What Goes Down Must Come Up (HG Awareness Month)

Several posts back I told the world that my only resolution for 2019 was to simply survive. Even just surviving felt like an impossible task at the beginning of the year because I was so miserably sick.

It was too early to divulge the details back then, but now I can share that we will be adding another one of THESE to our family:

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I’m beyond thrilled for our baby BOY to arrive in July! We are ecstatic and giddy and grateful, but getting him here has not been easy.

My pregnancies are beyond awful. It’s not just morning sickness either. I am part of the lucky 1% of pregnant women who suffer from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG for short). It is HG Awareness Month, by the way, so now felt like an appropriate time to write this post. In case you’re like me and don’t speak medical, Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is the term for the following:

-SEVERE (and constant) nausea and vomiting

-dehydration

-loss of 5-10% of body weight

-low blood pressure

-electrolyte imbalance

-paralyzing fatigue and dizziness

There were days in the beginning when I couldn’t even get out of bed because my body had entirely shut down. I puked so much throughout the day that eventually only bile came up (I’ve heard horror stories about HG sufferers who literally break ribs from puking so forcefully). I was so dehydrated that IV therapy at the hospital was my only hope for relief. And the nausea…..oh, it was relentless for the first 18 weeks!  

I learned a simple yet profound lesson that all who suffer with HG come to learn quickly:  WHAT GOES DOWN, MUST COME UP.

What little I could eat inevitably came back up, and I spent more time with my toilet than I did my husband. As a side note, I’ll never drink lemonade again. It was pure agony barfing that up…the acid nearly burned my throat off. I’ll spare you the details of other horrible things to regurgitate.

Before I go on, I just have to say that I know there are women who would give anything just to have the struggle at all. I ache for you. I see you. Those of you I know on a personal level, please know that I am praying for you and for miracles to come your way.

I also know that unlike most trials this particular one has a timeline, a clear expiration date. At the end of this difficult pregnancy and draining battle with HG, I will hold in my arms a piece of heaven. I’m nearly 30 weeks now and feeling significantly better than I did, but rewind 10 weeks ago and I was helplessly seeking the “lesson” in all of my suffering (besides NEVER EVER DRINK LEMONADE WHILE PREGNANT).  

I remember falling to my knees one particularly miserable night months ago and praying, “Heavenly Father, I know I’m supposed to learn something from all of this, but what?”

It occurred to me in that moment that maybe this trial wasn’t really about me at all.  

Maybe you’re not supposed to learn anything about yourself. Maybe you’re supposed to learn something about those you love—and those who love you back.

I began thinking about all of the people who put their lives on hold to make mine a little bit easier.

My mother-in-law and father-in-law who took Milo on adventures every Tuesday and Thursday.

Friends (two of whom had also suffered from HG) who sent kind notes and offered words of encouragement.

My husband who stepped up and took on so many added responsibilities even though he already had so much on his plate.  

My siblings and my dad who helped out with Milo, brought me food when I could think of something tolerable to eat, and put up with some pretty dramatic “poor-me” moments 🙂    

And of course my angel mother who basically did everything for me. She did my laundry, bathed Milo each day, and made sure we were fed. In fact, I stayed with my parents for 3 weeks during the worst of it all, during which my mom dropped everything already going on in her life to take care of us.

I have learned SO MUCH about sacrificial love throughout this pregnancy. I have learned so much about discipleship-in-action from those closest to me.

I have also learned (and am still learning) a lesson you can never learn enough–that Christ is aware of me and understands perfectly what I am going through. He is the only man who can fully understand the full scope of pregnancy challenges, including the additional misery of HG. I am so acutely grateful for an infinitely compassionate Savior whose atoning sacrifice includes anything and everything you and I will ever face. I’m grateful to know that Heavenly Father has a plan. We have to trust that His plan and the adversity we face will always be for our good–no matter what.          

