Our Whirlwind

The last four months have been crazy busy and we’ve decided we may never have a boring year ever again. When Kenny and I got married we just bought our first home, I was starting my first teaching job, and Kenny was starting back at school to finish his degree in business. Now, fast forward almost five years later, we sold our condo and bought our first home {stay tuned for a before and after post in mid-August—we should finally be done by then!}, we have a busy young toddler, I am continuing my work as an 8th grade Social Studies teacher, and Kenny will be graduating with a degree in HR and business leadership in December. We thought at some point (even hoped) we would have a boring year. Pretty sure that will never happen now.

In January we decided to put our condo on the market. In about a week after putting it on the market we sold. Shortly after we were able to place our own offer on our first single family home, a place we could grow in, make our own, and spend many years as a family. It was a home built in 1980, large, nice lot, full of potential, but it needed some work.

Last weekend in March we moved from the condo into my parents house for a month while a wall was taken down, dry wall put up, new floors were installed, paint was applied in all interior areas, new counters and tile work in kitchen and bathrooms, all while we were continuing work and school. Whew! Even that long sentence has me tired.

The last four months were busy and exhausting, with moving twice (out and in to my parents, and then out of my parents’ house and into our new house once the interior was complete), finishing my fifth school year, going through the sudden loss of Kenny’s best friend, Kenny finishing his third to last term of school and starting a new job in his line of work, and the stomach flu wrecking havoc on all of us soon after we moved into the new house. We needed a break or a vacation from life following those crazy, hectic months.

In fact, we were starting to talk about either a couple’s vacation or a family vacation, just so we could hit “refresh.” The other topic between Kenny and I, now that we had the living space, was to start planning for a second baby. Now, we didn’t know when it was going to happen, but we thought this summer was a good time to start trying because it would be great to have the kids two to three years apart. When we got pregnant with K.C. it happened almost right away, so we thought that could happen or it may not. We were not going to stress about it and just go with the flow and see what happens.

So it was the first of July and I was about to go to the store. A pregnancy test was on my grocery list, just to have available in the house for when the time arose. I had a box of two remaining pregnancy tests from awhile ago when we thought we had a “false alarm,” so I just decided to take it, since I was going to buy more. We just started actively trying so I didn’t think anything of it. Kenny and I were both surprised to see “pregnant” show up on the test. “Whoa! That happened fast!” was our thought.

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetOn Monday the 3rd, I called to make a doctor’s appointment. Tuesday the 4th I went in for a blood test. Results, positive. Friday, July 7th, I had my first OB appointment. The doctor and myself were thinking I was in the early stages, maybe six or eight weeks pregnant. We were both surprised when I had my ultrasound and we did not see a little bean, but a full baby with limbs, a body, and a profile. I was 14 or 15 weeks pregnant!!!! How in the world did that happen?! That means over the last four months of all that craziness I was pregnant!

I had to think back over those months. Yes, I had some symptoms, but I equated it to stress. I was tired, I occasionally had a queasy stomach, I had some spotting, I had a couple evenings were I puked, but all of it I thought was stress, anxiety, life, something I ate. I was even thinking at the start of summer I needed a cleanse so I could feel better after the last crazy months. I had no idea that during that time I was pregnant!

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Left: 13 weeks pregnant with K.C. this time two years ago; Right: 15 weeks pregnant with baby #2

As soon as we found out I was pregnant my baby bump started to show, and show fast! Over the last couple weeks I’ve had ultrasounds to measure and date my pregnancy, blood tests (so many! to play catch up since the first trimester was already done), and just last night we had our gender reveal.Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

IMG_0483The next five months are only about to get crazier as we prepare for baby #2, finish up the last projects on the house, and just as baby is due, Kenny will be completing his final term. Hopefully we will have some normalcy in our future, but I doubt it. I think we are bound to have a life that is never dull. There will always be something going on with the Strands.IMG_0486

My Postpartum Depression

Sixteen months after the birth of my son and I finally feel my mental health returning. It was like I had been split in two less than 24 hour after the birth of my son and over the past few months through recovery, therapy, and treatment I have been gradually stitched back together. It is only now that I feel stitches dissolve and I am 90% healed. The scar, however, will remain and be a part of me and may even return with future births, but I accept that reality.

May is Postpartum Awareness month and having been one of the 90% of women who experience postpartum mental health issues (“baby blues” and postpartum mental health disorders), I finally feel comfortable enough and compelled to share my story.

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If you read K.C.’s birth story then a few things may stand out to you as impacts on my mental health. K.C. was three weeks early. I thought I was mentally prepared for his arrival, but in many ways I was experiencing denial and feeling almost detached from the birth process. Do not get me wrong, my husband and I were so excited for his arrival and I was emotionally invested as soon as he arrived and I saw his little cherub lips and big blue eyes. But the experience that followed in the hospital with K.C. struggling with jaundice, losing weight, and doing physical therapy to learn to suckle, and many tears (both his and mine) was my “trauma.” I have always been someone who struggles with anxiety and I have dealt with depression before, but this was a whole new bag when someone depends on you and your hormones are going haywire.

The days and weeks following K.C.’s birth seem to all blend together until one pivotal moment. I was sad, anxious, exhausted beyond belief, struggling to bond with my son, feeling like I had to provide everything for my son, but knowing I couldn’t or I was unable to. My husband, our parents, my whole support system was there to help, but I either refused their help because I had this instinctual urge to take care of him or I would get mad that they were ordering me to bed and then sad that they got to feed him and I was struggling to breastfeed.

