When The Holidays Aren’t So Jolly: Tragedy

christmas-tragedyIf you live long enough, you will most likely experience the tough stuff of life that tends to come in waves around the holiday season. Is this by mere chance? Do we just notice depressing events more during a time centered around family and the birth of Jesus? Or, perhaps could it be a direct result of spiritual battles during the celebration of arguably the world’s most influential, historical event?

Christmas, and the holidays surrounding it, have been extraordinarily happy times for most of us. However, certain events do occur around this time that impact us the rest of our lives.

I have two. One ended in the finality of tragedy and one has a happy ending.

This post will be on the tragedy and a subsequent one will follow on the other.

(Please note: because specifics surrounding the family member found at the center of this story are very personal, I have chosen not to reveal certain details. I don’t feel they are mine to share in a public forum.)

It was early December eight years ago. My eldest was almost three, my daughter was six months old, Bailey the Geriatric Maltese was still with us as neurotic and separation anxiety filled as ever and the baby daddy and I were sleeping.

At midnight, the phone rang. Let’s be honest here. You know that’s never good. We both bolted right up in bed as my husband frantically answered the phone.

“Hello?” Quick pause that felt like an eternity. “She’s DEAD?!” Heavy, irregular breathing. “I’m on my way.”

We had just learned that our sister-in-law was gone. An avoidable, unnecessary tragedy that honestly, should never have happened. Within five minutes, my husband was out the door and there I sat in that king sized bed, the white fur ball fulfilling his constant companion role, my babies sleeping, and me frantically grasping at straws to answer the “Why?”.

My in-laws and her family had not heard from her and were obviously concerned. Her husband was out of town so my in laws had gone to her house to check on her. It’s there they had found her. She had been gone several hours.

As many understand that experience situations like this, you are forced to undergo a quick education in dealing with law enforcement, the coroner and the complicated dynamics of family relationships.

From there, my husband and his father drove several hours to inform her husband and bring him home. Her family began dealing with their own pain. Complicated relationships only got more complex. A normal human response to tragedy is to want to blame. I understood where they were coming from on some levels.

For me, I also had many unanswered questions and guilt. Could I have done something to help her? If I would have known her struggles then I would have spent more time with her, offered my ear, gone to meetings with her, become more of an active presence and engaged in frank dialogue.

She had been in the family long before me. At the time, I was unaware of factors that had been in play for years. Ignorant to the realities of her hell.

We were even in the same profession when it happened. I remember having to assist her manager and partner in getting her business dealings together and transferred. At least I felt helpful in some way. Her death rocked their team. They too, looking back, had seen signs but, like me, had not understood the bird’s eye view of the situation.

That Christmas was hard. It was incredibly sad. There was a void. As a mother, I still look at the Christmas decorations she had bought for my oldest the first two years of his life. By the way, I REALLY hope our new dog and my youngest don’t destroy those because it’s evidence that his Aunt loved him, her handwriting and all. In fact, one of the last pictures I have of her was holding my daughter. I caught her laughing while wiping a tear from her eye when she was in her arms. I get it now.

All she ever wanted was to become a mother and, sadly, that wasn’t in the cards for her, in this life anyway. Failed infertility treatments had succeeded in a pregnancy but also in an early miscarriage. I like to envision her surrounded by the children that belonged to her for those short weeks, finally fulfilled, finally at peace.

As a wife, I learned that my husband worked through grief very different than me. He wanted to be alone and that was okay. I’m sure what he and his parents saw that dreadful night are forever etched into a memory they wish could be erased.

Fortunately, time heals some of the freshest of wounds but I always think of her in December. There was some comfort and closure to one of my biggest questions at her visitation. As an action oriented personality, I felt I should have known and been able to help her in some way. I fully believed that I could have motivated her to kick her addictions and demons. Her counselor, as she walked through the visitation line, looked me directly in the eyes and said, “Honey, we knew, were equipped to help her but we were unsuccessful. She was not in a place where she wanted help and your words would have fallen on deaf ears.”

I guess I share all of this to warn how beautiful people can lose sight of their value, how we never know what people are dealing with, that the holidays are a time of great joy but also of great suffering and a call to open our eyes to the realities of invisible battles people close to us may be fighting.

I never understood while she was living why I couldn’t get close to her. Anybody that knows me gets that I covet the closeness of friendships. There was some closure knowing that it was never me but the circumstances of her struggles.

The positive for me of the whole terrible experience is that I know more to better educate my children on addiction and I know more about warning signs, possibly to identify others in need.

