Theory Testing

“It’s just hair.”
“It will grow back.”

These are statements I have said many times in my years of coloring, chopping, and growing back out my hair. And really, I’ve lived by them for darn near 35 years, but I had to laugh just now because instead of lived, my computer autocorrected whatever the heck I typed to “lied” which seems fitting since I am now very much rethinking my hair mottos.

Actually, that’s not true either.img_8954

The mottos hold. It really is just hair and it really will grow back (eventually anyway). But after chopping off 12″ last week, which equaled pretty much ALL of my length, to donate, I have found myself very much testing and tested by those comments that I have made many, many a time in the past. As with any test, a few lessons have been learned.

 

  1. I am apparently way more attached to my hair than I previously understood. The fact is, I don’t think this is a bad cut. I just don’t think it is my cut. As in, I don’t know whose hair I am currently sporting on my head, but it has yet to look like “mine” whenever I catch sight of it in a mirror (and we are five days in, so that’s weird). I find this ironic considering that we went full-on pixie straight away to get the length to donate so someone else can indeed wear my hair. And all this, despite the fact that my family and friends have been very sweet and kind in response to the cut even though I didn’t tell any of them about it in advance! RL adores it and Ben keeps complimenting it, and I agree – great cut. but not my cut! lol.
  2. When you want to preemptively strike against post-baby hair loss (oh man, it’s so bad, isn’t it, mamas?!), perhaps wait until some of it begins to fall out so you know what you are actually working with before cutting. Because we took off SO much length/weight and did so while I still have a TON of hair, I now have some very, very free locks/curls that basically just poof to the sky every time I touch them, which is often as I’m still trying to figure out this do (and how to do it). I think once it actually thins out, it will feel less bizarre on top of my head, but in the meantime, I am going to have to start sitting on my hands so I don’t turn the cut into a Chia pet every day.
  3. If you feel the need to do a pixie (an idea I’ve been flirting with for a couple years), aim for summer. It turns out that (duh) January in Nebraska is a terrible time to chop off all the hair that keeps the back of your head and neck warm in the midst of sub-zero winter weather!! While I haven’t yet slept in a hood, I have been curling the sheets up around my noggin at night because oh my gosh – I am sooooo extra cold!!

So, let the regrowth of this “just” hair begin. I wonder how long (literally) it will be before it feels like mine again!

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The pic I sent some girlfriends after I got home from my appointment. That’s my “trying to hold shocked laughter back” face! 
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Time Keeps On…

Slippin’, Slippin’, Slippin’…into the future….

Sorry if that means that song is stuck in your head the rest of the day, but I’m right there with ya, humming away and ruminating on all that was and is and will be. I guess the start of a new year (and a new family life) is a pretty mind- and time-bending season of life, so it really doesn’t feel that far off base to say that we are slip sliding our way into 2018 and time is a fluid, flukey thing. Is that really so bad? I think it’s more just what is.

As you may have noticed, in the weeks since we’ve been home from Omaha, I’ve had much less time to write. There was nothing terribly restful about our time at Children’s, but it did mean that we weren’t doing the all-day/all-night with five Littles to care for (and meals to feed and laundry to wash and so on and so on), so while we were very much on a newborn feeding/pumping schedule, I did have/take “down time” to write. I had to for survival.

And while nothing has changed in regards to the importance of writing for me, much has changed in regards to how much down time I have here at home – and this is even with Christmas break and Ben still having a few days to take off from school for parental leave.

Side notes about life as the spouse of a teacher: I love breaks. I love having my coparent home and a part of our bustling house. I love snow days for the same reason – they equal Family Time. But I do NOT love how many hours he has to pour into sub plans to be gone. The amount of time he spent prepping just to not teach while we were in Omaha was insane. And for every parental day “off” he gets, he spends almost all of the evening prior doing the same thing, with hours upon hours spent at school getting everything ready. Anyone with a connection to education knows that teachers often say it is easier to just be there than to try to get ready for a sub, and wow, have we felt the effect of that since Wilson’s birth. Please don’t mistake a teacher being gone as a vacation. I promise you they very much have paid the price in terms of time and stress and effort prior to (and after) that leave. *end rant*

Being home now means doing all the newborn things AND toddler AND preschooler AND school agers things, and then the grownup things. And you know the adulting kind of  grownup things have to come first, so as per usual, the self-care grownup things take a backseat, which might explain why we once got through all the Omaha/holiday/family obligations of the last six weeks, I got slammed on Sunday with germ bugs.

