On Depression & Donuts | Laura’s Story

Laura is one of the most sincere and honest people I know. I really love how she writes her story and her emphasis on self-compassion is a valuable lesson. (The illustration is done by my niece, Adrian Krause).

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When I was pregnant with my second child, I developed depression and anxiety. I’d struggled with these things before becoming pregnant, but during pregnancy I had to come off of my medication and so the struggles came back. I’d heard a lot about postpartum depression, and I’d logically known that depression during pregnancy was a possibility, but somehow I just hadn’t thought it would happen.

I knew something was wrong when I started crying all the time. I’m talking full-on sobbing, multiple days a week. Pregnancy is an emotional thing—hormones are taking over, yes, but it can also just be overwhelming, growing a human. And my life was overwhelming at the time; I was taking tough classes, I was serving in a demanding position of leadership at church, and I was taking care of my 18-month-old daughter, who needed to be watched constantly, lest she somehow get into the kind of trouble that only a toddler can manage.

I remember being outside with my husband and my daughter, watching them play in the leaves as I sat on the bench nearby, because I was well into the waddle-because-everything-hurts stage. As I watched my little girl shrieking with laughter as my husband showered her in leaves, tears filled my eyes. I had to fight back the inexplicable misery I felt. Something that should have made me laugh was instead making me cry.

The anxiety was bad, too. I’d struggled with anxiety while pregnant with my first, so I was more prepared when it hit, but it was still rough. I worried about my husband and daughter dying. Every time my husband left the house, I worried obsessively about him getting hurt. I also had this anxiety about gaining weight. Logically I knew it was good that I was gaining weight; it would have been unhealthy not to. I was pregnant. I was sustaining myself and my unborn child. But I couldn’t help my emotions, no matter what my mind was telling me. Every time I stepped on a scale at my doctor’s appointments, I would have to hold back tears.

I remember eating a donut one day, and then halfway through, feeling this overwhelming sense of disgust with myself. I threw the rest of the donut away (it was chocolate coated and it was so good) and then I began sobbing. I felt so guilty for eating it. I called my mom, and like the wonderful mother she is, she gently told me that it was okay to eat donuts, that I was perfectly healthy, that gaining weight was okay, and that she loved me.

These things were hard to deal with. It was really, really, REALLY hard. No one likes crying. No one likes not eating donuts. Donuts are amazing. But I did it. I was blessed to be pregnant, and I was glad I was able to recognize that my feelings were being caused by depression and by anxiety. I knew I wasn’t going crazy, although sometimes it definitely felt like it (I threw away a DONUT. A DONUT).

I made it, because I am strong. And to anyone suffering from these things—you’re strong, too.

Creating Affirmations

 

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When I wrote this post about my journey to loving my body, I mentioned a couple of things that helped me get to where I am. One of the activities that has helped me was writing affirmations. It’s fairly common to hear about writing birth affirmations, but you don’t have to write them just for that.

I was struggling with my stretch marks when I was pregnant, and I felt upset about how many I had. One day I had the thought to write my thoughts and draw my belly. You can see that in my journal entry (above). I also wrote out “I love my body. I admire the way it holds my baby” and “Baby, you are leaving a mark on my body. I am never the same as I was before you.” Drawing my body and writing these positive thoughts helped remind me that I can surround myself with support.

After giving birth, I once again, struggled with my stretch marks. I drew my empty uterus and my stretch marks and said “I protect my womb just as it protected my child.  These are my memory markers. I am kind.” This reminded me that I need to be gentle and recognize the beautiful work my body has done and because of that it is something to be grateful for.

Because I tore extensively when delivering Hugh, I really felt frustrated with my pelvic floor. I felt like it would never be healthy or strong. After tearing, I got an infection and then had to take antibiotics for it which then gave me another infection. I felt like I could never heal and felt a lot of resentment with my pelvic floor.

I knew I didn’t want to have negative thoughts surround my pelvic floor and so I wrote and drew this illustration. It’s a multi-lined diamond that was supposed to be reminiscent of the female anatomy. In the center, I wrote the words, “I am strong. I breathe in strength and breathe out tension.”

