Taking off the Mask

I love to play with my kids. I could paint, color, read, play games, do puzzles, build forts, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, build legos….you get the point. I love to engage an interact with my kids at their level.

But I have to confess: I hate playing pretend.

GASP! How dare I admit such a calamity? Ok, but really, I do feel guilty about it. Pretend play is how children learn to interact with others and the world. It is essential to their development and esteem.

So why do I not like doing it? Michael’s version of playing pretend involves him directing me what to say with his superheroes. He also pretends to be a ninja turtle, I am assigned the role of April, the reporter (Ninja Turtles are making a huge comeback). There are a myriad of other “identity” assignments and I am under the direction of Michael’s script.

There are several definitions for the word “pretend”. Besides “make believe”, dictionary.com provides these two definitions that prompted a whole series of thoughts on my life:

1. to cause or attempt to cause (what is not so) to seem so: to pretend illness; to pretend that nothing is wrong.

2. to appear falsely, as to deceive; feign: to pretend to go to sleep.

Am I pretending with my God? My husband? My family & friends? Do I pretend that everything is ok when it is not? Do I pretend to know God and not spend time in His word and in prayer with Him? Do I sin willingly and pretend it’s no big deal?

Do I pretend with my friends? Am I transparent and authentic in my conversations with them? Do I hide behind a facade of false reality so others can’t see me?

What makes us want to cover up? Are we afraid of rejection? Of being unloved? That if others knew the truth about us, we would be laughed at or scoffed?

One thing I do know, is that when I am transparent about my struggles, my triumphs, my passions and joys, life is better. Relationships are authentic. It requires less effort to admit my weaknesses and openly embrace them (with the hopes of strengthening them) then to cover them up. Trust is built quicker. People are more at ease when they see the struggle in others and that they are not ashamed or embarrassed.

I am convinced that God’s love is displayed best when we admit to our shortcomings and place them at his feet. He knows when we are pretending, we cannot fool Him. We can try, or trick ourselves into believing that we can figure out this life on our own.

But we can’t. Not for a single second.

“Oh Lord, you have searched and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, you know it all together. You hem me in, behind and before me, and lay your hand upon me. ”
Psalm 139: 1-5

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I am such a Loser!

I don’t even want to look at the date of my last post. I am a blogging failure! Secret: I wanted so desperately to keep up with the minimum of a posting a week for 3 consecutive months so I could potentially be featured at blogher.com

Where have I been you may be thinking? Or, you may not care. Have I no loyalty to you all, my readership? Is readership a word?

I know it’s been a good two months. I have missed you blinking cursor! Shame on me!

You know how you intend to do something and a certain amount of time passes and you don’t accomplish it and you keep putting it off because when you do think about it it makes you feel yuck that you haven’t done it? I did that once (or maybe twice or more). I actually packed a cover for a blow up mattress into our moving shipment from Sicily that belonged to a friend who graciously provided me and Michael with a bed when we had none in transition. “Send me your address! I’ll send it back ASAP! So sorry it was packed in the big shipment!”

It sat in my closet for 2 years before I finally threw it away.

Ok, enough of the guilt trip. I carry enough guilt for probably, um, all of North America as a Mommy. Let’s not add to it.

In my absence my husband made it back from a month long stint to a not so fun faraway place. Wonderful family has visited, including my cousin, his wife (my secret sister), and their three children. My mom came and spent a fly by week with me and a short two weeks after that he was home. My in laws came for a fun visit. All these visits were a surprise to Michael who probably expects someone famous to stop by soon…..Michael started his soccer season and has scored multiple goals every game (Yay! This was with me coaching the first 2 weeks of the season since my husband was not available).

I also lost some weight. A significant amount. On purpose. With Shaun T from the Insanity workouts. And some healthful eating. I completed the “Insanity Challenge” and am smaller now then I was in high school. My arms look amazing. Though, the jiggle is still there, you know the one your peripheral vision never fails to catch while waving to someone with a sleeveless shirt on? I figured out if you wave slowly, like a princess wave, it doesn’t jiggle as much. I went down 6 clothing sizes. I love to run again. Am I bragging? Yep. But I won’t mention it again.

Except to say that it is a huge element in healthy thinking and mental well-being (duh).

Most recently and probably the most difficult was the privilege of sharing my journey through and out of postpartum OCD with my MOPS mommas. Twice. (Two separate groups….unfortunately my delivery was not so great the second time around….) I tried to be like a speaker who spoke to us during the year about parenting and raising three boys. So calm. So clearly well-spoken and purposeful. Stood next to but not behind the podium. Captured my attention. Elegant and graceful. Yeah, you know who you are, K. (My writing muse, whom I aspire to be anything like).