I can’t wait to hold my baby boy in my arms and know that all of this was without a doubt worth it. Until baby boy gets here, I’ll just keep revisiting this picture of his cute face from the 20-week ultrasound:

So Human & So Holy

688CA6FC-995E-472A-92FA-DA1B428664D2.jpegLast weekend, Milo was sitting across from me in the living room when he chucked his monster truck in my direction. I don’t think he intended to hit me, but when the heavy plastic on that little truck bounced off the back of my hand, I was frustrated. It hurt, ya know?

So I picked up his monster truck and threw it to the side of me and stated firmly, “We DO NOT throw monster trucks!”

The irony of that moment caught up to me and I couldn’t help but laugh at my obvious parenting fail. Here I was telling my toddler to not throw monster trucks while I was in the very act of doing so.

I felt very human in that moment.

My utter humanness comes out a lot actually. I struggle daily with intrusive thoughts. I’m horribly inconsistent. Just the other day I legitimately struggled to feel happy for a friend who received a blessing that for me is still pending—and I hated myself for the envy that was brewing inside of me.

I’m not very good at managing money. I get discouraged a lot. I’m too sensitive at times and often take things way too personally. I am always tired—literally always, no matter how much sleep I get.

Let’s see, what else?

There is currently an alarming number of Cheerios under my couch cushions. Milo ate a chocolate chip cookie for breakfast. I can’t remember the last time I shaved my legs. There’s a basket of miscellaneous dirty laundry sitting in my laundry room from 6+ months ago that I keep avoiding.

Little things like this, though insignificant, also make me feel very human.

But occasionally, all of my humanness is interrupted by these little moments of holiness. Moments that remind me that I do in fact have a spark of godliness within me. Moments that remind me that perfection, though distant, may not be an impossible feat after all.

One of these “caught-in-the-act-of-holiness” moments occurred last week in a way I didn’t expect.

Milo is prone to ear infections. Last week he ran a high fever off and on for a few days, and nights proved to be especially agonizing for him as his body struggled to fight off the impending infection.

I held him close all three nights, stroked his hair, checked his temperature like clockwork, refilled sippy cup after sippy cup, engaged in the battle of forcing Tylenol down, and told him countless times how sorry I was he felt so crappy.

By the time the fever came and went, I was exhausted (remember I said I am always tired no matter how little or how much sleep I get?). I don’t think I would have thought twice about this experience had Heavenly Father not whispered to my soul, “See! You are a good mom. Look how much you love your child.”

I guess so, I agreed in my head. Then I stopped to really think less about what I did to help Milo when he was suffering and more about how I felt.

I felt pure, sacrificial love. I would have done anything to assuage Milo’s pain. I felt deeply sad that he was the one suffering and not me. I felt frustrated I couldn’t do more to help. I felt a sense of urgency to address his every need.

Simply put, I felt almost…..holy.

I don’t think I’m like saintly for caring for my sick child. That’s what mothers do. But the same feelings I had toward Milo are the same God has for me—always and unconditionally.

Because we are the offspring of God, His spiritual DNA runs through us, and every once in a while when we tap into the reservoirs of goodness within, we act and think like He would.

We are human, yes, but we are also holy. While our personal moments of holiness don’t necessarily cancel out our moments of humanness, I do think they balance them out.

That same person who lost her cool when her two-year-old threw his monster truck is the same person who held her child close and loved him and hurt for him and prayed for him with an intensity I can’t even begin to describe.

We are so human, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t also holy.

 

Celebrating Two Years of Milo & Motherhood

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It is officially birthday month for my Milo, and I can’t believe he will be TWO.

To put into words how much I love this little human really is impossible. He is my purpose, my world, my peace, and my absolute joy. I have learned much (and failed much) these past two years as I’ve navigated my role as mother to this insanely cute wild child.

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I have learned that he who screams loudest is in charge.

I have learned that a spoonful of chocolate syrup helps the medicine go down.

I have learned that there is no such thing as peeing in private anymore.

I have learned that sometimes bribery is the only way.

I have learned that fresh air is good for his soul and good for my sanity.

I have learned all the words to the Paw Patrol theme song. No job’s too big, no pup’s too small!

I have learned that a leak-proof sippy cup is a rare find indeed.

I have learned that bananas are the worst possible car seat snack.

