Give Yourself a Break

I can honestly admit that before I had a baby I was never very active. Going to the gym always seemed like such an ordeal and working out at home was so hard when three dogs were running around tripping me whenever I went into a squat. I struggled to keep myself away from the carbohydrates, sugars, and getting in at least a gallon of water a day seemed to be quite the dilemma of my day to day life. Somehow I would be able to lose weight, but looking back I realized it was in the most unhealthy way possible. Not only was I struggling with supplying my body with the nutrients it needed to function, but I was also dealing with an underlying eating disorder that depleted me of vitamins and nutrients I needed to survive.

So what was stopping me from becoming a healthier person? Excuses, mental anguish from years of being bullied, and of course the satisfaction that I could live this way and still manage to lose weight.

Well then I had a baby.

When you give birth to a baby your hormones like to play sneaky, little tricks on your homeostasis. Homeostasis, you ask? Well the biological definition is all the systems in your body working together to keep equilibrium. However when I think of this term I also like to think of the psychological effects that can deter your equilibrium. Your hormones, though produced by a system in your body, tend to effect you mentally- especially if you’re a girl, hello PMS. When you give birth to a baby there is a large level of progesterone that depletes itself rather quickly once the baby is born. This, in case anyone reading this still believes post partum depression to be a psychological disorder, is what causes Post Partum Depression. Your body is going through a large withdrawal of progesterone, and it really does not know what to do. The withdrawal of progesterone causes your mind to warp right into a state of depression that can sometimes last for the “two week blues” or a few months to years down the line. It’s normal and nothing to ever be ashamed of. You created and gave birth to a human being, you’re allowed to take however long you need to get your body back to a state of “normal”, whatever that may be

Now back to homeostasis. Apart from the mental and hormone aspect of post-baby syndrome, our bodies change in even more ways. Our hips can remain as wide as they were pre-birth, our periods could change in drastic ways, our sleeping patterns change, we become more in tune with another human than we ever thought possible, and it can become much harder to achieve, or maintain, a healthy weight.

When I was pregnant I gained a normal amount of weight, however, before little Luca was conceived I had managed to successfully lose and keep off 206lbs. However, much to my dismay, the scale would go up every few weeks at my pre-natal appointments. I would watch as all my hard work appeared to deteriorate before my eyes. I was gaining back the weight I had worked so hard to lose. It was then that I decided post birth I would workout routinely, eat better, and lose the weight, plus more, to be in the best shape ever. As I am writing this we can all tell that did not go according to plan.

I came home with my newborn elated but exhausted and felt like I was glued to the couch for the following few weeks. Cluster feeding, reflux issues, cows milk allergy/intolerance issues- there just wasn’t time to sleep. There was barely time to shower, brush my teeth, and eat. The pounds quickly melted off and before I knew it I was only 10 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight. I was ecstatic. Maybe my body had not betrayed me.

Cue in PostPartum Depression mixed with a baby that cried for six hours a night.

My weight fluctuated. I would lose five then gain back seven. Sugar became my best friend through coffees with syrups that just weren’t necessary, quick snacks to eat so I could naps before he woke. It became a long process of feeding my body what was easy rather than what it needed. And working out? What was that again? There just wasn’t any time.

Through his last ten months I got lectures on his sleeping habits, his eating habits, what I should be doing as his parents because somehow I wasn’t doing a good enough job for anyone. I was losing myself slowly, falling into the daily cycle of trying to get him to sleep, trying to get him to eat enough, trying not to hate this body that seemed to be growing instead of returning to its previous size. My days blended together and I felt as if I was about to lose it, but I had to keep it together because he needed me, and apart from all the opinions and sanctimonious parents- he was a damn good, well taken care of, happy baby. I had spend the last ten months abusing myself because I began to doubt not only my ability to be his mother, but my ability to find myself again.

