Friday, May 29, 2015

When pregnancy isn't a happy time

Pregnancy is expected to be a time full of joy and anticipation, excitement and planning.  Decorating nurseries and dressing the bump.

But what isn't mentioned, or talked about, and is overlooked is the other potential side of that pregnancy coin.  The side that can be bluer, harder.

Pregnancy is so often portrayed as nothing short of the best time in a woman's life, that I didn't expect anything less when I got pregnant.  And then when I got pregnant again.  I learned from my first pregnancy that I could potentially hit low moods, but never did I think pregnancy could be a trigger for worsening depression and anxiety.  I wasn't aware that a complex cocktail of family history, personal history, and hormones, could sway these 9 months from happily picking out paint samples to therapy sessions, anti-depressant prescriptions, and a whole lot of tears.

There are a few reasons for this.  I recently learned if you've suffered abuse, have mental illness in the family, have a personal history of depression, have had a miscarriage, have experienced fertility issues, etc., that you are more likely to experience depression and/or anxiety during the months of pregnancy.

When at my last doctor appointment I was handed a prescription for Zoloft and a list of local therapists, I thought I can't be the only one, do women really struggle with depression during pregnancy?  It seemed so weird, so awkward, so wrong.  So I went home, started Googling, and found result after result of women talking about their struggles during their pregnant months.  From feelings of isolation, to the deep and great fear of imperfection, I realized this is real.  And I quickly came to understand these feelings went far deeper than the typical what if my baby has three heads sort of fear. As I read and researched, I noticed a common theme.  These women felt bad for feeling the way they did, awfully down, because they felt like they should be happy.  Of course, their bumps would grow and people would share their elated spirits, because why wouldn't they?  But these women thinking they should feel a certain way only made them feel worse.  It seemed like a cruel cycle that couldn't be escaped.

I get it.  I'm one of these women.  For me, pregnancy is at best an emotionally uncomfortable time. I'm obviously excited for a tiny and cute dude or little lady, but the process by which that happens is taxing and exhausting in ways I've never experienced.  I work hard to simply get up in the morning, get ready, and go about feeling like myself.  On some days, all I want to do is hide in a hole until my due date in attempts to escape that inner battle of feeling happy, but not feeling happy thing.

Why am I writing this?  To simply share a story.  And to bring a drastically undermentioned topic to light.  It's hard to write about.  It feels awkward to almost say I'm "coping" with something that's inherently good and an ultimate blessing.  But life is all messy and complicated, so we get things like depression triggered by pregnancy.  It doesn't make the journey any less of a blessing or the baby any less valued and anticipated.

As for me?  I'm okay.  I hurt, but I'm not overcome.  I understand my reality, and I'm taking measures to ensure I feel the best I can.  And once again, I've been given a whole other perspective on moms.  We all know carrying and raising a child is hard work, but we never know what journey a woman, a mom, is facing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The long weekend

When we moved, we made a promise to ourselves that we would make an effort to explore our new home.  And that's just what we did this weekend.  Starting with Sunday.  I had been wanting to try this all gluten-free cafe in downtown Portland, so we packed up and headed into town.  I got a mildly-overpriced donut (totally worth it), Tim got a cinnamon roll, and Ella took turns eating both.

We walked around, chased Ella, and got excited about the street-side Target.

Bridge over the Columbia River. 
Coming from San Diego, everything around us seems low key.  I expected Downtown Portland to be a bit chaotic and super busy.  But it wasn't.  Sure, it felt like a downtown, but the streets weren't too crowded and we had no problem finding parking.  I'm so far lovin' the Portland vibes.

Yesterday, Memorial Day, we spent the morning at home and then ventured out for a walk and a cup of coffee.  Most of the local shops and cafes were closing by the time we got downtown which was totally cool 'cause we then discovered the cutest ice cream shop (that had gluten-free cones!)  It was cloudy and way too cold for ice cream, but that didn't stop me.  Obviously.

We closed out the weekend with a trip to the park, because that's what you do on long weekends.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Gluten-free Spring cupcakes

I was inspired by Emily Schuman's (from Cupcakes and Cashmere) recent cupcake post to get in the kitchen and whip some up myself. (Or, a pregnant lady saw a cupcake on Facebook, then craved one herself.)  I'm typically a chocolate on chocolate on chocolate person, but I wanted to experiment with different flavors.  I ended up going with a simple recipe -- the one on the back of Bob's Red Mill Vanilla Cake Mix.  And they turned out oh-so-delicious.

