Monthly Archives: July 2014

To Give or Not to Give

Ten years ago right now hubby and I were planning our wedding. Bridesmaid dresses were ordered.  We were finalizing invitations and closing in on menus, anticipating a day neither of us ever thought would come.

One thing I didn’t have to do?  Buy my wedding dress.

I was engaged once before.  I found my dream dress.  No one but my mother ever saw it.  Even after the engagement ended, it was still my dream dress.  It almost got donated to Goodwill by the dress shop, but I “happened” to call on the day it was slated to be donated.

My grandma stored my dress after I rescued it.  Now, I had a dress, but no one to stand beside me.

But I couldn’t let it go.

Along came this guy, this great guy.  One thing lead to another and I had an engagement ring on my finger, and his agreement that I should wear my dress, regardless of how it had come into my possession.

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I love my dress.  So very much.  Wearing it next to my wonderful hubby was more precious than I could have ever imagined.

After our wonderful day, I began researching how to get it cleaned and cared for in the best way possible.  I found a place to take it.  They cleaned it and boxed it for me.

Now it sits, in the back of a closet.  Not discarded, but rarely thought of.  Hubby has asked what I want to do with it.  I always brush it off.  “I don’t know.  Do you think one of the girls will want to wear it?”

Once again, the conversation is abandoned.

So it sits.

Recently a tweet caught my eye.  It was about donating wedding gowns so they can be made into gowns for babies who die before or at birth, or who never leave the hospital to go home with those who love them.

My heart feels a tug.

What about my dress?

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Can I bear to give it away?

Sue, in the wonderful voice of a 6 year old, declares she wants to wear my dress…but she has so many years.  Won’t she want to pick her own? She did fall in love with the same part I did at the very beginning…that bead work on the bodice.  It still makes my breath catch in my throat.

I’ve polled Facebook.  I’ve polled Twitter.  Everyone’s experience with their wedding is so personal, there is no magic answer for the dress.  I look at my Sue, whom I hold in my arms every day, and my heart sees the mamas laying their babies to rest.  My gown may or may not adorn Sue on her day.  Could it, should it, rather bring just a bit of comfort to mamas and their hurting hearts?  Do I hold on, or let go?

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Shaun T for Kids

Recently, I have been renewing my relationship with the workout Insanity (by Beachbody).  It is a, well, insane workout led by Shaun T.  He kicks your butt.  You know you have worked out when you are done.

Yesterday, I experienced that kid version.

I took the girls to a fun fitness day at a local park.  They had lots of stations the kids could work through…a small balance beam, an obstacle course, beach ball volleyball, T-ball, some hurdles, potato sack racing, the list goes on.  The target audience is up to age 5, but they allowed my older girls to participate.  We tried every station and had fun.

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Then the workout began.

The leader led us through getting ready, and going, on a camping trip.  We did squats, we did frog jumps, we did rowing, we did running, and many other things, all put into our story as fun activities.  It was great watching the kids do the exercises and games.  I joined in on most of them as well, and I am still feeling it today (lots of squats).

It was a blast and definitely got the kids active.  It was an amazing program.  The lady who led it does Birthday parties.

Now THAT is a party I’d be thrilled for the girls to attend!!!!

Thoughts Dance

I remember the day I realized I was not living with a temporary mental health concern, but was in actuality living with mental illness.  I had just finished with my Psychiatrist appointment, and my thoughts were doing that vague dance they did after every appointment.  It was like my emotions and mind knew the doctor and I had discussed something important, something that might change me, but my brain was afraid to face it, so it hid.  And my thoughts danced.

One particular Wednesday my thoughts were in a frenzy, dancing faster and faster, until finally I grabbed some and pushed them together.  And the truth was born.  At the Target snack counter.

I texted it to my cousin.  She realized the import before I did.

The Target remodeled, the snack counter is no longer there.  My mental illness, on the other hand, is still with me.

Wrapping my mind around something, defining it sets my thoughts at ease, even if I don’t like the reality.  This time?  Is different.  My mind still wrestles with the knowledge.  There is still a constant tug-of-war.  I have the label, but the understanding remains vague.

