Change is: Tough, Weird, Good

For the first 14 months of my son’s life, I was a stay at home mom. I had a job (working in digital communications for Signature HealthCARE), but I did it from my computer at home. The older James got, the harder working became, but I found the time and made it work. I was determined to be a stay at home mom until James, and any other kids I might have, went to kindergarten.

And then this amazing opportunity came along–the MFA Specialist position in the Bluegrass Writers Studio opened up. A job that I only had to be away from home 12 hours a week, could work the other 8-10 from home. A job that would let me work on a website, a literary journal, and in an office with professionals in a college setting. It was perfect. So, I applied, not thinking I would get it.

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But I did. Wonderful news! And then it hit me–I was going to have to find child care for my son, for the boy who, for his entire life, had spent every single day, with only a few hours here and there as exceptions, with me.

I spent well over a month talking to people, trying to find someone to come to my house, to find a day care, a baby sitter that I trusted. Well, I did, and James has been with her for the last three weeks, three days a week.

To say that it’s been a seamless, perfect transition would be a bold faced lie. But it has been less painful than I thought.

Leaving your baby with someone, even someone you trust, is terrifying the first time. You’re saying to the person watching your child, “Here is my heart. I’ve cut it from my chest, wrapped it in all the love I have, and am giving it to you for safe keeping.” That’s a big freaking deal. 

But then, faster than you’d think, you start to grow accustomed to the change. That panic at leaving your child with someone diminishes and new worries and fears emerge. // Is my child giving her trouble? Is he too much to handle? Will his tantrums and stubbornness make her dislike him? Will she dislike me if he’s bad? Does he have a good time there? Is he happy? Is he happy without me? Does that make me happy or sad? Am I damaging him by leaving him while he’s crying? Would I damage him by keeping him holed away with me at home 24/7? // So. Many. Questions.

So in the span of a few months, my plans drastically changed. I was no longer a stay at home mom (some people cheered this, others gave me disapproving looks). I was working part-time (more cheers, more squinted eyes). I had to trust that another woman (she’s absolutely AMAZING, by the way) would care for my son with the same mama-bear-ness that I do.

Basically, one small change turned my world upside down and shook it like a snow globe.

Being a mom when things change is hard, because no matter what choice you make–staying home, going to work, finding a sitter, finding a nanny, finding a daycare–A, people will have opinions, both good and bad, about it, and B, change is just never easy (at least not for me).

So, James is now a kid who, three days a week, gets to go and play with other kids, and hang out with the coolest babysitter ever. And I am now a human being who gets to go and do adult things on computers and with literary journals (go check out Jelly Bucket if you get the chance!) and with actual adult people three days a week for a few hours at a time, but then gets to go and pick up her sweet boy and still spend most of her time with him.

Change is hard. And now my life feels really, really weird. But this change, I think, is going to be really, really great.

Hyper-Emotional (or Why I Feel Like a Monster)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been emotional. Like, really emotional. Waaaay more emotional than most/normal people. That’s not to say I have really intense emotions all the time, but rather I am aware of and experience my emotions all the time. ALL THE TIME. There are times when I feel hyper-emotional, and while those times are few and far between, they’re overwhelming, sometimes overpowering. Most of the time I’m not like that, but I am always, always, feeling something and that’s where the trouble comes in. My emotion, my thoughts, show in my posture and face even if the emotion I’m feeling is mild.

This hyper-emotional aspect of my personality has been a blessing and a curse. The blessing comes in just how much, how deeply, I can love the people closest to me. If I say I love you, please know that that means I LOVE you, and would do pretty much anything I could to make you happy. And even if those other emotions creep into our relationship, know I still love you deeply.

The other emotions, the “curse” ones, are a little trickier.

It takes very little to make me sad. And when I feel deeply sad, it can be an ugly-crying, shaking, pulling my hair kind of sad. And I have a pretty short fuse, but it generally dissipates quickly. Unless it something that really makes me angry, in which case, I see RED.