It was *just* a low-grade fever and a sinus headache, that on Monday morphed into a can’t-hardly-move headache, but are you kidding me? Being sick as a parent is tough enough, but you add in a nursing schedule where you are the one doing all the nursing, and sickness somehow manages to suck even more. And all those adulting things? They don’t just go away. In fact, when the primary “house person” goes down, that shit just gets worse (walking in to our laundry room today where the laundry chute sends all the dirty clothes that I have ignored the last few days was disheartening, to say the least).

You see, I thought I would get to use these last few days to catch up around the house before Ben goes back to work full-time. You know, be extra prepared for the chaos that will be living one-day-to-the-next as a SAHM of five Littles 8 and Under (not to mention business owner, but thankfully we’re just going to table that for a bit). But no, the fever and headache said “Nope” to those plans, and instead all I’ve really accomplished the last two days has been watching most of Season Three of Fuller House (bless it, I love it so). And feeding the baby because that is clearly Job No. 1 in terms of importance.

Such is life, this finding of balance between responsibility/obligation and nourishment. And survival. Because let’s face it, Survival Mode is going to be the name of the game for however much amount of slippery time we need it to be. There’s just no other choice. That doesn’t mean we can’t all continue to thrive, but clearly there is going to need to be a BOAT-load of grace dumped all over plans and expectations of exactly what that looks like. For now, it looks a lot like this:

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25 Things – 2017 Edition

The annual list!

The last few years I’ve started working on this in the fall because thinking back over the entire year is hard, but not this time! Oh, no. I waited until the 28th to start. Think I can use “procrastinated on making my list” on my list? I guess we’ll see what happens….

  1. Had the happiest labor and birth for sweet Wilson Ann, born at 1:04 a.m. on her due date, November 22nd (8lbs. 11 oz; 21 inches). Drug-free, two contractions of actual “pushing,” and once again, totally floored by the baby’s gender!
  2. Got tossed in head first to (and SURVIVED) NICU life after Willa was born with an unknown omphalocele which resulted in surgery on Day Two of her life (which also included a bowel resection that was also previously unknown) and then three long weeks of living in Omaha away from the rest of the kids while she recovered at Children’s Hospital.
  3. Started Grounded Sky, my very own yoga for service (15% goes back to the community) business!
  4. Hosted classes, a workshop, a retreat, and four community-based events through Grounded Sky, the last of which raised over $700 for a local backpack/food program for elementary kids.
  5. Became a Presbyterian! After almost two years of attending, we officially joined FPC in June.
  6. First concert at Red Rocks! Nahko and Medicine for the People. Bestill my music loving heart!
  7. First MLB game! #ForeverRoyal (I married into this, but whatever; it’s fun!)
  8. Built my very own website from scratch (OK, template) for GS.
  9. Spoke about Body Dysmorphia in front of an entire room full of people.
  10. Got hit by a deer while driving to book club. The (old) car was technically totaled, but by golly, I still went to book club!
  11. Read 52 books!
  12. Wrote 75 blog posts! Writing was one of the main factors that kept me sane during our Omaha stay.
  13. Taught, for the first time, a five-week summer course for CCC (and this was directly after teaching two nights a week in the spring – and fall – semester).
  14. Attended two full training weekends with SreeDevi Bringi for Yoga Nidra certification. And then wrote several of my very own Nidra scripts!
  15. Visited, for the first time – which is actually embarrassing considering how close I live to it, the Cather Memorial Prairie south of Red Cloud, NE.
  16. Became a kombucha fiend. No one ever loved fermented tea as much as meeee in the weeks following Wilson’s birth. Kept my system functioning and healthy, for sure! Now home, I still have to have it on the daily.
  17. Did eleventy-billion loads of laundry. Just kidding. Probably closer to 500, but since I can barely remember to put the clothes in the dryer, much less count loads, I may never know just how shocking the real number is.
  18. Experienced food poisoning while pregnant. Clearly not something I’d recommend.
  19. Finally earned enough views on Her View from Home posts to actually EARN payment! Whoohooo!
  20. Potted succulents in June. Kept them alive rest of year. Yay, me!
  21. Donated approximately 800 hundred ounces of breast milk to local mamas because Milky Mama + NICU pumping for three weeks (plus ten more days after getting home trying to even out my system) meant I WAY over produced. Waaaaay over.
  22. Started reading The Little House series for the umpteenth time but this round has been aloud to my 8yo (we made it to the first few chapters of The Long Winter, and this is with many other books read aloud inbetween them).
  23. Gave up coffee. Started drinking coffee again a couple-few months later. Probably the last time I try that craziness, at least while small children share my living space.
  24. Made actual phone calls to actual politicians (although nowhere near as many as I should have) because, Resistance.
  25. Got to be on the local news with my hubs and sweet little presidents, less than a week before Wilson’s arrival, talking about our POTUS-named crew. It was sweat-inducing but paired well with my nesting desire to clean the house, and the piece turned out to be a great little “keepsake” of this stage of life for us.