In this Christmas season, be aware of your own inner voices, feelings and influence. There is no where that ever proves anything other than God is a substitutable answer to problems.

Chose wisely, live with purpose, love hard and share this if you feel the words will be helpful to others in any way.

 

 

Body After Baby

unknown-2My kids are absolutely worth every aspect of the body mutilation that took place to incubate, nourish and deliver them into this world. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. But for the majority of moms, our bodies pay a hefty price. To live with it or not to live with it. That was the question for me.

Could I have maybe hit the gym more, not gained those extra pounds and lathered up the skin in Vitamin E while knocked up? Sure. Would these things have prevented my abdominal muscles from going from a tight corset to a Buddha belly?

Nope.

You see, shortly after my third, and final, kid was born, I set a long-term goal for myself to get healthy and fit. I achieved many goals and they were hard-earned. Dead lifting over 200 pounds, climbing a rope, running a mile under seven minutes, increasing my borderline low thyroid levels and becoming the healthiest I had been since college to name a few.

However, after three years of high intensity cardio, weight training and healthy eating (most of the time) I sadly hit a wall of defeat last spring. As I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, with solid muscle all over my body but the massacred mid section, I was forced to accept reality.

I had truly done everything that I could do naturally to fix something that I abhorred about my appearance and I knew could give me problems later in life. Three pregnancies and three c-sections tanked the tummy. It was quite depressing. I had failed at something that I should have been able to achieve. Or so I thought.

Why? The dreaded diagnosis of a severe Diastasis Recti.

By definition, Diastasis Recti, is a physical condition, that occurs, when the right and the left halves of the rectus abdominals, split apart, for whatever reason.
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Some women have a very mild separation of these muscles, of 2 finger widths or less, while others can suffer, 3, 4, or  even as large as a  5-10 finger separation.  One finger width is considered, average or “Normal.” Some women are fortunate and sport a six-pack after several pregnancies. I, unfortunately, ended up on the far right end of the scale with a 4-5 inch muscle separation that involved not only the outer muscles, but the deeper muscle layers as well. Upon physical evaluation, a hernia was diagnosed also.

How do you determine if you have a Diastasis Recti? The easiest way is to perform a self check by feeling above your naval while doing a mini crunch. Google it. Super easy.

This separation of the rectus abdominis muscle can cause an array of problems. Without the stabilization that the abdominal muscles normally provide, weakness in the abdominal wall can jeopardize trunk stability and mobility, contribute to back pain, compromise posture, pelvic floor dysfunctions, hernia and cosmetic defects. Back and/or pelvic pains are the most common manifestation of a Diastasis Recti.

To further add to my frustration, I read so many sites that claimed that this muscle separation could be fixed naturally with therapy. That obviously isn’t always the case. So, after attempting to rectify the problem through diet, exercise, special exercises and physical therapy, as I was staring into the bathroom mirror in defeat, I had one last option.

How do you fix a severe Diastatic Recti that remains unresponsive to all the above? Abdominoplasty.

Yep…plastic surgery. That’s the only way to fix a severe muscle separation.

Does insurance cover it? Nope. Well, it USED to be covered or at least partially covered with a hernia. However, as we all know about insurance companies, they will shut a good thing down if it isn’t cost-effective for the powers that be.

Does it hurt? Yes. An abdominoplasty is considered to be one of, or in some opinions, the worst cosmetic procedure as far as pain is considered.

How do you decide which doctor? You certainly do your research, read reviews, ask around, engage in frank conversation with those you know that have had the specific procedure performed, meet with all surgeons and choose the one that has impeccable attention to detail, unwavering commitment to safety and ease of quick post operative follow-up access. This isn’t a “do over” type of surgery. It’s imperative to get it right the first time.

After years of trying to fix it and failing, I decided that I couldn’t live with it. So, two weeks ago, I underwent abdominoplasty.

Am I advocating plastic surgery? Heck no. There are risks anytime you go under the knife.

Was my main reason to undergoing the surgery health or cosmetic? Let’s be real here. COSMETIC 70%. I already had some back and abdominal discomfort going on and wanted to avoid future complications also. It’s best to undergo this type of surgery while you are younger versus older for obvious reasons.

Am I glad that I did it? YES. It isn’t without sacrifice and discomfort. My experience, so far, has been a success.

As having children and becoming parents tend to crush those “Never ever will I” statements we proclaimed beforehand in ignorance, I plead the fifth on this one. However, so far, it’s been a good choice for my circumstances.

So, there you go. No complications and on the mend to a full recovery. The baby daddy was a God send, as well as special friends and family that were our lifeline the first post operative week.