Because I’m hyper-emotional, I wear my emotions on my sleeve. Unless I’m just really, really tired, you’re gonna know what I’m feeling when I’m feeling it. But that isn’t the worst part–the worst part is that, because I’m so hyper-emotional, if I feel a little bit irritated, a little bit mad, a little bit not-happy, it can come across as really irritated, really mad, really not-happy.

Over the last 31 years, I’ve been told I have twelve different personalities, that people are afraid of how their words are going to affect me, of how I’ll react. I’ve been told I was crazy, that there was something wrong with me, wrong with my brain. After hearing these things, or things like it, for so long, I’ve started to feel like there really was something wrong with me, like I was a monster, and for a hyper-emotional, heart-on-sleeve person, that feeling is paralyzing. And if you’re cripplingly insecure, like me, it’s hard to break out of that I’m-a-monster cave that you find yourself in.

Being emotional sucks. It can also be pretty wonderful. I experience so much joy in each day! But I also experience a lot of sadness, a lot of anger. I lot of worry, doubt, excitement.

I don’t really have a point in writing this, except to be honest and open. I’ve always wanted that–to be honest and open about my self, my beliefs, my truths, and this is one of them. There’s a good chance that I’m more emotional than anyone you’ve ever met. I hate that about myself. HATE it. I also sometimes love it, but not as often. And that’s one of my truths. Somehow, I feel like sharing it will ease some of the burden I feel at having to carry it, but maybe it won’t. Maybe I just needed to write all this down. I don’t know, but it’s done now.

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re one of those people I mentioned before, the ones who I love with a scary intensity, and if that’s the case, I love you for reading my scrambled thoughts. ❤

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When Moms Give Advice

When I was pregnant, I got all sorts of advice from other moms–some solicited, some not. A lot of that advice was wonderful! And some of it made me cry and cry. Then, after I had my son, I got MORE advice with the same stats–I asked for some, I got some I didn’t ask for, some was great, some made me feel like the worst mom in the world.

Because of this, I always said I would never give another mom advice unless she asked me, and then I would try to take into account her situation and not just force upon her the “truth” of my own situation, as if my experience in motherhood was the ultimate experience that everyone else needed to live by.

So, naturally, before I even realize what I’m doing, I start handing out advice left and right. “When James was a baby this REALLY worked. You should try it.” “When I was pregnant, the ONLY thing that worked was this. You should do this. Can I help you get started?”I was that mom all of a sudden. Yikes.

Once I realized what I was doing, I reigned myself in. I’m happy to say that now I limit my mommy/baby/wifey advice to the people who either ask me directly, or who happen to get stuck in a conversation with me where those topics are relevant.

But, here and now, I have a piece of advice I need to share with ALL moms, but to give that advice, I need to tell a story first:

The other day, I walked out of the living room to go get something, and left James playing in his play pen. I come back, and he’s holding my coffee cup–which was on a table that should have been far enough away from him–and it’s empty (don’t worry, the coffee had been cold for a while). I take the cup from him and look to where it was sitting, and there’s a huge puddle of coffee in the floor. Very calmly, I go to get towels and cleaner to clean it up. As I’m cleaning, James tries to climb the wall of his pen. Afraid he’ll fall, I go to grab him, only to fall myself, causing the pen wall to fall and a huge piece to snap off. I yelped and James started to cry, so I pick him up to comfort him, only to discover that he’s had a blow out (for those of you who aren’t parents, that means poopy diaper explosion). I take him into his room, clean him up, and put him in his crib so I can fix the play pen and clean up the coffee. I got back into the living room, and as I’m crossing the room, I step on a hair clip of mine and it shatters, pieces going everywhere (not to mention my foot didn’t feel great). So here I am, smelling faintly of baby poop and stale coffee, with hundreds of plastic shards all around, mixed in with my toddler’s toys, with a play pen that needs to be fixed. And all I could do was laugh for a minute, push my hair out of my eyes, and get to it.

So, what’s the moral here? What’s the advice that I really need to share with all the mommies who read this?

Love your babies, hold on tight, do your best, and always expect the unexpected. 

