knew that the exact reason I was put on this earth was to be a mom.

Once we found out I was pregnant with Blake, we knew this was the perfect time to make the change.

My last day of work was June 20, 2014.

I remember thinking about how much time I would have.  The house would be clean.  The laundry would be done.  I would make animal shaped pancakes every morning, and special lunches.  We would take afternoon naps.  Are you laughing yet?  Why do we alway have the idea that things will be easy before we actually try them?  Easy, it is not.  Rewarding?  That would depend on your definition of “reward”.  Worth it? 100%.  Hard? More than you could believe.

It was a big adjustment.  It still is an adjustment, but I am definitely feeling more confident in my day to day life.  My house is definitely not clean.  Laundry tends to stay in baskets, and our sink is often full, even though we have a dishwasher.  There are toys, and books, and dustbunnies on the floor.  There are handprints on the windows.  Some days I’m lucky if I get out of my pajamas before lunch.  My days often consist of changing diapers in between meeting the needs of a screaming child.  BUT, When Blake said his first word, crawled, sat up, took his first steps, tried peas for the first time, blew a kiss, clapped his hands, rolled over… I was there.

Now, there are definitely things about this stay at home life that make me question my sanity at times.  There are days that I feel like I’m stuck in the movie Groundhog Day.  I load and unload the dishwasher over and over and over.  I wipe noses, change diapers, get little people food, attempt to clean the house, get dinner ready.  I don’t ever leave “work”.  I don’t get raises, or bonuses, or even paid for the matter.  Not in money anyway.  I get kisses, and snuggles, and laughter.  Amidst the insanity, there are things that fill my heart with joy.

Another huge adjustment was cutting back to one income.  It was the scariest part, because the world mostly revolves around money.  You have to pay your bills, and eat, and there are all these expectations of things you need, and things you have to see, and just… things. But, after figuring out what day care for two children would cost us, we wouldn’t have had the extra income anyway, so that made the decision a bit easier.  Although, there are still days when I have to remind myself of that fact.

We don’t always have a ton of money left over after the bills are paid.  We don’t have cable.  We rarely go out to eat.  But, we also don’t care.

Some days I am sad that I didn’t get to be home with Madeline from the beginning, but I like that I got to experience motherhood both ways.  It makes me certain that I am doing what is best for our family now.  Because in the end, that’s the only thing that really matters.

Let’s Have Another

June is Blake’s birth month.  June is also the month that I decided we had to have a second child.  Almost a year to the day, he entered our lives.

Let’s start at the beginning.  My pregnancy with Madeline was a piece of cake.  I loved every second of it.  Then I had back labor for two days before my water broke.  Then I had to push for four hours.  FOUR.  HOURS.  Then it took me over two weeks to be able to sit down without flinching.  Then I had undiagnosed post partum anxiety.  I was quite certain we were going to be “one and done”.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved everything about being a mom.  My sweet little girl was, and continues to be, the love of my life.  I just didn’t think I needed any more.  I was completely content with giving this perfect little girl all of my love.

A lot of people would say things like “Oh, you’ll change your mind.”, and point out how close my brother and I are, and say “don’t you want that for Madeline?”  And I’d say, “Oh, she’ll have cousins”

On June 29, 2013, Ben and I stood up in our friends wedding.  The bride danced with her brother to “You’ve Got a Friend”, and I changed my mind right then and there.  We had to give Madeline a sibling, a life long friend.

Blake was born on June 28, 2014.

So, all of those people I mentioned before?  They were right.  I did change my mind, and I did want to give that kind of bond to Madeline.  I know not all siblings end up life long friends, but I also know what it feels like to have one that did, and I have to say, it’s nice to have that.  My brother and I have a different understanding of each other.  We have been through the same things, and although we are four years apart, growing up we were really close, and we still are today.

That’s not to say that only children don’t have that type of bond with people.  That they don’t have lifelong friends who just get them.  I just knew that I wanted to add one more little to our family.

There were a lot of things I was worried about leading up to Blake’s arrival, and the closer it got, the more panic attacks I would have.