Not me.  No…. I bop up there and spoke for 40 minutes the first time (whoa….) and packed a lot into it. I tripped over the podium, in both sharing times, I think. When I stood away from the podium I lost all ability to control my arms and hands. I am not quite sure what I did with them. I could have been picking my nose….

But God’s grace was shown and He used me to reach mommas who needed to hear a scary story to know that you know what happens and He is the Only One who can pull you out of it and make you better for it.

Noooo…Sammy is rolling around in his crib….don’t wake up….I am going to sign off now, and sit in my mother’s day gift, my fabulous anti-gravity chair that is on our deck and watch the sunrise. Pray he gives me 30 (60?) good minutes.

Glad to be back. 🙂

Eeeek!

FYI BEFORE READING…MAJOR ISSUES WITH FORMATTING ON THIS BLOG..MULTIPLE ATTEMPTS TO FIX…UNSUCCESSFUL…WILL TRY AGAIN LATER…. 🙂

I am still here. 🙂

The writing bug has bitten me, however the all-consuming position of motherhood has left me drained!

I am full of words.

I look over at the computer at night and think, “I just need to move to the chair from the couch and start typing”. Then I go back to watching TV with my hubby. Or fall asleep. Whatever.

This blogging pressure is self-induced and totally unnecessary. Just another way to feel guilty as a woman!

Looking back on the last week or so of my absence, I can share with you:

My littlest got his first haircut. He is no longer my wild thing look-a-like but now a handsome little boy. I do miss that crazy hair, though!

Image

That would be munchkin glaze on his face prior to the haircut.

Baby to little boy in a matter of minutes...made a sign for my 4 year old's roomImage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also got crafty with decoupage. Yes, that is his name. I am tired of referring to my kiddos as oldest and youngest. It’s not like I am sharing social security numbers…..so there you have it. I guess I could call them Thing 1 and Thing 2. But really, more people see my Facebook account with all their pictures and names. So, the little guy, yeah, that’s Sam. Or Sammy. Or Sam-Sam. And he is now awake. 🙂

To be continued…

In another “life” (indulge me)…I would…

Work for National Geographic as e a travel photographer and writer, able to drop and go at a moment’s notice and embrace the beauty, sorrow, and wonder of this world that God has so majestically hand-crafted.

Live in a loft apartment in Boston and live the “city life”. I would bring my non-existent iPad to the local Starbucks and “work” while enjoying my COC (coffee of choice).

Live on the beach in the Caribbean performing some inane job, like hair braiding, henna tattooing, or some other meaningless task. But I would be one of the locals. I would only wear flip flops. Or be bare foot.

Backpack the world on foot (with the exception of Antarctica or anywhere else cold on a continual basis. I despise winter).  (Maybe this is the same as my traveling photographer life?)

Begin surfing at a very young age and be good enough to enter professional competitions.

Take ballet lessons. (What?! I know…)

Be a nature expert in the Amazon and hang out with the tribes….though I would probably stay clothed. Maybe not. It would depend on whether or not this particular life included post childbirth body.

Serve as a missionary nurse to third world countries and administer the gift of compassion that God has bestowed upon me to the hurting and ill.

Meet my sponsored Compassion child, Dallana.

Be an astronaut and explore the mystery of the heavens from above our atmosphere.

I acknowledge that a lot of my “would be’s” are totally pointless and selfish.  These other “lives” aren’t to say that I am not content with the one I have now.  I am grateful for my God, my family, my friends, and the opportunities and experiences He has allowed into my life. He gave us imaginations for a reason. There is a longing for something inside of all of us, for something more, something different, something better. It’s gotta be heaven.

Despite the abundance of lie we have on this Earth with Christ as our Living God, we know deep down inside of us that it will not be completely filled until we see Him and are with Him for eternity.

From the lyrics of Matt Redman (and others who have sang this song of Praise:

“Take the world, but give me Jesus
You’re the treasure in this life
Take the world, but give me Jesus
Is my cry”

 

 

 

 

Three things….

1. Katherine Stone from http://www.postpartumprogress.com asked if she could post my letter to ACOG on the site. I am stoked. Excited is an understatement. Thank You, Jesus. Keep me humble.