No matter what you do, there will be someone out there who thinks you’re 100% right, and another person who thinks you’re 100% wrong. Breastfeed, bottle feed, rock to sleep, sleep train, purees, mashes, baby led weaning–someone is going to agree with you on your choices and someone else is going to tell you that you’re doing it all wrong. So what do you do? Ignore them. Do what’s best for you baby. Research things you aren’t sure about. Talk to your pediatrician. Talk to your mom, your grandmas, your aunts, your female cousins, your friends who’ve had kids. Talk to your husband or partner. But at the end of the day, when you’re standing there overseeing the huge mess that you’re baby has contributed to, smelling a little funky with food (or something else) on your shirt, and a smile on your baby’s face because he’s spending time with you, know that you’re doing a great job. We mommies are a tribe of warrior women who raise babies and learn to solve all problems. We should come together in person, online, in spirit, and support each other in our decisions. If you’re a mommy who loves her babies, then you, my friend, are a freaking super hero.

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As a bonus, here’s a totally irrelevant photo of my baby chowing down on a lemon!

On Being an Overweight Yogini

When I first started doing yoga, I was thin. I didn’t realize it, but I was. (Thanks a lot, distorted self image.) And as I continued to practice, and do Zumba, and eat well, I got in better and better shape. Looking back at photos, I was in fantastic shape. I didn’t even realize it at the time–I thought I was still a little chubby, but it was good enough to start posting photos of myself in yoga poses to track my progress. At least, that’s what I told myself. I thought, “I’ll post this picture of myself in camel pose, not because my waist looks so tiny, but because I want to see if, in a month, the pose looks different. Facebook and Instagram are great places to store photos.”

Well folks, I’m not thin anymore. Nine months ago I had a baby, and I just haven’t made the time to get back in a good exercise and healthy eating routine. Also, having a baby really changes your body! (Side note: your body isn’t “worse” after you have a baby, it’s just different. But that’s a different story for a different day.) Why do I bring this up? Because the other day I took some yoga photos, thinking I would post them to see how my poses had changed since I had the baby (I hadn’t had time to practice). I felt really good, actually. I felt flexible and strong. But then I saw the photos, I saw how my body wasn’t thin anymore, how my belly sagged, the new rolls around my bra strap, and the new muffin top from where my pants were a little too tight. I’m going to be honest, I didn’t post all of them. I almost didn’t post any, but part of my brain was still in denial about the full reason I used to post yoga photos, so I chose a couple.

I made the album private at first, because I worried that my yoga students wouldn’t want to learn from me, that people would judge me. I worried what people would think of my new, postpartum body. I knew women who had babies and weeks later had flat tummies and were thinner than before. I thought everyone would expect that to be me, and I was ashamed. Eventually I made the album public, but it filled me with anxiety.

This whole experience made me realize that I used to post photos, not just to track progress, but because I was being prideful. I wanted people to see my body and think, “Wow!” I wanted likes and affirmation and comments. And I got those things, but I wasn’t being true to the spirit of what yoga is, and what yoga did for me.

Yoga isn’t just asana (poses). It isn’t just being strong and flexible, with the ability to contort yourself into crazy, amazing shapes. Yoga is a state of mind, a way of living. Yoga is being in each moment and experiencing it to the fullest. It’s loving your body and yourself for what you can do and for what you experience. Yoga is finding yourself in your breath and appreciating the way the sun looks as it rises, or the way the air feels on a cool autumn night. And yet, I’d been living my yoga life as if my pose progress, as if my waistline, was what was most important.

So, why am I writing this blog? I have friends who’ve said, “I’d do yoga if I weren’t so heavy” or “It’s easier for you, you’re thin. It’s harder when you have a belly.” I used to tell those people, “Come on! Yoga is for everyone! Anyone can get on their mat and practice.” Which is true, yoga IS for everyone. But knowing that truth, and living that truth are two very different things. I’m seeing things from a different perspective thanks to this postpartum body, and it’s blowing my world wide open.

Guys, exercising is hard. It’s hard when your overweight and it’s hard when you’re thin. Putting on exercise clothes and joining a class makes you vulnerable. Whether you’re the heaviest person in the room or the thinnest, you’re still going and saying, “Here I am. Please don’t judge me.” And in a yoga class, whether you’re a teacher or a student, there shouldn’t be an ounce of judgement. There should be only love and acceptance.

