Monday, February 27, 2012

The Choice to Stay

For a long time I wasn't sure how to start this post.  Or if I should write this post.  Recently, one of my favorite blogs posted: The Mommyland Guide for a Marriage that Doesn't suck Gonads.  I read it and I even contributed a comment during their earlier post that was collecting advice.  Not because I am an expert, and certainly not because I have been married long but I had recieved some good advice once too and I wanted to share.

Blogging for me has been therapy.  I re-read my own posts all the time, its my equivalent of shouting it off the mountain tops.  Blogging helps me get it off my chest and express my true feelings so that I can deal with them.  I can't tell you how rewarding it is to feel supported by friends and family and I enjoy the advice and suggestions I have gotten from others who read what I wrote and say "been there, felt the same way".  It honestly makes me feel better to put my feelings out there and know that others can relate.  So, knowing that this is my own therapy and that I often share absolutely everything going on with me I have a big topic to cover today. 

Sometimes marriage sucks.
There are days when I would rather throat punch my husband than be married for one more day.
I have times when I am engulfed with regret and I am unhappy in my commitment to my husband.
There are moments when I just want to walk away, get out, and not come back.
Screw the consequences, I have thought of ending the relationship.

I have had a lot of these days lately.

I'm not going to go into the details of what has been going on with us, because honestly its not a simple thing.  There isn't even one clear problem to address.  I can pretty much sum it up by saying that when life changes or when people change it can be hard to accept those changes.  There are hard moments when people don't live up to your expectations, when life is different than I thought it would be, when it becomes really  hard to live every day with someone when I am mad, frustrated and very sleep deprived.   There are clear times when he is wrong, wrong, wrong and I feel right, right, right.  Feelings are hurt, score is kept, words that cannot be unsaid are spoken, and damage is done.  It can feel like I am banging my head against a wall and he just doesn't understand.  And more often than not, the messiness of relationships can make it feel easier to just end it all rather than try to untangle the emotions and decisions that got me to where I find myself today.

I have had more than a few friends who have walked away from marriages after only a year or two.  When I was first married this was such a perplexing thing to me - how could they do that?  They had barely given the relationship a chance and they were already divorcing?  I was shocked, and couldn't understand how something had gone bad so quickly.  Now, I get it.  There are times when it can be VERY HARD to keep loving, to keep working, and to keep choosing to stay together.  It wasn't so much that they had chosen to separate, it was that they had stop making the choice to work to stay together. When people told me a marriage takes work, what I now know that to mean: marriage takes work in order stay committed even when it's easier to go.

This post isn't about lining out all the reasons why I have struggled for the past few months.  If I wanted to, I could tell you all the ways my husband has been "wrong" lately.  I have a list of all his sins from the day we met that I could pull from, and believe me the list is long.  I could make a very compelling case for why it would be OK for me to leave.  But my transgressions are not absent from my relationship either.  Over a couple of beers I am sure my husband could point out a few of my flaws as well, maybe more than a few.  It's never completely one person's fault is it?  It's never black and white.  I am not the perfect wife, and my husband is not the perfect husband.  If we both started throwing stones, it would take a long time to be done with that petty war.

If I am completely honest I can acknowledge that I have not been very happy.  That statement alone was hard to admit.  This isn't about my hormones, or lack of sleep, or getting on medication to make me feel better.  This is about admitting there are things in my life that I struggle with.  There have been moments where the miles between me and my family seemed to have swallowed me up.  I have struggled with finding the energy to deal with my own frustrations and anger when all my enthusiasm is given to taking care of my new daughter.  I have found it easier to slip into anger and blame than to deal with the actual problems.  I have accused more than I have taken responsibility.  I have yelled more than I have prayed.  I have pointed the finger more than I have asked forgiveness.  I have not been blameless but I have been fast to point out errors.  I have asked for consideration for my own feelings but not understood his. 