So, though ten months later, I have found that I can not only be his mother, but I can also be the person I know I need to be. It’s okay for our lives not to revolve around our children 24/7. It is okay to remember that if we are not in the best mindset, we cannot properly care for our children. So take the time to workout, take the time to drink a proper cup of coffee, and if you need to take a nap with them in bed with you (the horror, I know) do what you need to do. They’re only this little for such a small amount of time, and one day this will seem like just another period of life. Soon you’ll blink and they’ll be less than 2 months away from turning a year, or entering their terrible twos, or a day I dread- the day they enter kindergarten. We do what we need to do to survive. We keep them safe, alive, and happy- we deserve to not forget that we are human and sometimes we just need five minutes.

My advice to new moms:

Sleep when they sleep- I hated people telling me this when I was pregnant. How could I sleep when he slept? When would I shower, eat, do anything else that didn’t involve my newborn? It’s okay to not shower for a day or two (trust me you’ll blink and question when you’ve taken one last. Have you seen that episode of Jane the Virgin? When they try to trick her into taking a shower? No? Well go watch it. Season 2, episode 2).

Get a baby carrier- I love my baby carrier. I had an exceptionally clingy baby and when he would get this way I would put him in a carrier or wrap and wear him around the house. He would fall asleep almost instantly (especially as a newborn), or would coo inside and snuggle against my chest.
I had this one: https://www.lillebaby.com/baby-carriers/completetm/complete-all-seasons/lillebabyr-completetm-all-seasons-feathers.html

And this one: https://mobywrap.com

Honestly Moby Wrap makes an AWESOME new half carrier, half wrap. So next baby.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself- I did. I lost myself completely when I had a baby. I rarely went out, rarely did anything. Take some time to workout, drink coffee, talk on the phone. If you don’t have a significant other around see if you can have someone come over for a bit and watch baby even for as little as an hour. A happy and healthy mama is always best for baby. We do what we can, we survive how we need to.

Don’t say “I would never do that…”- Pre- baby I would always say I’d never do what other moms do. I’d silently pass judgement thinking I was much better because I would never do something with my child. Hell, I swore I’d never give my son a pacifier (cue night two of life when he wouldn’t calm unless sucking). You never know what will happen.

Moms, it’s time to give ourselves a break. We brought these beautiful humans into this world, gave them our bodies for long nine months, and went through a ton of pain to give them life. We deserve to give ourselves a break.

ALSO- I found a fantastic workout group that does workouts while wearing babies!

Enjoy!

Expectations vs. Reality

We all have this idyllic image of how we want our birth to go. Some moms choose an at home setting and some choose a hospital. Some moms want a vaginal birth free of medications and interference, others want a vaginal birth with an epidural and any type of medical intervention that they deem fit. Some moms opt for a C-Section and some moms have no other choice than to have one. No matter what you choose, your birth plan is the way that you truly wish to bring your new bundle of joy into the world, and any way you envision is the right way for you. Period.

As soon as we found out Luca was going to be arriving I decided I wanted nothing more than an epidural or a water birth. Two very contrasting ideas when it came to giving birth. One meant I’d be in a bed until I birthed my child free of pain, and the other meant that I could freely walk around, hop on a ball, and soak in a pool till he was born; except I’d feel everything until he decided to arrive. For me, the deciding factor was the pain. I believe in the grand scheme of things my pain tolerance is not on the lowest of the spectrum, but it definitely was not high enough that I thought I could endure contractions and then pushing without some type of help. And that was okay. It was my birth and I deserved to have what I wanted and not be shamed for it.

