Friday, January 30, 2015

Happy Birthday Mom

Today would have been my mom's 61st birthday.  I sit here in the early morning dark, nothing but the glow of my computer to light up the living room. While my hubby and children sleep, I realize that waking up so early is the perfect way to start today.  My mom was a morning person, and I never have been.  We were so alike, and so different, in many ways.  I miss her terribly, and always will, but the pain of saying "goodbye" is losing it's sting.  Although vastly different experiences, I compare the feeling of losing the life of my mom, to gaining the life of my two children:  I had no pain medication during my deliveries, and the pain of birthing a new life will never be forgotten.  I will always remember the horrible pain, however joy slowly takes the place of pain as I reminisce.  

On my mom's birthday, I have decided to share the words I spoke at my mom's Celebration of Life service:

"You are all here to celebrate the life of my mom because she most likely touched your life in a unique way.  You all had different types of relationships with my mom and knew her in different ways, but I want to share with you who my mother was to me and give you a glimpse into our relationship that only she and I were able to experience.

My mom could comfort me like no other and had a very special way of making me feel special.
  • She would make me cinnamon-sugar toast when I wasn't feeling well.
  • While taking a bath when I was young, she would place my towel in the dryer so when bath time was over, I got a hug, and a warm, fluffy towel.
  • Lying in bed with my mom (and Natalie) at night before my Dad came in. We would read, look at magazines, talk about our days, and play footsies – she could not leave my feet alone :)
  • She insisted on putting every single Christmas ornament I ever made on the tree, even up until last year, and even though I insisted she didn't have to.  She was very sentimental.
  • She put special thought and intention into the gifts she gave and loved sending hand-written notes of encouragement out of the blue, or would tuck them away for me to unexpectedly find in surprising places.
  • My mom (and Dad) were my biggest cheerleaders in life.  Never missing one dance or vocal performance, track meet, or soccer game (even though I wasn't good) when I was in high school, home or away. 
  • Once Matt and I had our daughter, my Mom would make the 3 hour drive at the drop of a hat if ever we needed help. Only to return home and work on the weekend to catch up at her job.
  • I remember her tucking my hair behind my ears so she could “see my face”.
  • She hugged with all her might.
  • Her nickname for me, even as an adult, was “Bug”.
  • Butterfly kisses, Eskimo kisses and singing “you are my sunshine” are memories with my mom I will always have and are also new memories I now get to create with my daughter Lucy.
  • My mom emulated true selflessness and relentless, unconditional love.

My mom was unique.  Quirky, some may say...
  • She loved to read, but always had to read the ending of the book before she started from the beginning.
  • She also read magazines back to front.
  • She loved to buy and read cookbooks, more so than she actually cooked from them.
  • Whenever we ate out at a restaurant, she would organize and pile up all of our dishes on the end of the table to make it easy for the staff.
  • At Christmastime, when wrapping our presents, she used way too much tape. She really made us work to get those presents open....and I've realized I now do the same.
  • And she was NOT a gardener; she dubbed herself as having a “brown thumb”.  She could not even keep a bamboo plant or a cactus I bought for her.

Mom's 60th surprise party

My mom lived life passionately, was adventurous, and willing to try new things…
  • She told me about how exciting it was to see Elvis in concert.
  • She was a gun owner, and enjoyed going to the shooting range with Dad…and was a very good shot too.
  • She went skydiving in her 40s.
  • Learned to ride a motorcycle, and even got a tattoo (of a butterfly), in her 50s.
  • And the two of us had plans to go bungee jumping in Canada, which I will still do next year.

Her bike "Faith"
My mom loved…
  • The color yellow.
  • She loved Butterflies, they were ALL over our [yellow] house.
  • Chris Daughtry.
  • She loved playing (and winning) card games and board games.  She was very competitive, even when we were little…but she did play nice with her grand kids.
  • My mom loved the sound and the smell of rain.
  • She loved lavender, wind chimes and Earl Grey tea.
  • My mom loved a wide variety of music and loved singing.  I’ll always remember her cleaning house with all the windows open and oldies or worship music playing loudly and her singing along.
  • And there was no doubt of the abundant love she had for her grand kids – I knew she was a great mom, but was blown away with what an amazing grandmother she was. Her whole being lit up when she was able to spend time with her grand kids - chasing them around the house and playing on the floor with them making them laugh, they wore each other out!
  • Life around her stood still when she was with her grand babies.