I  can recall the day early in our relationship when we faced a fork in the road.  We had been dating for about 8 months, and I knew I loved him.  As I began my final year in graduate school it was time to begin my job search and choose my next step that would likely take me far from this small Oklahoma town.  Chet and I met for a date at the lake to grill dinner and I knew the conversation that would address our future was going to happen.  I thought for sure that when I laid it all out for him, he would walk away.  I told him in no uncertain terms that I was not willing to limit my job search and professional career just because we were dating.  It was time for us to move forward and get serious or to go our own ways. Though I expected a break up that day, Chet surprised me.  He told me he saw a future together.  He told me he was already serious.  A couple months later we were engaged and 3 weeks after I graduated we were married on a sunny beach in Jamaica.

That day at the lake I saw one path turn away from Chet and toward a limitless career and new direction and one path firmly planted in Oklahoma soil with Chet by my side.  I knew I had two options that meant two very different things and I made a choice.  I choose the path with Chet.  That decision meant I choose lots of other things too, things that are hard to accept some days.  Things like being far from family, accepting a very limited job pool and career path, and a permanent home in a state that will never completely feel like home.  I didn't think about the consequences of that decision, though they were not all bad, there were many dominoes that fell after making that choice to take the path with Chet.
The choice to be with Chet also meant I would feel moments of enormous homesickness, for which the only cure I have found is detailed early planning for future trips home (yes, this is why I am always talking about my next trip to PA or vacation plans).
The choice to be with Chet meant I could start the family I had always dreamed of but it also meant my family would only get to see my daughter a couple times a year.
The choice to be with Chet meant I lived the life of a police officer's wife of worry and sacrifice.
The choice to be with Chet meant he could always make me laugh but also cut me down with his jokes.
The choice to be with Chet meant we lived on salaries in low paying careers.

Some of those choices were harder to live with than others, and some days I was resentful of the things I gave up and have to live with every day just because of one decision I had made.   Worst of all, some days that choice felt like a mistake because I felt entitled to a different situation, a better paycheck and a more understanding and loving husband. 

In our lowest low, the conversation that finally got to the bottom of it all, I oddly found myself calm.  We were facing another fork in the road.  One path lead away from my marriage, that freed my feet from red dirt soil and opened new job prospects and zip codes.  The other path meant I was going to need to fight to keep my family together and reconfirm my commitment to stay and work through a hard, unhappy time in my life.  I won't lie and say it was an easy choice.  It can be very appealing to think that it would be easier to walk away, start fresh with things I thought I really wanted in my life.  Its easy to think that I would find happiness in a different situation and justify quitting the relationship was OK if it meant I would be happy elsewhere.  It was much harder to face the problems we both were offering and chose to live up to the vows we made.  Hadn't I promised to stay in sickness and health, in good times and bad and in joy or sorrow?  Perhaps, for the second time, my relationship surprised me.  We both choose to stay, to try and help each other better understand and to find ways to heal and be better spouses.

One of the bits of advice a reader provided to the Rants from Mommyland post about marriage advice was a story her grandmother told her.  She said in 50 years of marriage she had been happy for 45 years.  That meant there were weeks or months, even one stretch of 2 years, that she was unhappy with her husband.  But she stayed in the relationship despite that unhappy time and it led to much more happiness, a lifetime of happiness in fact.  When you think of it like that, aren't short times of unhappiness worth 10x as much happiness? Doesn't enduring a time of challenge help you find a path to happiness?  Relationships grow stronger when they survive hardship, they become better when they overcome problems. 

This past week has been rewarding.  I found myself laughing and playing with my husband and really enjoying the time together.  Last week when we had a minor tiff, we both handled it differently and I was so thankful for the change.  To expect the problems to simply disappear would have been stupid, to expect them to disappear without making changes would be even more stupid.  Did you know the definition of insanity is repeating the same action over and over again, expecting a new outcome?  So, if I want something to change and get better, part of that change needed to come from me.  Even better when as a husband and wife, it can come from us both.  We are not fixed, I still struggle but I am coming to terms that leaving is just not an option.  That my happiness comes from within myself, not by finding the perfect relationship or situation.  I falter, I fall but I keep my promise. 

