Saturday, February 25, 2012

The unexpected...

There are plenty of unexpected moments involved in motherhood.
Ahhh, the unexpected joys! The flutter in your belly that you thought was a result of bad fish tacos, but turned out to be little baby movements soon to turn into swift Pele-style kicks to various organs and nerves. The first time you hear your child clearly utter 'Momma' instead of incoherent baby babble. The first time your toddler poops in the potty and you dance around the bathroom like a teenager at prom, complete with doing the running man (ok, yes, that was me this week).
But there are unexpected pains, too. The sound of your baby crying hysterically at 3am and nothing you do will soothe her. When you first hear of your child being excluded on the school playground and you know you probably can't track down the child's parents and straighten them out. When your nose realizes your son has had his first potty training accident in your kitchen pantry while playing hide-and-seek (yes, also me this week).
Most of these are things that other mothers will experience in one form or another. But sometimes motherhood can deliver something entirely unexpected...
My first pregnancy wasn't all that wonderful, but I made it through and was induced at 37 weeks. A healthy, happy baby girl was the result and all the craziness of 6 weeks of bedrest and 80 pounds of baby weight was forgiven and forgotten.

We experienced the same things most parents experience the first few weeks. Like the sleep deprivation that people warn you about, but you can't even possibly understand until you've experienced it for yourself. Then you realize why that's used as a torture method for prisoners of war. And the agony of making sure the baby is eating enough. Which side did I last feed on? What time was that? How long was the feeding? What day is it? How many poopy diapers? What? Are you talking to me? Oh, sorry, I think I fell asleep.
But, we also experienced the intense joy of being parents. In all seriousness, while we were still pregnant we looked at our 75 pound mutt of a dog and said to each other, "How can we possibly have rooms in our hearts to love someone more Willie?" Seriously. We were those dog people that didn't understand what was so great about kids. So we got to experience the amazing love that grows inside your heart and blossoms between husband and wife to where you realize,"Oh, we created new life. That was cool."

But while basking in that afterglow, my journey into motherhood was thrown a curveball. In the middle of the night I woke up to feed Lily and noticed my ankle hurt. I thought I must have stepped on a dog toy going to her bassinet. "Stupid dog", I thought. The next morning I woke up and could not even stand on the ankle. It was swollen and extremely painful and I just couldn't believe my luck that I had somehow broken my ankle with a 4 week old baby to care for. My husband stayed home from work and we went to the hospital and after x-rays no fracture was found. I bounced around to several different doctor's and was put on a crazy dose of steroids to relieve the swelling. Then the pain and swelling travelled to the rest of my body. My knees, my hips, my fingers and wrists. I got to where I was afraid I may drop my baby and didn't quite trust myself to take care of her. Fortunately my parents live close by. My mother was almost a surrogate mother to her new grandbaby and my caretaker for a few months. I couldn't get out of bed to even change a diaper at one point. My mom brought her to my bed so I could feed her and try to be a mom. Once I could get out of bed I couldn't walk up or down the stairs without sitting down and going down one at a time on my bottom like a 2 year old. I couldn't sit down or stand up without grabbing onto the walls and using my arms to pull my weight. My mom and my husband were like my right and left arms. Without them I don't know what would have happened to me.
Lots of couchtime! 