I will always admire...
  • Her faith in God
  • Her strength through adversity and incredibly difficult circumstances she faced throughout her entire life
  • Her compassion for others
  • Her sense of humor
  • and her candor
  • She was passionate about every aspect of life.

Doctors told my mom she had 3 months to live after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000.  I am so thankful she fought so hard and we were given 14 more years together, a second chance at life is an opportunity that not everyone is blessed with. I was given the blessing of having my mom in my life when I married my husband and when our first child was born – I will forever be grateful I was able to share those monumental moments of joy with her.

So, rather than dwell on what our future may have been, I am trying my best to take advice from my Dad and praise God for the extra years I was blessed to have with her, and for my memories that will always be a part of me.

I don’t anticipate there will ever come a day I don’t miss her terribly, but I also know that this pain will ease with time.

And on crisp, rainy days, or whenever I see a butterfly, or hear a Daughtry song, I will do my best to smile and be thankful for memories made and for these reminders of what made my mom so special."

Happy Birthday Mom!

My mom, the original MOM:
Part 1: A Story of Survival
The Shocking News

Monday, January 19, 2015

MOM Kriste - Postpartum Depression, Part 3

Would you like to catch up?
Part 1
Part 2

While Kriste was pregnant with her second child, her daughter Lillian, she moved from Hawaii to Oklahoma and says, "I know, who wouldn't be depressed?!"  Given the experience Kriste had with postpartum depression after the birth of her son, I asked Kriste if there was anything specific she did to prepare while pregnant with her daughter:
"I moved and got set up with my new doctor, I was very upfront with her about PPD. I repeatedly asked her and her nurses to look for it and ask me about it often. I knew that when I was in the midst of the depression, I wouldn't be as willing to self-report how bad it really was."
After her daughter Lillian was born, Kriste really felt that she was doing well, and even took a standard PPD survey at her postpartum checkup with a good report. Things were looking good. However, "about a week or two later, I called the hospital social worker crying and told her that I needed someone immediately. I was in her office a few hours later, met with a nurse practitioner and had a prescription for anti-depressants in my hands an hour after that." 

In regard to chemical depression in general, Kriste used to think that people could simply CHOOSE joy and try hard enough to get themselves out of a depression. I asked Kriste to address some common misconceptions regarding PPD:
"...when there is true chemical imbalance, nothing that you do is going to rebalaance your hormones.  I reached out for support, as this is my nature. I process things externally and I like to talk. By the time Alexander was three months old, I had already called a PPD hotline. I knew that this was what I was dealing with. Sadly, those hotlines (at least at the time) were so understaffed that my call went unanswered for days. When someone finally got back to me, she was so judgmental and brusque in her manner of speaking, that I acted like I had just had a bad day when I left the message...I did everything that has ever been recommended to get someone out of a "funk", this wasn't a funk or a rough patch. Postpartum Depression is a serious medical issue. I don't even like to take Tylenol if I don't have to! I don't fill many of the antibiotic prescriptions that my pediatrician gives us. And yet, I believe in my heart that anti-depressants must be a part of the solution for women with PPD."
 Kriste's advice for other moms who might be dealing with PPD?
"I want to let moms know that there IS an end to these feelings. Your hormones WILL rebalance eventually.  That being said, you don't have to just wait for that to happen naturally. The time when your children will be infants is so very fleeting and precious. To spend that time in a personal hell is unacceptable. Women don't have to just toughen up and get through it. If one doctor doesn't listen, find another one. First time mamas need to be told by all of us that infancy is not a gauzy, cooing love-fest. We hurt other women when we pretend that everything is perfect after you have a child."
Mamas, please share Kriste's story with others mamas you know, especially new mamas.  You never know what your friends might be dealing with, or who you might be able to help.  New motherhood is beautiful, but it's also tiring, scary, overwhelming, confusing, emotional, messy and isolating.  Thank you SO much Kriste for opening up and sharing your story with us!

