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Winter is Coming

It’s that time a year again, when you wake to see the frozen Earth prepare for the coming winter.  The air becomes sharp as the temperature drops and all living things brace for impact.  We counteract the harshness with soothing devices that warm our souls.  Crackling fires and hot tea accompanied by the promise of a merry Christmas and happy holidays.  Families band together in support and love, a reminder that even if you feel lonely in the cold you are not alone.  If ever there were a time one might require a boost, at least here in the Pacific Northwest, it is now.  The days get shorter as the darkness creeps in and although you know that there will be light again you first must face the night.

I must admit that I am finding it hard to feel the merriment that often makes this season so anticipated.  My worries over finances, therapeutic appointments, and other such challenges of life seem to have taken precedence.  As I map out our expenses, and choose which bills will be paid late, I contemplate how I am going to prevent this stress from affecting our four amazing children.  So each child only has one gift from us under the tree this year.  That’s okay, because the spirit of Christmas isn’t about getting presents.  Besides, they also have grandparents and other family, blood related and not, who spoil them.  So we don’t attend Wild Lights this year, we can still drive around the neighborhood to see lights together as a family.  I try to ignore the growing list of things that need replacing or the debt that hangs over our heads because there isn’t anything that can be done about them right now.  Baby steps.  Do I fear this fragile “stability” giving way when my husband is required to attend training at half the pay next month?  Most definitely.  I have had a lifetime of practice worrying, in fact as a diagnosed woman with an anxiety disorder, it is one of the things I do best.  Fear won’t put food on the table, change your circumstances, or mend pain.  If anything it does the complete opposite because fear prevents us from being the greatest versions of ourselves and thus keeps us from giving our best.

They say the key to happiness is to live without expectations as these only breed disappointments.  Honestly this can be very accurate; however I think the true answer to being happy is to learn to change one’s perspective so instead of focusing on the negative you allow yourself to see the positive.  I don’t enjoy the fact that I require physical therapy but I know that with a little patience, hard work, and time there will come a day when I don’t have pain.  These appointments remind me that I need to slow down and take care of myself.   With our toddler, Ember, beginning her speech therapy you can imagine how challenging it is for a parent to see their perfect child being reduced to a number on a standardized test.  The concern that creeps in when you think about how much harder this young person will have to work to “fit in” can be hard to swallow.  And then to approach the subject of there being other underlying factors, such as possibly being on the spectrum, tugs at you with such force.  But when I quiet the part of my brain that wants to over analyze every situation I can better hear my heart that ever so delicately says that Ember is going to be just fine.  Whatever challenges she faces there will be growth.  This therapy is encouraging Ember to learn, experience, and explore things in new ways.  And we as parents are learning, understanding, and seeing in new ways.

I choose to be happy.  Instead of being angry at the person who crashed into the back of our car I am grateful that the damage is minor and my family is just fine.  Instead of fretting over the friends who have been absent I choose to appreciate those friends who have been there for me.  Whatever storm is on its way is manageable, because I am not alone and I am genuinely loved. Because I am stronger than I think I am.  There will be times when we are tested but eventually the sun will rise over the horizon and Spring will wake.  The cold will pass and new warmth will fill us up.  If your world feels impossible right now I urge you to stay with it, this too shall pass.

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Life

It has been nearly a year since I last “put pen to paper” as it pertains to this blog.  Last I wrote I was in a hard place, having had experienced quite a bit of defeat throughout 2017.  There was loss, in more ways than one, and another battle was growing over the horizon.  As it turns out this inevitable challenge would become an amazing blessing.  I found out I was pregnant over Christmas, the same day I lost my job due to the company being shut down and everyone being laid off.  This news, however, came at a time when I was almost certain that I was experiencing “that time of the month.”  Bleeding and pregnancy often result in unfavorable results and the fear of miscarriage, or possibly worse, loomed over me like a heavy shadow.  To our happy surprise all was well.  I went on to have a low risk pregnancy and healthy baby, but I will elaborate on that more later.