I hung this picture on my bathroom wall and read it when I brush my teeth. Seeing this reminds me that those are the thoughts I want to have about my body. I feel like because I have read it every single day for the past 9 months, I have started to absorb these thoughts.

There are different ways to write an affirmation, there is no wrong. It is a positive word or phrase, a holy text or a poem or a line that you compose. Some examples of affirmations are:

  • My body knows how to heal itself. I am gentle with my body to support this process.
  • I enjoy eating healthy and wholesome foods and feel joy when I exercise.
  • I am flexible when faced with difficult situations. I know myself and trust that I can make responsible decisions for my future.

Have you heard of affirmations before? What have been your favorite affirmations that have brought you comfort?

 

 

Awaiting a Baby

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(I was about 38 weeks in these pictures. Can’t believe my belly and uterus really stretched that big!) I have included the picture of a blossoming tree because the similarity of a blossoming tree and a blossoming baby to be born. Blossoms take their own time and cannot be rushed- some blossom early and and some later. Waiting for the blossom can be a period of growth. This is my journal entry about the waiting period, written the day before Hugh was born. 

“November 11, 2014

Every night before I go to bed, I think ‘maybe tomorrow will be the day I get to see the baby!’ I try really hard not to wallow in despair or impatience. I call to Ethan to come hug me & he comes, asking why I need a hug. I tell him how I feel. He climbs into bed to cuddle with me. He says, ‘I love you. Your body is perfect. Our baby just wants you all to himself, he doesn’t want to come out and have to be held by random people.’ He nuzzles my head and rubs my belly.

Yesterday, we got two packages in the mail. They were gifts for our baby. I want to cuddle with all of the blankets, they are so thick and cozy. I’m really grateful we have blankets for baby. I want to make sure baby stays super warm and cozy all through winter. It’s amazing to me how many gifts we have gotten to help us take care of baby. I love rubbing my belly & feeling and guessing where your arms and feet and back are. Our baby is so loved. Everybody is looking forward to meeting you.

I think part of this process of birth is recognizing how instrumental faith is. I have to respond with faith instead of fear. I have to have faith while waiting, yearning. I have to have faith in my body, my baby, in our partnership. It’s very easy to get anxious and frantic, but that really doesn’t help. The only thing that helps is taking a break- breathing, praying, and moving forward.

Hugh B. Brown made a comment once that said something along the lines of: “when we involve, we evolve. When we involve ourselves in the activities of the Lord, we evolve into beings like the Lord.” As I involve myself in the lives of others- serving them, helping nurture goodness, I can evolve. I really think that now is the time to evolve. I am grateful for this opportunity- this prime time. I know it will be difficult. I may feel like I have given my all, only to to be asked to give more. I have to have faith.

Ethan and I have been reading scriptures together. It talked about a political leader who asked the prophet to inquire of the Lord what they should do in war- what should be their stratagem. Once I read this, I had the thought that I shouldn’t feel silly for praying that my cervix to soften and dilate. To give me comfort when I start labor and during this whole process. To give me strength to wait.”

Family Culture | Healthful Eating by Tess Antivilo

 

 

I met Tess a few years ago. We lived in the same neighborhood until she moved to Wisconsin.  I am inspired by her dedication to her family diet and health. I love how she uses the term “healthful” to describe her diet and lifestyle choices. I asked her if she would be willing to write about her journey. Her experiences have really inspired me to work at what I do to provide nutrients for Hugh (something that I posted earlier about struggling with). Thank you Tess for sharing your experiences.

>>> My journey to health wasn’t a quick or easy one. I grew up with Top Ramen and Spaghetti-O’s for lunch with white bread and butter on the side. Boxed macaroni and cheese was my specialty for dinner. If I was feeling extra fancy, grilled cheese it was.

Once I was married, I started eating more vegetables here and there but our diet consisted of mainly frozen foods from Costco: specifically, the orange chicken.