Monday, January 12, 2015

MOM Kriste - Postpartum Depression, Part 2

Click here for PART 1

Just six weeks after Kriste welcomed her beautiful Alexander into the world, after an incredibly difficult labor and delivery, Alexander's father was deployed to Iraq with the Marine Corps.  That, coupled with the fact that Kriste was living in Hawaii, separated from all of her family, is what she believes greatly contributed to her Postpartum Depression.  She states "I cried. A lot. I had read that the 'baby blues' affected many women, so I assumed this was all it was. Then it never got better."

Kriste recalls a situation that happened with Alexander when he was less than a few months old:
"I was holding Alexander and holding my camera.  He swung his little arm and I dropped my camera and it broke.  I was livid.  I actually said, 'This baby ruins everything!'  That's not a typical response to have to this little being that you are nursing and holding 20 hours per day."  
 She says she was "resentful", "tired", and "so so so sad".
"I joined a baby and mama group and all of the other moms were holding their sleeping newborns, or softly rocking them in car seats while they talked.  I was missing out on the support and conversation because my child was screaming and I had to be walking around the yard...I remember believing that I would never get MY life back."
When Kriste went in to see her doctor for a checkup, she brought up the fact that she didn't think she should be feeling this way.  She was "a zombie" that day as her doctor, being a wonderful friend, tried to assure Kriste that being a mommy is exhausting and shared some of her own personal challenges.  Although Kriste says she had some great talks with her doctor, she was being more of a friend when she really needed a doctor.  Kriste returned three more times that year, in tears, before the worst of her postpartum depression symptoms hit:
"During the worse bout of PPD, I went back into my bedroom.  I was holding Alexander and I was sobbing.  I sat on the floor in front of the nightstand and I pulled a loaded gun out of the drawer. I held my baby in my left arm and the gun with my right hand.  It felt heavy. They both did. I cried and cried and finally put the gun away."
When Kriste saw her doctor at 9 months postpartum, she asked for anti-depressants, but was referred to a therapist instead and told she would be given medication if the therapy didn't help. Alexander's father returned from Iraq at this time and Kriste felt her mood was improving, so she only went to one therapy session.

Kriste says that her symptoms really started improving when Alexander was one:
"When I started to taper off from nursing, at one year postpartum, my mood elevated.  I didn't really notice that I was as sad any longer.  When I was completely finished nursing, my mood seemed to go back to it's normal state (except for the more typical mom craziness).  Of course I was still tired.  Of course I still had difficult days. Of course some days I felt like a failure, but that was all in the realm of 'normal' motherhood."
She nursed Alexander for 14 months while dealing with his intense lactose intolerance, being extremely careful with what she ate, and having to give Alexander medication daily per a pediatric gastroenterologist. To say Kriste is a trooper would be a vast understatement, yet her love for her little Alexander continued to grow so much, she sign up to do it all over again :)

Stay tuned as Kriste shares her second pregnancy with her daughter, and the preventative measures she took in regard to postpartum depression as her daughter's due date drew near.

Friday, January 2, 2015

MOM Kriste - Postpartum Depression, Part 1

Happy 2015 Momsters!  After starting 2014 with my miscarriage last January, my husband's lay-off, to then find a new job which took him out of town for 3 months while I was pregnant, working and caring for our toddler, losing my mom to her battle with cancer in September, delivering our sweet miracle baby boy on Thanksgiving morning, Christmas spent out of town with my husband's family and a nasty chest cold accompanied by a terrible cough that has lasted more than two weeks...I'm ready for a new year! Enough about's a fresh new year, and I have a fresh new Momster of the Month to introduce to you.  So, let's get to it!

