Friday, April 17, 2015

The Path No One Wants to Travel

I started this blog after an important shift in my life. Many of my friends know of this shift, but I realized today that I have not ever written about it.

A dear, dear friend of mine is walking the path that I was on many years ago. I pray everyday that hers does not end where mine did. I wrote her a letter today, and then I decided to share a little of my story with you.

My mom had cancer.


My mom is free from cancer because now she walks with Jesus.

My mom's battle with cancer was so random and unexpected. She was diagnosed in the summer of 2005. She had a canker sore that wouldn't go away. She feared she would lose her tongue, but she didn't. They found cancer in her neck so she had multiple lymph nodes removed and some surrounding tissue. She did radiation treatments and lost some hair at the top of her neck. After that, things were fine for awhile. Her doctor said this type of cancer was slow growing and would only appear in her neck and head areas.

A few months later, her lung was x-rayed and biopsied, and they found cancer in her lung. They removed the lower lobe and that was the end of it.

Then my mom had a sore back from working in the yard...except it didn't go away. Sure enough, there was cancer IN her vertebrae. My dad tried to care for her at home (these weeks are still kind of a blurry memory for me). She was in so much pain that we decided to call an ambulance so they could help transport her to the hospital. I remember talking to the EMT's like I was her primary caregiver. They asked me all sorts of questions. My mom was already on heavy painkillers so she was a little incoherent.

She was evaluated at the hospital and they had to brainstorm how to help her. One of her vertebrae had split from cancer growth, and they would use cement to stabilize it.

Around this time, Chris had come home from Iraq and proposed. He had driven to the hospital to ask my parents' permission. The hospital was the first place we went after I said yes! My mom was on morphine, but I could see she was so happy despite her pain.

Soon after, she had a cough that wouldn't go away. An x-ray revealed the unbelievable - both lungs lit up with cancerous tissue. This was the end of ways to "fix" her cancer. As a family, we decided to take her to a nursing home where she could get 24 hour care - it was taking a toll on my dad to have her at home. She peacefully passed 2 weeks later with her sister by her side. We had family take shifts so she was never alone at the end. I vividly remember the last words I spoke to her the last time I saw her: "I love you, and I'll see you tomorrow".

Valentine's Day 2008 was her last day on earth.

And that's my mom's story. (The really, really condensed version that I can remember, anyway.)

During those 2 years, there were so many ups and downs. Small victories. Big setbacks. We cherished our time together as a family. My mother was blessed to keep her sense of humor amid the cloudiness of painkillers.

"I got a fever, and the only prescription is...MORE COWBELL!"

I love you, momma. I think about you all the time.

The grief process is a never-ending one. At the time of her death, I was more of an inward griever. I preferred to cry in my alone time. It was easier for me to process alone, I think. My fiancé was only home for 2 weeks so he had already gone back overseas when she passed, so I had a lot of time to myself in my final semester of college.

Several weeks later I got a phone call from my fiancé from Iraq.

He asked me if I was sitting down.

I immediately knew that something was wrong.

He had been in an IED explosion. A soldier behind him in his vehicle was killed. My fiancé sustained only mild injuries. Respectfully, it's not my story to tell, so those are the only details I will provide.

So now, my fiancé was grieving too, and we were thousands of miles apart.

I hated every minute of the remainder of the time we spent apart.

He was stateside by late May, and I had just had a tonsillectomy and couldn't speak for a few days, so we communicated through text messages. When he came home, we spent the whole summer trying to reconnect. We had both been through so much, but we had not yet been through it together

It was so bizarre to me that someone I knew so well for 3 years suddenly felt almost like a stranger to me. We shared our grief. We shared it again. And again. I will never fully understand what he went through. He felt terrible that he couldn't make it home for my mom's funeral.

We went to visit her gravesite together. I think it may have been the first time I went since she passed.

But I didn't feel like she was there.

It's just her body underground.

She's with me everywhere. Everyday!

I see her in the spring flowers. I smell her in my homemade banana bread. I hear her in the chatter of birds. I feel her in the dirt between my fingers when I garden. I think of her every time I light a honeysuckle-scented candle. 

It pains me that she's not here with me as an adult. We were in the beginning stages of forming our adult mother-daughter relationship when she was first diagnosed. I often wonder what we would talk about today.

There is no doubt in my mind that my mother, from up in heaven, had a hand in delivering our sweet baby Ava to us. Ava should have had health problems, and quite frankly, she could have died due to how labor progressed with her. 

I am already telling Ava of all the things Grandma Nancy loved. I hope Ava grows up with a love for the outdoors and of books and kitties. Ava is already quite silly like my mom always was!

So love deeper. Laugh harder. Hug longer. Kiss sweeter.

Life is just too precious!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Mommy in a 2-Piece

So I've been thinking a lot lately.

About "swim suit season".

And this new "mom body" that I have.

Has anybody else been thinking about this?!

Grab your 2nd cup of coffee, surround your kid(s) with all the toys they have, and attempt to sneak away to reflect with me for a few minutes.

I delivered Ava 9 months ago. On paper, 9 months seems like such a long time! But the reality is, is that it has flown by faster than I ever thought it would! I had planned on getting into a workout routine once I was feeling normal (hahaha normal...what is that?!) so that I could lose all my gained weight during pregnancy and get some muscle tone back.

Well, that didn't pan out like I had hoped.

Most of my weight simply fell off. I think I sweated and peed half of the weight off in the first week! But now I still have this extra 10 pounds on me with my muscles buried somewhere underneath.


And it really frustrates and annoys me.

But why??

Why does 10 pounds have to be such a bad thing?
Why do stretch marks have to be a bad thing?
Why does it matter if there's cellulite on my legs?

