Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Taking Care of Momma

You hear it everywhere: you have to take care of yourself to be a better mom and wife, not to mention you owe it to yourself, plain and simple. But hearing it repeatedly doesn't make it any easier to implement. For me, parenthood was such an adjustment - with so many new requirements on my time and energy - the first thing to go was me. Between school, pregnancy, and our eventual move to Three Forks for Justin's flight program, I have been unable to dance (my first love) with any consistency for almost three years now. Without it, I have quickly put on weight, lost strength, flexibility, and plenty of self esteem. After losing a pregnancy and being forced to quit nursing last month, my body image has deteriorated further. But it has also worked as a kick in the pants. I want to be a mom - I want to get pregnant again. But I want to be excited about it when it happens. A huge part of that for me is feeling physically ready - strong and healthy. So I am determined to use last month's tragedy as a motivation to do better from here on out.
I'm starting from nothing - truly. Without dance, my physical activity has been strictly limited to chasing my son around the house. I'm in the worst shape of my life. So I'm going to do this slowly. I know myself, and if I overwhelm myself with daunting tasks, I just won't do them.
So here's the plan:
On Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays I'm trying (I say trying because I've only been successful at this about half of the time so far) to get up at 6 am to head out for a walk/run. I've never been a runner, nor have I ever enjoyed running (I seriously think it was a case of PTSD from my asthmatic run-the-mile days in grade school) but I'm convincing myself that this is something to look forward to. It's actually kind of working. Those are the mornings that Justin doesn't have to get up at 4 am to leave for work, which means I can leave Drake with him and head out on my own. Looking at it as some alone time for myself actually makes it quite tempting. Mental health: addressed.
On Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays I am doing some at-home calisthenic exercises. A few very basic things just to try to rebuild some tone in my muscles before I attempt anything more intense.
Sundays I'm taking off.
I'm overhauling my family's diet and getting back to counting calories. It's such an important awareness step. We use My Fitness Pal, which makes it so easy. They have an app for smart phones or tablets that syncs with the website so you can update your food and exercise diary from anywhere. Justin and I are also doing a gentle cleanse this week - just veggie and liquid heavy. Avoiding most dairy.
Beyond that, I'm setting aside Drake's first nap of the day as time to do something I want to do, but it can't be tv. Blogging, painting, sewing, reading. Something that reminds me of the parts of myself I like and enjoy.
I plan to write about the whole process here. I'm looking to you all to keep me accountable but I also may need some encouragement along the way. And if any of you would like to join me, I would so love to go on this journey with someone. Even if your plan is different from mine, I'd love to hear from you. Let's build each other up!

Taking Care of Momma, Week 2 (I didn't write about Week 1, so we'll just start here):
Running plan: walk 7 minutes, run 2 minutes - repeat 4 times. Walk 9 minutes to cool down. Total: 45 minutes. Stretch!
Calisthenics plan: 10 squat/knee ups (squat down and then as you stand you pull one knee up above waist level, contracting your stomach, switch knees on the next squat),10 calf raises, 5 push ups on toes, 5 push ups on knees, 10 chair tricep dips - repeat 3 times. Neutral spine exercises on the foam roller - 5 minutes. (these exercises were prescribed by my chiropractor to help with alignment and core strength. This site has some good images and explanations of the kinds of things I'm doing.)  Plank - 45 seconds. Stretch!
Weight: 139 lbs
Self Esteem: poor. Let's just be honest. I'm struggling.

Running: Run more than I walk.
Calisthenics: Get through a more intense workout without feeling like I'm going to pass out or fall over. I'm hoping to be able to follow the workouts at Body Rock by Week 5. They have a huge variety of workouts and they can all be done in 12 minutes, which seems extremely doable.
Weight: 130
Self Esteem: healthy. I just don't want to feel this hate inside. Ugh - you're not supposed to say that - but  it's true. And I know it shouldn't be.