I wish as a society, more people would try this approach.  I believe that in most circumstances, divorce is not the right option and people say "We wanted different things" or "We didn't make each other happy" in order to justify decisions that defy what God wants in marriage.  I could have said both of those things in the past six months and it would have been true but it wouldn't have made leaving the right thing to do.  I could make plenty of excuses to chose divorce but I'm not because I want to be a better wife even if it means times of unhappiness or problems.  I want to be a more Godly person so I can role model sacrifice and dedication to my daughter.  I want to build a stronger marriage and a deeper love by working through a time when leaving was a very real option and staying meant a lot of work.  I certainly didn't stay because it was the easy choice, but it was the choice I can be proud of.  In a society where divorce is so common people don't blink an eye, I want to be different.  I want to be honest about this time of trial but also to lean on my decision to stay committed to my husband and follow the Lord.  I made a choice that will continue the fall of dominoes in my life in the future; some I will like, and some that I will not.

An article my pastor shared with me this week was a great read on this topic : Should I divorce if I am miserable? 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy 6 Months Reagan!

It has been a whirlwind these past six months.  Part of me cannot seem to fathom the reality that I've been a mom for six months already.  I recently spent some time putting together the video below and though my video skills are somewhat lacking (I'm learning!) I had a great time looking over the past six months of shots we took of the baby.  Boy has she grown!  But despite my imperfect videos, and life for that matter, I am a happy Mommy and I love my little family!

 So to commemorate this milestone I thought I would put together a list of my highs and lows.

Lets start with the LOWS...
Without a doubt there are two clear lows for me.  The first was my c-section.  I was not anticipating that surgery or recovery and therefore I felt completely unprepared for the first two weeks with Reagan.  I was in a lot of pain, couldn't use narcotics (due to allergies) and did not mentally or emotional expect my body to feel like it does after a major surgery like that.  It was rough, and perhaps even worse for me is the dread knowing that all of my future children will likely be delivered the same way.  I know its crazy, and I just need to get over it because it all worked out fine, but I was really looking forward to pushing and having someone hand me the baby.  I had this idea of what her birth would be like, and basically it didn't even remotely happen that way.  Instead it was a much more "medical" experience and I was heavily drugged during the labor and delivery.  I was hardly able to stay awake for my c-section due to my blood pressure medicine and my memories from her birthday are quite foggy.  It was one of those somewhat scary birth stories and I wish things had gone differently.  Emergency induction due to pre-clamsia - 12 labor with lots of pain and no progress - last minute c-section - but a healthy baby girl!

The second is Reagan's sleep struggles these past two months.  It seems that she has settled into a much better routine now but for a while there I was having a very hard time.  Sleep deprivation is no joke and I really struggled with bad moods, exhaustion, and juggling my roles at being a mom, wife and career coordinator.  When too much is on my plate I tend to feel like I do nothing well and I wanted to do better.  Thanks to a lot of support from friends and family, I was able to stay on my feet and now things have found a better grove for me.   She has been doing much better lately and I feel fresh from coming off a great weekend.

Beside some serious sticker shock over baby supplies, those are the only real lows.  Honestly, that isn't so bad.  No one can predict births and all babies cause their parents to lose sleep so these bumps are normal.  In retrospect, I have it pretty darn good.  

Now on to the HIGHS...
Perhaps its goes without saying but my highest high is just being a Mom.  Though it is not without its difficulties, I do love being a parent.  If you aren't one yet, there is no simple way to describe it but it is immensely rewarding and I have more love in my heart for that child then I ever thought possible!  Knowing fully well this next statement is biased, I have a beautiful baby!  Those rosy cheeks, big smile and happy disposition make her a joy to be around.  Even though she looks just like her Dad, I adore my pretty little girl!

A major high for me is when Reagan laughs at me!  It is completely contagious and I will do pretty much anything to get a giggle from that baby girl!  People always tell me she is great for smiling in pictures and while this is true, it is more accurate to say that girl is always smiling! She is for the most part, a very happy baby.  This is a true blessing, and I love to sing, play and be silly with her. 

One of my greatest highs was this past weekend.  It was one of those rare times when I felt I had my act together and I was somehow able to get a nap, check things off my to do list, and spend some real quality time with my family.  I filled my freezer with homemade baby food, made a great meal for Chet and I, took Reagan to the park and had a great time!   One of my greatest struggles has been feeling like I am accomplishing all I should, and this weekend was a success.  It really lifts my spirits to know I can do the things I want and find satisfaction in them.  I did however miss Church this Sunday, but my mom sent me a mother's devotional bible and I was able to read the first few pages. 