Would I really be able to love another baby as much as Madeline?  (Yes)

Would I be able to balance my time equally between them?  (Eventually, yes)

Was this really the right decision? (Too late now, but absolutely)

Am I crazy for having them so close together?  (Yes, but then no)

Needless to say, we couldn’t imagine our lives any other way.  I will forever be thankful for my change of heart and the wonderful blessing that came out of it.

As Blake get’s older, and him and Madeline interact with each other more, my heart is so full with the sound of their laughter, with the way Madeline can get him to stop crying when nothing else will, the way they already take care of each other, the way Blake copies everything Madeline does, the way they hug each other, the way they fight with each other, the way I can already see the strong bond between them.  Every single day I watch them, and thank God for giving me that moment on June 29, 2013, and I am so grateful I listened.

Moral of the story?  Never say never.

Treading Water: My Experience with Post Partum Anxiety, OCD, and Depression. Part 2.

Admitting that something wasn’t right was very hard for me, as I am sure it is for most people.  I was afraid of being judged.  I was afraid that people would think that I didn’t love my children.  (Because how can someone be depressed when they have such amazing children?)

By the time I got into the doctor, I had entered a dark place.  My anxiety had taken up so much of me, both mentally and physically.  It’s funny that way, you think it only affects your brain, because it is mental, but it is all attached.

I was nausious, dizzy, I felt, at times, as if my body was vibrating.  It scared me.  I was afraid to leave my house.  I didn’t want to be around people.  The thought paralyzed me.

At the time I spent a lot of time asking God why he was putting me through this.  I now know that it was so I could share it with others.  It was to show me that I could overcome.  It was to give others a voice.  It is a very difficult thing to admit to.  I was extremely nervous to share my story, which is why I knew I had to.

Making a doctor appointment was a very big step for me.  Going through with admitting how I was feeling was an even bigger step.  And can I just say that as soon as I did, I felt a weight being lifted?  It just felt so good to finally say it to a stranger.

As I mentioned in Part 1, I opted for medication.  At this point, I was so desperate to feel normal again that I needed the fastest way to do it.

For me, this is what worked best.  I got lucky in that I didn’t have any major side effects, and didn’t have to switch medications at all.  For anyone else going through this, know that there are other options, and it is completely okay if you want to see what they are and how they work before resorting to medication.  In the same breath, it is completely okay to go on medication.

It certainly did not work overnight, but by Thanksgiving I was aleady feeling better, by Christmas I felt like I had my life back, and by my follow up appointment in January, my doctor said it was like I was a different person.

At first, I would have a couple anxious days per week.  Now, I have one or two per month, if that.  I am able to do so much more without getting completely overwhelmed.  And before you ask, yes, I do think that part of the reason for that is that Blake is older.

It is also due to other things I did after the medicine made it possible to finally think straight again.

I started working some hours at my brother’s store, which gives me some time away from my children, and let’s face it, that makes everyone better.  I also started an exercise routine, and eating healthier.  I write in a journal regularly, and doodle.  I started attending MOPS, where I met some wonderful, inspiring women.  Along with a wonderful support system.  All of this has contributed to a happier and heallthier me.

You hear all the time that the first step is admitting that you have a problem.  For me, that was true.  Admitting that I needed help, led me to getting help.  As a mom, it is incredibly difficult to admit that you can’t handle it all.  Well, my friends, it takes a village.

I can’t say that I am cured, because I have yet to go off of the medication, and to be completely honest, I don’t know if I ever will.  I realized two things once I started feeling better.  One was that I had been suffering from PPA/OCD/Depression since I had Madeline, and just never knew that there was a name for how I felt.  The second is that I have always had anxiety.

I have never felt as free as I do now, and am looking so forward to continuing this journey to a happier, healthier, version of myself.

*I would again like to note that I am not, in any way, a health care professional.  This is just my own personal experience.  If you think you are suffering from any type of mental illness, please contact your doctor.  If you are feeling like maybe you can relate to some of this, please do not hesitate to talk to me.*

Jumping in Head First. My experience with Post Partum Anxiety/OCD/Depression. Part 1.