So that was actually easier than I anticipated, until it wasn’t. I got all the way to 22 without much stumbling, but the last couple took me a while to determine. If you’ve never tried a list of your own, do consider giving it a shot. It’s a really great way to look back at the last 12 months as you celebrate the ups/downs/forwards/backwards/all arounds/and inbetweens that have made up your year. #measureyourlife

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Great/Gray Expectations

I get it. This time of year can be hard on anyone (everyone?). There is so blessed much going on with programs and parties and holiday activities, not to mention self-proscribed traditions and To Do lists and preparations (house, gifts, food, etc.) that can suck up all our time and energy in December.

This year feels especially confusing because I didn’t even realize it really WAS December until we landed at home in the late afternoon of 12/14 and even if you’re like me and not a math-er, you can see by those numerals that we missed half the month of getting our heads, hearts, and house ready for this special time of year. And, quite honestly, I’m pretty pissed at time right now because the three weeks we lost in Omaha are messing with me.

Now, to be clear….when I say “lost” I do not mean wasted. We did exactly what we needed to do for Wilson by being where we were for as long as we were (OK, still would have liked to have been home waaaay sooner, but that’s OK, Baby Girl – you are an excellent bus driver and we were happy to comply since it meant we got to bring you home at all). And in the grand scheme of things, three weeks is a drop in the bucket of time/a year/a life, and I am very much aware of people who stay longer or graduate to other parts of the hospital or live daily with illness and medical complications.

Awareness and heartbreak for those situations do not change, however, the fact that my own postpartum experience with Willa was nothing I ever anticipated, much less prepared for or knew how to navigate, and now that we are through it, I don’t know how to do what I’m doing now, either, which is trying to figure out life back in my house and with my five children and all in the week prior to Christmas during which my husband is teaching full-time because of Finals. It all feels like a bit much, you know?

Enter the Great Expectations. I know my kids don’t really care what they get for Christmas and that if we don’t do All. The. Things. we have done in Christmas’ Past, they will live (and trust me, they all have elephant memories, so they will remember). Even I don’t have huge expectations of what Christmas should be or look like, but the fact that it is suddenly upon us and I’ve had no time to ease into that, much less newborn life, is hard.

And enter the Gray Expectations, which is how I feel about our homecoming and what I think people are maybe expecting of me which is to be gushing with happiness right now. The number one question I am getting, and understandably so, is, “How is it to be home?!” and it is my response to that that feels so loaded. The answer is more complicated than “good” but not everyone wants/needs to hear that and I don’t actually need to start crying every time I talk to someone about it, so what do I do?

A “good/yes” response is true.

A “hard/overwhelmed” one is as well.

And I think it’s just going to be like that for a while as we take time to unpack our bags from the hospital, find all the baby odds and ends around the house that we need, and deal with the see-saw of emotions that come with any newborn adjustment, much less one post-NICU, and yes, prepare for Christmas, too.

I wish there was a more compact way to include that in my answer to the No.1 question these days, but none of this is black and white, and as with any parenting journey, there’s no manual, either, so the best we – I – can do is to keep trying and talking (OK, mostly writing) about the “tossed in the deep end” moments, for how else do we hope to make any progress to our new normal?

Good and Hard. Great and Gray. All of these things, and so much more are a part of this time and this sweet Little One’s story. And so, we carry on.

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No Filter

It has been almost three weeks since Wilson joined us. Since I waited in my kitchen through contractions so we could “save a night” at the hospital (oh, the irony). Since I entered the most bizarre postpartum period of my entire mamahood. Since I bothered to put on a single bit of makeup (because, honestly, why?).

