Why parenting never gets easier – and why it’s amazing.

The countless diaper changes, sleepless nights and dirty dishes create a blur of beautiful chaos those early years of parenthood. Add in siblings close in age and you lay your head every night thankful everyone survived another day. The kids get older, you become a bit wiser until eventually one day goes by unnoticed as anything other than unremarkable. And it becomes two and soon a few weeks and then you realize that without the pomp and circumstance that celebrated your entry to parenthood, you’ve entered an entirely new phase that involves noticeably fewer tears from everyone.

I am never so naive to think that I’ve got this parenting thing down. But we seem to have travelled through the survival phase known as babydom and toddlerhood and arrived at the other side: school-aged.

And things become markedly calmer and you think, “This is easy! We could totally have six kids.”

Then you’re kid does something awesome like break her arm in such a way that it’ll require surgery, pins and a full arm cast. Because, you know, God is hilarious and has awesome ways of gently reminding me when I’ve become too big for my britches.

The kids get bigger and so do the problems. I’m not talking strictly about physical injuries. While I’m no longer concerned with the perils of potty training, I’m now facing the challenge of raising two young girls with healthy body images and leading them through the maze of mean girls and self esteem. While this chapter of parenting is typically less physically demanding – although the shuttle service between school carpool and ballet classes and traffic is exhausting – it is a race of emotional and mental endurance. I’ve shifted my energy away from the day-to-day and toward the long task of character-building and emotional development.

They ask Big Life Questions that I usually feel wholly ill-equipped to answer. You must formulate a concise, spur-of-the-moment response when your five year old explains that sometimes she feels like God isn’t close and wonders if I’m sure He really thinks she’s special enough. Or when she confides that she isn’t sure she’s pretty enough. Or if I’m sure there isn’t even one thing that would ever make me stop loving her – what if she steals a rainbow? Because to a five year old, there is nothing worse than stealing a rainbow.

I want to blame the influence of peers and society but truthfully, I’m confident most women struggle with the same questions regardless of our age, social circle or upbringing. The lessons that we instill now – or don’t – will have a lasting effect far into adulthood. Nurturing a sense of value and self-worth, cultivating grace and generosity and taming arrogance and superiority. Are we ever good enough? Interesting enough? Thin enough? Strong enough? That stuff is hard.

When Josh and I decided to have kids, it was a pretty short conversation and a sudden shift from my career-oriented life goals. And my view of parenting was very short-sited and I, embarrassingly, didn’t think what it meant to be a parent past the first year. I never entertained the idea that God may bless us with daughters instead of the enviably less dramatic male option. Instead, He gave us and one then another incredible little female human with tender hearts that need guarded and guided and given a safe place to flourish.

I want them to grow strong – physically and emotionally. I will teach them to shine brightly and boldly. I will show them that vulnerability is not weakness. I will encourage them to embrace difficulties and remain joyous through the challenges.

I miss the simpler days of parenting when snuggles and Momma milk made everything better. But how fortunate am I to be tasked as steward of such precious gifts?

Please, please don’t let me screw them up.

SONY DSC

 

Advertisements

The lies we tell.

I’m a highly sensitive extrovert. My sensitivity is not to be confused with the weepy characters we stereotype; I am outrageously perceptive and influenced by the mood and emotions of others. And yet I crave the sense of community and camaraderie that comes with interacting with others. I need people. Recently, I find this unfortunate personality combination to be taking more control of my thoughts than I’d like and leaving me with feelings of negativity and self-doubt.

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and reflecting on the role negative thoughts play in my life. These little smidgens begin simply enough – a comment that was just slightly damaging. Not always outright but there was perhaps something in their tone or the awkward pauses that leaves me analyzing myself. Did I say something wrong? Did I come across as overbearing? Do they secretly hate me?

And like an ear worm, it festers and grows. It takes root and before I realize it, the negative feelings have strangled out my positive intentions.

Aviva Romm recently discussed the influence of Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs). How quickly I spring to an automatically negative response when faced with a challenge or opportunity.

