No one can prepare you for the exhaustion in pregnancy. No one can prepare you for the crazy hormonal roller coaster you ride in pregnancy. No one and nothing can prepare you for how your body will react during pregnancy even if you have already had kids. The body is an amazing thing but there’s only so much we can be expected to do on top of growing a tiny human. My first pregnancy I was working full time and trying to work out when I could but felt like being on my feet for 10 hours a day was enough. My first pregnancy wasn’t terrible but I didn’t feel great, I never felt 100%, and I ended up on bed rest for the last month and a half due to family emergency. This pregnancy I was working out five times a week for the first few weeks and then I traveled… then hit the sickness. I have yet to fully recover from this constant sickness. Just getting out of bed some days is all I can do. In my first pregnancy I heard about having a “fit “pregnancy and how to have a belly only pregnancy. It is plastered everywhere. Now After having My first child I want to scream every time I see the word “fit” pregnancy.￼￼￼￼ First of all, sans pregnancy, not all work outs work for all body types. Second not all pregnancies allow you to have a Pinterest perfect or Instagram perfect “fit” pregnancy. Third is it not enough that I’m keeping my toddler and myself alive?! Why does society have to put this pressure on women who are just trying to bring a new life into the world￼? This is the worst time for women to be worried about their weight, about their figure or about how they eat. Don’t get me wrong it’s important to try to stay active and to eat healthy but you’re also pregnant. I feel like there needs to be lots of grace given because a pregnant woman should be focused on supporting themselves and their tiny human. (Im talking to you pregnant women, you need to give yourself grace, you are doing an awesome job!) That will look completely different than the person who’s doing 20 pull-ups on Instagram or the person who has two kids near the age of 5 and has lost tons of weight. Not saying you can’t do 20 pull ups while pregnant but I’m saying there is an unreal expectation out there and I’m so sick of it. I know part of this is my problem, aka I could step back from social media for a while, haha, that’s so much easier said than done. Being a stay at home mama can get lonely. I believe there is always a time and place for all things but I plan to decrease the amount of time I spend on social media and therefore decrease this destructive distraction. I do believe there can be a happy balance achieved with social media but Im struggling to find that right now. I personally don’t do well with my goals unless they are sustainable and for me totally staying away isn’t sustainable. I plan to find that healthy balance.
For some reason I’ve been thinking a lot about the candles my mom and I used to make for Christmas presents. They were the kind you would roll up and the wax was in a honeycomb pattern. The only color and smell I remember is purple wax and it smelled of lavender. I remember Christmas smelled of cinnamon mainly in our home. I remember the warmth of my home in the cold MN winter. I remember all the Christmas décor, most of which was hand made by my mom.
I remember the first Christmas after mom had passed my dad refused to help put the Christmas tree up. Dad was Jehovahs witness and they don’t celebrate holidays like Christmas as its origins are pagan. While mom was alive all the presents were from mom and dad but the décor went up because mom and I put it up. So, as a grieving 16 year old I put the tree up myself for the first time. I set up chairs around the tree so I would have a make shift scaffolding supporting me as I strung the tree with lights and ornaments. My dad sat downstairs watching tv and stubbornly not helping. I know that being Jehovahs Witness was such an integral part of dads life and for that I’m extremely proud of him. (of course it’s only as I have aged that I have become proud of him for continuing to stay so strong in his faith in the face of adversity) But only now, now that he’s gone and now that I have had many years to sit on this do I wonder if Christmas reminded him of the incredibly painful loss of the love of his life. Mom LOVED Christmas and so did I. That Christmas, after losing her only a few months prior, I clung to normalcy as I wasn’t ready to face reality. Maybe dad needed normalcy too, but instead of Christmas he needed to stick to the faith that saved him.
I know everyone grieves differently, shit I know that a person grieves differently for different people, theres no manual or strict order to the process. This is a great example. This could have also been an example of when emotions and loss tore a family apart. Thankfully it was not. We were grieving like we were on two parallel train tracks that only intersected to cross paths and go different directions. Thankfully my dad and I only grew closer as the years went on, we didn’t talk about mom often but we continued on our parallel tracks and supported each other each step of the way.
This is infant loss and miscarriage awareness month. Knowing I have no experience in this except through friends. Knowing everyone grieves differently. Knowing that grieving the loss of anyone is awful. Knowing that even though I have a lifetime of experience in grief I don’t know what the “answers” are to any of the grieving questions. I hope we all can be more observant to those hurting today and know when to step in. Know when to shut up and just be there. Know when our own shit will get in the way so it’s best to remain on the parallel track. Know when to ask what the person needs. Grieving sucks.
