Finding Balance – Part 1

As I stumble through my life, learning a new lesson every day, I realize that one of my mission’s seems to be learning how to find balance. I’ve written about this subject before and feel I could probably touch on it once a week. As I watch the news, I’ve come to learn that all is not as it seems. I read articles and status updates on facebook and realize, we are a world of extremes and the sensationalism created by click seeking media outlets are making us all crazy. This is not going to be a series on the perils of social media and news sources, I just wanted to point out that we all seemed to be a part of this sensory overload and the ability to find a middle ground just doesn’t seem to exist. I’ve eaten crow enough times to know that there is always another side to a story, and the truth is somewhere in the middle. So my goal in life is to fall somewhere in the middle.

This blog post is one of a series of examples in my life where I’ve had to consider all sides and find myself somewhere between the crazy left and crazy right. I have a tendency to take anything WAY too far, just ask my husband. But hey, how can I really figure out where the middles lies if I don’t test the limits, right? I don’t have a plan for how many posts will be in this series, so I guess we’ll just have to see. This post is going to specifically focus on nutrition and my food journey. I’ve had a lot of questions about my diet recently, simply because I’ve lost so much weight. I was 165 lbs before I got pregnant, 215 lbs at the height of my pregnancy and currently weigh somewhere around 125 lbs. I don’t make it a habit of weighing myself because that is counter productive to me, but I wanted to see how much Ellie weighed one day and that’s where I came up with the 125. That was several months ago.

 

This is the most current picture I have of myself. I'm trying to do a yoga pose for Instagram, haha.

This is the most current picture I have of myself. I’m trying to do a yoga pose for Instagram, haha.

 

My weight loss journey is really no different than the ones you read in magazines or in an advertisement for (insert trendy diet here). I grew up a fairly normal weight, probably even a little skinny, although I always thought I was fat. I look back on pictures of my growing up and I was never fat, so where that thought came from, I have no idea. I had a warped perception about a lot of things, so why not add body image to the list. I didn’t actually start to struggle with weight though, until I got sober in 2000. I did what a lot of women do when they get sober; I replaced drugs and alcohol with food. I don’t even really mean that I ate food like I drank, I mean I replaced the obsession of alcoholism with the obsession of eating poorly, dieting, exercising and all that came with that. My weight didn’t become a problem until 2005, when I graduated from college. I had 5 years of sobriety, moved into an apartment on my own, and had a brand new job. I think at the height of my weight, I was around 170 lbs. I’ve always “weighed” more because I am a muscular person by nature, but this was an unhealthy 170. At that point, I started what I will call the “participate in the diet industry” phase of my life. I dabbled in different diets such as Weight Watchers, the Zone, semi- Paleo (although it wasn’t as popular as it is now), low fat, etc etc. I tried different exercise regimens including Tae Bo, the Firm, Crossfit, Running, and finally yoga. But none of it worked… why, because it wasn’t about the food. Here’s what I wish I could tell everyone in America, IT’S NOT ABOUT THE FOOD. If it were, we would stop eating poorly and start being healthy. It’s really simple if you think about it that way. Just like alcohol was for me, food is but a symptom and the drama of setting myself up to fail so that I had one more thing to beat myself up about was a perfect distraction from having to look at myself. I had a therapist ask me once, “what would it feel like if you didn’t worry about being fat? If you didn’t worry about losing weight or obsessing about exercise?” My answer was, “I don’t know and that is a scary thought”. I couldn’t even imagine it.

 

This was when I was close to that 170.

This was when I was close to that 170.