You are not worthy.

You are not good enough.

You will fail.

You are not qualified.

You will be laughed at.

As I type this, I realize how egocentric and self-centered this is. How much of my life do I spend thinking about myself and how others perceive me? When I think of a narcissist, I think of someone who is arrogant and overly confident. Yet here I am, spending so much time thinking of myself and wallowing in my own self-doubt.

Weird, right?

I went to a yoga class this week. With all of the emotional and physical stress that has manifested recently, I took a month long self-perscribed hiatus from exercise and have gradually been easing my way back toward activity and yoga seems to be my favorite “I forgive you” gift for my body. As I’m laying in shavasana trying not to think, I’m overwhelmed by the thought of how absurd and incredibly selfish it is for me to spend so much energy thinking about the lies I tell myself.

My husband loves me with an unfailing, infallible love. My children think I am capable of anything. I have a healthy body and although it has faltered, it is strong and good. I serve a risen Savior who found me worthy of his own despair.

When I let negative, self-doubting thoughts take root and strangle out my joy and confidence, I am essentially telling those who love and support me that they are wrong. That I don’t believe them and that their confidence in me is in vain. I am discounting their confidence and replacing it with my own message of untruths. I am calling them liars.

When you start viewing yourself through the eyes of those who love you, you begin to realize that this life isn’t about you. You have nothing to prove. You have nothing to gain. What you need is what you have – people who love you unconditionally – and that there is nothing you can do, say, succeed or fail at that will influence their perception of you.

And if it they are so easily influenced, then they aren’t worthy of you.

You are worthy.

You are amazing.

You are good enough.

You are beautiful.

You are capable.

You are loved.

YouAreEnough

Please believe it. 

Heart Stopping – a lesson in stress.

One year – and what a year it has been. One year ago, we found out we were pregnant with a baby we won’t meet this side of heaven. This marked the beginning of a full 12 months of chaos, upheaval, juggling, worrying, planning, celebrating, stretching and growing. Stress.

Stress can be a good thing. I thrive under pressure and a healthy dose of stress keeps me moving forward and focused. But after such a long period of intense, life-changing stress, it’s no longer a flame lit under me but a wildfire consuming my mind and body. Our bodies aren’t meant to endure long periods of adrenaline and eventually things begin to crack under pressure. Worst of all, I’d become so accustomed to feeling overwhelmed and overstretched that I no longer recognized these feels as abnormal or unhealthy. That season of life had become my life.

I couldn’t relax. Quieting my body made the chaos of my mind scream louder. I’d collapse into bed each night mentally drained and exhausted but would lie there for an hour before finally falling asleep, only to wake up several times a night after what I called “anxious dreams.” I’d wake up yelling at the caged dog for peeing on the carpet or calling out to my sound-asleep kids to stop before running into traffic. Until recently, this happened every single night, multiple times a night.

In the mean time, we’ve talked about how my health began to deteriorate. It becomes a game of chicken or the egg – was I ill because of stress or was the stress causing the illness? Truthfully, I have a hormone imbalance that caused the miscarriage. From there on, I truly believe much what I’ve dealt with has directly related to stress or at least greatly magnified.

Everything came to a head last Monday. During my routine – although there is nothing routine about the tribe at KadiFit – workout, my heart went a little berserk and my heart rate sky rocketed to the high 230s. No bueno. I walked around, drank some water, put my arms above my head but nothing brought it down. I felt fine – no pain, headache or dizziness. I made my way to the nearby fire station where they promptly called EMTs for my first – and hopefully last – ever ambulance ride to the emergency room. I was give three doses of a medication that actually paralyzes part of your heart so that the other part can pick up the slack and regulate the beating. In very layman’s terms, of course.

At the emergency room, I was observed for several hours and released with instructions to follow up with my primary care and a cardiologist. Everything looked great but it felt like my heart is beating so hard I can see my chest moving and my chest feels hollow. I go back to the cardiologist and they outfit me with a 48-hour monitor which, thankfully, comes back normal. If my heart is healthy, why did my heart feel like it was going to explode in my chest?