It wasn’t until after I had my first child that I watched my first food documentary.  “Food Inc” blew my mind. I had never thought about what I put in my body, where food came from, and what was needed to live sustainably and healthfully.

After investing in a Vitamix and juicer, I started taking the health of my family seriously. I wanted to raise my child to love fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

We adopted a plant based lifestyle with little processed food. Meat wasn’t a really big deal for us to stop eating because we never bought it in the first place.  It was refined sugar that really caused the withdrawals. But we were determined to raise our daughter with healthful eating habits.

Not giving a baby sugar is pretty easy to do. Baby food is made up of fruits and vegetables. When do we, as humans, develop our terrible addictions to fatty, salty, and sugary foods?

Our culture in the United States is so centered on food. Every one year old celebrates their first birthday by eating as much cake as they can while the adults in the room coo about how cute they are. For my daughter Estela’s first birthday, we set one cupcake made of beets in front of her. Her second birthday, we served a raw vegan brownie.

When Estela started eating food other than pureed baby food, we made sure we gave her fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. She didn’t get Gold Fish or Cheezits (my particular favorite while I was growing up).  For dinner, we made sure that she ate what we ate. We didn’t give her “kid” food like chicken nuggets while we ate something else.

Because we started right away, It was easy for my daughter to love fresh vegetables and fruit. Bell peppers were always her favorite snack and still are to this day. Do we look like weirdos when we bring her own snack to her church nursery? Yeah, kind of. But she doesn’t mind.

Here is a little bit of what our day consists of, meal wise.

Breakfast.: Oatmeal, Cheerios, or a smoothie

Mid morning snack: smoothie

Lunch: Sandwich (our favorite right now is a veggie one with sprouts, peppers, cucumbers, hummus, and avocado on whole wheat bread)

Afternoon snack: Fruit or veggies with hummus (or both!!)

Dinner: Whole grains with lots of veggies! Basically, it’s different every night! And the possibilities are endless! (in the picture, Estela is eating a wild rice salad with peas and bell pepper.)

As we move and make new friends, we kindly refuse things that don’t fit in with our lifestyle. Luckily it gets easier each time! However, it’s important not to become too obsessive and controlling about what I eat and what I let my daughter eat.

In fact, It was in France that she had her first piece of white bread. There was no whole grain bread in sight! I started to break down and feel stressed. Thankfully I realized how silly I was to stress about that. She was hungry and that demi baguette filled her tummy! As Estela gets older, we encourage her to make her own decisions about what she eats. Sometimes at birthday parties, she doesn’t even want a cupcake!

Of course we make exceptions for every rule, but at home we eat healthful. And that works for us! <<<

Post written by Tess Antivilo ::   You can find more of her at her beautiful food blog  Table of Tess.

Postpartum Depression | Kristi’s Story

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One of my best friends had her mom in town for a couple of weeks. I was having a really rough time with my PPD, and her mom noticed. She came up to me and started talking and she shared her experiences with me. Her story resonated with me and helped soothe my aching. I have asked Kristi to share her experiences because it may bring healing to others as well. 

Postpartum depression is such a misunderstood condition and, unfortunately, one that still has a negative stigma about it. I have suffered with it 5 times and have met numerous women over the years who have also silently suffered and that is why I’m willing to share my story.

When my husband and I got married, we seemed to truly have the “fairytale” life. We were not only a couple, but best friends. We were both pretty laid back and really never argued. With things going so great it wasn’t long before we decided to start our family.

We were so excited when I finally got pregnant and then devastated when at the end of the first trimester I lost the baby. Obviously, I was sad. But about a week after the miscarriage I found myself feeling anxious and distraught. It took very little to make me upset or cause me to break down in tears. I didn’t even feel like myself anymore. My poor husband didn’t know what to think or how to handle it so he mostly just tried to avoid me. People kept telling me it was just because I was sad about losing the baby. It wasn’t until years later I realized that I had been suffering from postpartum depression. Yes, you can experience it even after a miscarriage. Fortunately, it does end and a couple of months after the miscarriage I was feeling more like myself again.