Want to recreate this recipe?  Simple.  Here's what'll you'll need:

1 package Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Vanilla Cake Mix (linked above)
Duncan Hines Cream Cheese Frosting
Decorative white sprinkles


Monday, May 18, 2015

Discover Washington

Since we've moved, I've found myself getting lost in company or an outing or a moment more often.  I reach for my phone and pull up Instagram less.  I guess that's nice.  But as someone who always forgets to take pictures of the little moments I'd like to remember, I like to grab my phone and capture a shot of whatever fun that's happening.  I knew we were going to have a full day on Sunday, so I made sure to make a mental note to snap some pictures throughout the day.  So here are some scenes from Sunday as I forgot to take any pictures on Saturday.

Sunday morning brought to you by St. James Catholic Church and Mon Amie cafe.

We went to the local library here so the kiddos could run around and have some playtime.  The place was huge with a full play area for the kids upstairs.  Ella was thrilled. 

We spent the rest of the day tidying up and running errands before my in-laws came over and made dinner.  We feasted and played Scrabble.  I didn't come in last, so it was definitely a night to remember.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Twelve week update

Baby at almost 12 weeks
I debated whether or not to document my pregnancy this time around.  Blogging was my job the last time I was pregnant, so my paycheck relied on documenting the pregnancy journey.  And after quickly discovering my pregnancy wasn't going to be an easy one, I found it difficult to put a genuine positive spin on what I was going through.  After I left my job, I forgot to archive those pregnancy posts for myself, so I lost all of my work.  So with all that to say, I've decided to go ahead and document this next journey so I will have it to remember.

This pregnancy (so far) is so much easier than when I was pregnant with Ella.  If I'm being perfectly honest, it's so far given me hope for having any future children.  With my last pregnancy, I felt like I couldn't step outside into the sun without reaching for a bag to heave into.  I would nearly collapse from low blood pressure.  Throwing up without warning and out of no where wasn't uncommon.  And getting out of bed and to work by 8:30-9AM every day felt like a daily miracle.  Granted, I'm only hitting the 13 week mark so who knows what's in my future.  But by week 12 last time around, I was already in the throws of everything previously mentioned.

This time around, I've had significantly less morning sickness, and I've learned to better handle it when it does come along.  (Ice cold anything helps to reign in that dry heaving sensation.)  During those first weeks, I had that unmistakable first trimester fatigue and hormonal mood swings, but my symptoms so far have been very different compared to the last time around.

I almost can't bring myself to write this because I hated reading anecdotes of women's easy pregnancies when I was pregnant last time. (Nothing like reading about that coveted glow while puking into a bag, am I right?)  But truth be told, this first trimester has been good.  And I'm beyond thankful for that since we've been packing and moving over the last couple months.  The biggest difference between this time and last is when I've started to show.  I felt like I didn't really start to show until I was nearly 20 weeks along last time.  This time?  I've already broken out some of my maternity clothes.  I guess that's what happens with your second kid.  Your body's been worked and stretched, so that bump appears a bit sooner.

I've been craving sweet and salty and didn't experience an aversion to coffee (Praise Jesus).  I'm also more accepting of all the changes.  That's not to say I don't experience those "feeling pregnant" days, but I know my body will do what it needs to grow this tiny human.  All I can do is try to eat my greens and dress my bump as best I can.

What am I most excited for?  To find out if it's a boy or a girl!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A graduation story

Graduation picture taken by a dear friend.  My loved ones and dear friends made sure I enjoyed every bit of my senior year.  Forever blessed with those memories.
Who doesn't love talking about high school?  Whether that time spent in (and outside) a classroom culminated into what they call the glory years or you had a horrid experience and couldn't be paid enough to relive it, everyone loves a little high school talk every now and then.

So let's talk high school.  I recently had an a epiphany about my high school experience, and I thought I'd turn my realization into a WILW post.

High school was not easy.  I loved my friends and enjoyed doing what high school kids do, but showing up at 8AM with completed homework and a packed lunch was a constant struggle.  There was a lot of family stuff going on.  (I'm leaving it vague to protect the privacy of those involved.) And eventually, I found myself kicked out of high school due to absences.  

