Category: My Life

What I’m Into in December

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December has been a month of great joy and sadness for my family. I love the holiday season, and enjoy spending special times with my extended family. We are happy to have a low-stress Christmas planned this year, with only one short trip to Orange County and the rest of our time spent locally. We also decided to go super simple on gifts this year; we bought a few toys for Cody, a few gifts for ourselves as a family, and we are giving all of our loved ones homemade cookies and eggnog. It’s going to be a long week of baking, but there was no stress about financing our gifting this year, so it’s worth it! We also have an artificial tree, and we decided not to buy any extra decorations this year. Those things have helped us to enjoy Christmas without worrying about money, which is how it should be anyway. We’re able to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ!

We are also excited about our decision to try for another baby, which we were originally planning to postpone until April. Starting in January, I will be back in training as a Christian Life Coach, in the same program I started just before becoming pregnant with Cody. I left the program because I felt too sick and tired from being pregnant and I felt that it was time to focus on the next chapter in my life, parenthood. But now, I feel ready and excited to jump back in, and figure out how to balance parenting and working as a work-at-home mom. I also will be in training to become a Hypnobabies Instructor in April, a dream I have had since using Hypnobabies with Cody’s birth. Because of these career goals, I felt that postponing another pregnancy until after my trainings were finished was best. But after a lot of soul-searching, Cory and I have decided that there is rarely a perfect time to have a baby. But we are ready for baby #2, and we don’t want to wait! That decision has brought us a lot of joy this month, and we’re eager to see our family grow.

Yet this month has also included a lot of stress and sadness over our guinea pig, Charlotte. She had been sick for two months and was deteriorating rapidly over the past few weeks. After losing about a third of her body weight and not responding to three different rounds of antibiotics, along with antihistamines and hand-feeding, we knew that she was not going to recover. We chose to end her suffering and let her go peacefully to sleep. It was heartbreaking, and still is. Some people might think it’s silly to be so upset over a guinea pig, but these creatures have so much personality! She loved to be pet gently and have her back scratched, and would purr and chirp to us. She would wheek for veggies every night, and popcorn around her cage when she was excited about fresh bedding or hay. We adopted her as a 6 week old baby, and she only lived to be 11 months old. We did everything we could to help her get well, but it wasn’t enough, and that hurts my heart.

Because we saw it coming, we decided to adopt a third guinea pig to keep Charlotte’s bonded partner, Penelope, company. Guinea pigs can go through a depression that can be dangerous for their health when they are grieving the loss of a partner. Our new pig, Amelia, will hopefully help Penny have an easier adjustment period. Now that Charlotte is gone, we plan to adopt another pig because we like having a herd of three. It’s been helping me cope with Charlotte’s loss to enjoy baby Amelia, and look for another girl to add to our home. We will always miss Charlotte, but I have peace now knowing that she’s not suffering anymore, and that Penelope and Amelia will continue to live a happy life with us.

December has also brought a golden period for our puppy Lila, who had troublesome behavioral problems for many months since we adopted her back in April. Finally, at 10 months old, she has become a generally well-behaved member of our pack. It’s taken a lot of stress off of us to see that she is doing so well now.

Of course, that stress was replaced by Cody, who has really come into his terrible twos over the past couple of weeks. His tantrums, whining, sensitivity, uncooperativeness, and occasional aggression have been challenging us on a whole new level. We are learning as we go when it comes to parenting and discipline, as this is definitely testing my knowledge and ideals in these areas. As with many (if not all) parents, and especially moms, I am learning firsthand what it means to feel “mommy guilt.” I have to remind myself frequently that I’m not messing everything up or somehow ruining my child, that in fact I am doing a really good job. It’s hard to feel that way sometimes when you have a toddler who acts like a total brat–but then again, all toddlers are this way! It’s a stage of development that they all go through, and it’s not my job to control him or make him act how I want him to. It’s my job to control myself and act with integrity and respect and kindness and love, no matter what my child does. That’s one of the most important lessons I have learned so far as a parent!

Lastly, I had to let go of a short-lived dream I had to make a career out of blogging. After over a month of working hard to gain subscribers, I made absolutely no progress, and decided to go back to blogging for fun. It was disappointing, but I also feel a weight off now that I’ve let it go. I want writing to be free and fun, instead of feeling like I have to jump through hoops to run a blog business.

So that’s it! That’s my month. Here’s what I’m into right now:

What I’m Watching:

Colony – A sci-fi drama about a family struggling to live in an authoritarian state in LA, after an invasion by what I suspect are aliens. There’s a lot of mystery and a dark, thought-provoking plotline. It has one season currently available on Netflix.

Fuller House – A family sitcom created as a continuation of the 90’s show, Full House. It’s light, cute, kid-friendly comedy. It’s a Netflix original, with two seasons currently available.

Designated Survivor – A political thriller about a terrorist attack that wipes out the entire US government and leaves the presidency to the designated survivor, a member of the previous president’s cabinet. The new president, Kirkman, struggles to navigate the political waters without compromising his morals, and must sort through conspiracy theories about the origin of the attack. Episodes are released weekly on Hulu.