Those were some dark days. I cried a lot. I cried at every doctor's appointment and yelled and wanted answers and was frustrated and confused. What disease do I have? Am I dying? Why can't you fix me? I have a baby! Don't you see I need to be a mom? Why me? Why now? What did I do wrong?
Then it became a game of treating the symptoms without a diagnosis. Just get the joint swelling the go away and then we'll figure it out. If you've ever been unfortunate enough to go on prednisone for anything, you know that it is a crazy drug. It makes you hungry, irritable, unable to sleep, emotional and fat. Yes, fat. My face puffed up like I was having an allergic reaction to bee sting. So, instead of losing weight after having a baby, all the weight stayed on and I actually looked fatter! How encouraging for a postpartum first-time mom!
My balloon face...
A few months later I started to slowly ween myself off the steroids and started methotrexate, a drug used in chemotherapy for cancer patients. It's highly dangerous to breastfeed while taking this drug so I had to weigh all my options and finally decide to quite breastfeeding, cold turkey, so that I could give myself a chance at being healed and be a better mother to my child. I fed my daughter for the last time in my mom's car in the rheumatologist's parking lot. It was a terrible decision to have to make and I was angry about it and I'm crying right now even thinking about it. But I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was a leap of faith. I was lucky enough to find a doctor who would pray with me for my healing at each appointment. I knew that God was able to do immeasurably more than all I could ask or imagine so surely he would heal me.
Well, it took several months and a few more medications, but I was finally able to return to walking up and down the stairs, driving a car, changing diapers, rocking my baby and returning to work full-time. I was lucky enough to go to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville and see one of top rheumatologists in the country. But he concurred with my local doctor that I did indeed have a HLA-B27 associated undifferentiated spondyloarthoropathy. Say that 3 times fast. I dare ya.Well, it's basically treated the same as rheummatoid arthritis, so that's usually what I tell people so I don't get the head turn of confusion look. I'm blessed to have the opportunity and the health insurance to take an extremely expensive medication once a week which has prevented any joint damage. I deal with chronic pain on a daily basis and moderate flare-ups from time to time. I faired better during my second pregnancy, but I almost went blind in one eye towards the end of the pregnancy because of an acute case of uveitis. Another fun symptom I didn't really know about until it happened. But it was nothing a steroid shot in the eyeball couldn't take care of! No biggie!
And I share this with you not so that you feel sorry for me or pity me in anyway. I mean, I probably wasn't going to climb Mount Everst or run a marathon, but I did enjoy it as being a possibility. In fact, I have altogether stopped praying that God would miraculously heal me from this disease. My prayers have shifted to:

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. Luke 22:42

That God would use my brokeness to glorify Him in someway. My point in telling you all about this is because I think there are so many other women out there who have experienced the onset of autoimmune disease as a result of pregnancy. I have stumbled upon many of them since going through all of this. Some of them may never develop symptoms as severely as I did. Some my go through exactly what I did. But the desperation and frustration and confusion that goes on during that crazy time of unknowing can be helped by being in community. I had no community at all. If fact, I had almost no mommy friends at all. I searched all over the internet to reach out to anyone who may have gone through this to try to find answers. So hopefully this story isn't told in vain and can help someone out there who needs hope, who needs community during a dark time. And if you of an online community for this please leave it in the comment section!

And to those who are in my shoes,  let me pray with you. Pray for you. Pray for your family.

And eat a Bon bon, of course.
Or a cupcake, perhaps

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Praise and the Potty

So I had a lot of motivation to potty train my daughter. I was about to birth a new child who was going to also be wearing diapers. Just the thought of having two kids in diapers makes my hair turn gray, so big kudos to those of you who have to go through it and do it with grace and your natural-born hair color. So we potty-trained my daughter and switched her bed to the big-girl bed around the time she was 2. A few months later I had my son and we had a little regression with the potty, but nothing major. Only one in diapers. Hooray! Done and done. 
Our little Stinker Belle

But my son's second birthday came and went and we had no desire to shake things up. We don't have another little diaper-wearer on the way. But finally I had a few glaring signs that it was time to kick this potty training thing into high gear. For one thing, he kept taking his diaper off during his naps. Like, every nap for several weeks. That was some fun laundry, let me tell you. Also, my perfectly cheap Amazon Mom Subscribe & Save diaper program increased their price by $6 a box. If you want to get me to make a change, hit me in my pocketbook. I am a frugal momma and hate paying more money for something than I absolutely have to, especially if there is a way I can get around using that product at all. So we decided to tackle potty training. We put it on the schedule during a holiday and I committed to staying home for at least 2 days so we could give it a fair shot. I was so eager we even started half a day early. We were home sick anyways so why not make use of that time. On Sunday, after nap time I took Davis' diaper off and we left it off. (Sorry Pull-Ups, you aren't welcome here either.) I offered him lots of yummy drinks and showed him the new treats he would get if he stayed clean and dry.  