I’ve spent so much time reading, researching, praying and talking to those more educated and wise than I. I had recently gone off of the birth control that had been intended to balance those crazy hormones but was instead wreaking havoc on my body. I started a higher quality multi-vitamin and carefully tracked my iron and protein intake. All these things are good and right but because my house – mentally and physically – hasn’t been in order, I’ve been putting a bandaid on a broken bone.

I am stressed. I am so stressed that I the symptoms are physically manifesting. My hair is falling out. I can’t sleep. Dropping weight. The list goes on and on. I’ve had countless tests run and nothing seems horribly amiss. I am nearly certain I am suffering from adrenal fatigue, a condition that appears after periods of prolonged and intense stress. Adrenals play a roll in several other health conditions, as well.

So what do I do? Well, I’m currently operating under the assumption I have adrenal fatigue and am treating it accordingly. I am being selfish with my time – which isn’t always easy as mothers. I’m forgiving myself for the ways my body has failed me and for feeling like I am somehow responsible for that. I’m talking about it and acknowledging it.

I’m breathing. And sharing with you what little I’ve learned along the way. I’m not an expert on anything (yet) but I want to share what I learn with you. Okay?

Detox baths
The benefits of bathing in epsom salts are two fold – epsom salts work to draw out toxins while also supplementing your fatigued body with much needed magnesium. I like to add Young Living’s frankincense, lavender and/or bergamot. Frankincense is good for the skin and the soul and some research suggests it effects heart rate and stress levels. Meanwhile, the lavender is an adaptogen which are essential to the adrenal system and help during times of stress. Bergamot is citrusy and is good for the skin with an uplifting scent.

Magnesium
I’ve been reading a lot about the role of magnesium in our body processes. From anxiety to allergies and even hormones and arrhythmias – magnesium is necessary for so many functions. I had my magnesium levels checked and, surprise, they’re low. Magnesium also a recommended supplement for those dealing with adrenal fatigue.

Stress Away
I began using Young Living essential oils a few weeks ago and Stress Away is far and away becoming one of my most precious oils. I start each day with a drop on each wrist and the back of my neck. The scent is lightly citrusy without being overly feminine.

Give It Up
I wish this was as simple as taking a supplement or a relaxing bath but this has been the most crucial step for me. Why do I want to hold on to the craziness of the past year? Why do I internalize it? The problems of this world – my world – are not my own. I cannot control the world. After I was discharged from the emergency room, I was terrified that my heart was going to just stop beating. I realized there was no amount of force, not even a mother’s  will, that would keep it going. That’s a scary realization. I serve a God who is the Great Physician, the Creator of All and it is disobedient to assume my worry, my panic, my desire for control will affect His will and plan. And I know that going through this year has given me an amazing testimony.  When I let go and stop trying to carry a worry that was never mine from the start, the journey becomes far less burdened.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

 

Things Fall Apart, Part I

The hardest part about coming back after a blogging hiatus is catching up one what has happened. Really, it’s emotionally exhausting. If I’m going to be genuine with you and myself, we need to recap the past 8 months. While I don’t typically share so much and in such a manner, I’ve been going through a lot of changes personally and with my health that I’m eager to share but they won’t carry much weight until you know what has happened.

I cannot even begin to cover most of these things at a length that does them justice. So I won’t try. But, being that they are Big Life Things, they need to be addressed. So, a super fun, bulleted list shall suffice.

Ready?