2. Yesterday I purchased:

  • 4 boxes of cereal
  • 3 packages of whole grain english muffins
  • 2 packages of whole wheat bagel thins
  • 3 individual containers of greek yogurt
  • 1 box of WhuNus? (A “nutrtional” cookie…..if there is such a thing….?)

for a grand total of:

$23.10

I was pretty proud. Maybe not an extreme couponer’s result, yet I was on a post shopping savings high afterwards. And also noted that Honey Nut Cheerios has approximately the same amount of sugar as Fruit Loops.

3. My husband and I have begun “Insanity”. You know, with Shaun T? The guy who screams “Let’s GO!” into the camera and you want to run in the opposite direction.  You have to be a little off to do this exercise program. Day one of the Fit Test, my right quad gave out and I fell oh so gracefully onto the living room floor. It’s Day 5 and there are 55 more to go….and we get up together at 430 in the morning to do this. He says we should take before and after pictures. I don’t know if I can stomach looking at a picture of well…my stomach at it’s current state.

I’m ready for a nap by 10 am. Ok, I’m ready for a nap now, at 6:27 am.

But I feel…..awesome.

“I’m gonna write a letter” (ever seen the movie White Chicks? :)

I sent this to ACOG today via snail mail. It speaks for itself. Pray that it makes a difference for future women who will battle postpartum illness.

To The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

On February 22, 2011, I developed significant postpartum mood disorder symptoms.

At 3 months postpartum with my second child, I sought care from my OB/GYN office immediately. As a registered nurse, I have a moderate knowledge base of postpartum illness and knew what was happening.

My scheduled appointment was with a physician whom I preferred not to see due to a lack of bedside manner. I could have waited three weeks to see my “regular” OB/GYN for my previously scheduled annual exam, but I was desperate for help as soon as possible.

When I tearfully shared what I was going through, this physician looked at me and said, “Well, I don’t know what this is, but it’s not postpartum depression. You need to see a psychiatrist. I’ll write you a script for Prozac.”

I felt CRUSHED. I walked out of the office, script in hand, wondering why he would say such a thing. I was taught that postpartum illness could develop within the first year of birth.

The following weeks brought an appointment with a not so helpful psychiatric nurse practioner and untoward side effects from the Prozac. When I followed up with my preferred OB/GYN for my annual exam, she apologized for the comments the first physician had made and said, “This is SO postpartum related.”

After searching for more resources, I found a therapist who specializes in postpartum mood disorders. She directed me to a reproductive psychiatrist that assured me I was not going crazy, and the exact nature of my symptoms were experienced by many women. My medication regimen was adjusted, and she was astute enough to recheck my TSH after noting I was trending toward hyperthyroidism about a month before the onset of my symptoms.

I was then referred to an endocrinologist when my TSH level had swung in the opposite direction.  After a thyroid ultrasound and a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s disease, I began taking Synthroid.

After months of therapy, medication, and support I have been healed.

But I am angry. If I had been a patient lacking the nursing knowledge I have, I shudder to think what may have come of my situation. The first time a mom seeks help for a postpartum mental health related issue sets the tone for her entire recovery.  Encountering this particular physician’s response appalled me then, and it appalls me now. Did I mention he is the head of the practice?

My purpose in writing this letter to ACOG is to ask the following:

Why, why, why in 2012 are physicians who practice OB/GYN not all on the same proverbial page regarding the mental heath care of postpartum women?

What is ACOG doing to educate these physicians to prevent a situation such as mine from happening?

Why is it so difficult to find postpartum resources? I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person. It took me many hours of searching for the “right” people to help me.

I can tell you that at least 12 people directly contributed to my ongoing recovery. That’s not including people I encountered along the way who weren’t already directly involved in my life.

Twelve people helped me, and one physician nearly ruined me.

I literally have to fight the urge to tell my story to every pregnant woman or mom with a newborn that I see.

I truly look forward to hearing a response from ACOG and hope that my questions will not be overlooked or brushed aside as my initial road to recovery was.

Sincerely,

My Real Name Here 🙂

Love

“Dad! Tomorrow is ValenTIME’s day!” my oldest told my husband.

“Oh, yah? What does that mean?”

“Love!” he shouted with a reckless abandoment.

I could not suppress a grin. His enthusiasm for Valentine’s Day was comparable to his joy and wonder of Christmas.

We celebrated by making homemade “cupid’s arrow” valentine’s for his classmates with pretzels and gummy hearts. “Franklin’s Valentine” was read at our routine breakfast table story time. Serving as the mom volunteer for his Valentine’s party at preschool, I was able to watch the children make crafts and decorate cookies.