The next year we were blessed with a beautiful baby girl. The first couple of weeks I was fine and then suddenly the depression and anxiety began to take over again. People told me I was just adjusting to being a new mother, but it just seemed like something more than that. I knew I should be happy. I wanted to be happy…and I just couldn’t. Three months later I began feeling more like myself again.

Two years later we were blessed with another baby girl. Then my whole world fell apart. My older daughter had developmental delays and special needs; my husband deployed on a submarine 2 days before the baby was born; and my mother died of cancer 4 weeks later. Again, the first couple of weeks I was fine. I came home from the hospital determined to face life head on. Then one morning I woke up and it was like I was a different person. I remember looking at my girls and thinking, “I know I love you, but why can’t I feel it?” It was like I was numb inside. I found myself just going through the motions of everyday life. My girls were always clean, fed, and dressed, but some days that was about all I could handle.

I felt like I was in survival mode. The depression got worse. I remember thinking that I wasn’t a very good mother and that my family would be better off without me. Looking back now I can’t believe I ever thought that, but it was truly what I felt at the time. My husband was deployed for months at a time so I was basically a single parent. In a way this was a blessing because it was the reality of knowing there was no one else to care for my girls that kept me fighting.

When my youngest was about 6 months old I got very sick and it was during that doctor’s visit that I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and advised to begin taking an antidepressant. I became very defensive and refused to take anything. To me taking medicine was a sign of weakness. I came home from the doctor that day and was greeted by two Navy wives who had been great friends. They asked me what the doctor had said. I will never forget their reaction when I said he thought I had postpartum depression. You would have thought I said I had leprosy. I could tell they both felt uncomfortable and unsure how to respond. The months that followed found them avoiding me. It was then that I decided postpartum depression was something not to talk about. And I didn’t for many years.

This time it took about a year before I felt like myself again. Once I felt “sane” I looked back and realized I wasn’t the only one affected. My husband and girls had suffered too. This is part of a letter I wrote to my husband trying to explain how I felt during this dark time…

“I’m in a hole. I’m looking up, arms outstretched heavenward. I see light. That is good. Sometimes the hole is so deep I don’t see any light. But even then my arms are still stretched out, up towards the opening of the hole; waiting for someone to help pull me out. But no one ever comes. And so I wait, and suffer. Sometimes the hole gets deeper, sometimes shallower to where I can almost climb out myself. Sometimes I feel I am being buried alive. Those are the days when I don’t want to exist anymore; when I feel I just can’t go on. When I feel like I’m making everyone around me, all the people I love, feel as horrible as I do.”

A year later we were blessed with a baby boy. The whole pregnancy I was worried about the person I would become after the birth. Fortunately, I ended up with an amazing doctor who understood and explained postpartum depression to me. She helped me realize I wasn’t “crazy” but simply going through a change in hormones that occurs after birth. For some people the change is easy with little affect. For others, the body chemistry is completely thrown off. She knew of my aversion to taking medicine and asked me if I had diabetes would I be willing to take insulin. I told her of course I would. She then explained that postpartum depression is no different. Just as some people can’t process sugars correctly and need insulin, some women have a hard time processing the change of hormones and need some help with antidepressants. She also explained that if you have had postpartum depression once you will most likely have it again and that it tends to last longer with each pregnancy.

So knowing that “when” and not “if” it happened this time she promised she would be on the lookout and start me on medicine as soon as I needed it. As if on cue, about 2 weeks after delivery my world began falling apart. My sweet doctor called me at home and after a short conversation she had me come in and got me started on antidepressants. The first two weeks it made me feel worse instead of better, but then I began to notice a difference. I didn’t feel perfect, but the anxiety and depression became bearable. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. It took 3 years before I felt completely like myself again.