I mean, who really cares what my face looks like and why try to hide the fact that 1) I am tired, and 2) we have been under big stress, and 3) I am in what is regularly a weepy time which, as you might imagine, has been greatly intensified by our NICU experience; there’s just not enough concealer in the world to cover all that.

img_8541With that said, I’m still trying to make sure I end up in pictures during this time because documentation matters, and although I hesitated and questioned how to write this particular post, I know it is a story that matters, too, and therefore needs to be part of the documentation. So on Saturday, before I hit the road home for 24 hours, I snapped this selfie and contrary to my body dysmorphic ways, my first reaction to it was pleasant. To quote the good old ANTM fangirl days, it struck me as fierce and beautiful, even though (because) it is also rather harsh.

This is the face of a mama of five (who has yet to have all five babies in the same room even though the aforementioned almost three weeks have transpired). This is the face of a mama who has been working, working, working to understand how entirely different newborn life is in the NICU while also doing her best to keep calm and breastfeed on with her “gut” baby.

This is also the face of a mama who was flagged by a sheet of paper containing 10 simplistic questions regarding her mental health as being someone who might have postpartum depression.

Now. I share this with you because I share a lot with you on the blog, including the fact that I have been the beneficiary of professional therapy for four years now. My therapist and I have covered and uncovered a lot in that time, including the fact that I was indeed a MISSED case of PPD after RL’s birth, but neither one of us thinks that is the case this time.

This time is circumstantial, and silly me, I answered those 10 questions based on our NICU circumstance even though the questionnaire clearly did NOT.

Before I continue, please let me be clear that I do believe in screening for such things and very much believe that PPD is not only real but also needs real attention and care. I get that they needed to check in with me and I also realize how privileged and fortunate I am to already have a mental health professional at the ready to help me. But I have never been a fan of these questions (usually they come at the six-week post-delivery OB appt), nor have I ever thought they were worded in such a way that people who need help would actually feel like it was OK to ask for it. Because, honestly, what came flooding over me when I read those questions (and even more so when they came back in to tell me that I had borderline “failed” – my word, not theirs – and this is without marking any of the extremes on their sliding scale answers) was shame. Pure and simple. SHAME (which was accompanied by the tears that seem to concern folks so much which also felt instantly shameful).

You are crying. You aren’t handling things well enough. You aren’t strong enough. You’re depressed. Shame.

Now, again…no one said any of this to me. When the social worker came back in to talk to me about my results she was kind and supportive and encouraging. And that’s great. I’m glad to know they are here for folks who do not have a support system outside of this bubble. But I also made it clear in our conversation that I don’t like how much weight 10 questions get to wield nor the fact that none of them took into account the utter lack of normalcy a NICU experience has. I mean – who DOES pass that screening in this situation?! And isn’t a lack of emotion a stronger indicator of something being off than having some occasional hot mess moments? (which I will argue happens for any woman postpartum, much less here).

And really, that’s it. I don’t have any grand answers or insight from this, but I wanted to give voice to the normalcy that is being emotional after a baby’s birth as well to express support for seeking out help if you do feel off after delivery because both are real. Both are valid. And there might be circumstances that are extenuating and that’s OK, too. Someday I hope to be able to devote more time and attention to this by asking more questions about what we can do to support women after birth without shame, but for now I’m going to keep doing my thing here with my Lady Baby, knowing that happy, sad, crying, laughing, dark circles, or concealer (when it someday comes back into my life), this IS my experience and there is no shame in sharing that.

#Goals (How We Get H-word)

This summer, as one of my dearest friends and I drove back from Colorado (and I heaved the whole way home thanks to pregnancy-induced altitude sickness), we started joking at one point (because, yes, even six hours of being sick in a car can still have moments of light-heartedness, apparently) that the sweet babe growing in my belly was going to 1) be a girl 2) come out with a fist raised in the air and 3) be singing Nahko songs.

If this is all very confusing to you, let me clarify.

We were just coming back from a two-night weekend of performances by one of our favorites, Nahko and Medicine for the People, and even though I was still less than 20 weeks at that point, during the concerts I could very VERY much feel the baby moving around and responding to the music at each show. Nahko’s music is very socially and spiritually conscious which explains the arm lifted in resistance bit, and as for the gender prediction? Well, I can’t remember that part of the conversation now, but I’m sure we had some good reason for thinking it at the time.

When I told all this to another yogini/Nahko-loving friend the first week we were in Omaha, she responded, “That was no joke – that was a vision.” and I have to say I’m pretty sure she was right because Wilson very much came out as a peaceful warrior and has been keeping her hand high, fighting her way through SO much in these earliest days of her life’s story.