I’ve had a few friends ask me to chronicle the journey. I may. But you won’t be getting any playboy before and after shots from me! It’s too personal. I mean, I share enough of my life on social media anyway.

Our bodies after babies are something us women come to terms with in our way and in our own time. Women should empathize and support one another more than we do. There’s much more commonality in our struggles than I think we realize.

In the grand scheme of life, this looks small and insignificant but it can be a lot bigger to the person going through it. Best of luck to anyone reading this going through similar circumstances.

xoxo

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To The Woman Wanting A Child

tothewomanwantingchildTo the woman waiting for and wanting a child, your navigation through this season in life should be commended.

My only experience with the emotional uncertainty and physical longing of wanting to have a child, but not fully convinced I would be able to, was an 18 month window prior to conceiving my first child. I had no medical issues. It simply was a situation of God’s timing and I didn’t earn the badge for becoming an infertility expert. However, like most all mothers in the world, it deeply affects many I care about.

Three children later, I now have close friends that are desperately doing everything they can to have a child of their own. Watching them go through miscarriages, failed treatments, exhausting procedures and emotional heartache absolutely breaks my heart.

Of course, the burden I have for them can’t hold a candle to what they are experiencing.

All the poking, prodding, ultrasounds, injections, pregnancy tests, insomnia, weight gain, doctor’s appointments, emotional chaos, marital tension, frustration, anger, sorrow, hope, disappointment and increased expenses serve as a melting pot for an oppressed spirit.

For the most part, they can fake their struggle and put on a happy face in public. I can only imagine the suffering in silence.

To the close friend or complete stranger who is navigating life through infertility, you deserve to be praised. Thank you for…

  • going to that person’s baby shower as painful as it was and listening to all the other mom’s talk about their children incessantly.
  • visiting the hospital room of the friend that just seemingly gave birth to her healthy child.
  • remaining emotionally available to others when you have little reserves left to deal with your own struggle.
  • trying to schedule girls’ trips even though your calendar is one of complete uncertainty.
  • not berating the mother who just yelled at her kid because in that moment she can’t see the extraordinary gift she has been given.
  • overlooking the unthoughtful or ignorant things people say to try to make you feel better because you are a bigger person.
  • shining love on others when your own light is dimmed.
  • liking and positively commenting on other’s social media posts about what crazy thing their kids did that week when all you want to do is to delete your account and go cry in a closet.
  • not letting your loneliness, lack of fulfillment and burden turn you into a calloused soul.
  • being an example to others in suffering that one can be strong, kind and generous while in the midst of one of the worst battles a woman can face.

You are loved. Keep fighting the good fight and thank you for influencing other women to be better in character and more appreciative for their blessings. May your prayers be answered and spirit encouraged.

 

 

Holy Hormones, Batman!

holyhormonesbatman

Our preteen Bruce Wayne hasn’t even grown a single arm pit hair and yet, we are getting a glimpse of what it may be like when our son is in the full throes of hormonal transformation. The little joker just turned ten years old and already is exhibiting signs of the “change.” Can the hubs and I survive what’s about to go down in our household? What do we prepare ourselves for?  How is a parent supposed to navigate the fine balance of letting the child become an individual while maintaining order and respect? It’s like mother nature just disrupted the 12,548 bats in the bat cave and mom and dad are confined at the bottom, paralyzed with fear. Holy hormones, Batman! Puberty.

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For the past six months or so, I’ve known it was coming. The sheer nausea from him getting in the car after school while lifting his arm up to throw the back pack in the back seat was my first sign. I did what any good mother would do. Deodorant was swiftly delivered to his bathroom with application instructions. The problem? Bat Boy forgot to put the stuff on. Since then, he has gotten more consistent. Then, the obsession over his hair. He wants it long and thinks he can pull off the Beiber type do but he can’t! His hair is like a chia pet. Course, bushy and thick.

The new challenges are much more intense. It’s the ‘tude, the moodiness and the obnoxiousness! It’s like the hubs and I put him to bed one night and woke up to our eldest as a cross between The Hulk and Bruce Banner or an extreme of each. Sometimes he’s sensitive, calm and wants to snuggle and then other times he is a raging, smelly lunatic.

I’ve learned all this is normal. It’s going to be rocky at times but I have explored tips on how parents may can navigate the craziness.

Although boys and girls experience the “change” differently, the similarities are that their bodies are changing quickly and EVERYBODY feels weird about it. They may be self-conscious, worried, extra-sensitive to criticism, teasing or to just about anything. Little, insignificant things may set them off. They may also feel that no one understands them.