Feeling empowered now by knowledge and experience I approached my last pregnancy with a completely different attitude. I explained my history to my doctor and he was quick to come up with a solution. Knowing it would happen again, he began me on an antidepressant, safe to take while you are pregnant, one month before I was due to deliver. It gave the medicine time to build up in my body before the big hormonal change happened. What a difference that made! Instead of falling into the dark hole I needed to climb out of, I never fell into the hole. It still took about 3 years before I felt enough like myself again to wean off the medicine, but I was able to function and enjoy life and my family during that time.

I hope that as more people share their stories, the stigma attached to postpartum depression will go away and that the many women who suffer from it will find the help and support they need.

My Body is a Scar

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Last Sunday I was asked the rhetorical question, “what do you see when you look in the mirror?” For the first time in my life I really thought: I see someone with a beautiful body. I also feel disappointment because I am not society’s definition of physical beauty. But for some reason, when I look at my body I feel admiration and gratitude and I think it’s partially because I recognize that my body is a scar.

I’ve fought with body image and struggled with eating since I was 8, when my dad told me I should start sucking in my belly so I would be more attractive. I struggled when I was 16 and my crush said that the reason he could never like me was because I was fat. I struggled when I was put on various diets by my parents throughout my childhood and adolescence. I struggled controlling my appetite and felt a gnawing desire to hurt myself because of my weight and the way my body looked. (I’m probably not alone in all of this either.)

When I was 17, I worked really hard to lose weight. I lost 90 pounds that year, starving myself to do so. I felt really proud of the way my body looked. That year I also got better acquainted with Ethan who said one day, “You know. I thought you were really pretty before you lost this weight. I will think you are pretty always.” My mind exploded. How. Could. He? HOW?! Someone could love me and it not be determined by the number on the scale or size of my pants?! In the comfort of our relationship, I slowly began to realize that I didn’t need to weigh a certain amount to be loved or to love. I stopped starving myself and started to eat healthy foods and exercise frequently.

The year I turned 19, Ethan and I were married. Hugh came only 17 months later. During my pregnancy, I gained all of the weight back that I had lost. I felt my self-confidence diminish and started to feel my self-loathing return. It’s not until now at 21, that I’m starting to really feel gratitude for my body. I guess it’s partially because I realize it’s been through a lot. It’s also because I am reading more body-positive blogs and realizing healthy bodies can take all shapes.

I was watching a documentary recently and the commentator referred to the Grand Canyon as “a scar that can be seen from outer space.” I thought this use of the word scar was really interesting. Normally when I think of scars I think of something scary or ugly.  But the Grand Canyon is referred to as a “natural wonder” a place to visit and revel in it’s beauty.

I started thinking about my body and all signs of wear and use. The stretch-marks on my arms, breasts, hips, belly. The way my belly sags and my butt jiggles.  The literal scars on my legs, wrists, and hands from falling, cooking, or cutting. All over my body are symbols of the little stories that were made in painful and happy moments. My scars. And I feel some pride in them. My body gave me Hugh and I can use it for good things. My body IS a good thing. It helps me love the people I love. My scars are my medals.

 

Physical Health | Interview with Pauline

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Pauline used to live in my apartment complex and we attended the same church. She moved to South Carolina last year, but people here still talk about her because of the service she rendered. She really inspires me because she is always trying to become a stronger person, both emotionally and physically. I admire that she takes time to take care of her body by exercising and that she has her daughter, Capri, be her workout buddy.  

>>>  What motivates you to exercise? I am motivated to exercise for several reasons; the first reason is I like to exercise for myself. I enjoy getting sweaty and engaging in tough workouts. Second, I want my baby to see me active and have interest in living an active life. Lastly, it is great being involved in physical health as mom because it helps other moms to stay active.

After you had Capri, what made you decide to have her join you? I wanted Capri to join me in my workouts because I hate(d) being away from her. Especially, when I was working in a corporate office, I was nine hours away from Capri. Then if you add going to a gym, that is hour in a half; totaling almost 10 ½ hours away from your kid. Not to mention Capri goes to bed at 7; so I would have only spent 1 ½ hours with Capri that whole day. All in all, it doesn’t make sense to not include your child in your physical activities. When I became a stay at home mom I had/have no one to take Capri to. Even if I did, our budget is limited and a babysitter is not in our financial plans; another reason why Capri is part of my workouts.