Midway through my pregnancy I developed some pretty awful round ligament pain. For those who haven’t had a baby, your body has to stretch in all different types of ways to accommodate for a baby. The ligaments that keep your insides nice and tight need to stretch to accommodate your new houseguest, and for some this can hurt tremendously. Well for me, it definitely did. Pain very often is also a trigger for my MS symptoms because pain=stress & stress=potential flare up. Because of this out flew my birth plan of letting baby come when baby wanted to, and in came the discussion of possible induction at 39 weeks if the pain didn’t ease. Which it didn’t. In fact it got so much worse that I cried pretty much my last few weeks, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

At 28 weeks I began to have steady cramping pain, which at the time I believed were contractions, but truly I was just dehydrated and my body was rebelling. But I remember when we arrived at L&D to be checked a nurse thought my water had broken, and when you’re sitting there only in the first week of your third trimester having the bed rest & NICU talk your heart kind of sinks, your anxiety begins to escalate to levels you did not know it could reach, and you pray. You pray until you can’t any longer. However, my water did not break and Luca was still snug as a bug in his little water home.

COME 38 WEEKS. As I sit there crying in the doctors office yet again, she decides we are no longer going to induce me because she doesn’t want to run the risk of a C-Section to possibly, if not inevitably, throw my body into a nasty flare. Now, with us being 10 months away from this conversation, I must completely agree with her decision. But then, immersed in pain, I was a very angry, very pregnant little firecracker. And that was that, I had no say. A few days later on April 6th I thought I went into labor. I did not, but She did strip my membranes (Oh My God did that hurt-the internet lied. I know, shocking.) which I think was mainly to help because in part I believe she felt a little bad.

Come April 7, 2017- one day short of 39 weeks- and I’m hopping on my yoga ball praying to the contraction god that this child would exit. I start getting pains again. Braxton Hicks or real contractions- the true question centered around every labor and delivery story. Drink some water and lay on your side, if they go away they’re Braxton Hicks. They did not. At this time I was also in the mindset of giving birth in the town we had lived in a few months prior, roughly 35-40 minutes away, even though there was a wonderful hospital about two minutes away. Again, getting ahead of myself. I time the contractions. 7-6-5 minutes apart. Okay time to call the doctor and see what she wants me to do. I did not, under any circumstances want this child born in my home or my car. I called the doctor in my old town to see what I should do, and low and behold out of the three I favored in the clinic I went to, none were on call. In fact the only doctor on call was the one I refused to go to because she was too nasty, and way too rough. She told me not to move until they were two minutes apart.

So me being the stubborn person that I am decided that if the doctor I did in fact like that was at the hospital near me (I had seen her a few times from my many false alarms) was on call I’d just go to her. Just in case. Lo & behold she was. She told me to come in to get checked. When we arrived they placed the normal band contraptions on my stomach to see what was going on and if I was actually in labor or not.

Side story: Due to my weight loss surgery I had a really soft tummy pre-baby because of excess skin from losing over 200lbs. It always took doctors FOREVER to find Luca because of this and each and every time I had to make a joke of it even though it bothered me tremendously to never have a “proper” pregnancy bump. One nurse told me at 34 weeks that I just don’t have a pregnant belly. I’m sure it was the hormones but I cried for a solid hour- yeah I’m pretty sure it was the hormones.

After twenty minutes of trying to find my typical hiding child they got both monitors in the correct place and found that I was indeed having contractions. Hooray, the hopping had worked! But had I progressed anymore than I was in the office only a few days prior? After the grueling cervical check, no. However, this wonderful doctor did order an ultrasound because of excess fluid coming out, and upon the scan realized little mans fluid was low. So at about 3:30 AM I was moved to a delivery room to be induced on the date I was originally meant to be induced on. Moments later upon being checked we had moved to about a 3/4. I was allowed to have the epidural whenever I wanted but me being the everlasting martyr that I am said I’d wait a bit and see what happened. Moments later my water broke, and I can still remember the nurse saying “Oh now the intense ones are coming.” I laughed. We all laughed. I was so naive. BUT did Luca have the best timing or what?

Five. Minutes. Later.