One of the major reasons I wanted to start a blog was to spread awareness of post partum mental health issues.  I realize that by sharing my story I am putting a lot of personal information out there.  Personal information that could be viewed as crazy.  But if me sharing my crazy can make just one person seek help, or just one person feel that they are not completely alone, then it was completely worth it.

My belief is that there is a reason that God had me go through what I went through.  He wanted me to be a voice.  He wanted me to share my experience with others, to help break the stigma that is related to any mental health issue, to ensure other’s that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

When I first realized that maybe my baby blues were a bit more than just baby blues, my first instinct was to turn to Google.  By doing so I realized that there isn’t a whole lot out there.  So, I am putting my story out there.

I knew something was off the day that I had Blake.  Everything went great as far as labor and delivery went.  I got moved to my room, we had visitors, I got my iced coffee, oh, and above all else, we had a beautiful, healthy, perfect, baby boy.  Everything was good in the world.  Until it was time for bed.  I couldn’t fall asleep.  My husband was sleeping.  My baby was sleeping.  I was not.  My eyes would not close.  Hours went by, and around 3:30 AM, I thought about something I had read before about post partum depression.  So I Googled (isn’t it amazing how that is always the first thing we do?)  Sure enough, insomnia was one of the symptoms.

I brushed it off though.  I was not depressed.  I just had a baby.  I missed my daughter.  We were in the hospital.  There were plenty of reasons I wasn’t able to fall asleep.  It would get better once we get home.  And it did.  I was able to sleep between feedings.  I forgot about it.

I cried.  A lot.  But that was normal right?  My hormones were balancing themselves back out.  Everything would get back to normal soon.  I was tired.  Everyone is tired when they have a newborn.  It’s hard to keep your emotions in check when you are so tired all the time.  It will get better.  And it did.  Once I was able to move around and get out more, I stopped crying so much.  I forgot about it.

I went to my first post partum OB appointment.  I was given a survey to fill out.  I filled it out.  Nothing related to how I was feeling, so there were no questions.

I went to my son’s first pediatrician appointment.  I was given the same survey to fill out.  I filled it out.  Nothing related to how I was feeling, so there were no questions.

I was never given another survey, or asked another question regarding my mental health.

My brain was foggy.  I forgot things constantly.  It was hard to finish a sentence, and I could never think of the word I was trying to get out.  I couldn’t remember why I went into a room.  I couldn’t make a grocery list.  I was tired.  So tired.  How was my brain supposed to work when I was so tired?  It will get better.  And it did.  I forgot about it.

My stress levels were out of control.  I was always tense.  Constantly clenching my teeth.  Constantly worrying about things that hadn’t even happened yet.  This was normal though, right?  I just needed to keep the house clean, get a sleep schedule down, work out more, eat better, try yoga, try meditating, take a warm shower, I could figure this out and fix it.

This was in September.  Blake was three months old.  Madeline had just turned two.  I was a new stay at home mom.  Stress made sense.  It’s not easy getting out of the house with two kids.  It’s not easy keeping the house clean with two kids.  It would get easier though.  It will get better.

I started to worry.  I started to formulate plans for my worries.  I started to lose sleep over formulating plans for my worries.  What if someone broke in the house while we were sleeping?  What if someone broke in the house while we are sleeping with a gun?  What if there was a fire?  What if the tire falls off while I’m driving and the car flips?  What if a car goes off the road while we’re on a walk and hits us?  What if someone abducts me while I’m walking my children?  What if I get sick and my kids grow up without a mom?  What if…

The thoughts were, for lack of a better word, crazy.  Absolutely ridiculous.  I would check and double check that the doors and windows were locked.  I would check and double check that the curtains were closed. This was in October.  Blake was 4 months old.  Again, I told myself I could fix it.  Voice my concerns.  Tell myself they are silly.  It will get better.

It didn’t get better.  The straw that broke the camels back.  My husband and I went with some friends to a beer and wine festival.  I had been sick with a cold that week and ended up completely losing my voice.  I had some wine and some hard cider.  After the festival we went back to the chalet that we had rented and had some snacks and played some games.  Since I wasn’t feeling well, we went to bed early.  I had a sharp pain in my shoulder blade, and when I told my husband I said “It’s happened before when I’ve had alcohol”  He just shrugged and said “That’s weird”.  Hm, that is weird.