I feel tossed and turned.  It’s a roller coaster I want to get off, but the Carny keeps letting it go around and around, time after time.  My turn, my ride, never ends.  The twists and turns are sometimes down into the darkness, as they were this last Thursday.  I was full of self-loathing and simply too overcome with emotions to interact comfortably with others.  I went through the motions the best I could, but I was really just hanging onto my seat, in the rides spiral down.  Last night, it turned a corner and headed higher and higher.  Medications that normally knock me out for 10 hours–no affect whatsoever.  I slept two hours.  And woke up full of blog ideas and guest post thoughts, writing piece after piece in my mind.  So many plans for the girls and I.

Honestly, I feel like I could go on for days.

I love where I am right now.  It feels magical.  It feels great.  But in the back of my tumbling mind, I wonder what will come next.  I find no comfort or stability.  Do I embrace the wild, do I brace for the dark? Do I hide it from my family, or let them see inside my mind?

I know the roller coaster will go up and down, round and round, I have little control over it, but I take my medications, employ safety measures when needed, let a therapist intrude in my life and thoughts, I take the steps I can.  Not because I am superwoman, rather, I am coward.  I am afraid of heights and I am afraid of falling.  The only option is to stay on the roller coaster.




And Round.

Survive til you Thrive

Postpartum Depression and Anxiety and Patrice’s birth felt very similar–primal.  I remember thinking while I was in labor, each contraction feels like it is starting at my toes and engulfing my entire body before it subsides.  The laboring process included more swaying, yelling and full body involvement than my first two.

I dug deep inside myself to survive both.  Just as each contraction had engulfed me, the intrusive thoughts and driving need to be busy took over my mind as the depression and anxiety overcame me.

Daily, I begged for relief.  The labor had ended, surely the depression and anxiety must depart.  Each day brought crushing disappointment, as the awful thoughts of disappearing and not being able to escape surged over and over.  My soul and mind were a quagmire of doubts, tears and anger.  When would I escape?  When would I be free?

I saw women in the postpartum mood disorder communities beat their demons and overcome the thoughts.  And I hated them.  I had battled so long and hard, with no hope in sight.  Why were they free while I continued to live in the dark in between?

My mind screamed to give up, but everyday I chose to fight anew.  I leaned on the women I knew on-line and in my daily life, that understood, or simply loved me enough to hang on to me.  I was here, but I wasn’t living.  I was barely surviving.

Soon, my catch phrase, for myself and others, was “Survive til you Thrive.”

I yearned for my Thrive to arrive, but it didn’t.  It eluded me.  I gave up on that, and decided I would just have to survive for now.

In the postpartum mood disorders community I met an amazing woman, AddyeB.  She writes beautifully and passionately; her artistry reaches further into amazing paintings.  One day she offered to do a word painting for me.

I was a little surprised to find myself saying yes and asking for Survive and Thrive on paintings.  But she took my tiny words and made them beautiful and bold, made them a statement.

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Today, I added Survive til you Thrive as a signature on my blog posts.  I had hoped to be beyond this idea by now, Patrice will be 4 in 2 weeks, but that is not in the cards for me.

My Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, didn’t just quietly exit my life, no, they left a friend, Bipolar II.  So what started as a temporary mental illness, has become a lifelong companion.  It breaks my heart, and threatens to break my will.  The fight would go out of me if it weren’t for my girls and my hubby.  For them, I Survive til I Thrive.

And I am not alone in this journey.

My friend Kim, the amazing author of Make Mommy Go Something Something, recently did some research on Postpartum Mood Disorders and Bipolar Disorder.  She found:

– 25% of women who have bipolar disorder, childbirth triggered the illness that had been dormant beforehand
– Among patients who develop Postpartum Psychosis (PPP) immediately after childbirth, 72%–88% have bipolar illness
– those who have had a previous period of severe illness following childbirth, and those with a first-degree relative who has suffered postpartum psychosis. For these groups of women, PPP affected 74% after delivery
– For women with known bipolar disorder, 20% to 50% had a relapse in their symptoms (trigger episode depressed or manic)
In the course of life, I don’t fully grasp what this means for me.  I don’t know what the future will look like.  Right now, it is a day-to-day situation, seeing and determining what lies, or truths, my mind will tell me.  I will admit, it leaves me feeling cheated.  My day of freedom is not coming.
I also feel a bit like a liar.  From time to time, I interact with women who are living the Postpartum Mood Disorders battle.  I, like so many others tell them, hang on, you’ll be yourself again.  But now, now I know better.  There is more than a little chance they will never be the person they were before Postpartum Mood Disorders struck.  There is a possibility they will live with a mental illness from here on out.  There may not be a magic day they Thrive, it may always be a journey of some days they just Survive, and other days they Thrive. The words of reassurance I speak, may be just hollow platitudes. There are no guarantees.  I can give them no promises.
So instead I offer this bit of advice, this bit of wisdom, Survive til you Thrive.
Embrace today, more importantly, embrace what you love, throw your arms around it and hang on for all you are worth.  Grab that life preserver and float as the waves of emotion push you this way and that.  Sometimes, you’ll go under, but if you keep hanging on, you will Survive til you Thrive.

