Wellness

birthday: thirty-five

birthday: thirty-five

you know you are getting old, when the first time you think about your birthday is when you remember that your tags are about to expire.

this year has been about reacting. about survival. i have given little thought to caring for myself both in mind and in body although i think i tried once or twice to invest some energy into both. my birthday came in the midst of a major regression for my son, which has left me exhausted and falling short of providing for him. i have so little time for myself that I am actually writing my birthday reflection three days after my birthday.

i woke up feeling pretty depressed which usually is never the case for my birthday but i felt so out of sync with myself that it almost seemed that i had become a stranger to myself. my son was refusing his first nap despite breaking my own rule for a moment to rock him. all i could think of to keep me pushing forward was that my sister was coming and i was going to spend some time with keith in the evening doing an escape room.

but until then, i was alone with an overtired baby and my only outlet at the moment was reflecting briefly on my ig stories. it must have been an out of body experience, because i was crying by the end of the video, which i wasn’t aware i had been recording that long until after i posted it. about an hour later, i received some of the sweetest mama messages that made me feel less alone in my heartache. shortly after, my sister arrived…with my parents in tow!

the reprieve i needed!

the day grew brighter as i spent some time with my sister celebrating my birthday, encouraging her, drinking coffee and lemon and lavender cake oh my word. i swear this was made by the unicorns. and avoiding tornado watch. yep. happy berfday. then as my husband and i made our way to the escape room that evening, we stopped off at our neighbors’ house because keith said the kids wanted to say happy birthday.

lies. all lies.

i ended up being surprised by a small group of friends who had made me feel safe this past year. and then. and then those people made me touch your hand for stupid reasons. no they just made me cry with thoughts on what i meant to them in very specific ways. i had been secretly wondering what sort of impact that i had on people, because i always felt like i wasn’t exciting or endearing enough for people to want to either stick it out or at least put forth a real effort to be friends with me.

it was all overwhelming honestly. i didn’t know what to do with all of their words. with all of the genuine love that has been difficult to receive and accept because it always seemed to slip through my fingers. it made me want to love myself better so that i could love them better.

love my neighbor as i love myself.

i think that is my cta this year. to love myself more so that i might love those around me better.

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Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Recently, I had a meal train created for Keith and I to help us get through the first month of parenting, and one of the main pieces of advice I kept hearing from the mums bringing over meals was lactation cookies.

I wasn't having issues with my milk coming in (mine came in on day 2), but since deciding to exclusively pump, I thought it could be helpful. The only brand I was able to find was one sold at Target (really shocked Whole Foods didn't have anything) and each little bag was 2.50. I tried them. They were okay. The texture was the equivalent of Cookie Crisp cereal in my opinion. So I decided to see if I could make my own.

cookie batter
cookie dough

Technically, I could just eat a bowl of oatmeal with some flaxseed and call it a day, but where is the fun in that? Plus, I needed an excuse to use my KitchenAid mixer. Also, the secret ingredient to better milk supply is supposed to be the brewer's yeast, but if you don't have it or can't find it, oatmeal and flaxseed should still do it. you just won't have super powers like me.

oatmeal cocolate chip

I got the original recipe from here but made some modifications, which I have listed below. This isn't vegan, but you could easily replace the egg. Anyway, I refuse to keep you waiting.

Ingredients

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (or 2 cups rolled oats and 1 cup of steel cut oats for a little crunch)
1 1/2 cups oat flour (if you can't find this at your store, just throw 2 cups of rolled oats in a blender till fine)
5 tablespoons brewers yeast
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons organic unsalted butter
4 tablespoons unrefined organic virgin coconut oil
1 1/2 cups organic coconut sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips/chunks

Directions

Preheat the oven the 350 degrees F.

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, yeast, flaxseed, baking powder, soda, cinnamon and salt.
  2. Beat the butter and coconut oil on medium speed until creamy.
  3. Add in the sugar and beat on medium to high speed until fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed.
  4. Add in the egg and egg yolk, beating until combined, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Add in the vanilla extract and beat until combined again.
  6. Gradually add in the dry ingredients, beating on low speed until just combined and mixed.
  7. Stir in the chocolate chips with a spatula until they are evenly dispersed.
  8. Scoop the dough into 1-inch rounds and place on a baking sheet about 2 inches apart and slightly flatten with a fork.
  9. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes, or until the bottoms are just golden. Let cool completely before storing in a sealed container.

That's it. Less then ten steps! Do not over bake these! When you take them out, they should still be soft (they will get firmer once cooled so make sure the bottoms are light to medium golden). I have made two batches and made the mistake of leaving the second batch in for an extra minute and they wound up extra crunchy when they cooled.

