Sunday, October 23, 2016

Notice Goodness

   The past few months have been emotionally hard for me. I've always been very closed. Very cautious, with a minuscule circle of those I know I can trust because it's been proven. About a year ago I tried opening up. Thrust myself out on a big, scary limb of friendship and putting myself out there. I have been met with love and connection from precious people put in my path. I've also been met with deep hurt, manipulation, back-stabbing, and been used for what I have to offer then cast aside- all by seemingly wonderful people.
   Why is it that the hurt resounds the loudest? A friend made us a huge, delicious meal this week. I was blown away with her love and kindness. Another friend offered to come to me when I'd forgotten my wallet and found myself 40 minutes from home without my wallet, and pay for my groceries so I didn't have to drive all the way home to get the forgotten wallet. In response to a Facebook post about my son's struggles, he has received more than 40 birthday cards and messages this past week, encouraging him and loving on him. Yet as I lay in bed sick all weekend, alternating between sleeping and scrolling Facebook and Instagram on my phone to keep me awake long enough to feed the baby, I was overcome with the pain of rejection as numerous friends posted pictures of themselves and their children at each other's birthday parties and fall get-togethers, none of which we were invited to, despite all being friends with the same connections and children the same age, or mamas going on the "wine and art" nights together- all of which I know, am connected to the same way- and yet I've never once been invited to such a thing. I've even been UNinvited from things by receiving an email telling me I was welcome at a later gathering, but not the soonest one- Oh, but if we happen to need to use you for your very specific skill set as it relates to this social gathering, we will let you know(no, I'm not kidding. That was seriously said)- with absolutely no explanation and the person has completely avoided me since. What's wrong with me? Why didn't I enter their mind to invite? What terrible thing did I do to be UNinvited from a women's prayer meeting, of all things? Admittedly, this realm of "friendships with lots of people" is new to me. I am not kidding when I say that I have always been very, very closed with my heart, and I've always had many acquaintances- people I know but there's no relationship there- but very few friends. I had a little pity party among my tissues and hot tea in my bed, then I picked up my book to read. This was the very first line on my bookmarked page in Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst:
It's time to stop the lies and devastating hurt stemming from this kind of circumstantial identity[in human relationships]. 
Wow. That was exactly what I needed to hear. I often get hung up on the hurt. Dwell on the meanness from others, succumbing to rejection, allowing it to control my mind.  I started reading this book when it was recommended to me because of the hurts I've been struggling to deal with, and it has had so many zingers that have hit my soul just right.

The mind feasts on what it focuses on. What consumes my thinking will be the making or breaking of my identity.
That. Right there. Yes, people make mistakes. Yes, even lovely, well-meaning, generally wonderful people can do very ugly things. And they hurt. But I don't need to be consumed by them. I can take a deep breath, process it, acknowledging my feelings rather than stuffing them and not being honest with myself, then choose to focus on the right things. Hurt will still exist, but I can choose where my focus lies. I can focus on the good, the lovely, and the true, and let the rejection, the ugliness, and the hurt fall away. I don't need to let it break my identity and who I know I am. Friends and relationship- real relationship, not just people I know and whom make nice with me and my family when we're in the same place- totally exist in my life, and I need to cherish them, not focus on the hurt and rejection. There is so much good. Deal with the bad, the hurtful as it comes, but focus on the good. It is everywhere.

Oh, and if you haven't ever heard of it, check out Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst. SUCH a good book about relationships.

Friday, October 21, 2016

"I Don't Know How You Do It"

