Wednesday, March 18, 2015

on my mind

so many things are on my mind recently, and one of the recurring themes is mommy guilt.  i'm on a path to dealing with it, and self diagnosed post partum depression and anxiety (whether it's actually "post partum", or just run of the mill depression and anxiety, i don't know, but i chalked it up to life after baby, so yeah.)  the NP at my OBGYNs office gave me a prescription for zoloft, which i've been taking for a week now, and she gave me a referral the behavioral health department at the hospital.  i have a call in to schedule with a counselor.

one of the things related to this mommy guilt that i need to figure out dealing with is the maintainence of memories.  i have guilt that i don't blog enough, or write things down anywhere.  that i never made hashes of my kids heights on the wall in the laundry room, and think about starting now but hate that i missed six years with noah.  i feel bad that i can't remember the little quips and comments the big kids make and the cool things the baby does.  the easy resolution is to get better about blogging.  i say that a lot.  i really need to try.

in any case, a lot of time has passed and life moves at such a fast pace.  noah is loving school and i'm so impressed with his reading in such a short time.  six has been a challenging and emotional age, and it has been a struggle the last few months.  he is also going to speech therapy to work on some feeding issues, and i'm so proud of his willingness and ability to try new, challenging (crunchy) foods.

emily is so funny with her facial expressions and the random funny things she says.  she loves to dance, and her current favorite song is "one two three, three", also known as "chandelier" by sia.  she goes to parents morning out (PMO) twice a week and acts all shy at school, which cracks me up, because i would never in a million years describe her that way.  

henry is the funniest, cutest thing ever.  he has almost all of his teeth (the canines are just starting to come in) and eats like a champ.  his favorites are fruits for sure, as well as crackers and cucumbers.  he asks and signs for more non stop.  when he's ready to nurse, he points at my boob and says "dat".  he's been walking for several months and is now starting to try to climb.  just today he was standing on the kids doctor kit, and trying to use it to get onto the couch.  henry knows farts are funny, and he requests hi favorite song "oh yeah yeah" (bruno mars "locked out of heaven") when he sees my phone.  he is a big time chatter box, with lots of random babble, but tons of word attempts too.  "buh" is button, book, Bear.  he knows several body parts - hands, hair, eyes, nose, ears, tongue, belly button.

these past few months have been hard on me, physicially and emotionally, dealing with the transition to ben on midnights.  i feel like i've gotten more used to the routine of it, but it still weighs on me a lot.  while i am taking a medication that has seemed to help in many ways, i feel the physical burden of sheer exhaustion at days end.  on top of that, i'm stuggling with motivation.  even when i'm not tired per se, i find myself sitting on the couch being lazy.  i just don't have the energy or stamina i wish i did to play with the kids or go out and do things.  i feel like i need to do more for myself - i've considered chiro, acupuncture, massage, going to a gym - but the hard part is working it into my schedule, especially since ben's schedule changes monthly. 

emotionally, i just miss him and his partnership.  i feel like we've had communication issues for awhile and this is only exacerbating it.  the little bit i do see him most days is spent dealing with the kids at meal times or bedtime.  there is little opportunity for one on one, except on his days off and those days often feel tightly packed with family time or the other random things we need to get done.  i feel like a single parent a lot of the time, and it's hard to see the kids behavior flip flop when we are both around.  it's also hard to see him get frustrated with them so easily due to lack of sleep and his weird schedule.

i hope we ease into a calmer, more content version of life.  it's really sad to me that i feel like i'm just trudging through each day, dragging my feet to bedtime.  i often tell myself that these awful hours and loads of overtime will pay off in the long run when we have a fat pension to retire on, but it makes me horrible sad that i have to sacrifice my kids childhood for that.  i do feel some guilt and resentment that we didn't make better educational and career choices.  it's not even about the money.  i just wish we had some of the flexibility as a family that most people have and take for granted.  it's one more thing that pains my brain that i need to figure out how to deal with... 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

clarity and self improvement

so many things going on.  so much i want to say, need to say, but not being able to sleep is one of my many issues.

quickly...

i just came back from a weekend retreat in arizona.  much needed me time, alone time, girl time.  laughing and drinking and sleeping and drinking my coffee hot time.  my heart is full and i feel a sense of renewal.  i came home with a clearer mind.  i need to be better and do better.  i will find a way to dig out from the rut i'm stuck in, find some continued clarity.  i will find a way to reduce the clutter and chaos that brings me so much stress.  i will find a way to parent better and a way to be a better collaborator with ben.  i will find a way to be healthier, make healthier food choices, get ben on board with being more aware as well.

he is working midnights now - 10:30pm to 6:30am.  i have a hard time falling asleep.  by the end of his work week, i am so ready for a break.  i need to work on breathing and not yelling, not reacting so harshly when i get frustrated.  i need to find a way to lower my anxiety level and reduce my chronic mommy guilt.  i am taking a tai chi class to do something for myself and have a scheduled time to clear my head.  i want to find a chiropractor who also does massage and acupuncture in hopes of finding some physical relief.  i have decided too that finally seeing a mental health professional for the first time in my adult life is something i need to do, to work on the anxiety and guilt and also just help me find ways to parent better and deal with my issues about my own childhood.

my children are my light.  i want to be better, i want to give them better than i had, and i know i can.  i am a work in progress.  i need to work on me, but i also need to bring ben on board.  our life is hard right now, and i need help figuring out how to deal with the physical and mental clutter.  we need to communicate better and reconnect so that we can be happier and be better parents.  we all deserve better than what we've got right now, which is really just hanging in there.... ben's schedule is what it is, til the end of the year, so we can't just "hang in there".  we need to be functional, but i can't do it alone.  here goes nothing...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

#frostyvoxbox part one

we interrupt the usual blabber about my babies and my crazy life to bring you my #frostyvoxbox from Influenster!!!!  a few months back, a friend on facebook posted a referral link to this website, Influenster, where you can get free stuff to try and review on social media.  pretty rad concept, and i sure like free stuff, so he's a little bit about some of the goodies i got in the bright orange box.... 