What are the challenges of having Capri be with you when you go hiking, and what are some of the ways you make it easier? I rarely have any challenges with Capri during hikes. She is an excellent baby to go hiking with and most babies are; even still as a toddler. The only hard thing is just adapting to her weight. Capri is 2 years old and is weighing 34LBS. Capri does walk but prefers to be in the pack. I have to make sure I fuel myself with the proper foods to ensure I am strong enough to lift myself and her. Also, exercising with a kid you’ve got to come extra prepared with snacks, drinks, diapers, and toys. When we started off Capri normally slept throughout the whole hike. Now, she is awake and when the hikes go longer than an hour she often needs a little toy to keep her occupied.

What does your typical workout routine look like? My workouts are very diverse. When Capri was barely born, it was running with a stroller. Hiking is part of our weekly activity. I will normally choose a hike with a big incline that takes about an hour total. I coach a volleyball team and Capri will come to the 3 hour practices. She will help throw balls into the court for the girls to make a play. She will also collect volleyballs and put them in the ball carts. Also, she loves discovering the gym closet. And again, I have to come prepared with treats, books, coloring books, blankets, and toys. Lastly, I have created a home gym so when I am home lifting weights—I have “weights” for her to lift. She mimics all my moves and I make sure she uses all the types of equipment I use. I have pretend weights and resistant bands that are hers; and she loves it!

Do you have any tips/advice for other women who are struggling with making time for fitness?

5 tips:

1) Make your physical activity part of your daily routine. Just like you brush your teeth every day. Have your workouts part of that routine.

2) Be consistent with your physical activity. I wake up and have a green juice with Capri. We brush our teeth. We put our “sports bra” on, and we exercise. Afterwards, we clean and then the rest of the day belongs to Capri. Capri knows this happens and we never skip a day.

3) Do exercises that you love to do and can do every day. I have done everything and am constantly changing my exercises which keep me interested.

4) Eat healthy. Eating a better diet will help you stay consistent with your daily activity. It is hard to climb a mountain and eat cheese burgers. Eating a stable healthy diet ensures you that you can complete your workout successfully.

5) Surround yourself with Positivity. Be positive that you are making a better lifestyle for yourself and family. Keep your distance from mockers and nay sayers. Negative people will only keep you from accomplishing the desired life you long for.

What do you do if you miss a day? I rarely miss a day. But should I miss a day, I shake it off and start the next day. Don’t focus on what you didn’t do—focus on what you can do and do it. I don’t over work myself if I miss a day. I just do what I would have done in a day’s work out. 

How do you help yourself keep going? I keep myself motivated by keeping it simple. I don’t compare myself to others. I compare myself to myself. I never rely on anything “to start” my fitness goals. If I have eaten wrong or didn’t work out—immediately, when I have notice I haven’t done a workout or eaten well; I stop and just tell myself to eat better now; to work out now. I don’t wait until “Monday” or starting “Next Month”. I begin immediately. Having the idea of not waiting for anything to start living a better life; is empowering and creates more positivity.

Besides working out, what are ways you take care of yourself? I take care of myself by utilizing my friends. I talk to my friends about my goals and any time I feel that I going to break my goals—I call them and ask them for motivation. They will normally say, “Pauline! You got this you can do this, You are disciplined and powerful.” I love having friends that will talk me through my doubt. I also, use social media to post my daily struggles and daily achievements. It feels good to get words of encouragement from my social media friends. Again, I eat healthy and strive to always have vegetables and fruits part of my diet for each meal. Vegetables and fruits are 80% of my diet. Lastly, I am always reading health articles and finding more information on how to take care of myself. It is important to always gain knowledge and learn ways from experts in caring for ourselves.   <<<

I’m really grateful to Pauline for being willing to share her experiences. You can follow Pauline on her Instagram here.