 

I can talk about that period of my life forever and ever, so if you have questions about it, let me know and we can discuss. For the purpose of making this post bearable for people to read, I will fast forward to the solution. Being in a 12 step program and that working so well for the alcohol/drugs, I decided I would try that for the food too. It didn’t really work, although I definitely think the healing from the past and digging into myself the way the steps require was a piece of the puzzle that was very important in my recovery of all things. I sought “outside help”, meaning I went to a therapist. She was amazing and helped me realize that I was using food as a distraction from dealing with myself. Once we realized that, we began to do exercises to help me learn how to be kind to myself. One exercise that I think of often went like this:

*I sit in a chair and have an empty chair in front of me. She says that one chair is for my “body”, while the other chair is me, my mind. I had to apologize to my body (my mind part of myself) for treating it so poorly over the years (yo yo dieting, compulsive overeating, negative self talk, over stressing it, disconnecting from it, ignoring pain, etc). I had to promise that I would listen to my body and that I would never treat it poorly again. I think of that conversation often and in times where I would begin the “I’m fat” negative self talk, I would say to my body, “I’m sorry for saying that and I will not speak to you like that again”. It sounds corny, but really, it has helped because I would never say anything like that about myself now.

I’m not going to say that I instantly had a health relationship with food and that all of the sudden, I was at a healthy weight and never ate poorly again, in fact, I did the opposite. I told myself I would never “restrict” myself again. I would eat what I wanted and learn to eat mindfully. I would exercise if I felt like it, but if I didn’t, I wouldn’t. The point wasn’t that I would get fat and lazy, the point was that instead of listening to what others told me I “should” be doing, I was to listen to what my body wanted me to do. There were some bumps along the way and then I got pregnant. Before I move on to the whole point of the post, the finding balance piece, I want to say that the best book I’ve ever read pertaining to this subject is called “Women, Food and God” by Geneen Roth. She is an amazing author and she basically says that when we eat poorly to the point of being unhealthy, it’s because we have a God sized hole that needs to be filled. She says that our relationship with food is a reflection of our relationship with God because we’re letting the fear take over when we overeat, or undereat, or throw up or whatever your disorder may be. So for me, turning over my will to God and asking for His guidance was crucial.

During my pregnancy, I ate a lot and gained 45 lbs, BUT, I learned how to be gentle with myself. I learned how to slow down and to be present. My eating was a lot about escape and not connecting with my physical presence. Regretting the past or living in fear of the future were always on my mind. I didn’t taste the food, I tasted the thrill of rebellion as I ate “naughty” foods. Being pregnant was the most connected physically that I’ve ever been. It gave me permission to treat myself well because I had to take care of my baby. I learned how to slow down. I got to see what it feels like to be present in my skin. Then Ellie was born and she had these food allergies. I had to do what I never wanted to or was able to do and that was go on a crazy strict diet. I lost all of my baby weight plus 40 lbs. I’m the thinnest I’ve been, really since high school but that wasn’t my goal. I honestly did not care about losing the baby weight once Ellie was born because my main goal was to be a present, happy mom to her. My goal was to breastfeed her and make sure I was healthy enough to do that. The gift that has come from the diet is not the fact that I’ve lost weight because who knows what will happen once I’m no longer breastfeeding, but it’s that I’ve learned how to think of food as fuel for my body instead of an outlet for not being happy. I don’t think about what I need to cut out of my diet, but what I need to make sure I get in and once I do that, I typically don’t have room for the other stuff. I can see how much better I feel when I eat the right balance of food in a day. 6-8 veggies is a lot of food! And I’ve found lots and lots of foods that I really love simply because I had to think outside of the box.

I follow a lot of paleo blogs because their recipes tend to leave out the 3 things I can’t eat, dairy, soy and gluten. The issue i have is that paleo people can get CRA-ZY with their paleo dogma. I see articles of how gluten is the devil and grains are killing us and I see where we’re taking it too far. I’m not going to die if I eat wheat. My stomach will get bloated and my face will break out so do I want to eat it every day, no. Can I have a sandwich every once in a while, yes. Does every single piece of meat I buy need to be grass fed, organic blah blah, no. I don’t have to be all or nothing, I can live somewhere in the middle. i cook most of my meals at home, and try to make them as healthy as possible. Sometimes, I eat a Krispy Kreme donut, you know what I’m saying? Food isn’t the devil. It’s what we do with it that is.