As the hubs and I attempt to navigate the seemingly bottomless pit of puberty, here is some knowledge that may help us all.

  • Mood swings/Most everything they feel will be strong and intensified 

Once a passive irritant, siblings now harness rage from the depths of their innermost being. All of sudden, they have this knee jerk reaction to disagree with basically everything a parent suggests or demands. Also, they used to just “like” the grilled cheese and cut up apples you whipped up, but now the kid “loves” them. Furthermore, the kid used to be a “little” sad because he couldn’t go play at a friend’s house, but now is “inconsolably” sad he isn’t getting his way. 

They become sassy, emotional, belligerent and annoying. It’s down right scary. Romantic feelings? Oh my. We are aren’t quite there yet but it’s sure to come swiftly. I’ll probably have to have “the talk” with my son. We have a very open communication type of relationship. I’ve told him most everything that is about to happen in his sheltered world, but there are a couple of things that may be best coming from dear old dad. Better yet, I think I’ll buy the baby daddy a book and insist that he take that beast of a subject on.

  • More independent thinking

As they begin the journey into adulthood, children may exhibit signs that they want to take more control of their own life in the form of making their own decisions and having strong opinions. Unfortunately, those opinions will probably be polar opposite of what you as a parent feels. “Why, why, why mom?” “Mom, that’s stupid.” “Well, I think it should be this way.”

Personally, I’ve noticed that when my eldest is trying to decide for himself what opinion he will hold for any given subject, I have to provide solid, factual evidence for him, explain the pros and cons and then back off. Strong willed kids like to think they came up with a conclusion or line of thinking on their own. Easier said than done if sass or defiance are involved. Meet Black Widow you winged infant bat!

  • They need hygiene intervention pronto!

This is the obvious one. Supply them with non anti perspirant deodorant, clean clothes and a hefty supply of underwear. Your kid can no longer pull off wearing the same clothes two days in a row. It’s not pretty. I wouldn’t advise it.

pubertyson

  • Physical Changes

My eldest is not a shy child. We see him fresh from the shower in all his glory on a frequent basis. The physical changes are obvious. Over the last few weeks a few pimples have even popped up on is forehead! So now I have to make sure he showers, brushes his teeth, eats veggies, puts on deodorant AND washes his face with appropriate cleansing products? Sheesh.

  • We shouldn’t stop being an involved parent

Although they act as though they don’t want or need our help, our kids need us more during this time. The most difficult thing the hubs and I are going through at the moment is finding the balance of disciplining the mood swings while letting the kid become his own individual person. I feel it’s important that one of us always be actively present to guide the kid into adulthood.

Also, this is the time when we need to be cognizant of drastic personality changes that warrant further attention. If we notice our kids pulling away from family and friends or avoiding things that were once enjoyable to them then that could signal a problem. Fortunately for us, we just have a smelly, sassy, Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde persona we are trying to raise living at the other end of our house, only in the infancy stages of what is to come.

Although still a freshman in the world of kid hormonal changes, I can offer this piece of advice. Remember that you’re not alone. It’s never an easy or popular thing for parents to admit that their kids don’t act like the perfect child all the time or that we don’t have all the answers. Even people who seem like they have it all together are probably struggling with the same feelings and parenting challenges. Every kid is different with a unique personality. That means parenting has to be tweaked to meet the needs of the child and it’s pretty daunting to get that right every day.

It’s unrealistic for people to assume that their way works for your child and unfair and even ignorant to say their way is the only way. That burns this Bat Boy’s mother up. Take freedom in doing what works for your child and remember to exercise some grace while parents like us figure it all out.

What worked for you in successfully transitioning your child through the “Holy Hormone” years? Any ideas relayed in kindness and thoughtfulness are always helpful. We are a community of parents just trying to be the best at what we do.

Our second child is right behind the first so it’s going to be a double whammy of hormone hades in our house soon. To the Batmobile baby daddy! Time to drop the crazies off at grandma’s and head to the beach!

"To the Bat Mobile Baby Daddy!"
“To the Batmobile Baby Daddy!”

The Pediatric Office Visit Per Jim Carey

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We are now in our SECOND day of summer vacation and I already have two children scoring over 100 on the Fahrenheit temperature reading exam and another one attempting to obtain overachiever status. I am so very pleased that they sought to carry their love for knowledge and work ethic (or lack there of) into the week of our beach vacation. As always, I am one proud mother.

Somewhere between leaving the house with three cruddy children and arriving back home with healthy Happy Meals in hand, I have found myself on the verge of a breakdown. You know what I mean. The “I’m about to lose my freaking mind” moment. Certainly, I don’t have time for such things and must muster on and overcome! Therefore, I shall utilize my most recent form of therapy and chronicle the events of the past two hours.