If I'm being honest, those days immediately following that news are a blur.  I don't remember what I did or how I coped.  All I remember is putting my head down and dealing with the daily struggles at hand.  In my mind, not finishing high school wasn't an option.  I had a brief stint of thinking I could just get my GED, but I stepped off that train and started thinking of how I could finish high school with a diploma in hand.  It became clear to me I wasn't going to find success completing high school at home, so I did a whole lot of online research and found an establishment called The American School.  Located in Illinois, it was (is) an online school that offered a set curriculum, interaction with teachers, and, most importantly, a high school diploma.  

I got a full-time job, enrolled, paid for what I needed, and began my junior year.  Late nights, countless geometry tutor sessions with friends, and many back-and-forth interactions with the school's teachers landed to me to a day I never appreciated until recently.  

The day when my diploma came.  

Upon completing my courses, a new-found hate for my situation started brewing.  This was during the time where Facebook really started booming, so I couldn't seem to escape the cap and gown pictures, the senior class bbq pictures, the graduation pictures, the prom pictures.  I began to take the focus off of what I had just accomplished and solely mulled in what I was never going to have.  When I opened my diploma in the mail, I threw it on the coffee table and left it there.  A mentor of mine tried to give me one of his infamous pep talks as he had done many times before, but the angst-y teen in me wasn't hearing him.

For years, I looked at the piece of paper as something that wasn't instead of something that was.  It was a symbol of not getting to walk, of not getting a cap and gown, of not sharing that day with my friends who I had started the whole high school thing with.

I was recently having a conversation with my husband about our high school experiences, and it just kind of hit me I should have never looked at my path as anything less than something to be proud of. Now, years later, I look at that piece of paper with great pride and one of my biggest accomplishments.  I didn't have to pursue my education, but I did.  On my own terms and by my own will.

I share this now because I regret looking at what was truly a great accomplishment as anything less.  I spent too much time thinking I wasn't worthy of being proud simply because I did things a little on the unconventional side.  I thought my situation defined me.  It doesn't and it didn't.  I worked hard to get that piece of paper and it will now forever hang proudly above my desk as a symbol of determination and sacrifice.

Always acknowledge your accomplishments.  Never give up.  And always take a second to give yourself the credit you deserve. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Mother's day

I woke up to a hormonal mood swing on Mother's Day.  You know the type, right? Those pregnant ones you can't seem to shake?  I laid there thinking I'm supposed to be happy today.  I have so many reasons to jump out of bed singing.  But there wasn't singing or rejoicing of any sort.  It was more like, where is her pacifier?  Where did my shoes go?  Where's my sweater?  Ella, don't touch that. Ella, your food is coming.  Cry, whine, repeat.  It felt like an unwelcome Monday morning.

And then a turn of events.

I was having some sort of a hormone-driven breakdown about not being able to find my shoes (pregnancy does crazy things to you), when I decided to grab the nearest pair I could find so we could just get out the door.  And there it was.  The pacifier we had spent much of our morning looking for. Sitting right there in my boot.  I thought this is Mother's Day.  Another crazy day in the life of a family.  The chaos never stops not even for a day where there are cards and flowers and sweets involved.  

But that's why we celebrate, right?  We get up every day, sometimes with a smile and sometimes without, and we face whatever lies ahead with strength.  The lost pacifiers, the pre-breakfast breakdowns, the stepping on blocks in our bare feet, it's all a part of the motherhood package even on Mother's Day.  And it gives good reason to shower our moms and mom figures with all sorts of love on that Sunday in May.

My mood inevitably turned around.  We went out to Portland and had a little brunch, and we spent the afternoon exploring our new home.  We drove East which led us to gorgeous scenery and inviting look-outs.  We spent the afternoon together driving through the wooded, windy roads.  And I couldn't help but to love the view.

I hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day.  Here are some scenes from our weekend:

View of the sunset from the backyard of my brother-in-law's parents' house.
Mother's Day brunchin'.

Cape Horn

Friday, May 8, 2015

The moment I felt like a mom

The bonding process with a baby is an interesting one.  Some moms feel instantly connected with their sweet babies.  For others, it can take a while.  Since I was dealing with postpartum anxiety and depression, it took me a while to feel that thing.  You can't really describe the thing, that moment --
when you really feel you're a mom at the center of your being, when you see a piece of your heart outside of yourself.