Being pregnant is not easy, not even for an experienced mom such as myself.  The stress of blood tests and ultrasounds wasn’t helping things either.  The timing wasn’t great with having to switch medical insurance but at least I was getting the answers I needed.  I was grateful that the bleeding final stopped and my HCG (pregnancy hormone) continued to rise well.  The first ultrasound was inconclusive but finally another ultrasound, performed at a later date, revealed that baby was growing just fine.  I was able to relax a little; we survived the New Year changeover.  I was even able to establish care with my favorite birth center again.  The next hurtle to wage war over me was the dreaded first trimester symptoms which promptly were in full swing.  Sea Bands were my new best friend but despite constant nausea I never threw up.  Food never sounded good but a voracious appetite took over.  Fatigue was prominently weighing on me like a mack truck so bad that I was having troubles getting off the couch or functioning at all.   I have never been able to fall asleep during the day, even when exhausted, but here I was taking the occasional unintended nap.  Did I mention I was watching children other than my own?  My two oldest girls are school aged so during the week they don’t get home until 3:30 in the afternoon, but while they are gone I have our toddler and other littles in my care.  From time to time I would watch my brother & sister-in-law/friend’s twin girls, whom turned 1 over the summer, for a few hours here and there but typically I had my friend’s two boys, ages 3 and 1, in my care.  The boys would arrive at my home at 5:30 in the morning four to five days a week and be here for 10 hours a stretch.  I love these little boys, and I consider myself blessed to have been able to be a part of their lives since birth.  Their mother has been my friend for 20 years so really this is family.  Still, I quickly became overwhelmed with caring for myself and others while juggling other areas of my life.

My husband Bobby had been debating a change of career for years, something that would offer room for growth, progress, and support for our growing family.  For whatever reason he was now ready to take that leap and he made the bold choice to leave his job of 10+ years and start a new career with the Laborer’s Union.  A mutual acquaintance of ours helped get his foot in the door so everything moved forward fairly quickly.  Before taking a job Bobby had to go through a week long unpaid training course as well as purchase new tools and gear.  Here it was now the middle of February.  I was nearing the end of my first trimester so I chose to publicly announce the pregnancy (Facebook) on Valentine’s Day while Bobby was away.  He was successful in his endeavors and was immediately placed with a company after completing the training school.  At this point Bobby’s focus was primarily on establishing a good rapport and proving himself to be an asset to his employer.  This was a huge transition, one that we discussed in detail on a daily basis.  The timing was tricky because a change in career meant taking a pay cut, quite a few out of pocket expenses, and start up union dues.  I supported Bobby in his decision although I knew that financially we would be taking a pretty big hit and it would mean a lot of change.  This was a shift that would be better for us down the line and although there was no immediate security Bobby was feeling some emotional relief.  Over the last year he had developed some unexpected anxiety and Bobby was finding that he was burdened by the stress of a job that held no meaning for him.  The Union offered just what he needed and shortly after starting this new career much of his anxiety had begun to fade.

A few weeks into my second trimester the worst symptoms had finally tapered off and I was feeling better physically.  I managed to have just about every pregnancy symptom imaginable although thankfully the only extreme variation happened to be the constant fatigue.  Emotional and mental mentality was a different story. Never before had I been so weepy, sensitive, and irritable. When I was pregnant with baby #3 I experienced a natural high; I was frequently elated and had great energy.  You cannot really compare pregnancies as each one is typically different, and unfortunately I drew the short straw this time around.  Money has been a constant worry and that much tighter since I no longer had the part time photography job.  We had to get a new vehicle because with baby coming we were becoming a family of 6 and our 5 seater wasn’t going to cut it.  Unfortunately our monthly auto payments went up harshly and the entire process went anything but smoothly.  Still we pressed on.  I had to keep reminding myself of all the blessings in my life.  My initial blood work showed that my levels were good and baby was growing beautifully.  Watching the boys brought in some much needed income and my parents offered us endless support.

Despite going from one physically demanding job to another Bobby began to feel the strain of his new position.  He came to realize later that he was placed in the mother of all challenging work situations and it definitely was taxing.  Bobby faced some serious pain from minor injury and severe muscle tension.  He began experiencing numbness in his hands and excruciating agony that would wake him during the night.  We tried everything to relieve the symptoms but massage, heat, and stretching were only a temporary solution.  Between a night-owl toddler and physical ailments neither of us was getting any sleep so our individual states of well-being continued to suffer.  Eventually some time to adapt accompanied by medical assistance offered relief but when the construction site reached completion at the end of April Bobby was sent back to the hall to get signed up with a new position.  Thankfully this next (and still current) job was in the beginning stages and a cake walk compared to his previous physical exertion.  Bobby put his focus into succeeding in this career and I put my focus into surviving pregnancy.  Somewhere in between we attempted to provide for our children’s needs and juggle our other responsibilities.