(**"I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.**)

from #Rimmel London, their gentle eyes makeup remover and scandaleyes waterproof eyeliner.  i am obsessed with both.  i sort made an unspoken new years resolution to wear more eyeliner after getting this stuff because it goes on so smooth and stays on so clean.  i might actually buy it in a few more colors.  like the shiny black, in addition to the regular black.... lame.  the makeup remover is fantastic.  not greasy or irritating to my eyes like that other crap i used to use, that has since gone in the trash...
https://www.influenster.com/reviews/review/rimmel-gentle-eye-makeup-remover
https://www.influenster.com/reviews/review/rimmel-scandaleyes-waterproof-kohl-kajal-eyeliner

from  New York Color Cosmetics, color last lip color in #SugarPlum.  also obsessed.  also not usually one to wear lipstick, but this color was made for me.  seriously, it's color without being too much or looking like i'm trying too hard.  i need to investigate other colors now that this foray into lipstick has been a success.
https://www.influenster.com/reviews/review/nyc-new-york-color-expert-last-lip-color

from Boots Beauty USA, Boots No. 7 Protect & Perfect ADVANCED... little trial packet of serum and coupons to buy more.  i've yet to buy more but i did like how this felt on my skin.  i am fortunate to have really good skin, not a lot of wrinkles or marks, but just as a moisturizer, i liked it.  my skin is pretty sensitive when i try to lotions and whatnot, but i didn't have any issues with the Boots and will most likely pick some up at the drugstore.  #GetADVANCED
https://www.influenster.com/reviews/review/boots-no7-protect-perfect-advanced-serum

From Fruit Vines, fruit vines bites (cherry).  YUM-O!!   similar to that other well known licorice that all used to make bites, but even better.  all i can say is that i opened the bag, and between ben & i, they were gone in about 30 minutes...  #sweetside
https://www.influenster.com/reviews/review/fruit-vines-r-bites

From Ecotools, sleek & shine hairbrush.  well, unfortunately, i have to be honest.  this is the one thing in the box they sent me that missed the mark.  there were two other hairbrushes that i could have received, and i honestly think only one of them (the styler & smoother) would have worked for me.  i just have so much, super thick hair.  i like the idea of the brush but this type of brush in general just gets tangled in my hair.  :/  can't win 'em all, i guess.
http://ecotools.com/hair?utm_source=influenster

still to come... reviews of Celestial Seasonings peppermint tea (not a big tea fan, but i can probably get down with peppermint tea....) and McCormick brand Thyme (gotta find a good recipe that calls for thyme.... good thing tomorrow is meal planning/shopping day).

peace yo.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thankful

When people ask about my life and how I do it with three kids, I always say my life is crazy and I do the best I can. I feel stressed out A LOT and the day to day can be grueling. However, it is never lost on me what a gift this chaos is and how much I am grateful for the lack of privacy and me time. I need to work on not being so hard on myself, my kids, Ben. I need to learn to let things go, have less guilt, less regret. More living in and for the moment, and giving thanks more than just one day out of the year.

I know the day will come that my house is quiet, I'm not needed 500 times a day, I don't need to change diapers and wipe butts. I think about this a lot lately now that Henry is about to turn one. He is the brightest little light, and I could weep thinking about how absolutely amazing and miraculous his presence in our lives is. And add much as he is and always will be my baby, he no longer is a baby and my heart aches in coming to terms with this stage in my life being over. With Emily, I went through a different mourning. With her, it was with sadness that the journey was over before I was ready, but still the teeniest hope that maybe someday..... Now, as much as in my heart I feel like I could have a million children, to know all the beauty, brilliance, wit, humor we could create, to hold, smell, cuddle a brand new little life.... I know that that journey has ended. I am so thankful for the road we traveled because it taught me so much about love, strength and the importance of community. My heart is so full with love, even on the days they make me crazy. I want to give them the world and I hope someday I can.

So of course I've gotten off track... Today was Thanksgiving. Every holiday with children is hectic and overwhelming. I left my mom's thinking, dammit, we didn't get a family picture. And did I get any of the baby on his first thanksgiving? And it just occurred to me his "baby's first Thanksgiving" bib is sitting in his closet.... Sigh.

In any case, amidst the chaos and stress, there is so much love and light, and oh so much to give thanks for.

First of course is family. My darling, beautiful children who fill me with such pride. Noah who is learning to read so quickly, and wanting to read everything, learning what new words mean, remembering all kinds of crazy details.... Emily, who is so funny, witty, silly, sweet... And two going on like 16. Every day I think, omg how is she still only two? She's just brilliant. And then Henry. My little butter ball. Thinks he's a big kid, because he's the size of one. Crawling, cruising, babbling, laughing. Lots of laughing and squealing. And just the most beautiful eyes, smile, dimple. And my husband, who puts up with me... And does so much for us all. The new job, the new schedule, it's been and will continue to be a challenge (especially as he goes permanently to midnights on January) but I think he's happy and I how in the long run it will put us in a better position financially and he week get to a point when he had the opportunity for a better schedule.