Have you ever seen an exorcism? Where the people are arched in the bed screaming as if the devil is ripping itself out of their body? That was me in labor. My entire body would go rigid and I’d scream. Profanities. Oh Jesus why me. Why me. I can’t do this. I change my mind. Hate to my fiancé. The works. The poor other women on the floor. Why no one told me to be quiet I do not know. I think it was time for that epidural, if only to save the other mothers who would also be going through this that night. So in comes a nice man with a long needle to put some nice stuff into my back. Anthony comes around and tells me to breathe- ha- and says count with me. Ladies who are pregnant: this is the most magical thing in the world. I managed to sit still through two or three contractions while they did my epidural and I don’t remember feeling the pain as intensely during that time.

My epidural failed. Oh how angry I was.

They tried again. Yes, I let that man stick me in my back twice. But you know what? I felt nothing after that until they switched it off at around 8AM when I had reached a 10.

2 hours of pushing later, out popped little Luca. 6lb 6.62 oz and 19&1/2 inches long.

My birth plan did not turn out the way I had originally envisioned. I didn’t get a magical epidural that worked properly or a beautiful water birth, but I did have a baby that was born healthy & alive. Isn’t that the end goal? To get them here and healthy? Let us try not to put so much stress on ourselves when it comes to the way in which we birth our children. If your plan goes correctly, great, but if not look down at that blessing because we go through the obstacles for them. To get them here.

Rubberband

I once stood on a scale in a doctors office when I was seventeen years old and had it read 402lbs. A couple weeks later after exercising and trying to decrease my food intake I watched as the scale read 406lbs. That was the day I refused to step back into a scale. 

I had always been a chubby child that stood out as the largest child in their class. I had always been the child that was consistently teased and made fun of simply because I was heavier than everyone else. It was my life, and though I cried every day from the comments and torture, I learned to deal with it. Because that’s what I had to do to keep myself going. 

When I was fifteen i spent a lot of time in chat rooms meeting strangers on the internet. It was the only place I felt safe to talk to people. They could not see me and I was under no obligation to show them what I looked like. I met a boy online one night that would later become someone I would consider a very good friend. This boy had a secret that he didn’t want to be a boy any longer. He had been born a male that should have been born a female, and like myself, used the internet as a platform to speak to people without having to show himself. He disappeared one day. I had grown so fond of talking to him that i reverse searched him on Facebook. I messaged them, “Thanks for just ignoring me. It was nice talking to you, I guess.” The person messaged back and asked who I was. They had no idea who I, a girl who had been talking to a person with this exact name, was. I’d been catfished. I began to talk to this boy more about the incident at hand, and through this we became friends who could talk freely with one another. We found we have many things in common like our anxiety and some medical issues we had overcome in our short years of living. One day he confided in me the same secret his catfish had. I made it my job to make him feel comfortable in his own skin, a job I could not do for myself. I bought him clothes, took a sixteen hour drive to see him, all to just be the girl that once again did everything for everyone with nothing in return. My emotions had been played with, and I remember one night crying for hours because he was ignoring me. And I felt alone. I had such limited friends and he made me feel so special and important. I was just a pawn. I needed someone to love me, even if it was for personal gain, because I lacked the ability to love myself. 

When I was sixteen I met a boy on the internet. He would call me every day and we would text whenever our voices were apart. He knew what I looked like from my profile pictures but because it’s so easy to fool your image on the internet he did not know what I truly looked like til the night we finally skyped. I had grown quite fond of him but had always been so afraid to speak with him on a webcam where he could see my face. The night we Skyped his image went fuzzy and he disconnected. When I tried to call back he did not answer. I texted him and asked him what happened  and he replied that he just didn’t want to speak at the moment. I knew why, and so I simply wrote “It’s because I’m too fat, isn’t it?” He replied, “Yeah.” And that was the last we ever spoke. 