As a yoga teacher, I’ve feared what my students thought, because of my weight gain, but starting today, I want to start living the truth that I talk about. I want to live joyfully in this body of mine, regardless of the size it happens to be right now. I want to work toward a healthier, happier me.

Starting today (thanks to Becca’s encouragement to set an intention to practice daily) I will practice my yoga, regardless of my weight. Starting today, I will practice my yoga and take deep breaths when things are tough. Starting today, I will practice my yoga and speak truths into my life–my body is beautiful because it allows me move and speak and dance and hold my son; my body is strong because it allows me to bounce James at night when he’s fussy and allows me to carry in my groceries; my body is always changing, always becoming something new, and that is so amazing.

Do I hope someday to get back to being thinner? Yes, and if I’m being honest, part of that is wanting to look a certain way, but more and more, it’s because I liked the energy I had then, I liked the way it felt to move and bend and use my muscles. (Plus, I’m too cheap to buy new clothes!)  But if my body stays as it is forever, I will still love my body. I will still practice my yoga, on and off the mat. I will teach my son that a woman’s beauty is more than what magazines say it is–a woman’s beauty is her spirit, her character, her kindness, her humor, her interests, and her body, and that beauty comes in all shapes, all sizes, all colors.

Below are some photos of me at my thinnest and of me postpartum. I haven’t taken any photos in a few months, but you get the idea. It’s a little harder to be an overweight yogi, because you may feel like your body is getting in the way, but that doesn’t make your practice any less beautiful. Yoga can be magical if you really let it into your life. I plan to reclaim the magic that I’ve lost.

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James’s Surgery

On Tuesday morning (October 27th), James had a cranial vault reconstruction. What this means is, two surgeons (neurosurgeon/Dr. Pittman and plastic surgeon/Dr. Liau) made an incision in his scalp, then cut and reshaped his skull. As James’s mother, this absolutely and completely terrified me to my very core.

We arrived at the hospital at 5:30 AM and checked in. Mom and dad were already there, which made it easier for me, but still not easy. Everyone at the desk was so kind and understanding when I was crying too hard to speak. About an hour or so later, Vince and I were called to take James up to pre-op. I’ve never shaken so hard in my life. We changed his little diaper and put a sweet baby hospital gown on him, then played for a long time on the gurney and in the rocking chair. He chewed on the rainbow hedgehog my sweet friend Sarah got for him and rolled all around, growling and talking–the best sounds in the world.

While we were in this room waiting, surgical residents for Dr. Pittman, Dr. Liau, and Dr. Van Wyn (his anesthesiologist) came by to talk to us and meet James (they all commented on his big smile, since it was nearly 8 and he hadn’t eaten since 12:30 the night before), and then Dr. Wyk and Dr. Liau also came by to talk to us. Everyone who came in to talk with us was so nice and gentle with this fragile momma.

Finally, a nurse came by. They gave James some Versed, so he wouldn’t remember being separated from us and wouldn’t remember the mask they’d put on him so he’d fall asleep. The nurse who took him cried when I did, and somehow, that made me feel a little better. She was a momma, too, and knew how hard it would be for me to let go of him when the time came. A little empathy goes a long way.

And then, I had to hand my baby boy over to this exceptionally kind nurse. That was the most painful thing I’ve ever had to do. My Aunt Linda told me before I had James that I would know when I was ready to be a mom when my arms felt empty. And she was right. We started trying for James because my arms needed a baby in them. But I’ve never felt such emptiness as I did when I handed him over to that nurse, no matter how wonderful she was.

Letting go of James left me with a deep, aching pain. I can barely describe it. It was like someone had ripped my heart out, only so much worse. Vince put his arms around me and walked me back to surgery waiting, and I felt like I was dying inside.