This Is Us – A family drama about adult triplets with various struggles, and their family of origin. I love the time jumps, plot twists, and compelling drama. This show addresses some very thought-provoking issues and can be very moving. The pilot is the best pilot episode I have ever seen, hands down. Episodes are released weekly on Hulu.

 

What I’m Reading:

Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices) by Cassandra Clare

This is a book I have wanted to read for a long time, in the same universe as the Mortal Instruments series and the lesser known Infernal Devices series. This is book one of the Dark Artifices series, which will be a trilogy. I love Clare’s books and I’m excited to jump into this one. I just got it from Amazon, but have not yet had time to start reading.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

I read this book as part of my Hypnobabies Instructor education, and it was very enlightening and reignited my passion for childbirth. It’s an amazing book and I would highly recommend it to anybody in the birth world, as well as anyone who is planning to have babies in the near future.

 

What I’m Cooking: (recipes coming soon!)

Chicken Dumpling Stew – oh my yum! I can’t wait to post this recipe. It’s such a good comfort food.

Mashed Potatoes – a holiday staple. My recipe involves bacon grease. Enough said.

Butter Chicken – a very tasty way to cook chicken breasts. And it’s easy!

Brown Sugar Meatloaf – although meatloaf has a bad reputation for some people, the recipe I use is seriously delectable. If I could marry this meatloaf, I probably would. 😛

Run Me Ragged

Boy, it’s been a rough month.

Lately, Cody has been unbelievably cranky and not sleeping well for naps or at night. His naps have been skipped altogether some days, or postponed until late afternoon, or interrupted by multiple awakenings, or just plain short. At night, he has been waking up 4 to 6 times, and nursing almost constantly some nights. I could probably pin the blame for all of these struggles on teething, because those molars STILL haven’t come in, but it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. Then, last week, he caught a cold and had a stuffy nose and a high fever for a few days, which made him even crankier, and of course worried me and Cory—it was his first fever over 100, so it was a bit alarming until we consulted Dr. Google and discovered that it’s a normal symptom of the common cold.

We have also been stressed out about selling our old car, since we got a new one. It took us two months to sell it, even though we considered it to be in very good condition and a relatively “young” car. We loved that car and expected other people to love it too! So it was incredibly frustrating when nobody responded to the ads we posted, and then even more frustrating when people did respond and would come to look at it, say they really liked it, and then disappear. To add to the stress of that, our title was lost in the mail, a fact which we discovered when we were getting ready to sell it. Oh, and our registration was lost in the mail as well. When we tried to get it smogged, I ended up on a wild goose chase driving from store to store trying to find one that was charging a reasonable price and open, to no avail. We groaned more than once about the car seeming cursed, because of all of the stress involved with selling it.

Then for the past three weeks I have had almost no breaks from taking care of Cody, because our weekends have been dedicated to performing a major repair on our trailer (which was also expensive and unbudgeted). Cory spent over 12 hours working on it, as well as the time spent going to the store to buy parts, and bringing the trailer back and forth from storage to our house. My precious mother-in-law also had to cancel her bi-weekly visit a couple of weeks ago (for a very good reason, of course), so I missed out on a much-needed break in the middle of this rough patch.

On top of all that, we were deeply disappointed last week when we found out that we again weren’t receiving something we have been praying and hoping for from God. And after that, we received even more heartbreaking news that the child we have been sponsoring with Compassion International for the past four years, Binit, will no longer be in the program because of political issues happening in India. We have no way to say goodbye to him, and no way to know anything about his life anymore. I am brokenhearted over this boy who once called Cody his little brother in one of his letters, and who we had hoped to be able to visit in person one day. All I can pray now is that Binit is being taken care of and that perhaps someday, somehow, I will be able to hear from him again.

It’s been a physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting month and I’m feeling a little ragged.

But.

God always works bad things out for the good of his children.

Trying to see the positive side of things, I noticed that Cody’s new level of difficulty (like a video game, haha) had inspired me to research and learn more about discipline with toddlers, and then start writing an ebook about positive discipline, which I’m excited about. Cody also recovered easily from his cold, with the help of some children’s ibuprofen as needed, and a few days of rest. We now have “fever management experience” under our parental belts. 😉

The car was perhaps the most interesting part of this whole story. We finally did sell it, to a family of unpaid traveling missionaries. We were able to reduce the asking price and sell it to them for less, as an offering to God, to support the work that they are doing for his kingdom. It turned out that the new amount we asked for, which we needed to pay off a loan of ours, was the exact amount that they could afford without struggling financially. It all worked out really well, and it became clear to us that the car wasn’t selling before because it was being saved for this family. We got the smog, title, and registration figured out with no further issues, too.

When we once again did not receive the thing we have been asking God for for the past 11 months, I felt more disappointed and disillusioned than I have felt in a very long time. I did some whining and griping, and then I did some thinking. I came to realize something that I think may be one of my most important realizations yet about life with God. We don’t have any guarantees in this life, even as believers—what we do have is hope, and more importantly assurance in eternity. We can and should ask and believe for great and limitless things in this life; Jesus said so himself! But his grand statement has a hidden asterisk: God will only act on our behalf when it is within His will. It seems obvious enough that God won’t act outside of his will, but it has taken me a very long time to truly understand what this means. It means sometimes we will ask for something good, but God won’t give it to us, not because he doesn’t want good things for us, but because he has a plan that is somehow better. His plan may not even look better to us, in our human eyes, but God sees into eternity. His ways are higher than ours. And so ultimately, our hope is not in this life, and what God can do for us and with us in this life. Our hope is in eternity.