For me, that moment didn't come until Ella was months old.  She had been having digestive issues and was struggling to go to the bathroom.  One particular night, Tim and I were trying to put her to bed and she just wasn't having it.  Her earth-shattering screams let us know she was in too much pain and discomfort.  So Tim made her a little bottle with some warm water and brown sugar (helps to settle babies' stomachs and go to the bathroom), and I took her into our bed and rocked her.  She was screaming, and straining, and after a short while, she threw up all over my chest.  And I didn't blink. Barely even realizing it, I kept trying to soothe her with humming and any calming technique I could think of.

I didn't think anything of it until my husband brought it up after we finally got our sweet girl comfortable and in bed.  I changed my shirt, came out of the bedroom, and my husband told me he was proud of me and he wasn't sure if he could have acted as calmly in that situation.

I remember feeling surprised.  Surprised that I didn't react to the throw up (as one who has always been squeamish around that sort of thing).  Surprised I didn't think about not flinching.  All of it.

All I remember in that moment as I rocked my screaming baby girl is wanting to cry.  Not because I was tired and frustrated, but because she was in pain.  And no amount of regurgitated anything could have taken the focus off soothing her and doing anything we could to make her feel better.

Later that night, as my husband and I chatted on the couch, I remember feeling equipped; that even though I sometimes may feel like I don't know what I'm doing or I'm overwhelmed, that I will find it in me to be my sweet girl's mom in those moments of uncertainty and nerves.

This weekend is, of course, Mother's Day.  And as I celebrate with my little family, I'll also be celebrating the women who have showed up and been a mom to me when I needed it.  That, though, not all of them have children of their own or they had their own children to take care of, they treated me as one of their own.  They found it in themselves to stay up with me when I was sick, lend an ear or a shoulder, set an extra place at the dinner table, or teach a lesson I needed to learn.  These are the women who have taught me how to show up for my daughter, to be present for her.  And to put on a strong face and not blink in the eyes of the daily (wonderful) chaos of motherhood.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A week in Washington

Well, there is a Target within walking distance from our place.  Basically all of my dreams have come true.

We've been here for about a week and a half, so we've had a little time to soak up our new surroundings.

Everything is green, the roads are open, the traffic is significantly less of a deal.  We have cloudy days and rainy days and perfectly sunny days.  There's a pizza place about ten minutes away that makes a mean specialty pizza and a coffee place close by that knows their way around an almond milk latte.

It's quiet here, for the most part.  The people are friendly.  The dudes have man buns.  Our adjustment so far has been fairly seamless.  It feels like we're home, like we made the right choice.

Of course this doesn't mean nostalgia hasn't hit us a time or two.  We miss our favorite San Diego cafe who will forever make the best gluten-free breakfast and lunch food I've had.  We miss the beloved church that sat right up the road from us - the church that felt like home.

But that's a part of the moving package, right?  You miss things, and find new things to love.  That's the stage we're in right now.  Thankfully, I've got a Target right up the road that is willing to sell me all sorts of candles, and twinkly lights, and all things Threshhold to help make this place a home.

Friday, May 1, 2015

A candid moment

When I started writing again, I vowed to myself I'd keep it real.  To not just make this blog one, big, glorified highlight reel.  And to write about those days that (if I'm being completely honest) you just kind of want to flip off.

It's on days like these that I wish I could pick up a chill attitude and stay-positive spirit and say to all the little things that insist on making the day a bad one I won't let you affect my mood.  But, I'm human, so a day like this one consists of me stomping on that positive attitude and going to eat a donut.

I could go into why this day isn't a good day, but I have no reason to.  Because the reasons are small and petty and ultimately won't matter tomorrow morning.  But those small and petty things have been magnified by exhaustion, aches and pains, and a whiny, crying baby who lately has seemingly been touching my legs 24/7.  The exhaustion is from a move that I couldn't be more excited about.  The aches and pains are from a near 11-week-old, growing baby - an incredible blessing.  And that whiny, crying kid who can't keep her hands off my calfs?  She's the light of my world.

See?  No monumental reason for feeling like I want to hide in a hole for the rest of the day.  But I just kind of want to, anyway.  That's the thing, though, about stay-at-home-momhood or working-momhood or stay-at-home-dadhood. These days, they come.  Usually without warning.  We're usually unprepared.  We lose our temper for sometimes no reason, because we're tired, or stressed, or simply wanting five minutes to ourselves.  We may say a thing or two we don't mean - something we'll wake up tomorrow regretting.

These days, though, are part of the package.  Some days just kind of suck.  The beauty of a week, though, is that this day will end and a new one will begin.

Here's to acknowledging the bad days, developing some patience from them, and appreciating the good days all the more.