This summer proved to be a test on my relationship with Bobby.  We have had our occasional fights over the years but were not typically known for being argumentative.  Somewhere in the chaos of life there was a disconnect.  Perhaps it was in part due to my own selfishness as I became solely concentrated on the pregnancy and was feeling extremely needy.  We began to argue frequently with no resolve.  All aspects of ourselves didn’t seem to line up.  When I was hot he was cold, when he was set I was not, when I was down he was down.  I process things through expression but Bobby tends to internalize.  This is one of the few ways where being quite opposite does not bode well for us.  We were not communicating well despite our efforts.

Third trimester ushered in an increase of pregnancy symptoms including iron deficiency.  My midwives suggested an iron supplement that had received great feedback so I began taking that immediately.  For the first time in my life, and I have ended up on iron supplements with every pregnancy, my body did not respond well to this supplementation.  The nausea increasingly got worse to the point where I couldn’t keep the pill down.  I hadn’t vomited in years, not even when I had a stomach bug, but here I was taken down by this tiny supplement.  If you know me than you know the thing I despise most with illness is throwing up.  After that I worked hard at improving my diet so to naturally increase red blood cell count, hemoglobin, hematocrit, and ferritin levels.  I cooked in a cast iron skillet, upped my vitamin c, and I limited my dairy intake, timing it so there would be little to no calcium interfering with iron absorption.  Unfortunately after weeks of constant effort the new blood work revealed a dip in my levels, not an increase.  In order to be able to deliver at the birth center the mother-to-be has to have a hemoglobin count of 10 or higher and I was at exactly 10.  I began to panic.  The risk of blood loss during delivery and other such complications became a very real fear.  My midwives were incredible, supportive, and encouraging through this entire process.  I ended up on a combination of a liquid iron and another pill in conjunction with Yellow Dock extract.  Finally, with much determination, my levels rose to a comfortable place.  Many of my symptoms began to let up with this improvement including some of the tiredness that had been plaguing me.  I had less weakness, dizziness, and headaches and my shortness of breath improved… although not entirely as baby was also contributing to this.  All my strange cravings, such as the need to smell raw coffee beans and to eat ice, miraculously disappeared.  Where some symptoms faded others increased as I got closer to my estimated due date of September 3rd (Labor Day!).

I put myself on “maternity leave” at the beginning of August, just after Bobby returned from his second set of classes for his job.  Instead of one week this time he would be gone for the majority of two.  Monday through Thursday was spent at the training school and a hotel but thankfully he was able to be home on weekends.  Being very pregnant, limited in getting around, and looking after up to 7 kids at one time while unable to see my husband at the end of the day was brutal but I have some amazing people in my life that helped get me through it.  My last day nannying was Bobby’s last day of training; this meant that even though I had my own three kids to care for I was no longer watching the boys or the twins.  I told myself that I wouldn’t do any photography sessions either but when the opportunity arose to do some freelance work I took it.  As it turns out, starting my time off early on was a smart move on my part as baby surprised us with an early arrival.  I gave birth to a healthy 6 pound 15 ounce baby boy on August 22nd.  He is perfect in every way and definitely makes the struggles of this last year all worthwhile.  There is a sense of completion that is overwhelmingly beautiful which I cannot fully describe.

Our little one is now 2 months old and growing well.  Life is still challenging us with twists and turns but I am reminded of the delicately marvelous nature of our existence in this little guy.  He is the bright light when everything looks dark.  Bobby has recently refocused his efforts in a more balanced way and has been more attentive to mine and our children’s needs.  This has helped me to be more receptive as well, and we are working on mending the damage our relationship took this past year.  Financially things have never been harder, and it feels like we might be taking steps back rather than moving forward, but we have each other as well as the love and support of family and friends.  Unfortunately the mood swings of pregnancy don’t just end when baby is born but I have definitely seen an improvement during this postpartum period.  Less irritable for sure although still very emotional and sensitive.  There is so much happening right now that it is hard not to be overwhelmed but I am learning to trust in the grand design. I am signed up for physical therapy, our youngest daughter Ember is enrolled in a program to encourage her speech development, our oldest daughter Rayne is having issues with bullying in school, not sure if we will make rent this month (in the 4 years we have lived here we’ve never been late), and I am feeling some detachment and sadness over some of my oldest friends…. But life goes on.  I can choose to let the hardships weigh me down or I can grow through these experiences, let them teach me something.  Literally every aspect of my life is facing adversity right now but even in the midst of misfortune I am not without Love.