Also a note on brewer's yeast. Make sure you get one with reduced bitterness or no bitterness. I did not  know there was a choice but thankfully  I did not make this mistake! Anyways, let me know what you think! 

 

Diminished Expectations

Disappointment. Frustration. Anxiety.

Not what I expected to be feeling completing thirty-eight weeks of pregnancy. Accomplishment. Joy. Relief. This is what I ought to be feeling at this moment. I was told to expect now. To plan for now. But now has come and gone, leaving me questioning how well i know my own body, its capabilities, and even the idea of its incompetency.

We thought we would be bringing home a baby by now. Starting our tiny family. But instead, I am at yet another obgyn appointment being told i am still 3 cm dilated.

Its normal for pregnant mums to hang out at 3 cm for weeks, the triage doctor who discharged on friday informed me. But the fact is, that this pregnancy hasn’t been considered normal since i was diagnosed with incompetent cervix. I was given the impression that if the cerclage came out too soon, or if i stopped taking my progesterone too soon, my cervix would collapse like the walls of Jericho. ok a tad dramatic, but still that was the sentiment.

But here i am at thirty-eight weeks, debunking the assumptions I have been fed. It has left me wondering if i indeed have an incompetent cervix. After a weekend of brewing in my own emotional deflation, I think it is good that i am here, with no expectations. This entire pregnancy i have been guided by benchmarks, milestones, and achievement. My pregnancy, for a time, existed within twenty-four weeks. When i achieved twenty-four, i graduated to thirty weeks and then finally thirty-seven. I have never looked beyond the perimeters set up for me. It would have been too much to hope or expect more.

But now I have nothing but birth to achieve and there is no real date for that. Even my estimated due date is just that--an estimate. I realize it has been easier to live with stability rather than unpredictability. Delivering Isaac at almost 24 weeks was unpredictable and the cost of that was devastating. The thought of a structureless pregnancy intimidated me, and so I have spent the last nine months with blinders on, with the end barely in my periphery.

Now, there is nothing standing in the way of the end and me. It feels like i am a marathon runner told the race would end here, but as my body brushes up against the finish line ribbon, I find that it has been moved forward another five miles. But, I must either hope and persevere, or stop living. Stop enjoying this transition as it is meant to be enjoyed.

I must choose perseverance.

 

joy and sorrow

after what we experienced with isaac, keith said somberly. i can no longer live in this selfish state of mind that this life is promised to me. isaac lived sixteen days. some live sixteen years. others live till they are sixty. when you are looking death in the face, every moment is precious.

i remember the day before isaac passed. he had just come through surgery successfully. keith yelled at the top of his lungs outside thank you jesus before breaking down and crying. we had surrendered what we thought was everything to God. we thought he was only testing us and that we had passed the test with another day with our boy.

i remember going home that evening and singing a worship song with keith in the dark. oceans. the rain came down that night and keith and i sat on the porch and watched lightning flicker across the deepness of night. doctor orsini's call the following morning was slightly concerning, but we were still so hopeful, even then. our doctor's eyes were wet with sadness. isaac was not going to make it. 

we breathed in while sobriety coiled around our words in our silence.

as i spent the last few hours praying for and singing to my dying son, i realized then what surrender was. that there was no test. this was just life. one year later, as keith and i were trying to pick out a tree to plant for isaac while his sibling grew restless inside of me, i wished with all of my being that isaac could be here with us now. that is when the painful realization squeezed my heart. our two children could never coexist on this side of eternity. if isaac were still here, we wouldn't have started trying so soon, and we would not be experiencing this particular child.

it is here where joy and sorrow coexist for me. i cannot experience one without the other. i believe that is what most who have lost a child and gained another wrestle with. while the world around us celebrates the new life that we bring to it, we are constantly reminded of why that life came to be. we cannot forget, so don't ask us to.

there is a part of me that cannot wait for may to be over. i have been so overcome by my emotions, which is a lot to admit to since by nature, i am a big feeler. today, i slept till almost noon, the heaviness of it all crippling my already ailing pregnant body. i wonder what propels me forward despite my anguish.

mercy, keith mentioned. we don't have a choice but to show others mercy. to give them a sense of dignity, no matter how long they have on this earth.

men and meteorites

a tomb robbed my inheritance. it
ascended into daylight.
my love stripped down to a hollow. tomorrow
is today's twilight.

yesterday is but a dream deferred.
yesterday, a mother's scorn.

a phantom of my past life rests
in the quiet of his room, where the
dust agitates my eyes, and
healing didn't come soon.

tears kiss my face as my pain struggles
to be at home in your love.
will someday hope, or is this the end of me
stirring your heart to be moved?

yesterday was a dream deferred.
yesterday, a prayer unheard.

when storms collide with sunsets,
fall wet lines of color, faint in the bright of that
space between the world of men and
the world beyond meteorites.

my tongue unhinged, the words within me
rushing t'ward daylight.
my bones now clothed with joy and sorrow,
resurrected from the twilight.

yesterday was a dream deferred,
but today hope is restored.