The beautiful thing about this is that when you put your hope in its proper place, nothing in this world can take it away. I could lose every single thing in this life—my provision, my health, my family, my friends, my comfort, my reputation, or even my life—and I would still have a hope that provides everything I need, because I know that I have an eternity with God in paradise.

Of course, I continue to pray and believe for protection, health, prosperity, and blessings in this life for my family and myself, and I will not stop asking and hoping for God to work here and now. I just know that when he doesn’t act how I want him to, it’s okay. He is God, and he has something better for me ahead, even if it’s all the way at the end of this road, in Heaven.

Right now, I admit that I can’t see what good plan God has for the situation with Binit. Perhaps he’ll use this opportunity to connect us with another child who needs our sponsorship even more than Binit did. I may never really know. But I do have hope that the support we provided for the past several years was enough to effect Binit’s life long term, for the better. And I will continue to pray for this boy who I loved from afar, and who I know God loves and cares for so deeply.

Tomorrow is Friday, and thank the Lord because my mother-in-law is coming out for the day to help with Cody. Then I have a wonderful weekend ahead with plenty of opportunity to rest and refuel. It looks like the rough patch might be over, thankfully.

Even though I haven’t enjoyed these recent struggles, I consider it a milestone for myself because I didn’t sink into a depression despite them, something that usually would have happened. I’ve been stressed, and I’ve had moments of deep sadness, but it never went to that darker level throughout all of this. That’s progress! God is healing me, day by day. <3

A Puppy, Work, and Daily Joy

I shared a few months ago about my struggles with depression, and how motherhood has magnified those struggles. I want to share a little more now about what I’m doing to find joy and contentment in my daily life.

I think, at least for me, a big part of healing from depression is first understanding it better. It has helped me to identify my depression triggers, so that I can know how to handle it when I’m feeling low. My main depression triggers are boredom/monotony, stress, and loneliness/rejection. First, I start to feel depressed when my days feel pointless, long, and unchanging. My second trigger involves the stress that comes from feeling trapped or helpless, such as when I’m dealing with my difficult toddler who I can’t keep happy, facing a financial situation that seems insurmountable, or feeling unable to catch up or stay on top of my responsibilities. The last trigger I have is related to the times in which I feel that I have no close friends, or that my friends don’t care about me. All of these things lead to depression for me, and usually I start to feel better when I make a change, find a solution, adjust my thinking, or refill my social tank.  

There are also ways in which I can avoid my triggers, or at least avoid the negative thinking that they lead to, which would then lead to depression. For the first trigger, boredom, I have found that adding positive responsibilities to my life can help. I’ve accepted a volunteer position at my church as the nursery coordinator, a job which takes a few hours a week to handle. I also have a paid job at my church doing childcare in the nursery once per week, and I volunteer in the nursery with Cory almost every Sunday. We’ve added several pets to our family lately as well. In early March, we got our guinea pigs Charlotte and Penelope, who are doing great and are lots of fun. At the beginning of this month, we decided to adopt a puppy, bringing our dog pack up to three. Her name is Lila, she’s 12 weeks old now, and she’s a Jack Russel Terrier mix. We wanted to have one dog of each size, and Lila is definitely going to make the perfect small dog, since she’s probably going to weigh under 8 pounds full grown. My life is beautifully full right now, in the best way, and staying busy (without being too busy) is very helpful for me.

For the second trigger, stress, I have learned that an attitude adjustment can be extremely helpful. I’m learning to see God more in my work and my daily life. I’ve said before and I’ll say again that I believe I was created to be a mother. I believe God creates each one of us with unique gifts, abilities, and passions that we are intended to use in a particular way for his glory. We were made to do a specific job, or perhaps several, on this earth, and he has equipped us for those jobs. There was a message at church recently that really spoke to me on this topic, and some of the things I learned have helped me to change my perspective in a very positive way.  It was entitled “Work as Worship,” and it was about how we can feel God’s joy, glorify God, and reach others for Jesus all through our work. We can do that by seeing our work as our God-given purpose; by putting our heart into our work and offering our very best to God; by working with integrity; by letting our light shine on others who we encounter through our work; and by remembering to show love and kindness to all of those around us. These attitudes can apply to each of us, no matter what job we have.

Right now my main job is as a stay-at-home mom and homemaker. My job responsibilities include caring for Cody’s needs, teaching him, introducing him to the world, and loving him; they also include caring for our pets, doing laundry, and keeping the house clean and in order. My job involves interaction with other parents and children and employees at stores and other places we go. Of course, most of my interactions are with Cody and Cory. In this job, I feel God’s joy through doing my tasks and doing them well, knowing that they matter to God. I feel purposeful knowing that my interactions with others are opportunities for God to answer prayers and bring hope into people’s lives. Remembering that my job is holy, from folding laundry to managing tantrums to being a friend to other moms, makes the stresses of my job feel less negative and more like opportunities to worship the Lord.