I'm also thankful for our extended family, who support us in all we do and help out with the kids when possible. I'm thankful for the friends and coworkers who lift me up, listen to me vent, and are there even when we can't see each other as much as any of is would like. I'm thankful for my health because although it's not perfect, and I'd really rather not have any issues to deal with, it can always be way worse. I am alive and treating my ailments, and for that I am thankful. I'm thankful for random acts of kindness. I'm thankful for good food and a warm house. I'm thankful for a job that, even though the money sucks and the work can be stressful, is meaningful and allows me flexibility and time home with my kids. I'm thankful for learning that I can't be everything to everyone, I can't please everyone, i can only do my best, and only I know what's best for me and my family.

I love that Noah wrapped his heart around the meaning of the day today, proclaiming how thankful he was and wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving. He told me more than once that he is thankful for his family, his friends, and the earth. He's a wise child, and I hope I can help he see that he can give thanks every day. That he has so much to be thankful for. And hopefully I can continue to remember that everyday too and as life passes by, to be better at pausing to breathe it all in.

Xo

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A time to reflect

Ben has officially started working nights and my goal is to finally do more blogging. It's always been something I think about doing but don't because I'm too busy or don't have the energy or desire, but I'm going that now that most of my nights will be solo, I'll find the motivation and take time to reflect.

I love the idea of being a blogger. Of writing things that are witty and touching. I don't really care if anyone reads them but hope to be able to look back one day and have a glimpse of our life. I feel like I've become so dependent on Facebook for that. I put little tidbits of my day, quotes from the kids, a cute picture, a funny story, whatever, there out of was and convenience but those things get buried amidst the other crap I like and share. I want to be able to put my thoughts here. I want to find a way to step back and really breathe in my life and maybe writing about it will help, or will at least help me figure out a way to call with some of the daily struggles of being a working mom and wife.

I feel like I've had a lot on my mind lately. I want to be someone who lives without regret, but my own awareness of that almost feeds the fear of having regrets. Does that make sense? For example, this past weekend was Noah's 6th birthday party. He loved it. We had it at Grounds for Hope in Lisle. He and a few friends enjoyed playing in the treehouse and then we went to the party room for games, cupcake and gifts. I like throwing parties for the kids. I like coming up with cute ideas, like pin the birthday hat on Noah and my diy obstacle course. But with hosting parties, you have to be on and entertaining. There's no time to stop to take pictures or to just pause and watch my boy having fun with his friends... I mean there is time, but in the chaos of the moment, I almost always forget to take those breaths. And them afterward, i do feel a weird variety of regret that I didn't enjoy the moment more....

But that's just one example. I worry about missing the little moments in general. I feel so stressed and ragged so much of the time. Today I worked all day and came home in time for Ben to leave, and then I did dinner, bathed Emily and bedtime, which was done around 9pm. I want to take care of myself. I want to start going to a chiropractor and getting massages. I want to be able to get my nails done or go shopping without feeling like I need to hurry home. But there's no spare time. And on the very rare day when there is free time, I choose to spend it with my family. It's a double edged sword.

And then there is money. I am incredibly frugal. I'm starting to think to a fault. I feel guilty about spending money on myself and often buy several things and and up returning most of them. I don't like the idea of spending money on myself when in the back of my mind, I have dreams of traveling with my family when the kids are a little but older and I wish we could create a slush fund for vacations but we can't because add people with debt, putting money aside for a trip seems irresponsible.

And then I hate that part is me that does get jealous of people who can buy or travel without second thought. So they realize how lucky they are and how I wish I could take my kids to Disney every year too? (I'm not a Disney person, and while I do want to take my kids there sooner than later, I would totally target spend money mixing it up... But that's me.)

I'm at a weird time in my life. I want to just fully wrap myself up in my children and shut everything else out but I need so much to lean on others, even though I have zero free time and much of my human interaction (besides when I'm at work) is done through the computer. But even that has become tiresome. People who make and share their every bad decision and women who can't agree on a girls weekend because it doesn't meet the needs if the entire group... I digress.

I think this is a bit of a vent. Needed to put it to the universe and get it off my chest. So now tomorrow is a new day and I will make every effort to breathe it's sweetness in deeply and take breaks to observe and enjoy the fleeting moments.

Xo, Mindy

Thursday, August 21, 2014

kindergarten

writing and rewriting because i'm feeling such an incredible mix of emotions tonight...  i'm going to try it like this...

***
dear noah,

tomorrow you start kindergarten.  i don't think that has fully sunk in for any of us, just what that means.  i can tell you are feeling excitement balanced with an understandable amount of nervousness.  i am too.  for the longest time i've felt okay about you going to kindergarten, but now as the time has finally come, i'm realizing that my baby is no longer a baby, and that's a hard one for mama to swallow.

i am excited to watch you take the next step on this amazing journey that is your life.  you have become such an incredible boy.  there are moments of frustration and emotion that we need to help you to figure out how to better express, but in general you are a kind boy.  you love your brother and sister so deeply that it makes my heart ache.  you are so bright and imaginative.  you craft the most elaborate stories and draw such detailed maps.  you are learning to read, understanding math, and take pride in learning new things.  you are so eager to learn.  like a sponge, you take it all in, and then repeat it back to me when i least expect.  if you say i said or did something, i fully believe you.  your memory is remarkable and i truly hope that it serves you well as you move forward in school. 

you love life.  you love people.  you want to make friends and i want you to make friends.  i know that this is the real first step on your journey of becoming the person you will be.  everything before this did matter, but it was different.  you are now entering the bigger world.  one where you will share a school with fifth graders.  one where you will meet people who you may go to school with until you are 18.  one where you will begin to discover who you are and who you want to be.