And that you can never have enough baby wipes on hand.

I have learned to embrace the crazy train that is us at church.

I have learned to hide my contact lens case from little pilfering hands.

I have learned that I am ⅛ as patient as Daniel Tiger’s mom.

I have learned that I’m not cut out to be the “strict” parent…and neither is my husband 🙂

I have learned that nothing heals the soul quite like a hug from your toddler.

I have learned that children are forgiving and gracious and close to heaven.

I have learned that I am 100% unqualified for this dream job of mine and also 100% divinely helped.

Most of all, I have learned that God gives us—imperfect mortals—an infinite capacity to love.

A few weeks ago Milo grabbed my face in his hands, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Mommy happy.”

It wasn’t a question; it was a statement. I am happy, and he’s the reason why.

Then he pointed back at himself and said, “Milo happy.”

Happiness will be my forever wish for the boy who made me a mom.

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Motherhood & Mental Illness: How Will I Ever Make it Through?

Talking about our deeply personal “issues” can be scary. Launching my story into the blogosphere is one of the more vulnerable things I’ve done.

And so is loving the tiny human I call Milo. In fact, loving my baby boy (who’s definitely more of a toddler now than a baby) is THE absolute most vulnerable thing I have ever done. Or ever will do.

Parenthood is like strapping your heart to the outside of your rib cage, totally exposed. It is knowing that in any moment the child for whom you would literally die could get hurt, feel pain, experience sadness or disappointment or heartache. It is surrendering your control over life and its inevitable tragedies simply because you don’t have a choice.

The tender love of a parent is beautiful in all its rawness, but also terrifying when combined with mental illness. And that is the purpose of this post.

Motherhood, mental illness, and the seemingly impossible question:  How will I ever make it through?

I remember about 6 weeks into my pregnancy the round-the-clock morning sickness hit. And so did the deep, penetrating feelings of despair. I agonized over feelings of inadequacy and fear. I obsessed over worse-case-scenarios that I just “knew” were ahead of me and my baby.  Doing just the simple things became an impossible feat.

I figured my emotional crisis resulted from my physical one. After all, it’s difficult to be cheerful when you’re camped out on the bathroom floor 24-7, puking your guts out. I clung to the hope that as soon as the baby came, the sadness would depart.  

So when that perfect, healthy baby with big eyes and curly dark hair entered my life, I couldn’t figure out why those feelings didn’t just flee. Now don’t get me wrong—I was so happy he was finally here, and I loved him infinitely the moment I laid eyes on him, but those familiar feelings of darkness I’d experienced throughout pregnancy were there, more suffocating than ever.

Like any new mother, I felt overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for such a small human, so fragile and so helpless—and I felt equally fragile and helpless. Even though anxiety and motherhood go hand in hand, I knew what I was feeling was not normal.

Paralyzing fear bit, and it bit hard, especially at night. My body was so desperate for rest, yet I dreaded falling asleep. I worried something horrible would happen to my baby in the night, particularly SIDS. That became an obsessive worry. I would wake up at least every hour in a panic—heart racing, sweat dripping—and lean over my baby’s bed to confirm he was still alive. I slept with the hall light on every night to illuminate his tiny body so that I could monitor the up-and-down movements of his chest. Nothing, including a sleep monitor, seemed to help. Thoughts that he’d be lifeless the next time I woke up tormented me.

The only thing worse than the nighttime anxiety were the intrusive thoughts that pecked at my mind for what seemed my every waking hour. Horrible, scary images popped into my head—thoughts I absolutely detested, thoughts I’d felt I’d done nothing to deserve. I felt stuck in a cloud of darkness that was slowly smothering me. I’d beat myself up over these haunting thoughts. I blamed myself, even though I’d done nothing to merit them.

It seemed everything around me posed a threat. I hated leaving the house for fear my baby would contract a life-threatening illness. I refused to drive without my husband, because that meant I couldn’t sit next to my baby in the back seat and constantly check that he was still breathing. Even news headlines became toxic. Whenever a disturbing story surfaced, my paranoia peaked. The irrational side of me worried I’d be capable of the monstrosities I read about in the news. I felt like a burden to everyone around me. I began to worry my husband would leave me if I became too much to handle, even though he was so gracious and supportive throughout my struggle. Logically, I knew these fears were irrational, but that’s the thing about mental illness and logic—sometimes the two can’t coexist.