When I was seventeen I met a boy through a girl from my high school that didn’t really look at my weight, my mental health, or my overall appearance. He looked at the person inside instead of the oversized baggage I was trapped inside. The first day we met we spoke of his love for the career he wished to pursue and he showed me that a pair of scissors that EMT’s work with could cut a quarter. A few days later he bought me dinner at a hibachi place, though I took most of it home because eating in front of people was such a fear that i only took one or two bites. We became an official couple three days later. He showed me how to love myself. He never ignored a chance to stop my self shaming, he never ignored a chance to call me beautiful even when I felt putrid, and he never ignored a chance to remind me that I had to learn to love the person I hated so much. He held my hand at 406lbs and he held my hand when I reached my lowest of 195lbs. He held my hand when I cried in his car about the grandparents I lost, and he held my hand when I gave birth to our son this past April. He also held my hand when I made a decision about the thing I hated most about myself: my weight. 

In December of 2014 I made the decision to have weight loss surgery. I went in on December 17th very early in the morning to have about 75% of my stomach removed, only a pouch the size of a banana remaining. I remembered thinking to myself “this is if, I’m going to finally feel beautiful.” The weight shed off my body and at my year mark I had gone from my large 406lb self to a slim, 195. And yet still when I looked into the mirror i still saw my 400+ lb person. 

I accomplished losing over 200lbs and I still hate my body. 

I’ve kept most of the weight off for almost three years and I still hate my body. 

I’ve given birth to a beautiful baby and I still hate my body. 

I look in the mirror and all I see is excess skin that my major weight loss did. I’m still reminded everyday of torture I had put my body through. I still hate my body. 

I hate my body because I still haven’t learned to love myself. 

Loving myself is the hardest thing I NEED to learn to do. 

I will learn to love myself. 

I will learn to love myself because if I have a daughter I want her to love herself. 

I will learn to love myself because I need to stop hating the image in the mirror. 

I will learn to love myself because that is the only way life will become truly enjoyable. 

And I will learn to love myself because I need to see myself the way others see me. 

I’m loved by so many and need to stop hating a person so many care so deeply for. 

I need to stop hating the person my son loves. 

I need to stop hating the person he smiles and giggles at. 

I need to stop hating the mom he cries for when she’s not there. 

I will stop hating myself, if not for me, for him. 

Anthony started putting my broken pieces back together when we first met, but my son was the glue that was missing to keep the pieces together. 

We need to learn to love ourselves because even if we don’t see it, and even if we don’t believe it, we are perfect just the way we are. We fight so hard to fit a societal standard of appearance, or the appearance of someone else, that we forget we are our own person. I will be the first to admit I get jealous when someone thinner than me looks good in something I would feel horrible in, but I still have to remember that I am perfect just the way I am. 

Believe in yourself and learn to love yourself. 

I will be along on this journey as well. 

I always wanted to be called Mommy. 

I cannot remember a period in my life where I didn’t want to be a mom. I remember being a child and always wanting to play house. I remember wanting to babysit constantly. I always wanted to be around children, and I swore for a very long time I’d end up in a career that would allow me to work with them. When I realized that my true passion was working with animals I began to timeline how long becoming a vet would be. I began thinking about how I could start a family and have enough energy and time to be the mother they would need me to be while still attaining the goals I set forth for myself. I wanted to be a young mother, much like my own mother was, so that I’d have a long life to be the mother I had had in my life.

My relationship with my mother was so unlike those of my friends in childhood. I could talk to my mother, confide in my mother, and feel a sense of kinship that made me feel like she would keep me safe forever. Many of my friends lacked a relationship with their mother, or if one was present it was strictly just a regular structured parent type. My mother and I grew together, and though we had many rough patches, I glowed in the envy of my friends for our relationship. She was understanding, kind, and made me the strong mother I know I will be. I vow to be much like my mother in raising my son and his future siblings. 