We waited for a while for surgery to actually begin. Once it did, I had another meltdown. It was finally real–they were going to cut into his scalp and skull and rearrange his skull. I knew, in the long run, this was what was best for him, but I also was terrified. They gave us a little beeper that told us when the surgery started, when the first doctor was through, and when to meet his surgeon for a post-op consultation. Two hours after that initial text, mom and I were sitting in Consultation 4 waiting for Dr. Liau.

Dr. Liau is a rockstar. He brought me a little baggy with some of the hair they shaved off (they only shaved a single strip, not all of it!) and told us he did great! He didn’t even need a blood transfusion, which was a major possibility. Our estimated date for leaving the hospital was Saturday the 31st.

We spent the rest of Tuesday, all of Wednesday, and part of Thursday in the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) with some of the kindest, sweetest, most wonderful nurses. One nurse in particular, Katherine, was James’s favorite. Every time he saw her, he lit up with the biggest smile. She was with us two days and I am so grateful for her, and all the others, who took such good care of him and us while we were there. Thursday afternoon we finally got transferred to a room on the floor. (It would have been sooner, but construction is going on and a lot of rooms aren’t available that normally would be.) Our room was blue with a big light up turtle on the ceiling, which James LOVED. The staff in this wing was just as wonderful as the staff in the PICU. The nurses and techs who we saw were just so incredibly nice to us, it blew my mind.

We got to come home today (Friday) a whole day earlier than the EARLIEST predicted day. I’m so grateful for our early release, and James seems pretty happy to be home with his mommy and daddy and kitties. (We pick Juno up from her puppy hotel tomorrow, then we’ll all be back together!)

This has been the most emotionally draining, scariest, biggest weeks of my life. I’m so thankful for the doctors, nurses, and techs at UK Children’s Hospital. I’m so thankful for our pediatrician, Dr. Brown, and my momma, for catching this for us. And I’m so thankful the surgery part is OVER.

If it weren’t for Vince staying in the PICU with James the first night, mom staying with James in his room on the floor the third night (and helping me every step of the way), and daddy picking us up today at the hospital (because Vince was still at work) I would have been/would be even more of a wreck than I already was/am. My family is amazing. And SO many people have reached out to see what we needed, to share some love, to give loving, wonderful advice, that I just don’t know where to start with my thank you list. I wish I could bake every single one of you a dozen cookies! (Nothing says love like cookies.) Thank you all for everything!

We appreciate all of your thoughts and love and prayers so incredibly much! James is feeling better so soon thanks to the love and prayer he’s felt all around him this week. I can’t wait until he’s all healed up, and back to his normal self, but I’m so grateful for the way he is today! Thank you, all! ❤

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One Week & One Day

James’s surgery is in 8 days. One week and one day from now, this whole thing becomes real.

Until now, I haven’t let myself think about it all that much. I mean, when they scheduled the surgery I had almost a whole month before it had to happen. Now, it’s just over a week. This time next week, I’ll be packing for a week in the hospital with my poor baby.

I could probably still ignore it, except the hospital called today to make sure I knew where to park and had the right day written down and double check our family histories. No big deal, except now I have to actually think about it. I have to admit to myself that this is really going to happen. That my baby, my infant son, is going to ACTUALLY have surgery, and I am ACTUALLY going to have to hold it together during and after so that I can take care of him.

Part of me is worried about the surgery, but I trust our doctor’s, I trust UK Hospital, and mostly I trust that James is in God’s hands and will be just fine, no matter what. But mostly I’m worried about after. I’m worried about seeing James’s sweet face swollen, about hearing his disoriented cries when he wakes from anesthesia, about seeing his pain and discomfort as he heals. The thought of all of this makes me want to take him and run to save him from all of it.

But, logically, I know this surgery is what’s best for him in the long run. I know it’s better that he deals with this discomfort now so that as he ages and grows he won’t have cognitive delays, he won’t get picked on for having an abnormal head shape, and he’ll have a less emotionally painful adolescence. But I want to protect him NOW. I want to keep him from hurting, always. And I know that next week, I’ll have to hand him over to strangers, and that will lead to him hurting.