My last trigger, loneliness, is relatively easy to keep under control by keeping my social tank full. I make it a priority to go to a park play group with other moms from my church. I plan playdates with my mom friends. I do my best to be a friend to the people in my life, even when I don’t feel like my efforts are reciprocated, because I know that to have a friend you need to first be a friend. I try to spend time with my family on a regular basis—and for me, there is really no better way to feel loved and wanted than by spending time with the people who I know accept me and care for me no matter what. As for my struggles with rejection, which is tied to my trigger of loneliness, I find healing through Jesus, prayer, and attitude adjustment. I think carefully about when to take a step back and when to not take things personally. I forgive freely. I remind myself that my best friend forever is Jesus, and that any other friends I have, for a season or for life, are added blessings to enjoy without holding on so tight that it hurts me.

Overcoming depression isn’t an overnight or an easy process. My depression ebbs and flows, and in the low points it can feel like I will never escape. Yet during the good times, I remember the truth that I will be completely free one day, whether that’s today or when I get to Heaven. Until then, I am thankful for God’s work in my life to help me understand and manage my triggers. He has shown me ways to find joy in my daily life. Truthfully right now, I feel that I’m in the most joyful place I can ever remember being in. I have a good life that challenges me and gives me purpose, and is full of blessings and opportunities to bless others. Cory and I have thrilling dreams for our future that motivate us forward, and our lives are full of joy for today as well. All of that goodness can only come from God, and I’m so thankful to him for that. He is so good.

P.S. Here are some pictures of Lila. Isn’t she so cute?

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Pig Party

Last week, we were out running errands and we went to Petco to pick up some dog food. We thought it might be fun to show Cody some of the small animals in the cages while we were there. We were looking at the guinea pigs when it happened—I was seized by the sudden urge to get a new pet! This desire was increased by the fact that I find guinea pigs adorable, and the store had two cages full of baby females, which are relatively uncommon as they usually only sell males and they are often adults. I was immediately drawn to a small white and gray one, who I thought was especially cute. I started my appeals to Cory right away, but was met with some pretty firm resistance. I eventually agreed that we should at least take a day to think about it before we bring more pets into our home.

That night, I tried to convince Cory that it was a great idea. He has a tendency at times to be a bit, one might say, “Grinch-y” about things. This was a fine example of such Grinch-ness. He gave me a ton of reasons why it was a bad idea and why we would regret it. I combatted his reasons with my own research into proper guinea pig care and a plan as to how we would fit them into our lives (plural, because guinea pigs are happiest with at least one friend). Still, no matter how convincing I thought I was, Cory was still reluctant. By the end of the night, I was resolved to forgetting about it. Yet I couldn’t quite erase from my mind that little white and gray piggy, who I had already hypothetically named Charlotte.

The next day, the first thing in the morning, Cory asked me where we would put the cage if we got guinea pigs. I broke into a huge smile and shared my ideas for piggy housing with him. And that was it, we decided to go get our furry friends that night!

At the store, we chose Charlotte and another, even smaller guinea who is brown and white, and we named her Penelope. Since the day after we brought them home, they have been happy little critters. I love spending time to make sure they have a really nice home, watching them explore and eat, and taking them out a couple of times each day for petting and snuggles and play outside of the cage. It has actually become a really enjoyable hobby for me to care for them! As soon as Cody goes down for naps and bedtime, it’s guinea pig time, and it gives me something fun and relaxing to do. Even when Cody’s awake, we both like to spend time sitting near their cage and watching them. He’s learning how to pet them gently, too, and respect their space.

They’re super cute, and very sweet little girls. Charlotte, or just Char for short, is more shy but less jumpy, which makes her somewhat easier to pick up since she doesn’t always bother running away. She is quieter, and more subtle with her noises. She is the bigger pig at this point, and has declared herself the alpha. Penelope is more outgoing and will always venture out first when we’re hanging out near the cage. She is fast, though, and runs away when we try to pick her up. Yet as soon as she’s in our lap being petted, she purrs with contentment. She squeaks louder and more often than Charlotte. I predict that once she outgrows Charlotte, or reaches the same size, she will overthrow her as alpha because she seems to have a more naturally dominant personality. We call her Penny for short.

Both pigs are very happy with their new home, which we can tell from the way that they “popcorn,” or run around and hop excitedly, usually on a daily basis. I’d never seen guinea pigs popcorning before we brought these two home! Considering they have a big cage lined with fleece bedding, unlimited hay, several hiding boxes, fresh vegetables served daily, and each other for company, I’m not too surprised that they’re so happy all the time. These are some spoiled cavies! (Cavy is the proper term for a guinea pig).

To sum up, they are super cute and I am enjoying them a lot. Yay for piggies!