Monday it will be officially 14 years since my mother left this earth. The outward wound may have closed but the evidence of the traumatic injury to my heart is still ever present. Since its been so long since Oct 7, 2005 this day is no longer filled with only sad memories or thoughts of “what if”. Now I can see positive things in the mess of sadness, it’s like being able to see clearly after taking claritin. Now I can look back fondly on characteristics I inherited from her, for instance, my ability to strike up a conversation with most anyone. I distinctly remember being at the dmv with my mother when she started talking to a stranger. I was so embarrassed. I couldn’t fathom talking to stranger as if I knew them…then. Now…I’m the one striking up the conversation most days. Thank you mom for this gift.
Now I can look back and focus on my mothers affinity for laughter which I inherited. Her laugh was one of her best qualities. Her laugh was infectious, you had no choice but to join her when she started to laugh. I’ve had a few people at various times in my life comment that my laugh reminds them of my mother’s, honestly, what a huge compliment. Thank you mom for this gift.
Now I can feel at ease that my father is no longer suffering, missing the love of his life on this day. I can rejoice that he is with her and I can only imagine how joyful the reunion must have been when he joined her in heaven. Thank you mom and dad, for everything. Till we meet again ❤️
Sitting outside this afternoon with the sun shining on my skin, Amber lying in the grass while Kylie played in her water table tears started to fill my eyes. Tears of joy and extreme happiness, it was one of those moments you want to freeze in time and never forget. In that moment I started to think of all the wishes I have for my kids lives and decided to write it out in a letter.
To my dearest children,
I want the world for you. Further more I want you to love the life you live (majority of the time) but know that hard times are part of life so not always loving life is ok. Of course I want to protect you and not let bad things happen but I know that’s not possible. Instead My hope is that I give you guys the tools, the opportunities and the resources to be able to handle the worst the world can throw at you. I want you to have an incredible support system that will carry you through when walking alone is impossible. I want you to be able to find and embrace the joy in life. I want you to know, understand and not be ashamed of your emotions. You will never know how much I love you or just how much I would do for you. The life I have lived has definitely shaped me and has influenced the way I parent. I never expected or wanted to be a stay at home mama but after losing my dad I couldn’t have picked a better path for myself (or you). I take way too many pictures on the off chance that i won’t be around when you need me most, like my mother was unable to do. I try to include audio clips so you never have to go too long without my voice if its no longer readily available. I write to you, in each of your own journals, so you can have a front row seat to your life from my perspective if you have questions and I’m not around to answer them. I try to tell you as often as possible how loved you are and how grateful I am to have you in my life so you never have to question your place in my heart. Like all children you may eventually think I’m crazy, overbearing, or overwhelming but I’m fine with that as long as you always know that you are unconditionally loved.
I don’t know why but being pregnant helps me to remember that I need love, grace and to be cared for…but any other time it’s a struggle. Before I got pregnant this time around I was working out 5 times a week and pushing myself sometimes a little too far. But that’s always been my life, my dad always said “you like to burn the candle at both ends. You need to slow down ” and my instinct was to add more things to my to do list. When I was pregnant with Kylie and dad decided it was a good time to move on, Kylie saved my life. I knew that I couldn’t turn to alcohol to numb the horrific pain, I knew that I needed to address my grief in order to give Kylie (and myself and my husband) the best chance at a healthy life, and of course I knew I needed to eat to sustain Kylie even though it was the last thing on my mind in my grief. Plus, the thought of bringing new life, one that my hubby and I created, was so beautiful it kept me going. This time around im exhausted…with life, with a tiny toddler, and with pregnancy…I’m still trying to work out 5 days a week but I’m allowing myself the space to not close my move or exercise ring everyday (apple watch tyrannical goals). This time around I know I need to conserve my energy for my toddler, for my hubby, and most importantly myself…that doesn’t even include friends, fun, and my job. Maybe I’m the only one who does this…but I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not alone. Why. Why does it take being pregnant for me to realize that it’s super important to take care of myself?! Some days that means walking 1.5 miles, somedays (most days) it looks like taking a nap, somedays it looks like toddler cuddles, somedays it looks like completing my to do list, somedays it looks like getting coffee with a friend and most days it looks like getting a donut. The point is that it’s not always the same but that I need to listen to my body and hopefully I will continue to prioritize me after this baby appears.
Last night marked my first mops group meeting at the new location I’m trying out. The theme for this year is to fear less and live fully. When I first heard those words I couldn’t tell you any part of that that related to my life. As the night went on and we started our discussions we had to get real. At the end we were discussing how can we fear less, how can we enjoy the present, what could life be like if you stop doing what you think you should do, or how can We live fully… my answer felt like It didn’t fit into the framework of these questions until now. After sitting down and journaling a little bit I feel like maybe I have more clarity. Forgive my jumpy thought process but I thought it might be a good opportunity to share.
My answer (of course) involved sharing my story of becoming a recent orphan and dealing with all the facets that grief has taken over in my life as well as the balance (or lack there of) of having fun. I really struggled with my answer because I wouldn’t say I don’t have fun, I wouldn’t say that I’m necessarily fearful… Compared to what I was before my dad died there aren’t many fears living at the surface right now. Immediately after sharing I held back the dam of tears that wanted to erupt and disrupt everything. The feelings that my answer brought up seemed confusing and overwhelming which is why I decided to journal to determine what was really going on.