I guess I have realized I am not seeking a perfect life.  I have found joy in the imperfections, and my expectations have changed.  If these past six months have taught me anything it's that life can change, your plans and budget can go right out the window and happiness is still there.  I don't live a glamorous life style, I don't have much money but I have true happiness and wealth in my life.  I am learning and growing through it all and learning to laugh at the things that used to stress me out.  The biggest thing I am learning, is how your marriage needs to grow and change too.  Becoming a parent really affects your relationship and working on continuing to love can be hard too.  So despite my failures, my horrible days and tears, I am still finding all these amazing things.  There is just too much to look forward to that I don't want to waste time regretting the past. 

So cheers to six months Reagan.  Here is to many more happy moments to come.  Mommy loves you!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Stuff New Moms Say

Ok, Ok, Ok... I know it's been done already but I had to laugh at this video.  Sh*t new Moms Say
And I completely agree with the "Is that normal?" and "I need some help!" examples, I have said that a bunch.  But there are a few more I would like to add to the list.  If I had a dime for everytime I said these phrases I could afford a "Manny".

Stuff this new Mom says:
Why are you crying? 
Why are you whining?
What does that face mean?
What is that smell?
You're hungry... again?!?!
Don't pull Mommy's hair!
That is not for babies!
Where is your father?
Chet, YOUR daughter wants you.
Good grief, why do you look so much like your dad!
You're making a mess!
Stop crying, you're fine.
Child, you do not need to be held every minute of the day!
Does she feel hot to you?
Should I call the doctor?
Should I call my mom?
Where did I put your nuk?
Quick give me the spit rag!
Stop dropping your toys!
Why are you awake again?
Reagan, do you know what TIME IT IS?!?!
That costs HOW MUCH???
How can we be out of diapers/wipes/formula so fast?
Hold on, I have to go pump.
Hold on, I have to feed her first.
Hold on, she needs a diaper change.
When did you change her last?
Did she burp?
Did she poop?
Did she sleep?
Ug kid, just tell me what the problem is!

Comments from Chet:
Isn't it time for you to get a job kid?
Andrea, She wants you.
Should I be concerned that she likes to be naked so much?
Give me a kiss.  No, no, not with your mouth OPEN!
Wow Reagan, that is a particularly high pitch singing voice you have there. 
Hey, quit, quit.  (A Dad's version of shhhh, shhhh)
(Poking me because I am ignoring the baby crying on the monitor) Andrea, the baby is awake.
Here, take her. She is crying/hungry/stinky/tired.
(Chet farts) Reagan, that was not very lady like.
(Chet burps) Reagan, that was not very lady like.  
Hey there mini Me!
Where is my clone?
(and my favorite) Reagan, shhh Swamp People is on!

It is worth every minute when you see them learn new things or smile at you!  Last night Reagan discovered splashing in the tub!  Forgive my "baby talk" on the video - guess I have to work on that!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Who needs sleep anyway? Oh right, I do...

I am working my way through a stage with Reagan that I would like to call "broken sleep".  I call it that because it's not that Reagan is hard to put down at night, or that she doesn't spend most of the night actually sleeping. The problem at our house is that she doesn't like to STAY ASLEEP.
Before Christmas vacation (read: when the bags under my eyes were not this particular shade of purple) Reagan was a great sleeper.  She napped like a pro, went down without a fuss, and only woke once to eat around 4:30 am and then right back to sleep she went, until I woke her at 7 am to get ready for the day.  When she was very little she got swaddled at night and then when the winter weather turned cooler, we switched from the swaddle blanket to a sleep sack.  It didn't seem to matter to her, she did fine with both.  We occasionally had a bad night where she would get up several times, but they were few and far between.  And she was always great about going back to sleep quickly after a few pats on the butt or a couple minutes snuggled with me in the rocking chair.  She even slept completely through the night a couple of times.  It was great.  I had been back to work for a couple months and things were going ok.  I didn't know how good I had it.