Confusion of the Heart

Everyday I see injustice and hurt in my Facebook newsfeed.

Today it was a man who died while being arrested for, of all things, selling untaxed cigarettes.  Good reason to use a choke hold on someone, don’t you think?  I hope and pray the family gets justice.  The track record of our nation for finding fairly for those who are not white, is not exactly stellar.

Over the last few weeks we have also seen Israel lambasted for defending itself against the Hamas, a civilian plane shot down over Ukrainian airspace, people screaming because some companies will not be required to pay, as part of company offered healthcare plans,  for a few birth control options that are considered most likely to cause an abortion, the tragedy of Miriam, in Sudan, being forced to give birth to her baby in prison while under a sentence to death, 200+ Nigerian girls being kidnapped by Muslim Terrorists, and recently, Christians being forced, by Muslim Extremists in Iraq, to flee the city of Mosul, pay a fine or be massacred.

Each and every story breaks the heart.

I want to shut it all out.

But I can’t.

Where does that leave me?

How do I help?

I share status updates from people who know more than I.  I sign petitions to demand change.

My heart is just broken.

I know the Bible says there is no peace without Jesus, but I have Jesus in me, so how do I spread the peace that surpasses all understanding that only He gives?

How do I help those being robbed of their belongings and driven from their homes in Mosul and Sudan?  How do I help those being destroyed by the Missiles in the Gaza Strip?

I believe strongly the admonition the Bible gives when it says there is a special blessing on those who are friends of Israel.  I know through all the years of it’s existence, God has had a special, enduring love for His children, the children of Israel.  I desire to come alongside these beloveds of God.

My desire is to understand, the persecution here in America is very light for the Christian’s.  We are blessed to have many liberties and protections.  I understand we very much need to be vigilant against encroachments on our liberties, but I think our freedom and protection is also to be used for the benefit of others.  For those in America and abroad.  For those who have no hope.  Who have no voice.

How do you help the oppressed?  How do you help those beyond the American borders?  I would love to hear your heart.

My Body Image

“Mommy, your belly is big.”

“Mommy, you’re fat.”

“Mommy, you’re as big as daddy.”

I know the girls aren’t trying to  be mean.  They don’t know what their words do to me.  But man, they hurt.  I try to block them out, I try to laugh them off, but it doesn’t work.  I am back to being the fat kid in school.  The one with fat ugly knees.  And thing is, I am.  I have put on so much weight.  I am the heaviest I have ever been, outside of pregnancy.

One hundred and twenty-nine pounds is what I weighed when I got pregnant with Patrice.  I had worked hard to get the weight off.  It allowed me to avoid sugar issues in my pregnancy with her.

It took me a while, but I got back down to 132 after Patrice was born.  Then medications started curtailing my exercise and others increased my appetite exponentially.

So here I am, big.  Really big.  I hate it.  I hate seeing myself in the mirror.  When I don’t see myself, I can pretend my exercise I am doing is making a difference.  When I do see myself, I see the truth, a very, very overweight woman who obviously doesn’t take care of herself.

I am beyond frustrating.  Since I started exercising and slowly cleaning up my eating…my weight has gone up.  Five pounds up.  I hate it.  I can’t stand it.  I am so ashamed.

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I’m losing hope.

My Daughter the Seagull

We were on vacation with my hubbys’ family this last week.  We were in the most beautiful place on earth, Michigan, specifically, Lake Michigan and the Sand Dunes.

There is nothing more beautiful than Lake Michigan.

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And the Sand Dunes

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And the pool

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And to top off this amazing vacation…we discovered we were raising a seagull.  Patrice can do the pitch and sound, perfectly.  At one point, there were seagulls moving closer to her.

My daughter, the seagull.

Parenting with an Audience

Normally, I feel pretty good about my parenting skills. Well, there are those times that I am trying to reason with the 3 yr old and I wonder if I have ever been a mom before. (For those who have not had the privilege of a 3 yr old, there is noooooo reasoning with them.)  Or those times the girls ask me things like, “why did God make us right now to be your girl?”  Those questions catch me off guard, but NORMALLY, I feel like I know what I am doing.