Onward

Although in general the focus on Christmas has now passed onto expectations for the New Year I am finding that 2017 isn’t done with me just yet.  I believe I have already mentioned that this last year has been a challenging one so I suppose it is no surprise that more is in store for me still.  In this week alone, so far, I celebrated Christmas, found out I was pregnant, lost my job, and seen the doctor because I might be miscarrying.  Perhaps I should back up a bit….

I was visited by “Aunt Flow” two days earlier than expected, but at first I thought nothing of it.  My cycles have a fairly wide range of normal so I accepted it, despite noticing right away that it didn’t follow a typical pattern.  This was not a normal Period.  Still it was enough to make me believe I was riding the “Crimson Tide” and I spent Christmas feeling rather uncomfortable and unaware.   The next day I still wasn’t feeling great so I called work to see if they could handle things without me that evening.  That’s when the news broke.  Apparently they had known for about an hour at this point that the store would be closing and this was the last day they would be taking customers.  The lease was up and corporate decided not to renew, so everyone was getting laid off before the week was up.

I chose to go into work just so I could see as many fellow employees as I could as we processed the news together.  I think we were all feeling a tad sentimental as well as experiencing shock.  Still, I couldn’t get passed my wandering thoughts, a result of my instincts telling me that something wasn’t quite right with my body. That evening when I got home I decided to rule out any possibility of chemical pregnancy.   On a whim, really, I took a pregnancy test… fully expecting it to come back negative.  My thoughts were that since this process started so early that chances are there wouldn’t be enough hormones left to be detected even if I had gotten pregnant.  I was wrong.  In less than a minute the test revealed a big fat positive, clear and obvious.  For a split moment excitement washed over me, life was about to change forever in an incredible way.  But then I remembered that I have spent the last five days thinking I have been experiencing Mother Nature’s “Gift” to women.  Not exactly ideal…. Scary in fact.

I called my doctor early the next day in order to get some much needed advice.  I tried to see if this kind of circumstance could wait until 2018 as that is when my medical insurance finally kicks in.  The clinic’s professional advice was that I be seen right away so that evening my husband and I sat down with a doctor.  My temperature and blood pressure came back normal and there was no pain when the doctor pressed on my abdomen.  This was encouraging as there appeared to be no immediate danger.  Still, we hadn’t ruled out ectopic or miscarriage just yet.  The doctor took some of my blood in order to check my HCG levels, the pregnancy hormone.  The very next day the results confirmed that I am in fact pregnant with an HCG level of 547.  In two days they would take more blood with the hope that those levels have almost doubled at the very least (a minimum HCG of 800 or so).

And here I am.  It’s Friday and I am looking forward to seeing the doctor this evening as it is the next step into getting answers.  Tomorrow the results could reveal whether or not this is a viable pregnancy, although not sure where to go from there if the bleeding continues.  Although light, and mostly brown, this is not what one wants to see in conjunction with pregnancy.  I am learning patience and once again reminded to stay present.  Expectations are dangerous and more often than not lead to pain and disappointment.  I am trying to be open to whatever life throws at me and it is my goal to take it as it comes, doing my very best with what I am faced with moment by moment.  I know that regardless I will grow though this experience and these things have a way of putting things into perspective.  I feel strangely okay that I am no longer employed.  I know we can get by on my husband’s salary alone and I took this job not for the money but because I wanted to gain experience.  I feel like I gained a lot in my position and I learned so much.  Yes, we have gotten used to having the additional income and this will be an adjustment but I know we will be fine regardless.  The only way to move is forward.

I have really been struggling with the concept of letting go, as of late.  This has never been an easy thing for me as I tend to get attached easily, especially when strong connections are made.  I hold close memories, time spent, valuable conversations, and all that has furthered my growth in a deep and meaningful way.  What I have trouble accepting sometimes is that there are people, events, moments, etc. that are only meant to be here for a short while.  There to influence, inspire, and change.  Afterwards the very thing you have been effected by drifts away because it has served its purpose.  We often keep aspects of our lives the same because it is familiar, comfortable, and/or sentimental.  One of the hardest of these things is people.  Not all relationships are healthy, in fact some are toxic or at the very least inhibiting.  They may not start out that way but we are ever changing creatures, each on an individual path of self-discovery.