My son is strong-willed! He drank and drank and drank and refused to go potty for several hours! Finally, as we sat down for dinner he ran in to go potty and went just the tiniest bit. The look of joy that overcame his face was priceless! He figured it out! He understood what we meant! He was rewarded with a high five and chocolate cheerios! Yay! hooray! A light at the end of the tunnel! The excitement was felt from every member of the family! Two minutes later.... off to the potty again. Tiniest little amount of potty, huge reward and excitement! This happened about 20 times in that hour! This little boy had discovered a gold mine. We had praised him for staying clean and dry up to that point, but he saw our excitement when he actually went in the potty! He wanted to harness that praise and energy
and repeat it over and over again!

I'm not going to bore you with all the details of our potty-training. (I hear a huge thank you out there!) Ask details if you want them. And to my family members who have received all the details, every step of the way: You're welcome. If you are interested in the method we used I highly recommend reading On Becoming Pottywise which provides a lot of great tools and several different ways to train. It's the book we used with both our children even though we trained them differently. 

I am kind of amazed at how well my son has done. The past several days haven't been without accidents. Just this afternoon we had a huge accident. Pantry and potty apparently sound similar. But I digress... This process has been more for me than just training my son to stay clean and dry. He is at that age where every day seems to contain new frustrations to me as his mom. I am constantly amazed at my lack of patience. By the time naptime comes around I usually have a few more gray hairs than I started with that day. This process of potty training has given me opportunity to celebrate and dance around in joy and praise my son. He is probably confused as to who is this happy woman who has invaded his mother's body. 

I had a moment of clarity today. No one claps for me, when I go #2 on the potty. But if I didn't the world sure would let me know it's expectations. Why is the world such a harsh place when it comes to praise and recognition? As parents we do have to prepare our kids for a world that's like that, yes. But as parents we also have to introduce more opportunities where we can praise and recognize our kids achievements. When we sit down at meals we praise God for the food he has provided with a blessing, but then we may not continue that praise into family mealtime. I know I am guilty of highlighting the day's faults like it's the evening news of who got time-out for what. There are plenty of opportunities for correction and consequences naturally built into the day of two-year-old, but at this tender age I seem to have to make it a point to seek out the positive and highlight the good.  I am going to challenge myself from now on to look for more opportunities to praise and reward my kids more often. To praise my family, my friends, my cashier at the grocery store. Wouldn't the world be a nicer place to live if we all clapped and high-fived every-time someone exited the rest room? Kind of a weird place to live, yes. But you get my drift! 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I could barely 'sell' naptime to a three-year-old

So I guess opening an Etsy shop, starting a blog, attending a church conference and starting potty training in one weekend is a bit much, huh? Oh, and I did all that while I was sick which has in turn made me even more sick. Oh well. Now I have time to blog more! In my pajamas!

Sabbath in a Jar, now available on Etsy!

Well, today I'll explain the Etsy shop. I just kind of threw it up there on Saturday night, but for a good reason! Let me explain.  Last spring during a MOPS meeting we made a sugar scrub as a take home craft. I promptly lost the recipe, but enjoyed using the scrub and noticed how much it help my skin. So I played with some recipes and made a big batch for myself and for friends for Mother's Day gifts. Everyone seemed to enjoy them and the seed was planted that one day I might sell them, but I really didn't have a whole lot of confidence in my ability to sell things. I could barely 'sell' naptime to a three-year-old. But my friends, family and husband were always encouraging to me. One friend in particular, Jessica, was my biggest cheerleader. She pretty much told me I was going to sell it in one way, shape or form. And believe me, she could sell ice to an Eskimo. About this same time, Jessica and her husband, Travis, started feeling God's call for them to expand their family through adoption. They have been so obedient in this calling and it been an amazing journey to watch from the sidelines, pompoms in hand. They have jumped in feet first knowing that God will provide their parachute. They have championed Isaiah 1:17 and I know they will be continue to be a blessing to the adoption community for years to come. They have also been steadfast in their fundraising efforts along the way. How many of you know that adoption isn't just opening your life, family and soul to an orphan, but your bank account as well. They knew going into this that God would provide and he has in amazing ways. Read more about their blessings and journey on her adoption blog. 