Here we go!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Sweetest Thing

Yesterday, as Drake and I were waiting in the lobby at our chiropractor appointment, a woman named Allie and her two young boys walked in. I had met them before - my chiropractor has a relatively small and intimate practice - and had wished my son was with me to play with her boys. The older one, Angus, is five and the younger one, Arlo, is ten months. Both are super cute little men. When they came in yesterday, Allie sat Arlo at her feet as she checked in at the computer. Drake took one look at him, crawled over, turned around, sat beside him, and leaned his head on Arlo's shoulder. It all happened within 60 seconds. Drake just decided that they should be friends. Both Allie and I - and the couple other people in the waiting area - just melted. I mean, how stinking sweet is that?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I don't get this kid

I've really been struggling with getting my boy everything he needs nutritionally. He has limitations because of his anal stenosis - no bananas, no apple sauce, no white bread, no white rice - but on top of that, he is becoming increasingly picky. I don't understand. I feel like we're going in the wrong direction. Early on, he wanted anything we were eating. And not just to try it. He would eat substantial amounts of food off of my plate. Complex, highly seasoned foods. Salads. Steamed veg. Anything. But suddenly, all of that went out the window. I have to try over and over to find something he will eat. If it could be considered a bread product, he will eat it. So I try to bake a lot of good things - dried fruits and shredded veggies and seeds and nuts - into muffins and unsweetened cookies. But I know he can't live a life on bread products alone, as much as I may doctor them. So I try. Every time, I try. I try oranges and apples and pears and slices of cheese and grapes and soup and eggs and ..... sigh. I've tried it all. Sometimes I'll succeed, for a bite or two, but then he refuses to eat again.
So, when he reached for a couple of tangerines the other day, you can understand that I assumed he just wanted to play with them. They do look like balls, after all. Since we had so many of them, and he was being a pill, I decided to hand them to him. I watched him roll them and toss them for a minute or two before heading off to do the dishes. Imagine my surprise when I found him like this:

Yep. Eating the sad, beaten up tangerines. Peel and all. What? The last five times I had offered them to him - peeled and segmented, of course - every single segment had ended up on the floor. But look at him tear into this thing:

I watched this strange but fascinating phenomenon for a couple of minutes but then Drake gagged on a large chunk of peel he had torn off and I got nervous. Thinking he would appreciate the gesture, I peeled the rest off for him and handed him back the half eaten tangerine. He lost it. Absolutely lost it. He was so mad at me and refused to have anything further to do with his tangerine.
I'm so confused...

What challenges do you have feeding your family? Any tips or advice? I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Oh my gosh, he's a genius

Drake has started trying to say "ball" although it comes out a little more like "baw." They are his favorite type of toy - he loves them in all colors and sizes. He plays with them so consistently and makes the "baw" noise so often, that I wasn't actually sure he was trying to say "ball" at all. But just now, as we were eating our breakfast and watching Sesame Street, there was a basketball on screen. I didn't notice it, because, really, I'm not the one watching the cartoons. My job is to spoon yogurt at a steady rate. But then Drake lost interest in the yogurt and started saying, "Baw! Baw!" and sure enough, there it was, on a table next to Elmo. I was so impressed. The camera angle changed and the ball was no longer in the picture. Drake was silent. Camera angle changes back: "Baw! Baw!" Oh, I'm so proud. You super-smarty pants, you.

Monday, February 18, 2013

My Funny Valentine

My sweet boy in his Valentine's Day gift from me - King of Mom's Heart they say - oh Lord, I couldn't resist.

Valentine's Day was extremely casual this year - we had no plans and no gifts. In fact, I was in Helena for the official day and didn't get home until 1pm the next day. We had decided we would celebrate on Friday but my only plan was to make something delicious for dinner, followed by some manner of chocolate. On my drive home, however, Montana was so incredibly gorgeous - just a fabulously, unseasonably sunny day - that I was inspired to go on an adventure. A few years ago, a day like that would have found Justin and I traipsing up a mountain or driving some windy country road with the top down in my old VW Cabby *sniff, sniff* But, alas, we have a 14 month old and a Toyota Corolla. So these days an "adventure" is a trip downtown with the stroller. Snarkiness aside: that can lead to a pretty awesome day, as it did last Friday.