Disclaimer: Yes, I realize it is BAD and SHAMEFUL to buy a pet from a pet store when I could have adopted instead. If I hadn’t been so enamored with Charlotte, I probably would have gone out and adopted two piggies from a shelter or a rescue. But I also really wanted babies, because in my small amount of guinea pig experience I have noticed that babies tend to be friendlier, and I wanted to get them used to being held by us from the beginning. Even so, I would strongly recommend anybody who is interested in getting any pet to think ADOPTION FIRST! If we ever add a third guinea pig to our home, which I hope to someday, we will most definitely adopt. It is the more compassionate and ethical decision, no doubt. Despite my decision to buy from a pet store, I am committed to giving these guineas an excellent forever home. At least I can feel good about that. =]

The Dark Side of Motherhood

Mental illness still has a stigma in our society. People who struggle with mental and emotional health problems are seen as crazy, or weak. Their problems may be seen as exaggerated, made up, or “all in your head.” Some people may suggest that these problems, such as depression and anxiety, can be easily solved with a few simple steps. Even the term “mental illness” is loaded. It sounds serious and scary and abnormal.

The reality is that psychological health is not always easy to maintain, and struggling with mental illness doesn’t make a person weak or crazy or strange. It also doesn’t mean that the person needs medication or that they are going to have a mental breakdown and do something extreme, such as harming themselves or others.

I say all of this because I struggle with depression, and I’ve always been uncomfortable sharing that with people. I still am. But I feel that I need to share it, to help other people out there who are struggling, and to make myself feel more normal.

For me, depression and anger have always been related somehow. I didn’t recognize it until recently, but I think I’ve struggled with a come-and-go type of depression for a great deal of my life, and even as a child I had a hard time handling feelings of anger and frustration.

I’ve heard it said that having children can be very cathartic, because it brings to light problems that you haven’t dealt with and forces you to deal with them. For me, this is definitely true. Since Cody was born, my anger problems have been brought to the surface and I have had to really work on learning to manage my anger better. Children can be amazingly aggravating in ways that push you to your very limits, but as a mother, I know that it is my job to act like the adult no matter what my child does. I have to hold myself to a certain standard, and I do not want to be a mom who yells or loses her temper at her children, especially at my baby who doesn’t even know any better.

My depression has also been an increasing problem since Cody’s birth. I read that it can be common for stay-at-home-moms to experience depression, and the reason for this is clear to me; it’s an incredibly difficult job. It is too easy to become isolated, bored, and monotonous. Add that to the likely sleep deprivation that many moms (and sometimes dads) experience, as well as the hormonal changes that come with and after pregnancy and with breastfeeding. Then, throw in a tiny human who can’t communicate properly, refuses to cooperate with naptimes and other necessary activities, throws frequent tantrums, and is constantly demanding things from you. It’s enough to make anybody want to hide under a blanket and drown themselves in a bucket of ice cream.

In my case, I definitely feel the effects of this stressful job, and my depression and anger can be overwhelming at times. I tend to become irritable and snap at the smallest things, I lose my patience with Cody, and I feel trapped and hopeless and just plain sad about life. It’s really the strangest paradox I’ve ever experienced, though, because at the same time that I’m feeling all of that on a regular basis, I also feel the most unbelievable joy over my little boy. I love him in an inexpressible way, and I would never, ever in a billion years want to change the fact that I have him. I also still believe that I was meant to be a mother, and a stay-at-home-mom, and to have several more children after Cody. It’s confusing at times to feel these two seemingly opposite sides of the coin at the same time.

Another interesting part of my mental struggles is that I don’t feel depressed all of the time. I really only feel that way during the work week, when it’s just me and Cody all day. On the weekends when Cory is here to help and we’re all together, I usually feel perfectly content and happy and excited about life. Friday nights usually feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of me. Saturday mornings I get to sleep in and that extra hour or two of sleep does wonders for me. Then of course on Sunday nights, like tonight, I start to dread the week to come.

Even though I feel pretty confident that my feelings of depression are not healthy or normal levels of sadness that should accompany the ups and downs of life, I have never been officially diagnosed with any form of depression. Part of the reason for this is that I have not sought it out. I have seen therapists twice in my adult life, for specific problems that I had at the time, but I haven’t asked to be diagnosed with depression or stayed in therapy long term. Honestly, I didn’t find it very helpful either time, and it was too expensive anyway. Another reason I haven’t been diagnosed is because I feel like I don’t fit into the parameters of what depression and related issues are supposed to look like. For me, it comes and goes on a weekly basis, and I don’t think I usually look depressed. I get out of bed in the morning, go about my day, and even get out of the house on a daily basis. Yet I still feel an overall “down-ness” that is a bit hard to explain.

Right now, I am doing what I can to work out my issues in the best way I can. I have things that I do to help alleviate the difficulties of stay-at-home-mom-hood, and I have tools that I use to handle my anger. I’m finding little things here and there that help me feel better in general, and of course I’m praying for permanent relief from these feelings of depression. I know that ultimately, God is my healer and he can deliver me. Sometimes, he uses medical and professional help to accomplish his healing, and I know that too. It’s something I am open to if it comes to that.

I hope this post is helpful to somebody. I know that I often feel like it has to be a secret, but it really doesn’t. It’s okay to feel the way I feel, and it’s okay to admit that I’m not perfect and that I’m working on it and that more importantly, God’s working on it. He’s always working to heal and improve me. And I know that I’m okay, even if I don’t have it all together.