but i worry too.  i'm your mom, so that's my job.  i think part of it is that i can't walk in your shoes, i can't be there to keep an eye on you or see how it goes.  i know that in preschool you would sometimes tell me you played by yourself or you'd ask someone to play and they didn't want to.  those images are heartbreaking, and i always told myself it wasn't actually that bad but just the interpretation of a child.  but what if that happens in kindergarten?  or what if you feel too shy or vulnerable to make friends?  my saving grace is knowing that our neighbor david is in your class, so you will hopefully feel less alone.  and i know what i'm doing is projecting - i was a painfully shy child, and it was terrible.  i don't want that for you because i know how hard it is.  i don't need you to be mr popular or even have a ton of friends. 

what i mostly want for you is what i didn't have as a child - the confidence to be you and love you and make other people love you.  of course, i also want to see you thrive academically, but i know that will be the easy part for you.  you know all the basics, letters, numbers, concepts...  you can do basic math and are starting to do basic reading.  those concrete things are easy to learn.  learning to believe in yourself is harder but we know that you can do anything you put your mind to.  i want for you to know that WE believe in you and will always be here for you.

this next step is scary.  it's big.  it's the end of one chapter, and the beginning of another....  my friend recently blogged about missing the lasts because you never know they are the "last" until it's too late.  tonight i knowingly kissed you goodnight for the last time before you wake up in the morning a kindergartener.  i smelled your hair and the felt the squish of your cheek on my lips.

and now i sit here looking at old posts, trying to remember holding you, kissing you for the first time.  and i do.  even if it's my mind playing tricks on me because i've looked at the pictures a million times.... but i remember crying in the OR when i first laid my eyes on you and later being wheeled into recovery where your daddy was cradling you, looking so lovingly at our little miracle, and then putting you into my arms.  it feels like a million year ago.  it's hard to believe you will be six in october, yet i feel like i've known you my entire life...

you have a part of my heart always and forever little boy.  i know that you will be safe, you will grow, you will learn.  you will continue on the path to becoming an amazing person.  we have high expectations for you and i know you will reach them.  on this eve of starting kindergarten, i will only allow myself to briefly mourn the past, and will focus on the pride and joy you bring to my heart, and how i look forward to watching you grow and learn in the year(s) to come.

my love forever,
mommy

Monday, July 21, 2014

summertime....

...and the living is pretty easy.  :)  we are keeping busy this summer, but in a real "let's have fun and enjoy our time together" kinda way.  and in a "let's try to keep the kids entertained so they don't drive us crazy" kinda way.  working part time has really allowed me to appreciate and enjoy summer in a way i haven't been able to in a long time.  i remember in years past, i'd be out driving to a meeting or whatever, and see a mom out walking or playing with her kids, and HATING the fact that i had to work and didn't get to play with my kids during the day.  don't get me wrong, doing stuff during the day with three kids is exhausting, especially when it's at the cost of a good baby nap, but 30 years from now i won't look back on how well the baby napped, but on the fun times we had in the summer of 2014.

noah has already done tee ball, critter camp at the lincoln marsh and vacation bible school at grandma and grandpa's church.  today he started a two week long swim class, and the week after that he's doing a train camp at the dupage historical society.  we decided to keep him in activities for a lot of the summer because we know that in the past he has been a bear by the end of the summer when he hasn't had enough to do outside of the daily routine.  i think our plan worked out pretty well.  he loved tee ball.  he was on the red team (aka the Cubs) under Coach Jenny.  tee ball was kind of exhausting for this mama, since in the beginning we had weekly practices and then games sometimes twice a week, and always on days that daddy had to work.  doing dinner, getting ready, loading our crap, and getting there on time, especially when a lot of the evenings well into the season (which ended in late June) were pretty chilly.  but i'm so glad we did it, because he really enjoyed himself, despite the whole everyone gets to bat, nobody's out, and we only play three innings thing...

camp and bible school were fun, different activities than he's done before.  it was nice for him to have somewhat structured peer interactions with new kids.  i have had some worry about him going to kindergarten and not really knowing anyone.  total former painfully shy kid projection, i know for sure.  even though he has his moments of uncertainty and shyness, he really does engage well with other kids and loves making friends.

emily has been busy too.  she is my little helper.  she always wants to help with henry, the laundry, the dishes, cooking.  she took a short dance class at the winfield park district.  it's funny to see her with other kids because she does love kids, and is actually very outgoing, but does kind of clam up with strangers.  she will be going to parents morning out again in the fall, this time two days a week.

probably since the beginning of summer, emily has been napping in noah's bed, but recently, we have started letting her sleep in his bed at night.  the goal has been to get her crib transitioned to a toddler bed before vacation in mid-August.   she has done pretty well except for the general pattern of her getting out of bed at least 2-3 times after lights out, song, good night... the worst is when she peeks into henry's room when i'm in there, in the dark nursing him.  seeing a shadow moving in the hallway is pretty creepy, even when i know it's her.  she has only fallen out of his bed twice, once with a giant thud that made us go running, and the other time just the other night.  i'm not even really sure how it happened, but it was 12:30am and i'd been asleep, and i heard her wimping and calling daddyyyyyy.  we went in there to find her squeezed between the bed and side table, with her head stuck under the bed.  i had to pull pretty hard to get the poor thing out.  somehow, there wasn't a mark on her.

henry is "awesome" as emily would say with a little lisp.  at seven months old, he continues to be truly the best baby.  he is the dream for a third child.  along for the ride, happy as can be.  he is very predictable in when he is hungry or tired.  he's not a great napper, but then, we don't have the most consistent schedule.  i feel like if we were up and out at the same time every day, we could get him in a better nap schedule, but somedays he wakes for the day at 7:00 and other days he wakes, eats, and falls back asleep.  in any case, he is a great night time sleeper, very rarely waking at night.  he is a rock star breastfeeder, but he's in the super distracted phase, which can be really annoying, especially in public.