I bet you can guess what I did next.  Google.  By morning I had myself diagnosed with lymphoma.  I was honestly convinced that I had it.  I spent the next week obsessively checking for any symptom that was related with lymphoma.  I obsessively checked for swollen lymph nodes in my neck.  I was making myself sick.

This is when I knew that it wasn’t something I could fix with yoga, or meditation, or more sleep.  I finally called the doctor.

It was November.  Blake was four and a half months old.

At this point I didn’t have a GP.  I had been pregnant for what seemed like for ever (twice in two years), so I had been using my OB, and before that I didn’t have health insurance.  So, when I called, I just told them it was to become a patient.  I still couldn’t admit that there was something wrong out loud.  *My husband and some family knew, and were extremely supportive*  Because it wasn’t an emergency, my appointment was three weeks out.  Okay, I told myself, I can do this.  It’s only three weeks.

The next day I called and begged for an earlier appointment, and got one, thank goodness.  My wonderful doctor was so wonderfully understanding.  She listened, and nodded, and smiled.  She didn’t judge, or brush my feelings aside.

In the end I was diagnosed with Post Partum Anxiety, OCD, and Depression.  A triple whammy.  I opted to try medication, and haven’t looked back.

This concludes the first part of my experience.  Please note that I am in no way a medical professional.  This is just my personal experience that I am sharing in case someone else is feeling the same and wondering what in the world is going on.  If you are in any way feeling like something isn’t right, whether it be post partum or not, please seek help.  Mental health is so, very important.  I encourage anyone who reads this, who thinks they may have something, to talk to someone, and if you don’t have anyone to talk to, talk to me.

Finding a Fit Balance

One of my goals this year was to get myself into shape.  I turn thirty in September, I have two children, and as far as I am concerned don’t plan on having any more, it was time for some health intervention.

Growing up I was always thin.  This can be attributed to good genes and a fast metabolism.  I was never, in any way, athletic, fit, strong.  I could eat what I wanted, not exercise, and wear a size 2.  Everyone’s dream right?  Wrong.

The problem with this is that after having two children, things didn’t just bounce back.  My muscles were weak, and I was more out of shape than ever.  I decided it was time to do something about it.  I also decided that my goal wasn’t to get skinny, it is to get fit.  I want to be strong.  I want to have endurance.  I want to show my daughter just how capable women can be.

Being a mom, our own health and well-being has a tendency to get put on the back burner.  It is in our nature to make sure everyone else is being taken care of, and sometimes we forget that we need to take care of ourselves too.  This was hard for me.  It was hard to find a time when I could exercise.  It was hard to take time to make myself something healthy to eat, instaed of just grabbing something fast, or eating the kids leftovers.  I know I am not the only one.  This is one of the balances that I am still trying to figure out, but feel that over the last eleven months, I have improved.

I also know that it can be easier for me, since I am a stay at home mom, to find time in my day to do something active.  I get it, I was a working mom for the first two years, and it was hard.  Between my commute and work time, I didn’t have much time left in the day, which is a big reason this journey didn’t begin until after I stopped working.  That, and since I knew I wanted to have one more after Madeline, I didn’t feel like putting in the effort.  Don’t question my reasoning, it made sense to me.  And, really, maternity clothes were so comfortable!

Alas, it is time for me to hang up the elastic bands, and the extended panels.

My journey, so far, has included walking (pushing a double stroller is no joke!), a 12 week program called The Mutu System, and little itty bitty weight training (5 pounders).  *I am on week eight of the twelve week program, and will share that in more detail when I finish it.*  And you know what?  I am seeing a difference, and it makes me so happy, because not only is exercise and a good diet healthy for my body, but it is also healthy for my mind (we’ll dig deeper on that in another post too).

Moral of the story?  If you want it, go for it.  Give yourself some credit, and attention, and time.  Mom’s matter too.