Life with a High-Need Baby

When Cody was a newborn, he slept a lot and nursed a lot. That was pretty much all he did, and he spent the majority of his time in somebody’s arms, usually either mine or Cory’s. I didn’t consider him any more “high-need” than any other newborn baby would be. From about 2 months and on, though, he’s become a textbook high-need baby. Obviously, all babies have a lot of needs and are demanding, but there are some babies who are even more demanding than others. Dr. Sears describes a high-need baby as one who fits many of the following criteria: intense, hyperactive, draining, feeds frequently, demanding, awakens frequently, unsatisfied, unpredictable, super sensitive, can’t put baby down, not a self soother, and separation sensitive. I wouldn’t describe Cody as intense or hyperactive, but he definitely hits the mark with every other characteristic on that list.

Cody is draining, in that he takes every ounce of my energy and time. He is my job right now, and doing anything else that doesn’t include giving him my full or almost full attention is out of the question. I can’t volunteer at church right now because I can’t leave him, and I’d be too busy holding him to be of any help. I canceled my gym membership because, again, I can’t leave him. I don’t write anymore except when he’s napping, like right now. All of my activities either have to be flexible enough to be put down at a moment’s notice, so I can do them while he’s napping, or they have to include him. By the end of the day, I’m usually drained, especially mentally.

He also feeds frequently, about every hour and a half. This is the best timing for him to stay relatively in a good mood; if I wait longer than that, he gets fussy and when I do feed him, I have so much milk built up that he chokes on it and has a hard time nursing. He’s also uniquely demanding- he doesn’t just sit on my lap or play with his toys, he needs near-constant input from us. We have to change how we hold him every few minutes, change scenery, change activities, etc.

Awakens frequently is a mild way to describe his sleeping habits. Lately, for the past few weeks, he wakes up 6 to 10 (or more) times at night, and I can get him to nurse back to sleep about 75% of the time. The other times I have to put him in his swing, which thankfully works nearly every time. Even so, it’s hard to get a good night’s sleep waking up so frequently!

Unsatisfied means that there are times when nothing I do or Cory does will work to calm Cody down. Sometimes it’s all we can do to just rock him while he cries in our arms, until he falls asleep or something miraculously changes. Unpredictable means that what works to keep Cody happy or get him to sleep changes frequently, and that his schedule is not very consistent. Sometimes he enjoys an activity, other times he doesn’t. Sometimes he takes a 30 minute nap in the afternoon, other times it’s 2 hours or occasionally even longer.

Cody is super-sensitive, especially after his naps and when he’s tired. Loud or unexpected noises startle him and make him cry. He is easily distracted while nursing, and may not be able to concentrate if I’m talking to somebody, or even eating a snack with noisy packaging.

Generally, he needs to be held or within arm’s reach at all times, except when he’s sleeping in his swing. He does not like being put down or left alone for more than a few minutes. He’s not a self soother who can be put to sleep in a crib; even in his swing, he often needs me or Cory to sit next to him and shush him or lay a hand on him until he’s asleep. And lastly, he’s separation sensitive, meaning he needs to be with me or near me, or Cory, almost all of the time.

I share this all with my readers not to complain, but simply to share my experiences as the mother of a high-need baby. Some people may not understand what it’s like, or they may think that we’re overly indulgent parents, but the truth is we are just being the best parents we can be to a baby who needs a lot from us. I think it’s fortunate that Cody was born to us, parents who are willing and able to meet his needs. I came into this adventure with the mindset that I would give everything I have to this baby, and so I was prepared for a high-need child. It’s still hard and tiring, but it’s the best job for me in the world. Meeting Cody’s needs fulfills me and gives me motivation and challenges me. I love it, and I wouldn’t ever trade him for an easier baby.

And on that note, when Cody’s happy, he’s the sweetest and most wonderful baby around. He’s curious, interested in his world, interactive, silly, and so much fun. I take every day with him as it comes, savoring the perfect moments and praying and thanking God for him in the hard moments. He is such a gift, and I love him more than words can express.

Plus, as Cory said the other day, “he’s so cute, I just want to rip my face off!”

Living the Dream

Lately, in the quiet moments of the day, I’m often hit with a wave of gratitude as I realize that I’m living my dream life. When I sit back and look at my life, I’m amazed at how blessed I am. God has been so unbelievably good to me, and I’m so thankful.

Crazy as it may seem, I, like most humans I’m guessing, still often forget to thank God for what he’s done in my life. Something small will go wrong and I’ll get so caught up in it that I lose my attitude of thankfulness and start to complain. My life isn’t perfect, and I don’t expect it to be without challenges, but even in those challenges I want to be thankful for everything good in my life.

Because of that, I made a “Thankful List” that I keep easily visible on my phone. I wanted to take a moment today to share it, and remind my readers to be thankful for the good things in your lives. And in the areas you’re unsatisfied, keep praying!