he has his first two teeth, which came in within days of each other the week he turned six months.  he also started solid foods the week he turned six months.  the first few days, he seemed to enjoy it but wouldn't open his mouth.  by day three, he had it figured out, and now eats so voraciously that i can't keep up!  he loves puffs and will eat table foods like eggs and bread.

like the other two, it took awhile but he is finally rolling all over town.  i'd say within the last week, week and a half, he's really mastered it, and it's funny to watch this giant child roll around his crib.  he is longer now than the crib is wide, and i'm afraid he's gonna get himself wedged in there.  even though he's rolling now, he's yet to start sleeping on his belly like noah & emily did.  he's like his mom, more of a side sleeper. 

he loves his exersaucer, and just today i noticed that he's tall enough that he can stand up flat footed in it.  he LOVES music and thinks it's hilarious when i dance.  his chuckle is incredible.  he babbles and coos and smiles all.the.time.  he truly is such a happy baby, and he ADORES his brother and sister, and they adore him too.  they are so gentle and kind to him.  it really makes me happy to see them giving him toys or feeding him puffs or even just talking or singing to him.

we have done a lot of fun family outings this summer too.  we went to the train museum in union, il, the airshow in rockford, the pool in west chicago, the beach in st joe, michigan, the lincoln park zoo, a cubs game, a cougars game, the memorial day parade, the 4th of july parade, the movie theater, the bowling alley.... and ben built the kids a swing set.  and it's only the middle of july!  :)

as for us grown ups, life is crazy busy.  my working part time since returning from leave in march has been working out well, with minimal need for child care.  i'm home on tuesdays, fridays, and wednesday afternoons.  a few weeks ago however, ben started a new job, dispatching for the addison police department.  the pay is slightly less for now, but the long term opportunity for growth is excellent.  plus it has great insurance!  for the next few months, he is training and his schedule will be shifting every few weeks.  the hope is that his permanent schedule starting in the fall will be 6:30pm to 2:30am, and i will be able to slightly adjust my schedule to working mon 9-5, wed 8-12, & thur 9-5.

we have tried to have a few mommy/daddy night outings too.  we we to see ray lamontage and the dave matthews band.  we went out for dinner for our anniversary.  maybe that was it.  lol.  but we're fine with that for now.  our focus is on our family, as it should be.  do i wish i had more time/money/energy to do stuff?  sure, but when i have to pay a baby sitter on top of whatever money i'm spending going out, the desire to go drops dramatically.  plus i'm just really friggin tired by the end of the week, and the idea of putting my pants back on and leaving the house is so unappealing!  i'm content to be a lame middle aged housewife and mother, living in a messy house, with dirty kids, because at least those dirty kids are happy and enjoying life. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

my 4th trimester body

i don't consider what i did today especially brave.  yes, i was photographed in my undies for all the world to see (at least, those who puruse facebook, instagram, and the internet), but in all honesty, that was the easy part.

i thought on it for a long time... would i?  could i?  what would ben think?  what would other people think?  i became OBSESSED with ashlee wells jackson's 4th trimester bodies project (http://4thtrimesterbodies.com/), a concept that started so small with just one picture, and has snowballed into sometime absolutely incredible that is being received worldwide.

at first i was like, wow this is cool.  these chicks are so confident, so *brave* (that word again) to get in their skivvies (or less, in some cases) and put it allllll out there.  but as time went on, i was pregnant with henry at the time, i started to realize the meaning of the project really hit home with me.

"dedicated to embracing the beauty inherent in the changes brought to our bodies by childbirth, motherhood, and breastfeeding."

my body is forever changed.  my life is forever changed.  i've said it before, i'll say it again, i KNOW how lucky i am.  i am grateful for the opportunity to be a mom.  that i was able to conceive, carry & deliver, albeit with quite a bit of intervention, but nonetheless.

i will take the stretch marks and scars.  the saggy boobs and "i need mom jeans" belly.  i look at my babies and i am grateful that they gave me this body.

so i reached out to ashlee.  i wanted to have my picture taken.  email was the first step.  but then she gave me a date and asked me to pay the donation fee to participate, and then it was confirmed.  and that was that.  i didn't give it a lot of thought.  i mean i thought about how i wanted to tell my story (which by the way, why do things NEVER come out as eloquently in real life as when you rehearse them in your mind?), i took time to find some nice new undergarments to wear, i prepped the kids for this silly thing we were gonna do in our undies, i got my mom to come along to help out, but i really never stressed about the image i would be putting out there.

am i 100% body confident?  is anybody?  no, you won't see me in a crop top or bikini because i a 35 year old mother of three who does not find the need to do so.  (but yes, i will pop my boob out just about anywhere to feed my kid, not for any sort of shock value, but because the bugger is hungry and that's what boobs are for, duh.)

i think for me i latch onto things i believe in.  i learn about them.  i become passionate about them, and i think that's important, and unfortunately somewhat lacking in our culture.  people pass the time talking about the stupid reality crap they watched on tv last night, but nobody ever wants to shoot the shit about politics, science and medicine, positive body image and breastfeeding, etc.

i think for me i became passionate about the idea of embracing my body and trying to inspire others to do the same.  i'm out there about so many things that are important to me because i truly hope the honesty of my words and experiences can help others.  and if by putting my 90% naked body out there and saying, "yeah i look pretty damn good for having three kids even with that belly and those stretch marks" helps one person look at them self in a more positive way, that i've succeeded.