 

Me pregnant - obviously

Me pregnant – obviously

 

 

A pic from April

A pic from April

Settling In

I’ve been fairly busy over the past couple of months as is the case when one as an infant. We’ve done a lot of things like travel to VA for a wedding, visit the library and pool, get a couple of colds (first time she’s been sick), and finally start walking. My plan, as I always state in the beginning of every blog post, was to write at least 2 posts a week, but it just hasn’t happened. I re-start my plan and we’ll see where it takes me.

 

She's bigger than this now, but I'm too lazy to upload the photos from my camera

She’s bigger than this now, but I’m too lazy to upload the photos from my camera

 

We’re officially past the 3 month mark of me quitting my job, but in reality, I was so afraid of completing letting go, I tried, unsuccessfully, to do a couple of things on the side. Once I realized I was going to have to make a choice, I was forced to completely trust in the Universe and my own intuition. I’ve felt called to stay at home with Ellie most of her existence on this earth, but following one’s heart versus listening to one’s head is a scary thing. I’ve always had a side that is very logical, very black and white, very mathematical. I think that’s something that’s helped me be successful in life so I’m very grateful for it. But as every character asset can become a defect when out of balance, my logical side can hold me back from breaking out of my comfort zone. The interesting thing is that when I was drinking heavily, I put myself in scary situations all of the time. I was out there, living on a prayer, so to speak. I had no security, didn’t know what was going to happen from day to day, and didn’t even really have any fear about it. I created so much chaos for myself that it seems as though once getting sober, I made it a point to never live that way again. The last fourteen years have been about creating a safe, secure place for myself, clear of anything that could cause me instability. The fear of not knowing what was going to happen next has been squelched. In a way, that is good, but this year is about finding balance.

 

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Now, I am here, finally settling in to this whole motherhood thing and the interesting thought I’ve had so far is that even though it’s what I feel like I should be doing, it’s hard. It’s really hard. I know that I’ve written about it before, but I will continue to say that it’s hard. And for a while, I kind of felt like I was failing at it, that maybe I just wasn’t cut out to be a mom, because it feels super uncomfortable a lot of the time. What I mean by uncomfortable is that she’s fussy a lot, she wants me to hold her a lot, she doesn’t understand that mommy needs to go to the bathroom, she doesn’t understand that I need to make a phone call. I have to be “on” all of the time, and I think that I’m just, kind of a selfish person that can’t be selfish anymore. When she’s happy, it’s the best thing ever, but most of the time, she’s teething, going through a wonder week, going through a growth spurt, has a cold, etc. I think the real problem lies in the fact that I am afraid to ask for help. I HATE asking for help. I was brought up to be self sufficient, and that I am, but while I understand that are women out there in the world that are single mothers and have to do it, I don’t. So ask for help. I’ve realized that I REALLY need some self care and even though I’ve started attending meetings regularly again, I need more. So I talked to my husband about this and said, I need at least 20-30 minutes of yoga a day. Can we make a deal that I can have that? He, of course, said yes. There will be times though, that only one of us can work out, and I need to say, my turn. I need to stand up for what I need because if not, I won’t be able to give Ellie the love, understanding, empathy that she needs from me.

 

Fun at the Matt house

Fun at the Matt house

 

The last thing I’ll say in this rambling post is that I’ve realized the other issue I have right now is that I’m scared of big emotions. And Ellie has some BIG emotions. Actually, I have some BIG emotions. When Ellie has her BIG emotions, my BIG emotions come up. I guess I’ve been really good at managing my life in a way that I don’t have to feel tired, angry, depressed, whatever. After having a baby, I have to deal with tired (a lot), worried, fearful, angry, hungry, depleted, etc. When Ellie sleeps really well, I sometimes check to make sure she’s breathing. I mean, having that underlying fear can take a toll on one’s psyche.

 

The neat thing about all of this is that I know I’m growing as a person, and that God has big plans for me (as He does for everyone). He gave me a baby that challenges my weaknesses and forces me to depend on Him for strength. Every character flaw I have is being challenged with this little baby, and as much as I am supposed to teach her about life, she is teaching me as well. I hope that my message doesn’t sound like I dislike what I’m doing because I definitely do not. I love being a mother and I think when I grow the most is when I’m challenged without the possibility of escape. And so I’m grateful to have this opportunity to look inside of myself, and continue to heal old wounds so that I can a shining light in someone else’s life.