Our first stop was a swanky little spot called Plonk. We have been going there on special occasions since before we were married, but this year we showed up during the quiet early afternoon hours, in our jeans and {accidentally matching} flannels, pushing a binky-sucking baby boy. That, however, did not make it feel any less special to me. I had a drink! Like, an adult drink. That's a big deal for me. The stay-at-home-mommy gig does not exactly lend itself to cocktail hour. We had these amazing appetizers that had me doing little dances with every bite. And the cocktail: a Cucumber Cilantro Gimlet. Oh holy yum. If you know me very well at all, you don't need me to say that - from that one little cocktail - I got tipsy, but I'm gonna say it here anyway just to set the stage. Because now we have come to the point of my Valentine's Day story.

From Plonk, we took Drake into a small toy store, where we may have had more fun than he did. And then we stopped into my favorite little cosmetics and skin care boutique. We walked into the small shop and were greeted by a big, beautiful German Shephard. "Oh, hello Handsome!" I said, bending down slightly to scratch the big dog's chin. I'm a sucker for a big lover dog.

The very sweet store owner walks up to us and says, "Anderson, leave them alone."

"Oh, he's ok! He's a good looking boy!" I say. Just then, a second dog runs up to me, this one small and scruffy. No, not just scruffy - mangy. See, I don't find many small dogs attractive. They can't have long, narrow faces, but they can't have smooshed faces, either. No buggy eyes, no bull dog underbite. Not too poodle-y, and definitely no weiner dogs. No shaking, no yapping, no frills. Pretty much, they have to look like this or this for me to think they are cute. But I really do love all animals. It's not their fault they're ugly. So I say to the dog, "Well, hello to you too, you scruffy little thing," scratching the top of his head and doing my tipsy-best to be polite.

"Bridgette, he needs another hair cut," says the owner over her shoulder to an employee, trying simultaneously - I would assume - not to be offended and to imply, "He doesn't always look so bad."

Not to be misunderstood, I decide to follow with, "He's so ugly, he's cute." Really. I said that. Yikes.

"Bridgette cut his little beard before but he's in need of another one," she tries again. She really is so sweet, she is earnestly trying to stay professional and let me off of the hook for my insults. But I continue. Surely she is simply misunderstanding me.

"My mom has a dog who has this same kind of crazy, wirey hair," I say, tugging slightly on the long white hairs on the back of the dog's neck. "I'm always loving on him and telling him, "You're not that attractive, but I love you anyway.'"

At that, the owner decided to move away from the dogs and talk about the business at hand. She kept a smile and acted as if I hadn't just called her dog ugly. Over. And over. And over. God bless her.

When we walked out, my husband busted up laughing and said, "Wow. You really don't have a filter when you're tipsy!" Oh geez. He noticed. And here I thought I had covered well. As we continued to walk around downtown and my one-cocktail-buzz wore off, I felt increasingly awful about what I had done. I can't believe I could be so tactless! Ugh. How embarrassing. If I ever go back in there - which I sincerely would like to do! - I think I'll go in costume and sport a British accent.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Unexpected gifts

Two little things have begun to happen that have done my heart a lot of good.

#1 - Drake decided to stop fighting me. Well, at least where diaper changes are concerned. For the past three or four days, instead of writhing and squirming and fussing while I change him, he has laid there nicely and smiled up at me like he used to do when he was just a few months old. He even kicked his legs and flailed his arms a bit like a newborn would do. I think he knew I needed him to be my baby for just a little while longer (the walking thing is really blowing my mind).

#2: When I'm giving Drake his bottle before a bed or a nap, we rock in the rocking chair. It's soothing for both of us; I kiss his forehead or brush his hair out of his eyes and he lays there with his lovey, rubbing it and zoning out. But a couple of times now, he has let go of his precious, soft, comforting lovey with one hand - and reached for mine. Be still my beating heart. My son wants to hold my hand. Holy cow, does that make me a happy momma.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Like a bad country song...

Last week was one of the worst weeks of my life so far. I'm not saying that to be dramatic. It just happens to be the truth. If there was a record of my worst weeks - with weeks that family members died and boys broke my heart - this one would land somewhere in the top three.
I have been debating with myself a lot about how much of this story I'm going to tell you. It's an extremely personal one, and one that I think most people would not tell. But, with the space of a few days to clear my head, I think I'm going to share it. Number one: because that's what writers do. And once, I promised to be real when writing here on this blog. And number two: in case any one who happens to read this goes through the same thing some time in the future, I want you to know I understand and I'm here if you need someone to talk to.