Catching up on Zzzz's during the weekend
Flash forward 8 weeks till now:  that dang kid wakes up every few hours ALL NIGHT LONG.  At first I thought it was a fluke because we had traveled to PA for the holiday and I figured the new place and time change had thrown her off her grove.  I got up with her several times a night while staying at my mom's, she was sleeping in a bassinet beside my bed so I didn't have much choice when she started fussing.  I would feed her once or twice a night and rock her back to sleep a couple more or at least put her nuk back in.  The third, fourth or fifth time I was getting up to get her I would finally give in and let her sleep with me. Luckily, during the time off I was also able to nap or sleep in a little bit in the morning with her.  I was thankful to have the help of family, and thought she would settle into her old routine when we came back to Oklahoma.  Silly Mommy, the worst was yet to come. 

When we got back to Oklahoma I tried to get her to return to her old schedule.  She wasn't having any part of it.  Growth spurt perhaps?  I tried to feed her more during the day and we introduced cereal to try and help.  I even started giving her a bottle of formula as her last feeding of the day because I realized my milk supply was very low after 8 pm.  AH HA!  This must be the problem, she is hungry!  So hoping that a full formula bottle would fill her up and last longer in her belly we tried it.  It worked for two nights, then she was back to getting up and crying throughout the night.

It's all a big crap shoot, but I think she cried sometimes because she had spit out her nuk and wanted it.  Most of my trips to her crib side all I had to do was put it back in her mouth, give her a couple pats on the bottom and she went right back to sleep.  Sometimes I think she woke because she was hungry and I would nurse her.  Sometimes I think she cried because she woke up alone in a big crib and wanted to know where I was.  Sometimes I think she woke up because her teeth hurt.  Sometimes I think she woke up because she felt it was her job to test the limits of my sanity. 
I sought advice, and I got lots.  Someone suggested returning to the swaddle.  So I purchased two new swaddle blankets (forget trying to just wrap her in a blanket - kids get out of those too darn easy!  You have to get the velcro blankets!).  She had outgrown the newborn size and needed the large.  I found one on amazon and one at the local consignment shop.  AH HA!  I had figured it out!  It worked for 3 nights, and then the monitor was lighting up 3-5 times between 1-5 am.  At this point it had been WEEKS of no rest.  Chet had moved to hoots shift (11pm-7 am) so I had night duty alone.  As a full-time working mom, this became very hard, very fast.  I was up for work around 6:15 am every morning and with broken sleep I was starting to feel the effects.  Sleep deprivation is no joke, it is not fun and I was beyond miserable for a long time.  I was crabby, achy, and deperate.  I hadn't sleep for more than 4 consecutive hours in weeks.  It had gotten to the point that I actually dreaded bed time.  Not because she was hard to put down, but because I knew it was only a matter of a few short hours before I would start the treks to her nursery.  I was praying for some relief, but there were far more terrible nights than good ones.

Then I realized she was rolling onto her belly when she woke up, and this made a little fussiness go to big whooping screams.  Because she was swaddled, she couldn't figure out how to roll back over in the crib.  So I went back to putting her to bed in the sleep sak.  Second verse, same as the first.  Next I tried giving her the meal of vegetables later in the evening, more like 8 pm instead of 6 pm, with the hope that it would hold her over longer.  One of night of success then back to waking several times.  Noise machine was implemented, no effect.  Mommy begged, no effect. 

She sleeps like a rock when held!
Now I began reading about the cry it out theory (CIO) and another friend shared that she had found luck with this after a similar problem with her son.  The idea is that you let them cry themselves back to sleep, because this is how they learn to self soothe.  I had been inadvertently teaching her that if she cried I came running (or by this point dragging).  I started giving her 10 minutes to cry on her own before I went in there.  And sure enough, she quieted down and went back to sleep after a few minutes.  Sadly this only lasted for about 45 minutes or an hour and then back to fussing.  If it was before 3 am, I let her CIO.  Really it was more like whine it out before she fell back asleep.  This is particularly hard for a new mom.  As the minutes ticked by I was starting at the dark ceiling listening to her on the monitor thinking of the horrible things that could be wrong with her.  What if she was chocking?  What if she thought I abandoned her?  What if she was bleeding and I didn't go check on her?  What if a spider was in the bed?  What if she rolled and now feel asleep on her face?  This part sucks, and those are some of the longest minutes of your life.  My mom told me the story of when she did this with me and she was gripping the mattress so she would not go check on me.  Maybe this wakefulness is genetic?  Good grief, it's karma that is waking my daughter!  And now I can hear Justin Timberlake singing "What goes around, goes around, comes all the way back around...".