**
our appointment today was at 10am in the city.  we left at 8am just to be safe.  there was NO traffic and we were early for once!  we walked around a bit and the kids colored with chalk in front of ashlee's house/studio.  when it was time, we climbed the steep stairs to the studio where photographer ashlee and hair/makeup artist laura greeted us.  ashlee gave us the low down and showed the kids where they could play, and i was immediately ushered into the other room to get my hair and makeup done.  i felt so calm and comfortable with these amazing gals.  we chatted about laura's roommate who doesn't do the dishes, ashlee's car getting tagged with spray paint last night and how stuff like that doesn't happen two blocks from the mayor, and about ashlee's daughter nova's early intervention services after i told them i was a service   coordinator.  i tried to nurse henry while laura did my hair, but mister man was so distracted, so interested in everything that was going on, it was a lost cause.

from there, i sat on a stool in front of a white photography backdrop in my black tank top, a small mic attached to my bra.  ashlee instructed me that she was going to ask me a few basic questions and then a few open ended question, all of which would be video recorded.  my name, where i'm from, my age, my kids names and ages.  tell me about your story, pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood.  in that moment, all the thoughts i wanted to convey were out of my head, and i just rambled.  the kids were getting kind of impatient and bored, so it probably didn't help that i kept getting distracted my them during my interview.  in any case, i was able to share my story, one i've told a million times, but this time in a way that will reach an infinitely wider audience.  i cried of course talking about IVF and how grateful i am for my kids, because that's what i do.  laura was quick to bring me tissue and then to touch up my make up when the interview was done.

ashlee took my picture, a head shot, first.  me, this moment in time.  looking far fancier than a girl in a black tank top should, but nonetheless, me.

 photo courtesy of ashlee wells jackson, 4th trimester bodies project

and then it was time.  noah and emily and henry and i, down to almost nothing.  but i felt fearless.  the interview was the hard part.  ashlee made it easy to feel comfortable and at ease, and let's be honest, my kids have seen me in my undies, my mom has seen me in far more compromising situations... this was easy.

ashlee put the kids in position, emily standing on a stool next to me, noah instructed to hug me.  the kids touching the baby, kissing one another, smiling at me.  they were a dream.  they listened to her instructions and were sweet as pie.  and henry... he was a giant ham.  just perfection.

and as soon as it started, it was done.  she repositioned the kids maybe twice, click, clicked away, for a few minutes, and that was it!  the kids and i got dressed, henry ate a bit more, and we waited for ashlee to upload the pictures, and pull out her favorites.

she narrowed the pictures down to about 12.  it was overwhelming in that moment to make a decision, but as we narrowed the list, i just went with my gut.  once we were down to the last few, i couldn't decide.  ashlee had a favorite but mom and i were leaning toward another.  we decided that this would be my official shot:

  photo courtesy of ashlee wells jackson, 4th trimester bodies project

this one struck me because i loved the way the kids were doting on their baby.  i wish noah's arm wasn't hiding his smile, but this is them.  they love henry, they love each other.  

ashlee was kind enough to give me a "bonus" photo since i had such a hard time choosing, and i think this one was her favorite from the day:

  photo courtesy of ashlee wells jackson, 4th trimester bodies project

**
i want to thank everyone who encouraged me and cheered for me for choosing to participate in this project.  doing so wasn't brave, it was real.  it was about embracing it and empowering other, but also about teaching my children that there is beauty in all people, regardless of shape, size, color, ability.  that "perfection" isn't real.  real is real.  love yourself as you are.

xo.

Here is the official 4th trimester bodies project post: 4thtrimesterbodies.com/mindy.koechling

Friday, January 17, 2014

One Month

Today my Henry is a month old.  Where did that month go?  I remembered that the early weeks would be a blur and fly by, but that went SO fast!  I'm sad that my little man isn't a newborn anymore! 

My little bug, little bear, Henry Hugaboo, Henny, Hank, Hankenstein, Hank and Beans (poor kid) -- he has become much more alert and awake in the past week or so.  He is still dealing with the symptoms of his (presumed) HS.  His blood work yesterday came back with his hemoglobin at 7, which is significantly low, but the hemotologist we saw at Lurie's doesn't feel it is necessary to transfuse him at this point.  We will recheck his counts next week, and hope they have improved.  He loves to sit up and face out, watches his brother and sister intently, and man, do they adore him!  His head control is unreal, and his eye contact is fantastic.  And then there's the occasional gas smile that shows off that phenomenal dimple!!

He is a powerhouse when it comes to eating.  I've been tracking when he nurses and for how long...  some days are better than others, but for the most part, he is nursing every 1.5 to 2 hours during the day, and 2 to 3 hours (sometimes a tad longer) at night.  We have an appointment with the pediatrician in a few days to check his weight and I am a little concerned.  At our last appointment (two weeks ago now), he was up to 8lb 15oz, but when I stepped on the scale with him a day or two ago, he was only up to 9lbs.  He still looks yellow to us, but he is eating a lot, peeing, and pooping fine, so I shouldn't be too worried, but you can never know with breastfeeding what he is actually getting.

And then there's his suspected lip tie (and possible tongue tie).  I have an appointment for Henry in a week and a half with the pediatric dentist that I took Emily too to have her lip tie revised.  He is nursing much better than either of the kids did, and I have had zero nipple damage (thankfully), but he has had a lot of issues with gassiness and seems to have some silent reflux.  Both are common symptoms of lip/tongue ties.  I'm hopeful that getting the revision(s) done with help elleviate his tummy issues and also help him gain weight more quickly, but I'm also nervous to have the revision done with his hemoglobin is still low. 