*deep breath*

I guess I should start at the beginning...
I thought I was having my first cycle since my son was born (he's 14 months old now but we had been nursing the whole time). I bled lightly for three days and then it quit. It seemed normal and I thought nothing of it. But then four days later it started again, and this time it came with horrible abdominal pains. At first I thought, "Man, the first period after a baby really sucks." And I've heard that, for some, that really is true. But after two days of increasing pain - a pain that stabbed me like a knife if I bent over or tried to get up off of the couch - I had a sick feeling that something wasn't right. I asked my husband to bring home a pregnancy test when he got out of classes. It was positive.
This is where it gets really hard for me to tell...
I sank down onto the side of the bathtub and rested my head against the sink, crying. It escalated and escalated until soon I was rocking back and forth, thumping my head into the sink, sobbing and saying, "What did I do? What did I do?" That's how my husband found me.
A million fears and pangs of guilt had overwhelmed me in an instant. I had missed a few doses of my birth control pill around Christmas. I forgot to get it refilled before the holiday weekend and when my husband and I were impatient, I said a quick prayer, "Lord, only if it's Madeleine."  You see, that's my daughter. I've seen her. I know what she's going to look like and I know she's mine. So I said the prayer that I would only get pregnant if it was time for Madeleine. I didn't feel ready to be pregnant again already, but if it was her time, I was willing. And that's where I should have stopped. In that place of faith and trust - that's where I should have rested. But instead, as soon as I could get my birth control refilled, I started taking it again. And all of that is running through my head as I'm reeling from the collision of facts: a positive pregnancy test, bleeding, and severe abdominal pain. "I feel like I've lost my baby girl," I choked out.
Here is where I have to tell you that my husband is a super hero. He stepped up in that moment to be everything I needed him to be and said everything I needed him to say. Not that it stopped the crying, but I don't know how I ever would have faced last week without him there.
The next morning my  husband woke me up at 8 am with a cup of tea and some good news. He had woken up early, cancelled his entire day (a practice flight, a stage check with the head instructor, and three classes) and made me an appointment with my doctor in Helena. "We leave in an hour," he said. When I asked how he could afford to miss all that, he simply said, "You need me today."
We loaded up the car with some "just in case" over night things and started out for Helena, just in time to get a message from my doctor's office that she would have to cancel the appointment. She had gone into a delivery. So instead, we pointed the car towards the small clinic here in Three Forks. The Nurse Practitioner - I remember her name was Kristin - did a brief exam and asked me several questions and then gave me the list of things we could be facing. And that was the first time I heard it: ectopic pregnancy. It hadn't even occurred to me. Kristin said, "Every time I hear 'stabbing pains' I worry about it a little bit."
I was so naive, I asked, "What happens if it is an ectopic?"
"Surgery." The word punched me in the gut. Of course. I knew that, didn't I?