   I hear this all. The. Time. That's a fact, not tooting my own horn. My answer is always the same, regardless of what the statement pertains to: I do it because I have to. Aside from knitting and reading books, there's really just about nothing on my plate that isn't a necessity, so I just summon the will and throw myself through- hopefully with a smile. For today, that pertains to exercise.
   I explained to a friend on Sunday that there's little I've done to make a huge change in my life without first having an "Aha!" moment in the form of a real, life-altering experience which spurred me to the change. In the area of self-care, that was the pregnancy and birth of my youngest. My sixth baby, my rainbow, my Peaceful Light From God. Aside from varying degrees of awful morning sickness, I have always loved being pregnant. My body just does pregnancy and childbirth very well, with no credit to me. My body just does it, and I am so grateful. Things started to change, though, when I had my second. After my first, I found an odd 'hole' around my belly button, but mama friends said it was normal. My second was a massive 10.5 lbs and my bump showed it. I was left with pretty severe Diastasis Recti(A separation of the abdominal muscles that your internal organs can and often do herniate through)- or DR. I tried so hard to get back into shape after he was born- running 5k's and doing pilates and ab workouts by the hundreds- but my body wasn't having it. I had no idea what DR was, nor how it was affecting my body. With my third, that core instability led to very painful  Symphasis Pubis Dysfunction(trouble with the ligaments and alignment in the pelvis and hips), which thankfully did not complicate delivery, and resolved itself after her birth. I walked with my babies in the huge stroller, and crunch-crunch-crunched to try and re-strengthen my core. I had no idea why it was not getting better. With my fourth, aside from severe morning sickness for 25 weeks in the form of serious Hyperemesis Gravidarum and a resulting scare with IUGR, the pregnancy went well, but after an 18-hour posterior labor and delivery(hard work, extra painful, but in the realm of "normal" and safe) because my stubborn nugget wouldn't turn, That extra work and hard pushing combined with my already unstable and weak core resulted in my internal organs settling a bit lower than ideal, because I lacked the tone in a very specific set of muscles to hold things in place. The technical term for that is Pelvic Organ Prolapse- POP. Exercise experts basically all had the same message: No more high-impact exercise again. Walk. Walk until your feet bleed. Because anything more jarring can worsen the POP and require surgical repair. Oh- an Diastasis Recti? All those crunches by the thousands and hours of Pilates and ab work to strengthen my core? It was making the DR worse. Nothing but surgical repair for that.
   I resigned myself to being out of shape. In conversations on the matter I'd say, "Well, I have a pretty serious Diastasis and only surgery will fix it so I'll always look 5 months pregnant until I'm officially done having kids and get that all fixed." I walked with my kids whenever possible, but my "postpartum/extra lumpy transition" wardrobe became my wardrobe. Then I lost Asher, and his surgical birth made the POP I'd been dealing with for years instantly exponentially worse. At a post-op appointment in April that year, my midwife recommended a program called Hab-It Pelvic Floor Exercises, which is a physical therapy program created by a PT specialist in pelvic floor issues, Tasha Mulligan. I bought the DVD on Amazon and set to work. I was amazed at how 20 minutes a day 4 days a week started to make changes on my body. I even started to notice that my DR was improving. Could it be? No one had ever mentioned a correlation between DR and POP to me. I was supposed to work hard at the PT program for 3 months, and(unless I was having trouble with ANYTHING else sooner) come back in 12 weeks. Well, the 12 weeks came and I wasn't feeling well(it was nearing Asher's original due date and I was very emotional) so I put it off. Three weeks later:

No, four tests is not overkill. It's necessary.
   So back to the midwife I headed for an entirely different reason. I was a higher weight than I had ever started a pregnancy, so I continued my PT program, walking-walking-walking, and a rigidly healthy, clean(preservative-free) diet throughout the pregnancy, but still my body revolted. High blood pressure for seemingly no reason, physical pain from head to toe, months of no weight gain, then 10 lbs spike in a week with no change in my diet or exercise. I was a bit of a mess. Then came my guy's delivery- my first in an actual hospital setting(I had placenta previa that had moved but was still close so I risked out of a birth center or homebirth). There were emotions at play, a malpositioned little(or 9.5-lb) guy, a lot of extra amniotic fluid, and a very intense fear-tension-pain cycle I let overpower me, and I ended up with a 13-hour battle that ended with an epidural so I could shut my brain off and go to sleep until he literally slid out just after I woke up with a "weird feeling."
   That pregnancy and delivery- the struggles, the way my always-capable, strong body just couldn't do it anymore- was my wake-up call. I needed to do SOMETHING. I started research DR more. The very experienced, trained EMT turned aromatherapist-herbalist-holistic health adviser who is the woman behind Blessed Mama Services(No, no relation to my Blessed Journey Birth Services. See What's In A Name for my Why) said she was doing an online info session on Diastasis Recti and related issues. It was during that discussion that I heard about Fit2B. Supposedly this program was made for moms. Supposedly she could help heal all these core and pelvic floor issues by helping you strengthen the right muscles. Supposedly once you're healed and know how to move properly for your body you can do anything. I say supposedly because I was told this was only ever repairable by surgery, and that my POP would prevent me from ever running again. Plus it cost money and I don't part with money easily. Everybody asking for money has some ulterior motive besides the good of the buyer: money. I "liked" their Facebook page, followed along with the information that was posted there. Then, the day before my 8-week postpartum check up with my midwife, they posted that they had a free 30-day trial. I read it over, three times, searching for the loop holes. Nothing? Really? Alright. When my midwife released me for light activity as I felt well enough, I went home and ordered the free trial. I figured I'd give it a go for 30 days. Workouts and such were all completely digital- either through their website, streaming on your phone, or on their own app on Roku. For 30 days I'd give it a try to see if it hurt like my other workouts did due to POP and DR, if it fit in my life with short chunks as I had a moment without a baby in my arms and kids asleep, and if it actually did anything positive for my body. It was free(actually, $1 card processing fee. but I can do $1), so I had nothing to lose(except the dollar). This was the picture I took of myself, nuzzling my "tiny" guy, before my postpartum checkup: 