That being said, a lot of you have asked what you could do for us. You all have no idea how much the love and kind words you’ve shared with us have changed this experience for us. If you still want to do something, keep praying or sending good thoughts. Pray for his doctors, his nurses, and his anesthesiologist. Pray that he recovers quickly, that he isn’t in severe pain or discomfort. Pray that James is better than OK, that he comes out of this with the same joy and energy he goes through every single day with.

Our surgery is October 27th (a Tuesday). We’ll be in the ICU one day, and then in a room for four more days. I’ll post our room and things like that once I know them, if anyone would like to visit (if you’re sick, I have to ask that you don’t come, since he’ll be so delicate after surgery).

I love all of you, and appreciate everyone who’s talked to us, written us, hugged us, and loved on us. It’s helped me through the days I really wanted to take James and run away from the reality of this whole thing. My sweet smiling boy doesn’t talk, but I know he feels that love, too, from your prayers and thoughts and words to us.

In a week and a day, this will be real. Until then, I’m just going to soak up this sweet face, and cherish the las few days I’ll have with him looking this way, without a scar, with his atypical, beautiful head shape, and pray I can remember him like this forever.

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Sagittal Synostosis

Today we took James to a specialist in Lexington and he was officially diagnosed with Sagittal Synostosis, which is the premature fusion of the sagittal suture that runs along the top of the child’s head. Below is a diagram of a typical infant and an infant with sagittal synostosis. You can see where the sagittal suture (the middle, vertical line) has fused in the second image. James’s case isn’t as severe as the drawing, which is why it wasn’t caught earlier.

DIAGRAM

We’ve wondered if he’s had this for months. My mom caught it first, early on, and if it weren’t for her, we might never have gotten a diagnosis. We asked our pediatrician about it, but he told us not to worry. But I did worry. So much that we scheduled another appointment with him and pushed for an x-ray. We got the x-ray, but again, he told us not to worry. So I made another appointment with a different pediatrician, who immediately referred us to Lexington. Thank God.

My sweet, perfect, beautiful boy is scheduled for surgery October 27th in Lexington. The surgery will consist of opening up the top of the head and rearranging the top of the skull so that his head will round out, so he won’t have a major cranial deformity as he ages, and so we won’t have to worry about developmental delays due to pressure on the brain or not enough room for the brain. If our pediatrician had caught this earlier, and referred us, it would be a much simpler procedure–they would go in and open up the suture that had closed. But he didn’t catch it, and the suture closure is too far gone for that now. This means that we will have the bigger surgery the 27th with two doctors (a neurosurgeon and a plastic surgeon), be in the ICU for 24 hours, and be in the hospital at least four more days. Below is an example of a child’s head before and after surgery.

INCISION

I am broken into a million tiny pieces. My baby, my PERFECT baby, is going to have to go through surgery and I won’t be able to explain to him why it hurts, why he can’t eat for so many hours before we go, why he’ll feel sick and groggy and achey. I hate this. I hate every part of it. I hate that I can’t do this for him, that he has to go through it, and I’ll be helpless to sit back and watch.

I love my son more than anything. More than any person. More than any dream. More than ANYthing in this entire universe. He is my world, my heart, my everything. I want to take this from him, to make it all OK, but I can’t. I’m utterly powerless. So, in my state of having no power, no control, I want to ask for prayer. Please, if you pray, pray for James’s surgery, that it would go well, without complications, that it will work and not have to be repeated, and that he would recover quickly. Please pray for God to guide the doctors’ hands, the nurses’ hands, that God be with my boy as he’s being operated on. Please just pray for him in every way. I need him to be OK, to come this through perfectly, to be my sweet, laughing, happy guy again soon afterward. This feels like a nightmare, and the only thing I can do is pray, pray, pray, and ask for others to pray with me.

Vince and I are both scared, both terribly upset with the news, but we also have faith in God’s protection and in the two doctor’s who will be working on James in less than a month. Thank you to everyone who’s written us so far (even if you didn’t know what you were offering kind words for) or commented on the photo I posted earlier today. My family is so lucky to be surrounded by such beautiful people. And thank you in advance to anyone who will pray for James during this.

LINDS and JAMES