 


written in memory of my sweet son isaac who passed away a year ago today, and to my sweet baby who is nestled in that space between men and meteorites.

Exercising with a cerclage

Since my surgery in January, my activity level dropped drastically. I scoured google in search of some cerclage-friendly exercises to keep my body in shape, but was bitterly disappointed.

There isn’t much out there for us cerclage-bearing mums, and when I tried to ask my high risk doctor, he was skittish of everything. Initially, he told me nothing that bears down on the womb. So, no bending over, and that is regardless if i am working out or not. But as I have gotten further along and the contractions have been a frequent visitor, anything but rolling over in bed seemed to be off the table.

To be honest, i am not sure that they really know what is good, because for the last decade, women with cerclages were almost always put on strict bed rest. So no one has even tried to figure out a routine outside of walking.

Walking was fine to do,  but my uterus gets really fussy after about ten minutes and lets me know with a few braxton hicks. So, i decided to just focus on stretching and breathing. Yoga was good during the middle of the second trimester when I was smaller, but even some of those moves were a bit precarious when a stitched up cervix is at stake. Still, I took some of the techniques, got some resistance bands and created a fifteen minute routine for myself that at least keeps the blood clots away.

bicep curl resting
bicep curls

First, I do basic bicep curls using my band (or five to eight pound weights). i always do this seated because I get rather dizzy or winded when i stand up and try to lift weights. 3 sets of 20.

The next two exercises I snagged from the pregnancy and newborn magazine while in the waiting room. I do 3 sets of 20 for each side. In between each set, I breath in deeply for five breaths.

clam shell stretch
clam shell stretch

This one is called the clam shell stretch and is supposed to help with the glutes and lower core. I lay on my left side, my legs bent at a forty-five degree angle and closed. Keeping my feet together, I open my legs like a clam and then close it again.

Next is a modified side plank. In a seated position i bend my knees at a ninety degree angle, body facing forward. With my hand planted to my side, i push my side up off the ground and then return it to the ground.

modified plank
modified side plank

These three routines give you a little bit of cardio, but for the most part are modified strength training routines. I know it doesn't seem like much, but really this is enough to keep me feeling like my body isn't entirely falling a part.

The next few exercises are for stretching and i prefer to do them after i have warmed up my muscles with the previous three. 

I start in a seated position with one leg in front of the other (i like to elevate my hips with a pillow sometimes. I take ten slow, deep breaths, focusing on my diaphragm and core. 

breathing

Then I grab my stretch band (whatever resistance feels good), extend my right leg out to the side and wrap the the band around my foot. I lean in the opposite direction and point and flex my feet slowly for 3 sets of 10 reps. I get a nice stretch in my calf and hamstring. After this stretch, I stretch both legs out to the side and repeat my breathing again for ten deep breaths.

resistance band
IMG_0612.JPG

Finally, I repeat my point and flex routine for the opposite leg, making sure to bring the first leg in. Once I am done, i return to both legs to my first pose of this circuit and repeat my breathing exercise as part of my closing of the routine.

That's it. Super easy! If I wasn't pregnant with a cerclage, I would probably add a bit more, but this routine has been very relaxing and it has opened up my hips a lot. If you  have been put on some sort of bed rest, you could do any one of these without leaving your bed. Anyway, this is just what I like to do since its pretty low impact and keeps the blood circulating.

 

i am not a doctor, so please do not consult me for approval on these exercises. ask your doctor or midwife, what would be best for your needs.

celebrating isaac

This month has worn a hole into my healing heart.

Today, isaac would be one. As i grab hold of the reality that a year ago today, i was blessed with my first son, the weight of would be pulls me back into the heaviness of that empty space where isaac does not reside in. i am overcome by grief all over again, as if it was yesterday, and i wonder if i ever made a dent in this healing process.

Sunday was mother’s day. Last year his birthday fell the day after that. I remember being admitted in the late afternoon on mother’s day and not seeing the sun for two days. I remember how pink isaac looked. His small body wrapped in tubes and wires. I was so scared to touch him, but i wanted so badly to hold him close to me. To hear him crying for me. Something. Anything. But he had to be without me his first day of life. And i had to be without him my first day of motherhood.

micro preemie

Such a violent birth day to remember.

I remember the days and weeks that followed. My fears quickly transformed into hope and a fierce love that i will never be able to put into words. I learned how to express milk so that he would get his nourishment from me when he was able to. I used to quench his thirst with a little swab of water dabbed on his tiny tongue. I changed his diaper and i cleaned his little body when i was able to make it to the hands on sessions. I sang him to sleep. Read him stories. I even got to finally hold him against my heart so that he could hear the beats he had listened to for almost six months.

tiny baby hand

In those moments i became a mother.