Noah and Emily are doing relatively well.  Noah has moments that I want to lock him in his room - we've had lots of issues with yelling, talking back, general naughtiness.  In the early weeks, I'm sure it was because he was bored.  Now that he's back to school, I think it's gotten better, but pops up as a manifestation of exhaustion.  Emily has similar moments, but it's the terrible twos.  Not getting her way, usually.  We (briefly) converted the crib to a toddler bed, and that didn't go well.  She wouldn't stay in bed, and in fact the other night climbed in bed and fell asleep with Noah.  Made for a cute pic, but the crib was reinstated the next day for my own sanity.

I so wanted to be super stay at home mom to three kids, and do it all right off the bat.  Then reality hit me - I'm only a few weeks in, and I have plenty of time to figure this out.  For now, I'm just trying to enjoy my time home with my kids.  :)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Henry's first few days: Birth story part two

I keep telling myself to write about our time in the hospital with Henry since last time, it took like a year to write part two of Emily's birth story.  So here's my attempt to remember something that already seems like a distant memory..

Henry was born on a Monday.  The afternoon he was born, I snuggled the hell out of him.  I'm pretty sure Ben held him a few times, but mostly I didn't want to share.  After the initial meeting, everyone went home, and Ben and I just enjoyed a few hours alone with him.  Mom came to visit, the kids came back, and Julie & Scott.  At some point in the evening, Ben and I discussed that he was looking a little yellow, and the nurse must have agreed. 

Shortly after he was born, I asked about testing his bilirubin levels, given our past experience with Noah & Em, and the correlation between the significant early onset of jaundice and hereditary spherocytosis (HS).  We were told there was some new way of testing bili levels, and it wouldn't be done until 24 hours old.  24 hours!?  Noah was in the lights by 18 or so hours!  Of course, it probably didn't help that by the time we got to our room, the peds had already rounded, so I couldn't even consult with him or her about my concerns.  Plus, I was too damn exahusted to fight it.

But anyway, that first night nurse must have seen the coloring in him that we did, and ordered the test early, at about 13 hours, I believe.  His counts were elevated, but not significantly enough that it was concerning. 

Tuesday morning was my first frustration.  The ped who was on that day was someone we had never seen.  I was so frustrated that it wasn't our primary guy, who would literally have seen our name and known our history.  The ped seemed to kind of brush of our concerns, even as I retold our experience with how sick Noah got, how fast, and how they instilled in us in the fear of NICU time and brain damange.  She wanted to give him more time, and ordered his bili levels be retested at 4pm.

That afternoon, Ben's parents and the kids visited.  And of course, that's when the test results came in.  It was like a blur.  The neonatologist and nurses and bili lights and a friggin NICU isolette.  The neonatologist was extremely concerned with his levels (yeah, no shit - I told them I was concerned yesterday) and said he needed to be in the lights and get his bili to stop rising or he was going to the NICU.  Of course, at that, I lost it.  I just fucking gave birth and now you are taking my baby from me.  Even without having him go to the NICU, the horror of our experience with Noah came rushing back.  Noah didn't breastfeed well, nor could he, since we could only have him out of the lights for 20 minutes at a time.  We couldn't hold him, snuggle him, love on him like most people could their newborn baby. 

And the neonatologist has the audacity to ask me what I'm concerned about.  I can't even talk.  I'm so upset, I just shake my head.  He says something to the effect of  "this is what it is, we have to just treat it", and I hear him calling me an idiot.  No shit, we have to treat it.  And by the way, I feel like fucking shit because my kid, my newborn baby, my freaking miracle child that I never even dreamed could be, is sick because of ME.  Because of a blood disorder that he has inherited from ME.  So don't tell me, you cocky son-of-a-bitch that it is what it is, because I know what it is.  I live it.  I have two kids who live it.  I have one kid who was seriously ill at birth and required a blood transfusion the day he turned a month old.  Jackass.

So anyway, I lose my shit.  Hysterical ugly crying while they turn the lights on, get little yellow Henry naked, put on his little superhero mask, and load him into his new bed.  And that thing was out of control.  We could open little doors to touch him and talk to him.  It was heated so at least he wasn't cold.  (Except for the couple times he was HOT because the isolette reset to like 95 degrees...)  The neonatologist ordered the bili levels retested at 9pm, I think, and said that it was over 13, he would have to go to the NICU.

The plan was that Ben was going home each night, in an attempt to keep life as normal as possible for Noah and Emily.  This night, he went home and did dinner and bed.  I called mom, hysterical, begging her to sit at the house with the kids so Ben could come back to the hospital, which of course she did, but in the meantime, Julie sat with me at the hospital til Ben came. 

Thank god, after his test that night, his level was at 12.8 so no NICU for Henry.  I don't know what I would have done.  I'm pretty sure I would have signed myself out of mother/baby and set up shop downstairs.

So Wednesday... I'm doing my best to only keep Henry out of the lights the allotted 20 minutes at a time.  Hard to do when you're trying to establish breastfeeding with a guy who initially wasn't super interested, and then that first day (before the lights) would kinda just hang out and nibble for an hour or so at a time.  I tried to stay on an ever three hour schedule, but sometimes it was closer to 1.5 - 2 hours if he started getting fussy.  So when the nurse comes in Weds morning (must've been early cuz I'm pretty sure it was my night nurse) and tells me the neonatologist wants me to supplement after feeds, I'm upset, annoyed, and frustrated.

**Now sidebar, the perks of being a third time mom, I know what I want and when and where to stand my ground.  Been around the block a few times....**

I know that this little guy needs to excrete to get the bilirubin out of his system, and supplementation is often recommended to get babies peeing and pooping more.  But the reality is, his stomach is the size of a grape (if that) at this point, so you're telling me to breastfeed for 15ish minutes and then supplement up to 45ml?  (45ml is an ounce and a half, FYI)  Yes, my milk isn't in yet at this point, but I have told every nurse that I only stopped nursing Emily four months ago, and every nurse has commented that my milk will come that much faster.