Our life, November to June – abbreviated:

  • We experienced a miscarriage.
  • We trudged our way through the holidays.
  • Josh’s grandfather died.
  • Josh accepted a position in Charlotte.
  • We spent weeks preparing to list our house. And finally listed it. 
  • Josh began working full-time in Charlotte, living in hotels, and driving back to Savannah on the weekends. During one trip home, the wheel fell off of his truck. While driving. On the highway. Traveling 75 mph. Thank you, Jesus, he was fine.
  • Blair’s hives, night terrors, GI issues and rashes return. Allergy testing shows that her milk allergy has returned. Who knew that could happen.
  • I kept the house constantly show-ready with two children and an anxiety-ridden dog.
  • I suffered through numerous showings, no shows, second showings, showings with no appointment, and offers with negotiations that couldn’t be met.
  • An unfathomable number of hours and miles spent driving back and forth between Savannah and Charlotte. Up and down 95. Over and over. With no Starbucks en route.
  • Realizing being apart was too hard on our family, we decided to lower the list price (therefore increasing the hit we were already taking on the house).
  • We went under contract with smooth negotiations.
  • We frantically searched for a new place to live in a place we could agree upon with a price we could afford. We considered renting, buying, living in our vehicles when God provided the exact house we needed.
  • We survived the week leading up to closing which included absolutely incompetent movers, several last minute inspections, a very sick child, one vehicle in the shop and uncertainty of when exactly our possessions would arrive to our new home.

Looking back on it all, I feel exhausted. How did we survive that? A mixture of pure adrenaline and faith. In the book of Joshua, God instructs him to build a pile of stones in the middle of the Jordan River to mark where He stopped the river so they could carry the Ark of the Covenant across. People like me don’t survive things like this on our own. It’s foolish of me to not stop and construct my own pile of rocks to remember how we made it through such an exhausting and stressful time.

::Break::

Congratulations if you made it this far! I know that was as engaging as the phone book so I’d like to reward you in some way. Unfortunately, all I have is a camera, so enjoy this complimentary selfie.

selfie810

Now, back to business.

Throughout all of this, I was dealing with some pretty significant health issues. I didn’t share it with many people because, really, I wasn’t dying and there wasn’t anything anyone could do. I’m fiercely private, probably to a fault. Which is weird, considering I’m putting all of this out into Internet-land.

After our miscarriage in November, my body went a bit crazy. I don’t think the miscarriage caused it, nor do I think my miscarriage was caused by these issues. But when something life changing occurs, it becomes a marker in time – before miscarriage / after miscarriage.  So as we settled into our routine AM, I started noticing these weird things happening with my vision and balance. As I drove down the road, things in my peripheral vision seemed to be moving too quickly. When I turned to look at something across the room, it felt like it took my vision a millisecond longer to see what my eyes were focused on. Grocery shopping became unbearable with the shelves stocked with innumerable items of all different colors and sizes and I felt like I couldn’t actually see any of them. It felt like visual overload and I was constantly on the verge of a panic attack.

I talked with my primary care who prescribed Prozac. It felt defeated when I took the first dose and even more neurotic as the weeks passed by. We realized I wasn’t, in fact, having anxiety and something else was happening. He ordered an MRI. It was normal. I had my vision checked, normal.

I sat on the exam table, frustrated and angry that after going through such a traumatic loss, my body was continuing to betray me with some unknown illness that was not only impairing my daily life but also making me think I was losing my ever loving mind. And that I’d feel that way forever. I told the doctor it just felt like the world was a little off balance.

Aha.

Vertigo.

He asked if I had ringing in my ears. Constantly. Fullness feeling behind my ears. Yes.

I’ve had vertigo attacks in the past with the classic room-spinning, nausea-inducing dizziness. But this felt different and nearly constant. He referred me to an ENT and I went in mid-January for a videonystagmography (VNG) to test my balance, eye movement, and the nerve function of my inner ear – where balance originates. Results showed I have a 30% decreased nerve function in my right ear, causing the attacks. Paired with the tinnitus, I left with the diagnosis of Meniere’s Syndrome. Mostly because I’m not sure they know what else to call it.

Because my symptoms were relatively new and seem to be triggered by stress (HA! HA! or something else unknown, the ENT suggested I follow up with an allergist for testing to see if something else is causing the inflammation in my inner ear. Which is when things became really fun.

Next: Things Fall Apart: Part II – What To Do When You’re Allergic To Everything.