One particular movie scene always comes to mind when these moments hit. Only those that have the utmost class and impeccable taste will know of which movie I am referring to. Ah hum…”Dumb and Dumber”.

Dumb and Dumber Jim Carey
Dumb and Dumber
Jim Carey

As told by scenes from this world renown movie and the unmatched facial expressions of Mr. Jim Carey, I proceed.

I gather all three offspring up, pry their iPads from their grasps long enough for them to brush their teeth (one fibbed and failed to do so) and load them into the car.

And we're off!
And we’re off!

We have an uneventful car ride (a rarity) and quickly arrive at the pediatrician’s office. As soon as the children walk through the glass doors into the waiting room, they pull a COMPLETE 180 on me. The older two start laughing and discussing what level they just beat on a video game and which has better rankings. Let’s NOT forget the wild man. As soon as his feet touch the floor, he bolts to the aquarium and starts beating on the glass window like Darla from “Finding Nemo”. They are loud, happy and, other than a cough, sneeze or snort here and there, they appear PERFECTLY healthy. Well, that’s convenient.

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Fortunately, we are called back rather efficiently.  As they giggle, play fight and skip through the halls, we enter our patient room. I know the nurse personally, because let’s be real here. When you have three kids and have attended the same pediatric clinic for ten years, they KNOW you. My thoughts at this point are “You have just wasted $90 of hard earned cash”, “You appear to have come here for some social interaction because your kids are FAKING it woman” and also, “You look like one of those mom’s that has ZERO control over your kids. You are an embarrassment to motherhood”. “98.4 mom”, the nurse sweetly states. None of them have fever per her thermometer. I’m starting to drown a little.

DUMB AND DUMBER TO - 2014 FILM STILL - JEFF DANIELS as Harry Dunne - Photo Credit: Hopper Stone © 2014 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
DUMB AND DUMBER TO – 2014 FILM STILL – JEFF DANIELS as Harry Dunne – Photo Credit: Hopper Stone © 2014 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

In between the nurse checking vitals and the physician coming in, the kids are acting like chimpanzees on Redbull. They are playing loudly, laughing hysterically and the toddler is getting into any and every expensive equipment that is strategically placed within arms reach of a three year old. I’m screaming inside, “Seriously, you crazed animals were running temperature and being “sick perfect” all last night. Why??!!”. I”m trying all I can do to keep them quiet. Then, the doctor enters. Another familiar acquaintance. I charmingly muster up a smile and say, “Hey! How have you been? You have lost weight! Tell me your secret because you look great!.”

Mama"s got this
Mama’s got this

She really did. What’s my excuse for gaining 15 pounds recently? She has several kids and works full-time so I guess I have no valid excuse to make myself feel better.

Other than acting very loud, yet completely well, the older two cooperate nicely for her. However, once she gets to the caboose, the cortisol starts pumping out exponentially. He refuses to let her touch him or look at the necessary crevices. In addition, he starts taking pictures of her…with my phone that I attempted to contain him with. Don’t judge. It got real. During this insanity, the older two step up the play fighting a notch.

You guy are THIS close to groundings
You guy are THIS close to groundings

Fast forward to the prognosis. Two fever viruses and a severely inflamed sinus cavity. What this means it that I have, in fact, forked over $90 in copays to be told “Sorry, you’ll just have to wait it out with Advil and Tylenol.”

I'm about to cry
I can’t even…

I persuade a little. It’s my nature. She writes me a couple of scripts for antibiotics just in case we need it during the Memorial Day weekend. Finally, a break.

I then proceed to checkout where I wipe out the chip embedded debit card and the animals collect their Batman and My Little Pony stickers. After driving through and getting lunch, we arrive home to eat and settle in before we have to leave again in an hour.  Then Tasmanian Devil Angel child immediately refuses his food, starts talking deliriously, grabs his blanket and falls asleep on the couch WITH FEVER. Advil it is.

Assuming the fetal position and inserting thumb in mouth...now
Assuming the fetal position and inserting thumb in mouth…now

As I am wrapping up this story on our morning endeavor, he just has woken up, stolen something from baby girl, started screaming and I am about to go drop them off at grandma’s so I can FINALLY get a couple of things done I have had to postpone for two weeks now. Thank you Jim Carey for your gift of expression. Pictures speak louder than words most times. I would post a picture that the child took of the physician but it was of HER CHEST!

There you go parents. You are never alone with your Pediatric Office escapades!