If she cried after 3 am I would go nurse her then tuck her back in.  I knew I had to give this some time before it hopefully worked completely, but even though I wasn't going to the nursery I was still waking up several times each night to listen to her on the monitor.  Lets just say my mood hadn't completely recovered.  During one week of particularly bad nights I began showering every other day (to get 10 more minutes of sleep) and started doing lots of other funny stuff.  Like wearing two different socks to work.  One day I discovered at 5 pm when I went home I had been wearing my underwear inside out and backwards all day.  I knew something wasn't right but I was just too tired to care.  I pony tailed my hair and started drinking coffee in the morning.  I had to get through it somehow! If you asked me how I was during this time I answered "tired".

I read the Baby Whisper's chapter on sleeping.  Well I tried to read the chapter but every time I sat down with my kindle, I drifted off to sleep. Her advice for Reagan (who is just a couple weeks shy of 6 months) is that she does not need to eat during the night and I should be feeding her more during the day.  This is a great idea, but apparently no one told Reagan.  How do you get an infant to eat more?  How do you convince her not to wake and eat?  How can I know this is true for my child?  She sure acts hungry and eats plenty when I feed her between 3-5 am so I  have a hard time believing she doesn't need something to eat if it has been 6 hours since her last bottle.  In the meantime in order to survive, I napped on my lunch break on the floor of the mommy room.  I lost my train of thought in the middle of a sentence a few times a day.   I swear I could fall asleep with my eyes open while sitting at my desk.  It was not fun.   I was not in a "happy" place.  One weekend, while trying to put some things away in a closet I accidentally knocked down my tennis racket case which hit me right below the eye leaving a cut and bruise.  I had plenty of time to get out of the way but I just didn't have the energy to react in time.  I constantly misplaced stuff and I only wanted to veg in front of the TV when I got home from work.  I couldn't recall details about previous conversations and I made dumb mistakes at work.  I limited my weekend activities so I could nap when Reagan napped.  I took every opportunity to sleep, but I wasn't even close to catching up. 

More recently, a friend recommended a sleep sling by Fisher price.  At $50 it was not something I could really afford at the time because it was something she would outgrow in another month or so.  I should have listened to Chrissy Tina who told me to register for this in the beginning, but I already had a pack and play and thought they were sorta the same thing.  Then a miracle happened, I found a facebook page that sells local stuff for cheap.  While checking out the page, I discovered a local mom had posted the sling for only $20!  I quickly messaged her and picked up the swing (which appears brand new) on friday.  That was three sleeps ago.  On Friday Chet stayed home so I wouldn't lose my ever lovin' mind, and took baby duty that night.  She made a few peeps during the night but not much and didn't wake up to eat till 4 am.  I slept like a rock the entire time and it was amazing.  I fed her and she went right back to sleep.  She seemed to love the swing and even when I put her down in it while she was still awake, she feel asleep quickly.  Saturday and Sunday she sleep soundly til 5 am!   (insert upbeat music and birds happily chirping.  Kinda like when Belle sings in Beauty and the beast)

The only down side has been that my body is so accustomed to being awake from 2-5 that I have been tossing and turning during those hours.  I keep waking up for no reason, looking at the clock and falling back asleep only to dream about the Kardashians and other craziness.  But I am confident that if she keeps sleeping soundly, I will adjust back to normal sleep!  Here is to hoping that this phase has finally ended.  So if you are a new parent, save yourself some trouble and go ahead and buy a swaddle me blanket and Fisher Price sleeper.  Then you won't put the car keys in the fridge or leave half of your breast pump supplies on the counter when you leave in the morning.