I've known Kriste almost as long as I can remember.  She is friends with my older sister Natalie, going back to their high school days.  Kriste and I were both contributors to a collective creative writing blog called The Pot-Luck last year, and that is where I learned of her experience with postpartum depression (click here if you'd like to read her very moving and honest piece "Stolen Babyhood", which we will get to learn more about here on Momster Mash). After I read the stripped-down words of her honest heart, I just knew I had to invite her to share.  I knew that she would be able to encourage so many moms! First, let's get to know Kriste a little:

Kriste is one smart cookie!  She holds a degree in Developmental Psychology and a Master's Degree in Psychology and School Counseling.  She was a high school counselor for 7 years before moving to Hawaii. Until her son was born, she worked as a life coach for the University of Hawaii, and then taught Ethics and Cultural Diversity for the University of Phoenix while offering her services as a private practice life coach. 

Kriste is a single mom to Alexander (5) and daughter Lillian (3). On being a single mom. Kriste states "I never thought I would be a single mom, but I was in a marriage that I didn't realize was an open marriage, apparently!".  She moved back to Washington State after leaving that unfaithful marriage and is now engaged to a man she likes to call "Captain Fabulous" who has two grown children of his own. She is "passionate about helping grow and realize their ideal selves, whether they be children or adults."  She also loves warm weather, water and wake boarding.  She is very close to her family and talks to her mom just about every day, while being sure to chat with her dad weekly.  Kriste feels blessed to be able to be a stay-at-home mom while her children are young, but is weighing her options for the near future:
"I'm struggling with what I'm going to do when the kids go to school.  I don't know if I'll have the emotional capacity to go back to counseling other people's kiddos.  My dream job right now is to pour wine in a tasting room.  I would get to interact with different ADULTS every single day and people would be happy with everything I gave them (unlike the mashed cauliflower that I served for lunch yesterday).  I would also like to wrap presents for a living."
Kriste admits that she didn't always want to have kids and was never that young girl who loved being around babies, but when it came to having children, her biological clock took over:
"My twenties were marked with regretful relationships, freedom, international travel, deep friendships, graduate school, an amazing career, and a ton of fun...When I got married when I was 30, all of those things were still true, but I was getting older.  It was yet another non-perfect relationship, and he really wanted children. It seemed like the thing to do...For a counselor, I can sure be dumb sometimes!  I over think everything in my life, and the most major decision that someone can make, I was overtaken by my biological clock."  
Did Kriste have expectations for pregnancy and new motherhood?  Did she feel prepared for motherhood? She says she didn't think much about it.  Her mother had incredibly easy pregnancies and "45 minute deliveries" so Kriste assumed her experiences would be the same.  Unfortunately, she was wrong:
"I was sick, sick, sick!!! I was put on medication that they give chemotherapy patients for nausea and I was vomiting on my steering wheel while driving to work at seven months pregnant! All I could eat for months was corndogs. I was prepared for motherhood in the fact that I was financially stable, had zero debt and we could afford me to not be working.  I took the month before the birth off work and spent every single day at the beach.  I swam with sea turtles, I went snorkeling, I walked, life was great! The nursery was beautiful and I had read all of the pregnancy books.  I took so many classes...a breastfeeding class, infant CPR, newborn care, natural child birthing techniques.  I had toured the hospital and the birthing center...I had pre-met with the pediatrician.  If anyone was ready, it was me!  Then...the baby came! I was not prepared for the isolation, the exhaustion, the resentment, and the lack of connection." 
On top of being overwhelmed and surprised by these difficult, unexpected emotions after the birth of Alexander, she was also recovering from an unexpected delivery.  Although she was planning for a natural childbirth, her "cervix simply would NOT dilate" and ended up needing a c-section:
"After 17 hours of labor (six hours of that HARD, BRUTAL labor, and three hours of contractions coming less than a minute apart), I was dilated to a 2.  I finally got an epidural at hour 17.  By hour 26, [Alexander] was starting to go into distress and the decision was made to do a cesarean birth."

In Part II, Kriste will share what she experienced after her difficult pregnancy and long, painful labor...postpartum depression. 

Are you an expectant mom? Do you know someone who is? Please share these posts and Momster Mash with them. You never know who you might be able to help and encourage, because not everyone is willing to share their struggles with others.  Therefore, they may never receive the support and encouragement they could have really used. That is why Momster Mash exists.  Share the love!