The sweet Carpenter family

Yesterday was Jessica's birthday and her friends and I all wanted to be able to bless her by relieving some of the fundraising pressure for the week, so we have been coming up with various ways to do that. Thus my rushed attempt at an Etsy shop! All proceeds of my sales this week will go to the Carpenter Family Adoption Fund so help to spread the word! Or, if you want to donate directly to the fund, please do so! (And my favorite way to support them is kind of a indulgent one. You can buy some pretty great coffee and a portion of the proceeds go to them. I just got my monthly shipment on Saturday! It's amazing coffee!)

I've always loved the saying "It takes a village to raise a child" and having been a mother for a few years now I can whole-heartedly attest to that fact! But now, we need to turn our attention to the fact that it takes a village to bring home a child! I love you, Jess and am proud of all that you and Travis are doing. And Happy Birthday Week!

Friday, February 17, 2012

You have so much to say...

"It's so easy to keep up with you on Facebook"

"I like how you post pictures throughout your entire date night"

"You should really start a blog, you have so much to say"

So, I think these are people's way of telling me, "Ok, enough already with the social media!" But I'm going to take it as a compliment that I have so much going on between my two ears that I can't possibly get it all out in 140 characters or less! So I may be late to the party, but I've decided to try my hand at this blogging thing. (And I really have no idea what I'm doing tech-wise so forgive any future cyber blunders.) At the very least it should help to better articulate this word-vomit that is a product of being home with 2 children much of the day.

 And speaking of stay-at-home moms, let me tell you how off my perception was of them. Before having children I had very few friends with children. Actually, I think the 'very few' could be replaced with 'one'. So, its fair to say I didn't have any idea of what I was getting myself into. I saw stay-at-home moms at the grocery store in their yoga pants pushing around the extra-long race-car cart (that always seemed to run over my toe) with total envy. I snidely thought, "How nice it must be to actually be able to go to the gym in the middle of the day instead of reportong to work for 8 hours like the rest of us." Then I thought, "I'll bet when she gets home she opens up a box of Bon Bons and watches All My Children while her kids take naps. She has got it made!" (I'm not proud that these thoughts entered my mind, but they did, so I'm being real here.)
My wedding day 2004
July 2007. Back when I could still play house.
By the way, I gained 80 pounds my first pregnancy. seriously.

2009- Davis, my 2nd, at 36 weeks.
Umbilical cord wrapped around his neck twice.
But he turned out just perfect!

2010- My silly little family 

So.... 4 years and 2 kids later I think back to that perception and I want to slap the old me across the face. That poor woman may have very well slept in those yoga pants and not had the time or energy to even get dressed that day. And having those kids strapped in that impossible-to-push-around-enter-curse-word-here-cart was probably the most 'break' she got that day. If she did eat a Bon Bon, it was probably one her kid refused to eat for dessert because he had asked for the lollipop, not the Bon Bon. And she probably had to hear it on the news that All My Children had actually been canceled so she would never be able to know how many husbands Erica Kane would actually end up having!

This was my favorite husband of Erica's- Jackson Montgomery.
I mean, he looks like a Ken doll. How could she not be eternally happy with him?

(side note: Yes, I did watch All My Children for YEARS before I actually had children. Ironic? Perhaps. But year to date I have never eaten a Bon Bon though my husband filled my stocking with them at Christmas this year. I gave every one of them to the kids.)

And by the grace of God, here I am. Slowly, and humbly discovering what it means and how it actually is to be a mom.

Some random thoughts for future posts:

  • What happened to me when I woke up one morning with a 4 week old baby and couldn't walk. 
  • How social media has kept me sane as a mom and is my naptime 'happy hour'. (side note: I met one of my real-life best friends on Facebook)
  • When I realized that raising a successful, productive citizen in this world would be for nothing if I didn't show them Jesus along the way. 

So join me or don't, but I will be here attempting to clean up my word-vomit and form some sort of story. And my hope is to connect with other reformed closet-mom-loathers. Maybe we can share stories over a Bon Bon one day.