Except when I am with other people.

I hate parenting with an audience.  When I am in the grocery store and the girls keep leaning on the check out belt.  Again and again.  And I don’t see it and the cashier tells them not to do that.  I feel like she is saying, “Parenting Fail.”  We’re at church and the girls start running, and someone looks over and I see in their eyes, “don’t you teach your children to respect the house of God.”  Even at friends houses.  Am I being too hard on my kids, too soft on my kids, am I not disciplining things they would correct, am I feeding my kids something they would never let theirs snack on?

I hate parenting with an audience.  I always feel off kilter, so I feel like I am waffling, demanding of my children one moment, soft on them the next.

Does this ever end?  Is it that I’m not really a good parent?  Do other parents feel this way?  Or am I just not confident in myself?

Do you struggle with this?  Or am I alone?  Do you care about what others think of your parenting, or do you know yourself well enough stand bravely on your own two feet?

Crunch Crunch goes the Parenting

Crunch, Crunch

I could have sworn I just swept the floor.

Crunch, Crunch

Between my toes.

Crunch, Crunch.

Patrice, you dumped cereal all over the kitchen floor.

Crunch, Crunch.

Cue sobbing child running to her room yelling, “Sue did it.”

Crunch, Crunch.

“Did you dump cereal on the floor Sue?”

Crunch, Crunch.

“No I DIDN’T.”

Crunch, Crunch.

“Yes you did,” Caitlyn chimes in.

Crunch, Crunch.

“Why do both of your sister say you did and you say you didn’t?”

Crunch, Crunch.

“I took the cereal, I put it on my spoon and I catapulted it!”

Crunch, Crunch.

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There will be no punishment today, mama is laughing too hard.

Part of me wants to yell and rail against these messes.  I’m still sweeping up flour from the other day and now there is cereal everywhere.  They clean up some, but I’m the one left digging it out of crevices, finding it in the A/C vent.

The bigger part of me?  Laughs and laughs and laughs.  I grew up as an only child.  There were a lot of dynamics that reduced the silly in our house.  But when it happened–the huge rubber band fight my dad and I had, my mom singing in the kitchen, Mom and I devouring an entire box of Klondike bars so they wouldn’t melt on the way home, of course–those are the best memories.  Those are ones deepest in my heart.

I want that for my girls.  I want the silly memories.  I want the unexpected silly memories.

Today is an incredibly hard day for me.  I am fighting tears, my fuse is short, but that’s not the memories I want for my girls.  I want them to remember when had a flour fight, or giggled at an inside joke, when we laughed when they thought we would cry.

This is what I want for my girls.  So bring on the catapults, bring on the flour, bring on the tie dye.  I’ve got all I need to clean up the messes, let’s have some fun!!!


Hope in a Computer #postpartumprogress10

Years have passed but I remember it like yesterday.  I can still smell the smells, feel the angst, drown in the anxiety, hear my blood beat in my ears.

I was back to work after an extended maternity leave.  Patrice was born in August.  I missed my first return to work date when I was hospitalized after taking my girls to my midwifes’ office and begging her to take them home and love them.

After my release, when the hospital provided no help, my midwife again stepped in and found me a doctor who specialized in postpartum mood disorders.  We were trying a myriad of medications.  With very limited success.

And here I was, searching desperately online to find out if there was any hope for me.  One of my searches landed me at Postpartum Progress.  Suddenly the words to describe what I was going through were in front of my face.  I eagerly devoured article after article, especially learning there was such a thing as Postpartum Anxiety!

I read and read, finding words I understood to describe the thoughts and feelings that had invaded me and changed me.

Katherine Stone, the force of nature behind Postpartum Progress, has helped me a great deal.  And I am not the only one who has found hope in their computer because of her.  This week we celebrate Katherine and the work she has been doing to help women and families everywhere for the last 10 years!!!

It is a worthy celebration.  Katherine started Postpartum Progress out of her own struggles with Postpartum Mood Disorders, but she is not resting on her laurels.  Her dream keeps growing, the help she gives knows no bounds.

For all she does and has done, I say Thank you Katherine.  Thank you for loving mamas and families so much.  Your work is amazing and beautiful.

My PPD baby almost 4 years later

My PPD baby almost 4 years later