I just felt so…dark. I can’t summon a better adjective. I sought even just a sliver of sunlight from the depths of a dark and lonely ocean.

After almost a month of feeling trapped in my own mind, I contacted my doctor. He diagnosed me with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety and prescribed medication. The medication gradually lifted the blanket of sadness, but the extreme panic and the intrusive thoughts lingered. I just didn’t feel like the diagnosis I’d received was complete.

So I continued to struggle, barely keeping my head above water. My husband encouraged me to finally seek help from a therapist.

About a year after Milo’s birth, I met with a wonderful counselor who identified something profound: Not only did I have the symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, I had many of the symptoms of Postpartum OCD.

Postpartum OCD?! I didn’t even know that was a thing! I always associated OCD with excessive hand-washing and episodes of Hoarders, but I was dealing with obsessive thoughts—thoughts that bombarded me and worried me and scared me.

She pointed out that my case of OCD led to anxiety, which led to the feelings of misery and depression. We discussed how the layers and layers of emotional trauma had affected me, and I left that appointment ready to face the underlying problem of Postpartum OCD head-on.

At first I felt total relief; it was nice to finally have a name for what I was experiencing. Discovering the root of the problem that had dictated my life for over a year was liberating. As I researched the disorder, I felt comfort knowing that what I was thinking and feeling was not my fault, but rather some chemical imbalance wreaking havoc on my brain.

Unfortunately, that sense of relief didn’t last long. I began to let my mental illness define me. I felt guilty and ashamed because of my struggle. I felt like a defective mother.

Useless. Incapable. Broken.

That is why I am eternally grateful for a tiny little moment that eased months and months of pain.

One day I was just feeling so tired of it all. The OCD was so demanding, so emotionally draining, and I felt crushed by the load I was carrying. I began playing the “Why me?” game in my head for the 1,000th time. I yearned to feel like myself again. I wanted to be the optimistic, motivated girl I once knew, not the panicky, paralyzed mom with a stack of postpartum illnesses blackening her personal resume. I wanted out.

Then I felt this all-encompassing feeling of love from on high—so strong it was almost palpable—and I felt the words so clearly, Yes, those things might be a part of you right now, but first and foremost I need you to know that you are a Child of God.

That feeling from my Father in Heaven became the catalyst to true and continual healing. I began to call upon Heaven more intensely. I spoke openly about my struggles with Heavenly Father and turned to my lifelines—my infinitely patient husband and my loving mom. I stopped giving the intrusive thoughts so much power and started attaching them to a figurative balloon and let each float away.

Most importantly, I relied on Christ in an unprecedented way. I envisioned Him by my side, helping me fulfill the tasks before me, helping me fight the battles I was too exhausted to face alone. I felt His tangible presence as I took things one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time.

There are days when I wish Heavenly Father would just “uninstall” the OCD from my mind, and thus the accompanying anxiety. And then there are days where I feel truly humbled, even grateful, for this trial. The promise found in Ether 12:27—that our weaknesses can be made into strengths through Christ—has come alive for me.

I see others and their unique trials with more compassion. I have connected with individuals I might not have otherwise. I don’t take Milo or the opportunity to be his mother for granted. Daily I thank my Father for giving me a piece of His heaven by sending Milo to me, despite my imperfections, weaknesses, and shortcomings.

And, oh, Milo is so gracious and forgiving of those shortcomings. He trusts deeply, radiates happiness, and heals my soul with his perfect spirit and bright smile. He brings breathtaking joy to my life.

One of the greatest blessings of this trial is the way it has transformed my relationship with the Savior. I trust Him. I know Him. I have learned that He is unfailingly true to His promise, “I will not leave you comfortless.” I have found Christ in my own personal Gethsemane. I’ve come to know that my hardship is not beyond His reach, that I am not beyond His reach. With outstretched arms and scarred hands, He pulls me from the mire of despair.