That's good posture, standing upright, holding my belly in, 8 weeks postpartum. That day, I started 20 minutes of exercise daily, however I could fit it in. I alternated my Hab-It DVD and workouts(15-30 minutes) from Fit2B. This is me three weeks later:

I was down 3 pounds. THREE! That's not significant weight loss for the way my waistline was shrinking. I was so impressed by Fit2B. Beth(the founder, trained in physical therapy and an exercise
professional) asked everyone to start with their Foundational Five. Let me tell you- you THINK you have good posture, you THINK the chiro is what keeps you properly aligned(I LOVE my chiro- no dings there!), you THINK you're bending, reaching, babywearing, etc, properly, until you do the F5 for a couple weeks and learn how to engage certain muscles to move differently- more healthily for your body. Oh. My. I was stronger every day, moving differently in things as simple as bending to unload the dishwasher or change a diaper, or SQUATTING, things I'd been doing for a decade in wys that didn't support my body or strengthen my core. AND IT DIDN'T HURT! None of it hurt. At all. Ever. Throughout Beth's videos, she is teaching, talking as she moves, giving you "bone cues" on what you should be feeling to properly engage a muscle, reach a tiny muscle group, and more. She is sweet, happy, encouraging, and teaching you how to move, live, and care for your body in the long run of life. She's not creating a dependent consumer, she's educating, strengthening, and healing you so you can move on stronger and healthier for life! There's the added bonus of an online member forum(Facebook group) where Beth herself and other trusted "wise women" and professionals in their own fields answer questions, and all the members chat, talk life, encourage one another, and work through challenges together.
   Now before you get all, "Workouts at home and online 'groups'? Sounds like Beachbody, etc, etc," on me, let me tell you: in case you haven't figured it out already from my description, this is NOTHING like Beachbody or anything I've ever found. This is real life, real women who have lives, families, jobs, and more who just want to help you heal and life healthy. They don't live to workout and post their selfies on Instagram. They live life on their own terms and are getting healthy on their own terms. That's not to say Fit2B is only a beginners game. There are simple programs like F5, but it goes so much further, so much harder- as hard as you want to take it. Just this week Beth did a workout routine in Weightlifting 101 to help mamas discover the health benefits of lifting so they can keep getting stronger and building muscle mass(if that's the direction they want to go), while protecting a healed or healing DR and more. Very few of these workouts require special equipment and all can be done right in your living room.
   When my 30 days expired I GLADLY signed up for a monthly subscription- and that's saying something if you know how much I dislike spending money on non-essentials besides yarn and fabric. But this was obviously essential. $14.99/month is very affordable for most(a yearly subscription breaks down to less per month, but I haven't saved up for the lump sum yet), and so worth it. I'm not dropping pounds like crazy- I'm breastfeeding and I don't like to lose more than a pound a week until they're over a year- but I am getting so strong, more energetic, and losing inches purely due to long-ago damaged and neglected muscles healing and toning up. Remember those pics above(I know, this has gotten long)? This is me now, after 10 more weeks of Fit2B and Hab-It:

   I have not been this flat in a decade. Literally. The other milestone: I'm running again. I haven't been able to run without pain in my midsection due to DR and POP for 8 years, but here I am running, pain-free, stronger than ever despite being 50 lbs more than I was when I was last running. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I do 20-30 minutes of Fit2B at some point during the day, whether that's 5:30am before everyone else is up, during nap time, or after the kids are tucked in, and a Hab-It workout(12-18 minutes) before bed. Tuesdays and Thursdays I get up at 4:45am to meet a mama friend at the local high school so we can run for 30-45 minutes and get back home by 6am when everyone else is waking so I can quickly shower then start our day as usual. Before No. 6 was born, I would never have spent money on me, nor made time for me like this during my insanely busy days, but that pregnancy was my body screaming for intervention, and his delivery was my body declaring its mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion. Duly noted, bag o' bones. I'm worth being healthy. I'm worth feeling good about myself. Surgery isn't the only option. And for the first time in 7 years, I signed up for a 5k. The Saturday after Thanksgiving. I'm not even dreading it. I'm excited. Because I am strong. I am capable. I am healing. I am worth it. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

We Still Have Work To Do

   As many have heard, October is pregnancy and infant awareness month. Even more specifically, October 15th is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. People all over the world took part in remembrance events. Personally, my Facebook feed was flooded with people honoring and remembering babies gone too soon. I was so proud. Can I say proud when it involves babies who've died? Well, I was. So many families were breaking the stigma of silence surrounding their babies gone too soon. I was happy for them, that they felt that freedom. Happy to know the names, birth months, the very existence of so many tiny lives. Proud that so many in the terrible bereaved parents club I am a part of had the courage to thrust their grief into the open and say, 'Here! My baby lived! My baby is missed. My baby existed whether anyone else saw him or her.' It can be such a tough thing to do, and that's why so many still hold back.
   As I scrolled while I nursed throughout the day, both on Instagram and Facebook, I developed a misconception. For a fleeting moment I thought 'Awareness' was a bit of a silly word for this day. I mean, just look at all these people, huge crowds gathered in Colorado at the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Rememberance Walk and in Missouri at The Hearts Release at the Gateway Arch, and so many other local events across the world. A search of hashtags showed my candle photo on Instagram in honor of my son was just a tiny flicker in the sea of candles posted as part of the International Wave of Light at 7pm on October 15th in all time zones across the world. Surely people are aware. Aware of the pain. Aware of the prevalence. Aware that statistically at least one out of every four women they knew was the mother of a dead baby. How could they not be?
   Then it all became clear.

We still have work to do.

   My foolishness vanished into a sea of head-swirling nausea when, in the days since, I have seen a screenshot of a woman's Facebook post of her stillborn son's headstone mocked and called a ploy for sympathy and attention. That is never okay.  To be clear: The headstone of a dead baby is a physical sign of a child's death. To acknowledge that death- ESPECIALLY on the International Day of Remembrance is not a ploy for sympathy or attention.

We Still have work to do.

   When it is ever okay for women we know and respect to look at another woman's loss and pick apart how it is believed the mother caused that death, and call her grief, "Disgusting," and relish in the fact that she had no familial support burying her child because of it, there has been a massive break-down in understanding loss. That is never okay. To be clear: even a woman who has had an elective abortion is still the mother of a dead baby, and is allowed to grieve her loss.

We still have work to do.

   When the manner in which a baby is laid to rest is up for criticism and debate when a family did what was both legal and in their finances, we have a major problem. To make fun of a handmade coffin and sparsely attended funeral for a baby, calling it embarrassing is a sick, sick shame indeed. That is never okay. To be clear: Caskets are expensive. Funerals are expensive. We're talking tens of thousands expensive in many areas. If a family is dealing with financial hardship on top of the loss of their child and they must completely "DIY" their precious child's service, their anguish should not be added to by the disdain and hate from others.

We still have work to do.

   When people rejoice over the death of an unborn child because a family is deemed by society to already be "too large," we should be sickened. That is never okay. To be clear: The death of a child is the death of a child, no matter if it is the first or the 21st in the family.

We Still have work to do.

   When the value of a child's life depends solely on the mother's desire to parent and makes the entire difference between a precious child to be mourned and disposable products of conception,


Until every family has the support they need in the space where birth and death meet,

Until every woman has the support she needs to choose life,

Until every person is recognized as an irreplaceable, real, human being,

Until life is sacred and all have the societal 'right' to grieve its loss no matter the situation,

Until we see them again

We still have work to do.