Sometimes I cannot believe my story is my story. Doesn’t matter how many times I repeat the details of the major traumas, I am floored that someone who has gone through all of this is still standing. Is still breathing. Is still progressing. Is still thriving. It’s almost like an out of body experience and boy is it easy to have compassion and understanding. The moment it hits me like a ton of bricks that not only is this all real but it’s happening to me, I can’t help but judge. All that compassion and understanding are pushed to the rear and sometimes forgotten about. I judge hard because I see everywhere that I fail and for most of my life I lived a life that was easily manipulated by others. So whenever someone brought up the possibility of changing me I jumped at it which threw me down a dangerous and destructive internal path. As I’ve gotten older ive realized that not only is it not OK for people to try to change me but it’s not OK for me to allow myself to give them the time of day. It’s OK to want to change and in fact life forces us to change but I believe change is no one else’s job but my own. Another big thing is that I forget I too deserve grace. That I’m doing the best I can with what I have.
One of those areas I feel I fail in is positivity. I’ve had people tell me that I’m too negative and I need to focus on gratitude and positivity. Ive had numerous gratitude journals, I’ve tried daily affirmations, etc. it all sounds great but maybe those options are too simple? To me these options make me feel like I need to forget the traumas or ignore them. Unfortunately though, I’ve already tried that…believe me I have tried to ignore all the crap that has happened but that’s also what landed me where I am. Dealing with physical symptoms because of the emotional trauma I have not dealt with. Requiring multiple doctors visits (without answers) thankfully finding a wonderful therapist, living my life trying to control my anxiety on a daily basis, etc. Because of this I usually “poo poo” and snark at the ideas of gratitude and positivity. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I live a very blessed life and the experiences I’ve had in my 30 years on this planet are one of a kind. I am so incredibly grateful for the family that raised me, I am incredibly lucky for the friends who continually surround me when I need them the most, and so incredibly blessed with such a wonderful group of in-laws. Not to mention my hot hubby and phenomenal daughter. Even with all these blessings the loss and grief I’ve experienced is completely overwhelming and also one of a kind. I don’t even know what “normal” life looks like and that’s OK. So maybe my positivity and gratitude look different than the Pinterest or the cliché Christian idea… ie gratitude journal etc. Maybe that’s where I’m missing the mark, I put so much pressure on myself and so many “should“ statements about positivity and gratitude. When I inevitably fail I punish myself because my gratitude doesn’t look the same, so I don’t recognize those gracious feelings. So my goal for this year with this mops group is to recognize the gratitude and positivity that is in my life and to quit being so hard on myself. I also want to quit trying to change myself just because the world thinks I’m a negative person, and instead take inventory of my thoughts and if they are more negative than positive then I’ll work on it. But no longer will I be a slave to outside opinions thinking that I am anything less than the amazing person I am.
Staying at home with my 17 month old daughter during the day I feel like I am in a bubble. When i want to go out and talk with friends about grief (which honestly ends up happening in most conversations because it’s so prevalent in my life) I am reminded of a bigger bubble that we are all living in. Grief is an ugly topic, i know that, you probably know that, im pretty sure my dog even knows it. As a society I’m not sure why we don’t talk about grief. Is it just because its ugly and we would rather talk about pretty topics? Is it because its so hard to know what to say if you’ve never experienced it so we avoid it? Is it because we dont have time to get into it? Is it because it makes us feel uncomfortable? Whatever the answer, I’ve noticed lately when talking about grief (because it is so much of my life that I am working on writing a book about my grief, I write these blogs about my grief, I’m even doing a podcast about my grief) I feel almost ashamed to bring up the topic of grief. It’s not like the person I’m talking to directly says “you should be ashamed that you still feel this way” I just feel so uncomfortable and it feels so foreign. Newsflash, it is really uncomfortable, thats just the nature of the grief beast. With all of the current conversation surrounding mental health, why the fuck are we not talking about Grief more openly? A common misconception about grief is that you “get over it “ or that it only really appears at random times of the year or holidays but that the other times it goes away.… Or at least its out of your mind. For me, grief is always just below the surface, it may move to the forefront of my emotions when I hear a song, when I get a whiff of a flower, or when I experience something that would remind me of who I have lost. Grief is as common an emotion in my daily life as breathing is common to my daily function. Sometimes grief feels stronger than my brains automatic function to breathe. So while its uncomfortable for you for a few minutes just remember, that’s my life. Of course I’m generalizing a lot, i don’t know how comfortable people are talking about grief. Im just going based off a few conversations. And this, this whole little rant, is the reason I want grief to become more of an acceptable conversation. I don’t ever expect it to feel comfortable but i do expect it to become acceptable. Grief is not a burden that is meant to be carried alone. In saying all this My goal is not to condemn anyone, I just want to educate everyone on a topic that is so close to my heart.