An Update on my Breastfeeding Journey

I am sorry that I have not written in a while. I think that a combinations of things keeps me from doing it –

1) I have an active 10 month old
2) I don’t make it a priority
3) Sometimes, I think, why am I writing this anyway because I don’t think I have anything different or special to add to what’s already out there but I keep getting a pull to write, even if only to get the thoughts out of my head, so I’m just going to do it

I’m going to try to start writing more consistently so my goal is twice a week. I have gained a lot of experience so I’ve got lots to say, I just need to make it a priority!

I wanted to give an update on my breastfeeding journey as it’s been very interesting. If you’ve read my blog before, you know we had lots of issues from the beginning. Food allergies, latch problems, etc etc. It didn’t start easily at all. And while it’s gotten easier on some regards, there have been other “challenges” as time has gone on.

Things that have improved:

  • Latch – she latches like a champ now. We basically had two months of using the Nipple Shield and since the, she hasn’t had any issues.
  • Food allergies – Around 7-8 months, her reactions to my diet weren’t as sensitive so I’ve been able to incorporate some stuff back in. I’ve began eating wheat a little more, although for my own health, I haven’t eaten too much. I become bloated and my face breaks out, so I need to keep that at a minimum for my own health. She still has to be careful what she eats directly, and I can’t just outright drink a cup of milk, but if something has trace elements of milk or soy, it probably won’t bother her. I ate a Krispy Kreme donut the other day because I just couldn’t resist, and she threw up the next morning, but only once and that was it.
  • Night Wakings – she still wakes up 1-2 times a night to nurse, but between 4-8 months, it was more like 3-5 times a night. Whew! I’ll tell you below why I feel night feedings are still very important but they’ve been reduced in the last couple of months unless she’s teething.

 

What’s been difficult:

  • Getting her to eat: I know that sounds weird, but as she’s gotten older, getting her to sit still long enough to stay at the breast and eat is very challenging. I have to go to a quiet place, our bedroom, where there aren’t any distractions. I don’t know how people nurse in public because my baby would be looking everywhere if we did that. I do feed in bathrooms and my car when I’ve had to, but it always needs to be as quiet and distraction free as possible. 
  • Frequency: See above – Because I can’t seem to get her to sit still long enough, she’ll sometimes go for 6 hours without eating. The reason that’s a challenge is that she’s not getting enough food and she’ll make up for it in night feedings. That means, she’ll eat one or two times more than she did previously because she’s not getting her calories in during the day. I will ALWAYS feed her at night if she wants because 1) she is getting the nutrients she needs from my breast milk 2) it helps my supply.  I know there are moms that breastfeed on a schedule and don’t do night feedings but I don’t see how they keep their supply up because sometimes, I feel like the only way we keep it going is through night feeds. 
  • Letdown: sometimes, especially in my right breast, the milk just doesn’t want to let down. It’ll take a full 1-2 minutes and for an impatient baby, that’s an eternity. It can be super frustrating. I have tried a couple of different things, but in reality, I just have to relax and keep switching sides until it happens. It usually works itself out in a couple of days. It’s in her little “nursing strikes” (again, see above) that it usually happens, and then we get back to normal once she’s feeding regularly. 
  • Exercise: I had some plans of running and wanting to train for a marathon, but due to the supply/letdown issues, I’ve laid that to rest. I’d rather not run and be able to breastfeed long term. I think if I was able to eat lots and lots of calories, it wouldnt’ be an issue but because my diet is restricted, and getting a large amount of calories in during the day is hard, I don’t want to do any major activity that will hinder that and long distance running would do so. So I’m sticking to yoga, which is plenty, but it makes me regret buying that jogging stroller 🙂

All in all, it’s been an interesting journey. I have a couple more months of breast being the #1 source of nutrition for her and then, solids are supposed to take over. It’ll be interesting to see how that shifts. Right now, I typically breastfeed her 5-6 times a day and 1-2 times at night. Then she eats 3 meals a day and 1-2 snacks. I don’t know how that will shift after 1. I am guessing my pediatrician will let me know. I am planning on “extended” breastfeeding meaning, she will wean when she’s ready, or I dry up. With that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see how her “schedule” changes when eating more solids. 