No, motherhood didn’t look like i had imagined and i didn’t get to do everything i had hoped i would be able to do. But when i look back on that time, i got to be a mother. Isaac was too small to offer anything to me or this world, but somehow him being here, existing in this space was enough for me. Enough for me to be his mother. His existence alone was significant. What a powerful freedom he lived in. To be weak and dependant in every way, not performing or doing anything to receive love.

That is why I choose to remember. Even when it hurts. God, it hurts! But i am learning to cherish that simple thought of humility. To cherish what the Lord has blessed me with, both with isaac and his brother or sister. To cherish the mundane,

for it has excitement of its own.

 

Tiny Movements

It’s 3 am. i am tired.

There’s this tiny little human inside of me getting comfortable in a new position. I know I should be irritable right now. I probably will be irritable later, but right now, I savor baby’s stretches and twitches as if I were watching baby sleep through the night in my arms.

I experienced about six weeks of Isaac’s movements before he came. I never really felt him at night. Every time I went driving, he would start moving. I used to sing to him in the car as I drove. When I worked part time as a barista and stood on my feet for four hours, I would feel him then too. His movements were so gentle though. Not as vibrant as his baby brother or sister’s movements are.

I was so afraid to feel any excitement when I felt the first flutters around thirteen weeks. Even as baby grew stronger, I withheld my heart. I knew if I let baby, those tiny movements would stir my love at its foundation and I would be bonded from that point on. I knew I would smile the way I smiled when Isaac would move. I knew all the purity and freshness of this pregnancy would be distilled by the life that was cut short. But this baby continues to make his presence known to me.

Mama, I am here. I am strong. I am growing.

The activity never gets redundant for me. I don’t know if it ever will. Every day that I get to feel baby with me, is a new day I have never experienced before with Isaac. As I lie here awake while baby rolls around with great effort, I wrap my arms, my heart, my love around my womb and I smile.

It’s 3 am. I feel alive.

thirty-four

Turning another year older barely scratched the surface of my mind this week. After spending two days in the hospital because of the early signs of preterm labor, and just being released yesterday, I was more elated that I would not be spending a birthday at the NICU with my child.

IMG_0565.JPG

I lay in bed, the early signs of morning peeked through my blinds as baby stretched inside, the best birthday present i could’ve received so far. Keith was already up, getting ready for work, the sound of rustling paper clueing me into the fact that he was probably in the dining room wrapping my gift. God, i am such a blessed woman, i thought to myself.

As i sit here trying to wrangle in the last thirty-four years of my life into a single thought, I am grateful for my journey’s complexity. I have always desired wisdom. I prayed for it at seven after I heard the story of King Solomon asking for it. I truly believe God honored that request because over the years of success and failures, I have often been told by young and old that I am wise beyond my years and I am deeply humbled that God blessed me in this manner. The year preceding my thirty-fourth birthday has taught me one valuable lesson--uncertainty is inevitable.

Resting in the Uncharted Territory

I remember when Isaac was born and Nanna called to tell me that everything was going to be okay and that Isaac would be fine. You’ve been a good Christian girl all of your life and followed the Lord, she said.

I cringed in silence at her words.

There was something so formulaic about that statement. If all things are good, I am right with the Lord. If all things are not so good, then I immediately must “figure out” what the root of my suffering is. I knew God wasn’t one-dimensional or severely conditional. He made the sun to shine and rain to fall on the unrighteous along with the righteous (Matt 5:45). But when Isaac died after weeks of petitioning to God for a miracle, I realized how deeply rooted I unconsciously was in the “prosperity gospel” understanding of God.

I didn’t have him all or even mostly figured out. His unknowings actually unsettled me. It nearly broke me to suddenly feel so distant from God, and I thought for sure that I would receive further punishment for entering a season of darkness and stillness. I knew the landscape of God’s obscurity existed, but to go and abide inside of His unknown parts without ever having them revealed to me, terrified me.

IMG_0561.JPG

I am not sure when the transition actually began--somewhere in between Isaac’s passing and our failed attempts to try to conceive again--but I found myself wading out into uncharted waters. I thought that the lack of control and foresight would consume me and wash me away, but I found myself tethered. Tethered to the parts of God I had come to know and trust. His grace, His faithfulness, comfort, and peace. I slowly relinquished control in those tumultuous moments, letting my spirit sink into His deepness. I began to let go of my need to know when, where, and how.

I am still a planner. Still a “figure it out” person, but my hope is that this year I’ll continue to loosen my grasp and find peace in the unknown.