Perhaps it is fitting, then, that the very first Nahko song I played for sweet Willa is a new img_8528one of his called “Dragonfly” (oh my, did she hear this song a TON from my belly this fall because I loved it AND my own spirit “animal” is in fact the dragonfly, which just happens to be part of the decor in our part of the hospital) in which the main message sings simply, “This is resistance, I’ll survive. I’ll survive. I’ll survive. This is resistance.” Maybe we listened to that song so much in September-November because it would need to be on repeat in my (and her) brain during this wild ride of plane rides and abdominal surgery and recovery and learning to feed that has been the whirlwind of our NICU experience.

Because resist (or rather, persist) we have and survive we will, and today we got to hear for the first time what actually needs to happen in order for us to start talking about the h-word so we can put all this behind us. And while it’s still a mountain to climb, she’s already made great progress up it this week.

Essentially, we have to get to the point where Wilson is taking 80-90% of her feeding amount independently (from me/the bottle). Her amount will still increase by 5mls here at some point, but that is nothing like the moving benchmark (from 40-70) we experienced last week/over the weekend. Right now we’re averaging 50-60% of her amount (which is awesome!), so that gives you some idea of where we stand there. After we hit/maintain that goal, the NG tube will come out and we’ve got to have at least a couple solid days of feeding solo-solo in order for the magic word “discharge” to bring about the uber-magic word “home.”

So this is still very much a process and it’s not going to happen overnight. There still could be “bad” days or “bad” feeds. But we feel like we might be closer than ever to her taking off and us all coming home which has obviously been the end goal since before the start of the whole roller coaster ride, so we will take it. We will resist the obstacles. And we will survive (with peaceful warrior “fists” raised high, just like our Wilson Ann came to teach us to do). img_8515

 

 

Lack of Timelines (and Paula Abdul)

On our second day here, the Nurse Practitioner who put in WA’s PIC line very much warned us that life in the NICU is often one step forward, three steps back (cue the humming of “Opposites Attract” if you will). I didn’t like that progression of numbers, nor did I want to believe her. And actually, for the first week of being here, I really didn’t have to believe her. But then Week Two began and we smacked into our feeding plateau and now we’re on Day 13 which is turning out to be very much a not-so-great day following the excitement of yesterday’s biggest-to-date independent feeding sessions.

Apparently this too is to be expected. Often after a big day of exertion and progress, babies in Willa’s position can revert a bit on their feedings and stamina. So nothing about this day is surprising the specialists around us, but I’d be lying if I said it has been easy to have poor numbers come up again on the scale and not instantly feel responsible. Seriously – how do you not feel the literal weight and importance of every blessed feeding when every single one is being marked and monitored and MATTERS in terms of the weight gain + endurance that are your ticket home??

It’s all a bit too much, especially when it suddenly doesn’t go as well as hoped or as it did previously, even when people tell you that that’s OK and even typical, and so today has very much been A Tuesday. I guess there’s probably some comfort in that, though, because it means Wilson already understands how our family rolls and that this is the day of the week that brings us the most confusion (and delay, for you Thomas fans out there) and frustration.

And if I’m being really truth-y, it’s not so much her that I’m worried about right now. I know she’ll get it, and everything is going to click and we’ll get home. It just looks like it will be more of an “eventually” than a “soon” and we’re doing our best to make peace with that and are more than happy to let her call the shots because it is best for her.

What’s truly bothering me about the unknown timeline of this all is the time and distance from the rest of the kids.

Day 13, man. Day 13. How did we already get this far? And how exactly are we supposed to just keep going until we hit that magical, totally unpredictable leave date? Because I have never been away from the rest of my babies for this long, much less however long this whole thing actually turns out to be, and it is breaking me right now.

Originally I thought there was zero chance of me leaving Omaha while Wilson was here but then Sunday came which put us a week out from the church Christmas program (you guys, we were supposed to be Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus) and I had teary Bigs back home suddenly very concerned on the phone about us being there for it and while I img_8497couldn’t promise Little Sister being there, I could tell them that Ben and I would be there because this is clearly a bit too much for all of us at this point. The guilt of leaving Wilson here for that time period is insane, but I just can’t right now with the being away from them either.

If it comes to that, which as of today looks like very much the case, I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to be a hot mess. As in, a holding my toddler, snot and tears running down my face while we watch our music-loving Bigs belt out their songs at the front of the church Hot. Mess. Because sometimes that is as much a sign of strength as the stiff upper lip and it’s just all we can do when everything remains up in the air.