 

Checking In…

I really wanted to start being more consistent in blogging but that obviously hasn’t happened yet. I’m not sure if it will because, as the last post suggested, I am at home with punkin’ and don’t have a lot of extra time. People keep asking me if I am enjoying my time at home, and so far, I do. I’m trying to sit here and reflect on the things that I’ve learned, or maybe just some kind of insight that I’ve gained as a stay at home mom. And maybe it’s that I’m tired, or maybe it’s that my brain just doesn’t work anymore, or maybe I just haven’t learned anything, but I can’t come up with a dern thing. Maybe I can if I sit here long enough. 

 

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I’ll just resort to posting pictures

 

One thing I really have noticed is that I am grateful for night feedings. That sounds crazy because who wants to get up to feed, but one of the things I wanted to do with Ellie is breastfeed for 2 years, or until she self weans. The lactation consultants at GHS were adamant that 2 years was the recommended length of time by the WHO, but even then, many woman (not in America because it’s kind of taboo) feed until the children are much older. That being said, 2 years has been my goal. But if Ellie didn’t wake to feed at night, I don’t think my supply would keep up. She just has a hard time settling down enough to feed during the day. She wants to play, her teeth hurt, she’s going through a wonder week, whatever the case may be, she doesn’t want to eat. She sometimes will eat every 2 hours, she sometimes will wait 5 hours. Sometimes, she lets me know that she’s hungry, other times, I just say, well, it’s been 3 hours, let’s give it a try. She’s very busy… ugh… But I digress, she feeds anywhere from 2-5 times per night and thank goodness she does, because otherwise, I’d be drying up I think. 

 

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I seriously need some make up

 

The most frustrated I get is when I think she should be napping and she doesn’t. It makes me really angry. And I just really cannot MAKE this child sleep. I know that are sleep training methods out there and while I will not judge those who choose them (it’d probably be a lot easier), I just simply cannot do it. So what does that mean? I have to weather the storm of her sleep evolution and sometimes, it straight pisses me off. (excuse me but it does). Most of the time, she naps 2-3 times a nap, anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. If I wait long enough, she will easily close her eyes as we lay down and go to sleep. BUT, if she’s not tired, if it’s too early, or if she is going through one of the many stages that throws their normalcy off, teething, mental development, physical development, then it becomes a nightmare and I lose my patience. It makes me want to punch a wall, so if I can just accept the fact that she’s not going to sleep, then I will be okay. For example, on Sunday, she slept for 20 minutes early afternoon, and then 40 minutes early evening. Those were her naps. That’s it. I realize that she is developing so why does it make me so mad? Because trying to entertain a baby with a short attention span who is also clingy and wants you to help her walk for 12 FRIGGIN HOURS IN A DAY IS EXHAUSTING. That book, Go the F*** to sleep is something I think of often, thank you Samual L Jackson for your interpretation

 

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She’s beginning to grow out of her food intolerances, so I’ve started to loosen up on my diet. I’ve started eating a little bit of bread here and there, but I broke out once and my stomach has been hurting a bit, so Im probably not going to venture back to a full on gluten diet. I know that I can eat it in small doses, but full on going back would not be a good idea. I can always tell I haven’t been eating well because I start to feel yucky, and then I eat a smoothie with spinach and fruit, and I usually feel better. Interesting how having a baby has gotten me to the most healthiest place I’ve ever been in my life. Both physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

 

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Out of all of that complaining above, I say a prayer of gratitude every night because I’m able to spend this time with her. I’m completely happy doing what I’m doing and wouldn’t trade it for anything else. Now, if we would just win the lottery, we’d be set. 🙂

I Am Home

I am sorry to have taken a bit of a sabbatical over the past few weeks. There have been a lot of changes in our household, a domino of changes that were unexpected. I’ve been with one company for almost 9 years, actually, May 17 would’ve been 9 years to the day. I’ve worked very hard and have accomplished a lot, winning awards for my work and earning more than I ever thought I could. I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my professional self and while I still had some growing to do, feel proud of the things I’ve done. Over the past few years, things have changed in me, a shift in perspective, a calling for more. I traveled to Africa to work with women in need as well as a children’s orphanage. 