Again.

And again.

And again.

Said President Nelson, “In a coming day, you will present yourself before the Savior. You will be overwhelmed to the point of tears to be in His holy presence. You will struggle to find words to thank Him for…healing you from the injuries and injustices of this life. You will thank Him for strengthening you to do the impossible, for turning your weaknesses into strengths, and for making it possible for you to live with Him and your family forever.”

So to those who may be asking the same question I once did of How will I ever make it through this?, I say this:  The answer is Christ. He stands ready to help and to heal, to soothe and to strengthen. Whatever your own “impossible” might me, Christ has the power to help you conquer it.

I am so indescribably thankful for Him. I am also thankful for an infinitely loving Father in Heaven who gave His perfect Son so that I can be with mine forever.

My Dear Child, Please Remember This Version of Me

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There was a day last week that I felt like a stellar mom. Let me be clear: days like that are rare. Usually, I find myself battling a pretty ruthless guilt complex—and the guilt always wins. Guilt for my dwindling patience, guilt for allowing too much Netflix, guilt for not having enough fun activities planned…

But for whatever reason, there was a day last week that brought with it a higher degree of patience, an energy that matched Milo’s, and this willingness to push my own agenda aside completely.

It was a good day.

After about ten rounds of the airplane game, some hilariously failed crafts, and a pattern of NOT checking my phone compulsively, we were at the park. Milo wasn’t feeling particularly brave that day, so I slid down that yellow plastic slide with him in my lap. As we glided down and my hair got all static-y, I had the thought, Please remember this version of me.

Please remember the mother who got out the play-doh and fingerpaints when the kitchen was already an epic disaster. Please remember the mother who let you help with the dishes even though it’s so much easier to just do it myself. Please remember the mother who held it together when you mural-ed the white walls. Please remember the mother with a wide smile—not the frustrated mother with her face in her hands. Please remember the mother who watched countless shadow puppet tutorials on YouTube to up her performance and make you laugh. Please remember the mother who sacrificed a side project to spend more time with you. Please remember the mother who said “yes”whenever she could and “no” only when she absolutely had to. Please remember the mother who gave you her time instead of hoarding it for her own selfish use. Please remember the mother who held you tight when you were sad and whose daily goal was to make you belly laugh to the point of tears. Please remember the mother who welcomed yet another wet kiss even though you’d just eaten your third pickle. Please remember the mother who taught you the important things. Please remember a mother whose list of priorities always began with you.

Well, guess what? I was not that mom this week at all. I was recovering from the stomach flu and after being, erm, couch-ridden for a couple days I felt so behind on laundry and household duties that Milo slipped to the bottom of my priority list.

I ordered Chinese takeout for dinner that night (because, who has time to cook when there are about ten loads of puke laundry to do?). I felt like the fortune in my fortune cookie was mocking me a bit when I read these ironic words:

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Entertaining and delightful? I was anything BUT that day. I was grumpy and impatient. I was “too busy” to read to or play with my boy even though he was starving for some attention. I felt like a crap mom. The shame kicked in and while looking into Milo’s big brown eyes I thought, If this was, heaven forbid, my last day with you, would I be at peace with how we spent it?

The answer was a definite NO.

Motherhood is that kind of roller coaster. One minute you feel like this Olympic nurturer, and the next you feel like you’re dead last in the mom game.

How I wish I could give my child the best version of me every day. Maybe some mothers out there have it figured out? But I don’t. I’m too human, too imperfect, and usually just too…..tired.

So I’ve come to two conclusions.

  1. God, knowing He’d send these perfect little souls to such imperfect parents, must have instilled a great sense of forgiveness in them.
  2. I can’t be the absolute best version of me my every waking moment, but I can try to be that version of me more often.

If I can find the strength to be the best version more than the mediocre one, then maybe, just maybe, that is the mother my children will remember. Of all my responsibilities, is this not the one worth giving my all?

One of my heroes, Rachel Jankovic, said:

“Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.”