Here’s my list:

-I have a wonderful, responsible, sweet husband who I love and who loves me
-I have Cody, the best gift ever
-Cory, Cody, and I are alive, healthy, free, and safe
-We have a beautiful house to live in, good food to eat, instant access to clean water, electricity and plumbing, clothes we like to wear, great cars to go places
-I get to be a stay at home mom
-Cory has a job that he likes that can support us
-We have an exciting future ahead of us with more children and big plans
-We get to spend a lot of time together (Cory, Cody, and I)
-Cody sleeps, eats well, and is generally happy; he is healthy, smart, and developing well!
-We have friends and family who we love and who love us
-We have a good church
-We enjoy many things in life
-Most importantly of all, we have an amazing God who loves us, cares for us, and promises us a perfect life with him forever in Heaven!

Dear Breastfeeding, I Love/Hate You

Cody is now almost 11 weeks old, and we’ve established a comfortable routine together. We know when and how to feed, change, sleep, and play, and most of our days go very peacefully. In the beginning, though, breastfeeding was a big problem. Considering that Cody spends a huge amount of his time nursing, our issues with breastfeeding were a daunting challenge.

I wanted to write this post because when I was pregnant, very little was said about the true nature of breastfeeding. Yes, I heard all about the wonderful, magical qualities of breastmilk and the beautiful bonding experience of breastfeeding. I heard about all of the benefits, for example, how it can reduce the risk of certain cancers for mom and how it’s the perfect, natural way to feed a baby. I even took it upon myself to study further, and read books about how to get a good start with breastfeeding. I knew what a good latch looked like and I truly believed that as Dr. Sears and La Leche League assured me, “breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt.”

Well, that’s just plain B.S.

The truth is, breastfeeding almost always hurts in the beginning, and often continues to hurt for months. For all I know, it can continue to hurt for as long as I do it. In my case, I experienced severe pain in the beginning as a result of cracked and bleeding nipples, caused by a “shallow latch” supposedly. I saw a total of three lactation consultants, who helped me marginally, but in the end the only real help was time. By about 6 weeks I was able to nurse without severe pain, although to this day I still wouldn’t call it painless or completely comfortable. It’s more like I’ve developed the ability to ignore the discomfort. Fortunately, I go numb after the first minute of him sucking and then it doesn’t hurt at all. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? 😉

In the beginning I hated breastfeeding. I felt that I’d been misled into believing that it was easy and wonderful, when in reality, it’s kind of terrible at first. Even after the pain in the beginning wasn’t as big of an issue, I struggled with new problems. Cody is an avid nurser, and for the first month or so he wanted to eat pretty much every hour. That was obviously exhausting! Even now he tends to eat every 2 hours, except at night when he thankfully can go up to 5 hours in between nursing sessions. It can be difficult being the only one who can feed him. Then we went through the writhing and yanking stage, where Cody started to wiggle around wildly during nursing sessions for no apparent reason. I eventually discovered that he tends to do this when he’s gassy or when he runs out of milk.

I’ve struggled with other breastfeeding problems not related to Cody’s behavior as well. I experienced engorgement, which is when the breasts fill with milk to the point of being hard and uncomfortable. I still become engorged at night when Cody sleeps longer. I also have had to deal with severe leaking and overactive letdown—in other words, my milk really wants out! For a few weeks, I literally had to wear a prefold diaper in my shirt to soak up all of the milk. Now I’ve discovered disposable pads which are much more comfortable and magically absorbent. Still, it’s annoying to have to wear them all the time, and I have no idea if or when I will ever stop needing them as long as I’m breastfeeding.

So basically, breastfeeding has not been the magical, beautiful experience that I expected it would be. It’s been hard, and I’ve wanted to give up. The truth is, I probably would have given up or at least switched to pumping and bottle feeding if only Cody would take a bottle. He really doesn’t like anything but the boob, though, and that has been a blessing in disguise. Because now, even though it’s still not perfect, I kind of love breastfeeding.

Yes, all of what I’ve said is true and I would never lie and say that breastfeeding is easy or painless. But despite all of that, it’s still pretty awesome.

It’s true that nursing is a wonderful bonding experience. Sometimes when Cody’s nursing, I literally feel the warm loving bonding hormones coursing through me. It’s like a wave of love that I suddenly feel for him, even stronger than usual. It’s also super convenient to always have his food ready to go. I can literally feed him any time, any place. I nurse him in bed every night without having to fully wake up; I can nurse him in the car when we’re out (when we’re parked, of course); I’ve nursed him in a restaurant, at family parties, even on a Disneyland ride. Sure, a bottle could be used in any of those situations with just a little bit more preparation, but there’s something really cool about being able to feed him without any special supplies. All he needs is me!

When I have my next baby (which in case you were wondering, we are not planning to happen for another 3 years or so), I will definitely breastfeed. I will most likely experience all of the pain and new challenges all over again, and I will most likely hate breastfeeding again. But at least now I know that eventually, it does get better. No, it doesn’t happen after the first few days, or even the first few weeks like they say it will. And no, it doesn’t become painless and easy and perfect. But it is worth it!