 

 

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I’ve had a baby, which you obviously know if you’ve read this blog before. 

 

 

 

 

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And through all of that, i’ve been trying to make my work/home life balance. After starting work again after maternity leave, I felt a very strong pull to stay at home with Ellie. Not for forever, but at least while she’s under a year and we’re developing that bond. I was lucky in that my boss let me work from home, but even having a nanny, I yearned to be with her, I just never felt it was possible. I’m a bit of a money hoarder in that, I like to save save and not ever spend what I’ve saved “just in case”. I like that security, but when the nanny quit a month ago, I really took my time looking for a new one. My gut kept telling me this is my opportunity to be with her. I was at a standstill with work, I had to find a new nanny, we have plenty of money saved up and my husband was looking to expand his business. And here I am. I took the leap. I am TERRIFIED because I’ve always been self sufficient and now there is a passing of the reigns. I’m leaving it in my husband’s hands so that I can be with my baby. 

 

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I figured I’d post the photo of me as the mad hatter, because I might be a little mad as in cray

 

So we’ll see where this new chapter takes us! I’ll be blogging the whole way there!

A Weekend Trip to Charleston

This weekend, we traveled to Charleston for a little mini vacation. My husband ran in the Cooper River Bridge Run so we drove down on Thursday. I love Charleston so much, it’s one of my favorite places to visit so I was a lot excited and a little nervous as Ellie is not a fan of the car. 3 and a half hours with a screaming 7 month old didn’t sound that great but we took the chance and made it through. She actually slept most of the time both ways, and while I had to pee the last 2 hours on the way there, I was not going to chance waking her up. I told James, “let’s utilize this time and just get there. I’ll pee later in life.”

 

our first day there – Ellie is enjoying the new scenery

 

 

Before we had a baby, our vacations were filled from morning to evening. We would walk around an entire city, eat at nice restaurants, take tours, etc. With a baby, it’s an entirely different story. Friday, we went to the grocery store – woohoo. We went shopping in Isle of Palms, went to the beach, and went out to eat. I had a big fear that Ellie wasn’t going to nap well, and she didn’t take any 2 hour naps, but she got in a couple of 45 minute – hour long naps, once on my chest while walking around, so that was also nice.

 

 

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it’s cold daddy

 

 

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on the way to the beach

 

 

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whoaaaaa

 

 

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WHAT IS THIS

 

 

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this is a little warmer

 

 

 

 

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toes in the sand

 

 

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daddy holding Ellie

 

 

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the water took her breath away

 

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it was windy

 

I know I’ve said this before, but the coolest thing about being parent is watching her experience new things. We take for granted the fact that we know what the ocean feels like. We know how the sand feels between our toes. We know what the texture of a fresh peach feels like in our mouth, the sweetness of the fruit, the juice running down our chin. We do things on a daily basis without any thought to how it feels. Babies are experiencing all of this and it’s so cool to witness. I love watching her smile as she digs her fingers into the grass, and then watch in terror as she puts it in her mouth. I struggle with that because I’m thinking, has a dog pooped in that grass, but I don’t want to constantly tell her no because I want her to experience things. I feel like I’m learning so much from her, and my goal for the future is to use my 5 senses to re-experience life with her.

 

 

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grandma had some cool clothes on

 

 

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Daddy ran fast!

 

 

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daddy loves to shop with us

 

We take our next trip in June and I’m super excited about that. A week there, and who knows what she’ll be like at 9 months!