His face lit up with each Valentine he opened from his friends when we looked through his bag.

The boys and I met my husband at Red Robin’s for dinner; my four year old’s absolute favorite place to go out to eat. I don’t know whether his excitement over eating there or his excitement for me not having to cook was higher. (I shared with him how happy that made me). “And Mom! You don’t even have to cook!” He threw up his hands in disbelief.

I have not had a more rewarding Valentine’s day as I watched it through the eyes of my son. I never put much stock into the commercialism of it all, but when he responded with his one word “love” answer I was sold.

Lord, I cannot thank you enough. You loved me enough to allow Your Son to die for me. Thank you for showing my son how important Love is and how fully he is able to express it at such a young age.

 

a time for everything….

I left active duty service as a Navy Nurse almost 4 years ago.

I married almost 6 years ago.

My father passed away from a massive heart attack at the age of 49 almost 8 years ago.

I earned my commission as a Naval Officer and graduated from ECU with a BSN a little over 8 years ago.

I remember my college experience as a four year chunk of time, as well as high school.

I share these mundane facts with you because I am wondering how I will perceive looking back on this particular chapter. Will the pain that threatens to resurface at times be a distant memory? Will it seem like it was all a dream and never really happened? Will I categorize it into a block of time as I have with my past? Will I always have a dormant false sense of shame and guilt associated with my postpartum OCD?

Or will things fade as they always seem to, bit by bit, until I can recall major life events but forget the details?

Like the sound of my baby’s belly laugh. That is a song in itself that I wish to never let go. Or how at 15 months he tackles me into a hug on the floor.

If I try hard enough, I can still “hear” my father’s voice and laugh….and can almost remember how it felt to embrace my barrel chested daddy, feeling a sense of safety and security.

I don’t ever want to forget that at one time (that time being now)  my oldest often and spontaneously tells me how much he loves me and how beautiful he thinks I am.

I don’t want to lose the moments that matter. I could definitely do without fleeting memories of the horror of living through postpartum hell. The constant physical sense of panic in my chest. The heaviness of darkness threatening to consume me. The uncertainity and fear. I have never, ever felt that much fear in my entire life. I would have felt less fear being held at gunpoint than the fear I felt at the worst of my illness. Extreme? Yes. But so are postpartum mood disorders.

I praise God that I can identify the good with the bad. You cannot have one without the other. I praise Him that his sense of time is unlike ours, and depsite what may feel like an eternity is merely a proverbial drop in the bucket.

“I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end….I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.”

Ecclesiastes 3:10-11; 14

seeing through the fog

I found my new prayer spot this morning. Our townhouse has 3 levels, the second having a sliding glass door leading out onto a deck. The sun rises spectacularly from this view, despite the treeline and row of townhouses that dot the horizon.

I wrapped myself in a blanket and tucked my feet underneath me as I gazed out and absorbed the tapestry of colors that our Creator so lovingly designed.

At some point in the midst of praying, for whatever reason I started to “fog” up the window. If you had been sitting on the opposite side of the door you would have seen a crazy woman with disheveled hair and pink socks, blowing her hot morning breath all over the glass with a wide open mouth. I had a flashback to childhood riding in the backseat of our car and doodling aimlessly on the window before the defroster kicked in and did it’s job.

When my foggy circle was complete, I leaned my forehead against the window and looked through it. As I gazed through my “artwork”, I could only make out the shape of the deck posts and roofs of the homes behind us. I equated it to having a need for glasses and instantly felt bad for all my of friends with visual impairments. (Love you all!)

As I continued to stare, the fog slowly diminished from the outside in. I likened it to tunnel vision, except instead of losing sight, everything became clearer. It dawned on me how similar my little science experiment is from healing from a postpartum mood disorder.

When your vision becomes blurred by postpartum illness (or any difficulty) and you can’t “blink” it away as if you had a speck of dust in your eye, you panic and have a sense of complete despair that you will never see clearly again. You feel as if all hope is gone and things will never get better. But it does get better. Not overnight. Not in a week, or a month, or maybe a few months…and in some cases it takes longer than that. But it DOES get better. Day by day that circle of fog diminishes every so slowly from the outside in, getting smaller and smaller until all is clear again and hope has been restored. It is my prayer for you this morning if you are looking through the fog, you can find strength with God’s promises to look past it and know that there is clarity and healing on the other side of it.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

Psalm 43:5