When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in June of 2016 I felt that my envision of being the mother I wanted to be had burned. One day I was feeling tingles in my legs and arms, weakness taking over my fingertips, and the next day I was being told I had a progressive disease that I knew so little about. I sat on the couch of a friends and listened to the message over and over. “Hi this is Dr., I just wanted to review the results of _⁠_⁠_ CSS studies um if you’ll be kind enough to come to the office uh at some point during this week will make room for you um just call my office & inform whoever picks up that I have asked them to make room for you OK so _⁠_⁠_⁠_⁠_ see you _⁠_⁠_ follow up whatever my schedule _⁠_⁠_⁠_⁠_⁠_⁠_⁠_⁠_⁠_ certainly when you’re able to come in thank you bye-bye…” An hour later I walked into his office to be told my diagnosis. I cried. I cried because I was being told that my immune system was attacking my nerves, that my own body in all sense was attaching itself. I thought of what MS had be portrayed as: wheelchair bound. I cried even more. The picture of being the a parent, being a vet were all crumbling before me. I didn’t know how I would go on living with the pain I’d already been feeling, knowing that eventually it would get worse. 

About a month later after I’d began my shots I didn’t feel right. I was nauseous all the time, I was exceptionally tired, and I felt very off. I had already decided at this point that I would fight as hard as I could to continue to become not only a vet, but eventually the parent i set forth to be. I had arranged to finish college a year ahead of schedule, and my fiancé and I were set to marry in July of 2017. But when you mix alcohol, a bit of self-pity, and some other fixings you get my little miracle baby. My life changed the moment I got two lines on the at home pregnancy test, and even more when I found out my little peanut would be a little boy. 

My dream of becoming a mommy had come true, and when I held my little boy in my arms for the first time I felt nothing but shock and amazement that something of his size had been living inside me only moments before. I was elated by my little miracle, and I thought that feeling would last forever. But you know what they don’t tell you when you have a baby? Yes, when you’re pregnant you get pamphlet after pamphlet about postpartum depression. They say if the blues lasts for longer than two weeks call. But does anyone talk about how hard it is to be a new parent to a baby that screams for six hours straight, to a baby whose gas makes them screech like they’re being ripped from the inside out at times, to a baby who fights when eating, can’t be consoled, and who looks at you like you’re their entire world but you can’t fix what’s going on. 

I never thought I’d question why I wanted to become a mother. 
I love my son. I cry because I love my son. Because it breaks my heart when he cries in such obvious pain from his reflux, and whatever other issue he seems to have going on currently. I cry because I don’t know how to fix it. I cry because I never thought I’d question why I wanted this, why I wanted to be responsible for someone when I’m such a mess myself. But I cry most of all because I know I’m strong and I’m angry with myself for not believing so. I made it through bullying, self-harming, medical conditions, hospitalizations, extreme weight loss, confidence loss, and giving birth to my gorgeous child. Why can’t I believe in myself? I made it through people doubting my ability to be a parent, staying in school while pregnant and mainting a 4.0 GPA, and yet still I feel like such a failure at times. 

No one talks about this. No one talks about the self-doubt you’ll have as a mother. No one will tell you to believe in yourself. Everyone has an opinion on parenting, and when you’re young you get attacked even more. The baby is cold. The baby is hungry. The baby only cries when he’s hungry. Burp him. Rock him. You’re not producing enough milk. Maybe he’s starving. 

Give a mom a break. 

We are all doing the best we can and we need to acknowledge this. We also need to acknowledge that this isn’t always easy. This isn’t always an easy adventure. It’s beautiful and magical, but it is also painful and heartbreaking at times. I look at my son and cry from how lucky I am to be his mother, but when he’s in pain and I can’t fix it I look at him and cry because i don’t know what to do and I am shamed to be his mother. 

We need to give ourselves a break. 

We need to start talking about how hard this can be. 

We need to be reminded that we are only human. 

And we need to be reminded we are doing the best that we can. 

My son will get better and will hopefully grow out of this painful phase, but I need to grow out of this self doubt phase and remember that I’m doing the best I can. 

I never thought I’d question why I wanted to become a mother. I just wanted someone to call me mommy.