She sent us to the hospital in Bozeman for an ultrasound. On the drive in, I tried desperately to stay calm. It might not be an ectopic. But it could be a miscarriage. Or it could have been a false-positive test and all of this could be an overreaction. When I started hoping for the last option, that's when I lost it again. What if I really was pregnant? How could I sit there and wish it away? But I wasn't ready. I didn't want to be pregnant yet. I was just feeling like myself again. Drake is sleeping through the night most nights. I have energy and wanted to work out and be strong before my next pregnancy. And I wanted to enjoy my marriage again. To share a bed with my husband and actually be able to snuggle up next to him without a belly in the way. I wanted to get out with my family this summer and maybe actually do some of the things we love and miss so much. But if there was a baby inside of me, I couldn't imagine anything worse than losing it. I was so conflicted I felt like I might fly apart. My husband just held my hand and kept trying to remind me, "We don't know yet."
The ultrasound was a two-part test, on the belly and internal. Which is humiliating, by the way. To lay there on that bed with all the worry and fear and then have someone...... it's horrible.
She was too quiet. And she kept looking at the same area over and over. And it hurt. It really hurt. And then she brought in the radiologist and my suspicions were reinforced as she pointed to the screen and said, "See? This area here."
He asked her to show him more angles and take a few measurements and then he said it, too. "Ectopic pregnancy." But he wouldn't commit to it. It could be an ovarian cyst, he said. He sent me to the emergency room for a blood test.
I am supremely grateful for the phlebotomist who was on shift that day. I have a severe needle phobia. Really. I pass out half the time. But the man who drew my blood was such a bright spot in the middle of one of my darkest days. He made me feel so comfortable and he made me laugh and he was so, so kind. I saw him several times that day but, sadly, never got his name. If anyone knows the tall phlebotomist at Bozeman Deaconess with reddish brown hair and a kind smile, please tell him thank you for me.
I layed in the hospital bed for almost five hours before we had any real answers. In the end, my worst fear was confirmed. Ectopic. A pregnancy in my right fallopian tube. And there is no saving it. The baby can't survive it and, if left untreated, often, neither does the mother. Those were the cold hard facts. Thank God for an OB/GYN who managed to share all of this with me with some warmth in her voice and manner. But "manage." That was the word they used. We had two options on how to "manage" the pregnancy. The first was medicinal - a dose of a chemotherapy drug that would dissolve the tissue. The second was surgery, in which case I could lose my fallopian tube and have decreased fertility in the future.
I was incapable of deciding. I was physically exhausted, mentally hazy, and emotionally raw. I couldn't form words to tell someone how to... how to... I still can't. A large part of me wanted to just go to sleep and have it be over. I told Justin I needed him to make the decision. He said that, for the sake of my health and our future children, we needed to do the medicine.
About thirty minutes later, a nurse came in with an extra-large syringe full of a yellow fluid. She said it had to be inter-muscular and had me roll on my side. As she slowly pushed the medicine into my body, I cried and squirmed. The moment she was out of the room, I lost it again. The medicine burned like evil. I felt like I had an enemy inside of me. I tried to escape it, clutching onto Justin, crying, "I don't want it! I don't want it! I don't want it. I don't want it. I don't want it....
When I finally stopped, I told him I wanted to go home, and he did everything he could to push the nurses to get me discharged quickly.
Over the next several days, I was weak and nauseous and in pain. I cried at the slightest reminder of what was happening, which was often since my body told me every minute. My mom and sister came to stay with me that first night, but after that it was just the three of us, trying to recover. And again, I have to tell you that my husband is a gift from God. He never went back to work or class that week, and he took care of everything. Which was a lot. When I list it all for you, you'll understand why I said it was like a bad country song: I was just trying to recover both emotionally and physically while also sick with a cough and head cold. Drake had a really bad relapse with his anal stenosis and was crying and screaming again as he tried to go the bathroom. (In fact, the first bad episode happened while I was having my ultrasound at the hospital, and Justin had to try to comfort both of us.) Then Drake got my cold. His first cold, poor baby. A fever and a cough and everything. On top of that, the chemotherapy medicine that was coursing through me made it necessary for me to wean Drake once and for all. It was harsh on both of us - like an insult to injury. Justin started getting up with him at night, both so that I could rest and so that Drake might not be so mad that I wasn't nursing him. Then, as a final straw, our boxer, Sadie, ripped open her foot and it got infected. It was so swollen, it was nearly twice the size of her other paws. Justin had to take her to the vet and brought her back with a cone on her head and two types of medicine she would need to take for seven days. Yes, even the dog.
The bright spots in the week were the time we got to spend together and the friends who reminded us how much they loved us. I had friends stepping up to watch Drake and offering to do anything else we needed. I got some beautiful flowers from my B's and a card signed by my dance family back home. I got a lot of sweet messages from friends and family offering their support and love. And we got through it. Thank you all.

Today, I'm feeling like a survivor. I still feel sad sometimes, but I feel stronger. I started working out the day after the doctor gave me the go-ahead this past Monday. I am determined to let this serve as a reminder of what is important. I will be strong for my next baby. I will be grateful for each day I get to spend with my husband and my son. And hopefully next time I see a positive pregnancy test, I'll be ready.
I still don't know how to resolve the fear that I lost Madeleine. Justin says my faith has to be bigger: that if I believe that God has shown me my daughter, I have to believe he will give her to me. I'm working on it. I'm praying a lot.
In the hospital that day, I said another little prayer just before the nurse gave me the shot: "Back to your care." And of at least that much, I'm sure.