Because "other people" will judge?
Because "other people" say you're supposed to get back in to shape within that first year of having a baby?
Because "other people" say you aren't supposed to have imperfections?

The source of my frustration and annoyance was not actually me, it was everybody else.

Why should I care what you think of me?

I am proud of this body.

I am still in disbelief that I grew a baby for 9+ months, that she was cut from my belly, and that my body continued on like nothing happened.

That's pretty miraculous!

I've been feeling the pressure lately to be fit. Ava turned 9 months and I found myself looking at my body and realizing this is not where I thought I'd be at this point.

My 2-piece swim suit I ordered arrived in the mail yesterday, and I love it...but I have extras hanging out where I'd rather they didn't. 

My thighs.
My tummy.
My back.
My arms.

I feel like the change in the weather is saying "oh's time..."

I was all set to join the YMCA to do spin class several times a week and put Ava in the childcare there. Welllllll, that YMCA is going broke so they are closing. I was so disappointed!! I had gotten myself all pumped up and I was mentally ready to drop Ava off with strangers for the first time and get fit and do something for ME.

I was feeling more discouraged than ever!

And then I realized, no one can change this body but me.
If I don't like what I see in the mirror, then it's time to work on it.
I have to decide to make a change.

I have a jogging stroller, and Ava loves to be outside.

I bought new running shoes and downloaded a jogging app.

There are no more excuses.

I doubt that by the time we go swimming for the first time that my body will look the way I want it to in my mind.

But I'm realizing that's not what's important.

Overall health is what is!

Eat well. 
Exercise to be healthy, not to be a size 2 when that is nowhere near your current size.
Be realistic with your goals!

I'm not going to worry about what others are thinking when they see me in a 2 piece.
Because, quite honestly, those who are judging you are people you wouldn't want to be friends with anyway.
Wear your 2 piece with confidence as your accessory!
We are not supermodels; we are normal people who carried babies.

There's no way I'm wearing a 1-piece swim suit.
I shouldn't have to.

When I wear my 2-piece, I hope that I inspire another mom to wear hers proudly, too. I'm not going to waste my time worrying about who is looking at me or what they are thinking. I am going to swim with my family and have a good time doing it, thank you very much!

So go ahead and look at my cellulite, stretch marks, and tummy flab.

Because I'm not.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

9 Months Out

This last month with Ava has been...different!

I have felt like she has already hit the 9 month mark a long time ago - she has seemed so grown up to me lately!

She eats so much table food it's ridiculous! Just this morning she ate an egg - scrambled, a piece of french toast, almost a whole banana, and a sprinkling of blueberries. And she might have even had some yogurt; I can't remember now. I mean, how can she only be in the 19th percentile for weight when that's what she eats?! And not to be gross, but now that I'm a mom I talk about this stuff all the time...her poop has almost no visible pieces of food in it anymore so I know her body is doing a better job of breaking it down and absorbing it!

She still refuses to crawl. She can get to hands and knees from sitting and she'll reach out for things, but then she flops to the floor no matter how much bribing we do. She gets around on her belly by turning in circles or rolling around. 

She is much better at pulling up and she can do it on more things! She prefers to stand and play; that is what keeps her happy during playtime.

She has been super fussy this last month, which I think is a big factor in why she has seemed older to me. Lots of fits! Whining! Fussing! But for a good girl has cut 4 teeth in only 4 weeks! I'm sure her mouth hurts her a lot. I give her lots of teething toys to chomp on and a dose of Motrin when I feel she really needs it. But I'm pretty conservative with medication so that's rare. 

She's been learning what to do with her mouth full of teeth. She'll bite her arm! I think she's moved past this phase for the most part. But for about a week she'd bite her arm and then cry, and then go right back to it to bite it and cry again! I've been giving her a teething toy to take the place of her arm, and I think that has helped. Poor girl! She's been doing lots of hair pulling and pulling on her ear, too, which I suspect is also teething related. I hope her fussiness settles down a bit after tooth #6 comes in - I need my super happy, smiley girl back!!

Ava and I have been enjoying outside time! Ava pants loves to be outdoors to feel the wind in her hair! We play with her doggie, lay out a blanket and play with toys, or walk to the park for some swing time. She laughs louder and louder each time she swings!

We've been having to "discipline" her a bit...her biting has gotten a bit out of control! If she was in a preschool, she'd be the biter for sure! I know it's due to teething, but we still have to tell her a firm "no" and redirect with a teething toy and set her down. She will bite our shoulders if we are holding her or lean over and bite my leg if we are playing on the floor together. She occasionally bites while nursing, but it's not very hard, thankfully!! It's usually when she's done anyway so then we just move on to playtime. She also likes to pull my hair, so we practice "gentle". She doesn't pull as hard now...for the most part!

Ava still enjoys shopping, but now that she's become a bit more mobile, sitting is less fun for her. I feel like our days of "easy" shopping are numbered!

She is a very routine girl when it comes to sleeping. We recently took a road trip and she slept horribly the whole time. She does so well with her dark room, crib, and sound machine that if one of those components is missing, it really throws her off. Poor girl threw a fit each time we had to put her back in her car seat!

I have discovered a new emotion recently. I feel it when people talk about how cute she is, or we just chat about her in general. I look at her, and I can feel my eyes start to well up with tears. I think it's love and pride mixed together. I just love her so much, and I love exactly the way she is. She's my baby, and I couldn't imagine any other baby. God truly picked the baby we were meant to have. It's so crazy to think that some day (hopefully) God will choose another baby that is just right for us. It's so amazing!! It's beyond my understanding.

Here's a fun photo of me at exactly 40 weeks (just 24 hours before she was born) and me holding Ava at 9 months old!

I'm so excited to be able to wear maxi dresses because I choose to, and not because they are the only clothes that fit me!