So when nurse tells me he wants me to supplement, I get weepy, but then the frustration takes over and I say no.  It doesn't feel right, you know?  They wanted me to supplement with Emily and I think I gave her formula once, and was so mad about it, and after that gave her pumped BM to supplement.  And with Noah, hell.  We didn't know any better and it was so hard to BF in such a short amount of time that I just pumped and we gave him formula.

Thankfully, the nurse had my back, and supported my right to make the decision that was right for me.  (I think she was the just about 40 wk pregnant nurse, who I'm sure was up on her shit.)  I think it was at that point we discussed pumping and supplementing with that, and the nurse brought me a pump.

It occurred to me a little later that I still had frozen BM from March in the freezer at home.  I asked the new nurse, my day nurse, her thoughts on supplementing with frozen BM and she said she'd check with lactation.  (I later found out that nurse didn't know much about dealing with BM....  hold that thought.)  She spoke to lactation, who spoke to the new neonatologist who was on, and go the order changed to supplementing with expressed or frozen BM.  Bam bitches, that's how it's done.

(So that thought you were holding... yeah, the nurse was all "we have a special thing for defrosting breast milk".  Awesome I think, cuz that usually takes forever.  But she took the biggest bag (6.5oz), defrosted it, and then heated it, effectively making whatever I didn't use in that first feeding garbage.  I took about 1oz out to feed Henry, and then was like, hm, now what do I do with the milk, so I called LC, who told me that it was garbage if it wasn't used within an hour or so.  But I kind of read her, and let her know that I was one to err on the side of "how long is it really good for?"...  she smiled and said something that let me know I was okay to put it back on ice and use it a few more times.)

So I pumped occasionally, and I supplemented with expressed and frozen milk when Henry would take it, but you can't MAKE a kid take a bottle, especially after 15 minutes on the boobs.  He would latch well, and I could keep him going, and get him to do about 10 min on each side.  I was a little lax with the 20 min thing, again, third time in this rodeo, and while yeah, I knew he NEEDED to be in the lights, I also knew an extra few minutes here and there was okay.  He pee and poopy diapers on Wed were very concerning.  Maybe two pees and one poop in 12 hours.

They checked his levels every 12 hours or so.  Usually 4pm and 4am.  Ben charted them so we could keep a visual on when he was at.  His bilirubin level showed that he was responding well to the lights.  I much preferred the ped that was on Weds (as well as Thurs).  We didn't know her well, but she was clearly very proactive and respectful of the fact that we knew what we were talking about.

On Thursday, we got a little bit of a break.  For several hours, Henry was only on half the lights and we could have him out of the bed for up to 40min at time.  (All along, I had been requesting getting a bili blanket and being allowed to have him out for more than 20 min, in part selfishly, but primarily because it seemed counter intuitive to say he needs to eat more so he can pee and poop more, but you are limited to 20 min feedings.)  After the afternoon bili check, they turned the top light back on and reduced us to 20 min again, since his level went back up.

On Thursday night, the ped called after hours and told me that she believed he would be discharged with me the next day and was looking into helping us obtain a bili blanket for home if it was needed.  The nurses said the social worker at the hospital would take care of getting that set up if needed.

Friday morning, discharge day.  Initially we were told he was well enough to take out of the lights, but later the ped decided he needed to stay in the lights until we went home.  They wanted to do sort of a baseline bili count right before we walked out the door, and then recheck it at the ped's office the next day to see where it rebounded to without the lights.

The managing nurse visited and told me that she had 16 moms being discharged that day - we'd heard that L&D had been crazy earlier in the week, as there was a snow storm and a full moon on Tuesday (not to mention our guess that some OBs probably scheduled inductions and c-sections to be done before Christmas).  The nurse told us that she was telling everyone else to plan on leaving by noon, but we were an exception and that we could leave when the doctors gave us the okay.  As much as I appreciated the "special treatment", I was jealous of the 15 other moms who were getting the boot.

Anyways, we finally got word that they were going to draw Henry's blood around 2pm, and then we could go.  We were home that day by 3pm! 

The next day (Saturday), we went to the ped for blood work (which took wayyyy longer than necessary and they didn't even have the previous day's "baseline" on file), and that afternoon, we waited for the call to let us know his bili level and what, if anything, we needed to do next.  They never freaking called!  We have never had issues with our ped at all, so we were pretty pissed when we called them and got the answering service.  So you'd better believe I told Ben to leave a message with the answering service because this was pretty friggin important...  When the doctor (different from the one we'd seen that day) called back, she said they wanted to see him back in two days to recheck.  I don't recall what the count was, but I remember feeling like it had gone up significantly from where it had been the morning before. 

Ben took Henry back to the ped two days later (Monday), again for blood work.  He made sure to let them know we were upset and disappointed that we never got a call on Saturday, and hoped that wouldn't happen again.  When the nurse called with the count later that day, it had gone down a bit, and she said they didn't need to retest it since we were going to the hematologist in another week. 

Of course, that appointment was two days ago, and they only checked his hemoglobin and reticulocyte count, and NOT his bilirubin.  UGH.  But I am taking him back to the ped tomorrow, and will ask them to check his bili again...  I will say though, his color is so much better and his awake and alert time seems to be increasing by the day.

SO, that is the crazy story of Mr Henry's first few days.  I guess it's good that all three of my kids have had similar paths and that I know enough to handle it and be able to stand my ground.  It doesn't make it easier, having to watch your baby be poked so many times, and not have all those first days snuggles, but at least it's our status quo.  We have nothing else to compare it to, and as I've said before, if this is the worst "illness" my children ever have to battle, I'll take it.

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