For now, I plan to continue to breastfeed Cody until he weans himself, which may not be until he’s two years old or even later. I plan to restrict it to only at home once he’s over a year old, and then only at night once he’s over two years old, if it comes to that. I’ll offer him a bottle with breastmilk for as long as he wants. Although some people find it strange or even creepy to breastfeed for that long, I believe that my baby will wean when he’s ready to, and there’s nothing wrong with giving him what he needs to feel secure and to be healthy. If I start to feel uncomfortable with it, then we’ll stop. It’s important that I have boundaries for my own well-being.

Which brings me to another point I wanted to make: breastfeeding is optimal, but it is not the only option. Bottlefeeding breastmilk is not a bad alternative, and even formula feeding is not going to destroy your baby. Formula is not poison. I feel that many breastfeeding advocates have become insensitive to mothers who cannot or choose not to breastfeed, for whatever reason. Yes, breastfeeding is God’s design and it has many benefits, but you know what? God also enabled the invention of the bottle and formula. When you can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, it’s a blessing to have these available. It doesn’t make you a bad mother if you don’t breastfeed.

Knowing that there are mothers out there who are uncomfortable or unhappy with breastfeeding or who have struggles that they cannot overcome makes me feel thankful that I have the privilege of feeding Cody this way. It’s not for everybody, and not everybody can do it, which is why even though it’s challenging in many ways, I am grateful for it. Breastfeeding is hard, but it’s also one of the best things I’ve ever done.

A Cruise, a Baby Bump, and Kicks from Cody

Hey readers, it’s time for an update!

Over the past 6 weeks, I’ve been feeling much better and starting to enjoy my pregnancy more. Starting around 16 weeks pregnant, I began to feel Cody moving around in my belly, an experience known as “quickening.” Though at the time I wasn’t confident about what exactly I was feeling, I’m now familiar enough with the sensation to know that it’s Cody practicing his wiggles, somersaults, kicks, punches, and stretches!

Then, last week, Cory and I went on our babymoon vacation, a 5-day cruise in the Caribbean. My appetite had returned with enthusiasm by that point, so I was able to enjoy the plentiful food available on the ship. As a result, I gained about 4 pounds (which is a lot for me, for just one week!) and filled out a bit more. Although some women dislike the idea of gaining weight during pregnancy, I’ve always been criticized for being too thin, so gaining weight is actually something I celebrate. Even though I know my natural build is perfectly healthy for me, it’s nice to be able to prove that I can gain weight just like anybody else, when I’m growing a baby.

Now that I’m looking more and more pregnant every day, things are feeling even more exciting! It’s such a crazy experience to look in the mirror and see my shape changing so dramatically. Goodbye waistline, hello baby bump! Cory’s equally amazed to see my belly growing, the proof that his son really is in there. Not only that, but last week Cory and I experienced perhaps one of the most thrilling parts of pregnancy so far—feeling Cody kick from the outside! I was resting my hand on my belly after feeling the baby wriggling around in there, and suddenly felt an unmistakable nudge against my hand. It took my breath away, and still does every time I feel it! Cory has been able to feel a few nudges, too. Right now, it’s harder for him because he can’t feel Cody moving like I can and know when to put his hand on my belly, plus his hand is warmer than mine and it seems to put Cody to sleep whenever he holds his hand there. Soon, though, little Cody’s kicks and punches will be stronger and I know that his dad will be able to feel them more easily.

In other news, I’m now two days away from reaching 20 weeks pregnant, which is the halfway mark! The first half of my pregnancy has seemed to pass quickly, yet so very slowly at the same time. Honestly, looking back I’m sure I’ll feel that pregnancy flew by, but in the middle of it, it feels like a lot of waiting. What a process making a person is! At the same time, it’s mind-boggling that God can create a whole human life from two single cells, in just 9 months. A miracle, indeed!

My main job right now is, of course, growing Cody. Since that doesn’t take a whole lot of conscious thought, however, I’ve found myself left with a lot of free time. I’m spending this time enjoying it while I can, since I know that once the baby’s born, it will be a rare commodity. I’m also trying to keep busy and productive by doing more things outside of the house. I’ve gotten involved serving in my church’s nursery, started doing a weekly book club with some of my Godly women mentors, and began taking karate lessons with Cory twice a week. It feels good to have things going on in my life to keep me motivated. It’s also nice to still have a lot of time to just relax, read, write, and enjoy the quiet spring/summer days at home while I can. Life is good!

Lastly, I’ve attached some photos from our babymoon cruise below. After taking a red-eye flight and grabbing a few hours of sleep at a hotel, we boarded the cruise ship in Miami, Florida, and spent the rest of that day and the next at sea, on our way to the first destination. We sailed to Grand Turk, in the Turks and Caicos Islands, where we enjoyed the beach, fed stray dogs, and went on a semi-sub tour of the coral reefs. Next we visited Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, a private island owned by the cruise line. There we enjoyed relaxing on the picturesque beach and floating in the crystal clear water. Then we sailed to Nassau, in the Bahamas, and took an excursion to a private beach in order to avoid the craziness of the urban tourist-y areas. Finally, we sailed back to Miami, where we went on an airboat tour of the everglades and spotted a few alligators. Overall, we had a very relaxing and mellow trip, which is just what we wanted. It was truly a blessing from God, and we have memories we’ll always treasure.

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