So what do you do when a longtime friend drifts from you in a way that is painful?  A friend that has become more like family over the years, a friend that has been a part of your journey for the majority of your life.  Does she become like that distant cousin who you care for but aren’t really very close to?  It would be easier if you didn’t see that friend on a regular basis because like any family there are connections outside of your immediate circle and avoidance isn’t necessarily a possibility if you want to maintain those other important relationships.  The friend that I speak of is intertwined into my closest community.  She and I have been through so much together, and I care very much about what happens to her.  However, at some point I began to feel like a backburner friend.  A person of no consequence, a backup plan for a rainy day… if that.   When I reached out and made myself vulnerable in order to express my concerns, emotions, and thoughts I was met by hollowness.  My voice dismissed and I left feeling emptier than before.   A friendship cannot survive on memory alone.  Relationships are like plants.  They take time and nurturing to grow and thrive.  If you don’t water the plant, treat the soil every now and then, and expose them to much needed sunlight they will die.  There are some low-maintenance plants that don’t take much work and are easy to keep, even for one who lacks a green thumb… But I am not like this.

It would be easy to be bitter, angry, and blame her for my discontent.  The door swings both ways though, it takes two people to make a relationship work.  At some point I chose to protect my heart.  I could easily continue being a friend to her in the way that she is comfortable with and suffer my own discontent and she would be none the wiser, but I am not the kind of person who is satisfied to live that way.  I already exposed my inner turmoil; I reached out hoping for sentiments of love and understanding that might pave the way for a renewed sense of trust.  Instead I was met with excuses and insensitivity.  Nothing changed moving forward and now months have passed.  I could count the times she has called me in the last year on one hand, and I don’t recall any one of those times being because she wanted to spend time together.  My mind circles back to when I was in a really dark place and my husband and I were struggling as a result.  Where was she when I needed a friend?  When I went back to work for the first time in years and was experiencing a great deal of change all at once, where was she then?  When my sister-in-law died of cancer I had strangers and distant friends & family reach out, but not her.  When a boy that my children knew was murdered at my apartment complex why didn’t she care enough to check in with how we were doing?

This has been a challenging year, to say the least, but not without wonderful memories and blessings as well.  If I focus on the negative I will miss out on the true lessons gained and fulfillment of the experiences that has made life good.  Yes it is easier to be consumed by regret and anger.  It is easier to point the finger at someone else and be miserable because life is hard, and the best things in life come through effort and hard work.  Ultimately we are responsible for our own happiness; we have the ability to choose this for ourselves.    I don’t choose to be unhappy, to let one single person dictate my happiness.  I choose to accept that this “friend” of mine is on her own path, making the choices she feels is best for her life, and if I am not a part of that path it is okay.  We do the best we can each day with what we have.  So I let go.  Let go of judgement, blame, and anger.  Life is too short, live it well.

Winter Winds

With the New Year on the horizon the concept of change has been frequently on my mind.  This time of year is often greeted by transition and anticipation, even anxiety.  I feel it strongly, these winds of transformation.  Obviously I am affected by this movement as here I am starting a blog.  Why you might ask?  I am not in this place to make money or collect followers; in fact I expect to be a bit of a lone wolf in this digital community.  I am a 32 year old happily married woman and mother of three beautiful little girls.  When I am not being a nanny while caring for my littlest one and home I am a photographer, both in freelance and as a part time employee.  Time isn’t something I have a lot of.  Writing, however, is a passion of mine.  Through writing I am able to express, create, and see various perspectives.  My goal is to build a positive space, sacred and honest.  This world is a challenging place and like everyone I can lose my way from time to time.  What I seek is balance and understanding.  How I see it, these uncontrollable changes offer challenging opportunities that ultimately promote healthy growth.  I have no desire to spin backwards and sit stagnant.  Life moves forward. With it comes experience and knowledge. Change is not easy most of the time; in fact it generally is hard and even scary.  It isn’t the change we most fear though I think.  It is how we might handle the change that makes us uneasy.  After all it is in part our choices that help define us.  The good news is, even if hard circumstances break us we can rebuild.  There is always hope and strength in us.