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I was exhausted, couldn’t stop crying, wanting desperately to take care of my son and to be able to bond with him like I wanted to, and Kenny, unbeknownst to me, called my mom to come over. K.C. by this point was 39 weeks gestation/2 weeks old. We were just getting breastfeeding down. I couldn’t remember the last time I showered. My mom helped me shower. Bathed K.C. Brought me tea. Put me in bed with the baby to nurse and ordered me to sleep. I was still struggling to bond. I denied that I was struggling with depression and that I didn’t feel the bond a mother should feel. I needed a band-aide just to find the “reset” button.

My band-aide couldn’t come soon enough and it came in the form of good friends. Friends who came miles away to meet K.C., lend me a hand, take me out of the house (which I hadn’t done since his birth), and helped me start to feel human again. I didn’t share with them what I was going through or feeling. I just wanted some normalcy and at the time ignore the issue. Even at my 4 week postpartum appointment I said I was feeling fine. I marked my postpartum survey with mostly 8s and 10s. I didn’t have a problem. It was just the “baby blues” and I was over it. At least, that is what I thought…

In the weeks to come I had mood swings, random cries and spurts of anxiety that I could not explain. At times I felt like I was going crazy. I was going to have to go back to work soon. My mood swings accompanying by stress of new parents, were causing problems with my relationship with my husband and my over-all ability to function. We both knew I needed to see someone. With some advice from an other mom who experienced this and encouragement from my husband, I set up an appointment to meet with a postpartum mental health specialist.

Going back to work was the hardest. I went back before I was healed, physically and mentally. I struggled with sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression and I was expected to function at my job?! There was no way I could perform my best. I felt guilty. My students weren’t getting the best version of their teacher. My husband wasn’t getting all that he needed from his wife. My baby was only getting 25% of his mother (any energy I had during the day went toward my students—another reason to feel guilty). I cried every morning going to work and often time cried at work. I combatted panic attacks with my “five senses” exercise my therapist was having me do whenever I felt one coming on (daily). Sometimes it worked and I only had to do it once in awhile. Other days I was doing it every five minutes to stay sane. Some days it wasn’t helping at all and I couldn’t even get out the door.

Every time I thought I was getting better I had a setback. It always seemed like two steps forward, one step back. The summer break was healing. I went to my therapy sessions regularly, I checked-in with my self at least once a day, I spent as much time with my son (by this point we had bonded and we’re growing more and more in love with each other) and husband as possible. I thought I was completely healed. Then had to go back to work in the fall. It was like a dozen steps back and I had to start over again. I couldn’t meet with my therapist because her work hours were my work hours. We had a few phone sessions, but it was never enough. Then I had a panic attack at work. I sequestered myself in my admin’s office unable to breath and stop the tears. I was overwhelmed. I was frustrated. I felt like the world is pilling on top of me. I missed my son. I was in her office for two hours unable to calm down enough to go back to my classroom, so I was excused to go home.

This was a wakeup call for me. My family depended on my health and my ability to work. I needed to get it together, but I also needed to stop ignoring or “faking” that I was ok. I wasn’t ok. Giving myself permission to “not be ok” and accept that I was dealing with postpartum depression (and that my depression wasn’t me, that it was something happening to me—a separate entity from me), that I wasn’t alone, that if I just asked I could get support from all areas of my life. I also found homeopathic remedies to help: Holy Basil, essential oils, and most importantly sleep and mental health days/breaks. I needed to help myself heal and allow myself heal. I couldn’t ignore it or “fake it to make it.” I faced it head on and became more proactive about my health. I allowed myself to take breaks. I needed it. My family needed it. My job needed it. Everything was going to be ok.

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It wasn’t until this moment where I really stopped denying what was going on. I worked through the “trauma” of the early days of new parenthood. I accepted it. This was my truth. I was a new mother with postpartum depression and I needed to let myself heal. This has been a gradual process for me. I am realizing how much birth takes a toll on your physical and mental health. It took me at least six months for my body to feel normal again after birth. But it has taken my brain and my hormones sixteen months to return to normalcy.

Just as some of your child’s DNA remains inside of you after their birth altering your very state forever, postpartum depression changed me into a woman who is surprisingly stronger than I thought I was.

My hope is to bring more awareness to the mental and emotional turmoil postpartum can create. This is not something to be pushed under the rug, whispered about, or ignored (I wanted and did do all of these things), but that we bring PPD to light in our health care arena so more women with PPD and PMD can be diagnosed early and treated. If you are reading this and have experienced postpartum depression you are not alone. We all experience it differently and at varying levels. There are so many resources. Hopefully my story can help encourage someone to get the help they need to heal, but we most definitely cannot do it alone. Our babies and our families depend on it.

 

Our 3rd Anniversary Staycation

We could hardly believe it has already been three years since we wed. It still feels like yesterday when we first said “I do,” but I can honestly say I love Kenny even more today than I did when we married. Kenny has been so awesome during the pregnancy: rubbing my feet and stomach when I wasn’t feeling well, showing understanding when I am highly emotional, & making late-night runs for my most recent craving. I feel so blessed to be going through our pregnancy together. We are a team and I could never do this without my teammate.

To celebrate our third anniversary we decided on a staycation. We originally planned to go to the beach over our anniversary weekend, but (with my pregnancy brain) I waited too long to book the room, leaving us to venture out in our own town & save the beach for a later date.

Day One: Portland Japanese Garden & Brazil Grill

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Day Two: Babies R Us & Oregon Zoo

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Day Three: Ponzi Vineyard & Cruise in Country Diner (cruising through the country day)

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Day Four (August 10th, Our Anniversary): Dinner at The Chart House

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A week later we finally were able to go on our beach trip & the time was rejuvenating & allowing us to reconnect. About three years ago this time we were enjoying honeymooning on another beach in Hawaii.

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Love to the moon & back. Jennifer.