There’s Still Hope

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The tattoo on my inner bicep says “Love Always Hopes.” It comes from 1 Corinthians and is my daily reminder to not be afraid to keep hoping. That in times of doubt and dismay, hope can still remain.

I’ve had several years of bad running. Three years ago I had gained so much weight I was not in racing shape. Two years ago I had two foot surgeries that kept me from being able to run for 3 months. Last year I was pregnant and sick as a dog. This year I’ve been recovering from labor and deliver, trying to rebuild what was damaged.

Throughout all of this, I’ve kept running. Even though I was overweight, I trained and showed up to the races. The surgeries prevented me from running for months, but 2 weeks after my return to running I ran a half marathon. My pregnancy left me weak and discouraged, I had to take an 8 week break from running at the end of my first trimester and into the second. But that didn’t stop me from running 5k’s at 20 and 26 weeks pregnant, and even a half marathon at 31 weeks. I thought my big break would come once my son was born, but I didn’t realize how much labor and delivery would decimate all of the muscles in my abdomen and surrounding my hips. It was a long, slow, tedious process getting back into running. But that didn’t stop me from completing my 11th marathon at just 5 months postpartum.

I’m proud of those accomplishments. I’m proud that, in the face of struggle and doubt, I showed up. I put in the work to the best of my ability. But I’m tired of just showing up. I want to race; I want to compete.

And so I’ve started training hard again. Getting out to the track and running repeats, logging the miles, signing up for races. And while my body is getting back in shape, I’ve struggled mentally. My mind has been holding me back, telling me to be careful. Saying lies about how I’ll always run, but never be fast again. I’ve believed the lies. I’ve let myself think that the hard years have done me in, that there will just be more setbacks, that I need to just settle for mediocre. But that all changed this weekend.

I ran the We Care Twin Cities Half Marathon in Bloomington on Saturday. It’s the same half marathon I ran last year at 31 weeks pregnant. My goal was 1:45, an hour faster than last year. Granted, 1:45 is still not great for me. But it’s a lot faster than I’ve been in the more recent years. I felt like if I could get out of my head and push myself, I could at least come close to my former self. That’s all I needed, a glimpse of what used to be.

It was a really tough race. I forgot what it’s like to pace myself for such a distance. The course also goes on a bike path and there are other runners using it at the same time. I would find myself trying to race them only to realize they weren’t even participating. By mile 4, my mantra had become “run your race.” Quit worrying about everyone else and just do what you came out here to do.

It was a straight out and back. They had a clock set up at the turn around. As I made my way around it, it read 51 minutes. I could do it. I could reach my goal. A few miles later, back on the bike path, I stepped on some kind of shell and rolled my right ankle. Fortunately I didn’t injure it, but it did leave me more cautious and I slowed down until I got off the path.

When I was down to the last few miles, my mantra was “give it all.” Don’t hold back, don’t doubt, just go. I crossed the finish line at 1:43. It was an amazing feeling to see the clock as I crossed the line. Plenty of runners finished before me and I wasn’t an overall winner for the day, but that didn’t matter. Because for the first time in years, I had hope. I believed in me and I believed my best wasn’t behind me. That I could keep moving forward and improving with every run.

So I’m going to keep heading out there, putting one foot in front of the other. There might be setbacks and I might not ever be as fast as I once was, but there’s still hope. And that’s all I need.

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Me Time is Essential…And Not Just for Me

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Me time. I read a blog a while back stating that me time is not essential. It states we cannot separate ourselves from the rest of our lives (spouse and children). At the time I read it, it resonated with me. I even shared it on Facebook. I was a new mom and everything else was changing; I thought my desire for me time would change as well.

For the last several months, I’ve had very little me time. I would feel guilty for wanting me time. After all, Nick would be at work all day and needed some me time. I would use my me time to cook dinner. Or do the dishes. Mow the lawn. You get it. Me time was simply any time that Nick needed to care for Milo.

I quit taking baths. I quit reading. I quit making fun stuff like body scrubs and bath salts. I took care of my home and squeezed in my runs.

I became exhausted and unpleasant. I felt trapped. Not resentful. Nick didn’t force this situation on me. In fact, he was always encouraging me to take some space, enjoy a bath. But I couldn’t shake the guilt.

While this was going on, Milo was growing increasingly attached to me. Truth be told, I wanted him to want me. I worked hard making that child, the least he could do was love me most. Right? But the more attached he became, the more I would feel guilty at the thought of letting him go.

Fast forward to the present day. I’m getting into the deep part of my marathon training. Long runs are no longer just an hour or two. I’m out on the road for at least 3 hours. That’s 3 hours of Nick and Milo, toughing it out without me. This past long run, I got home to find Daddy and Milo doing just fine. When I came in, Milo made no attempts to flee Daddy and head for Mommy’s arms.

So I took advantage of the situation and took an ice bath. (Not the same as a relaxing bath, but it sure did feel good on my legs!) We had lunch together and, as Milo napped, Nick let me nap. He promised to care for Milo if he woke up early. It was amazing.

By the time the late afternoon rolled around, I felt like I had barely spent any time with Milo. I was worried that I had hijacked Nick’s entire day. Until we were sitting at dinner and Nick said the most amazing thing.

I feel closer to Milo now than I did at the beginning of the day.

He didn’t feel resentment towards me. His day hadn’t been ruined. He got to spend the day with his son, building their relationship.

So here’s what I’ve learned about me time. For one thing, I need it. It is essential to me, not just for its own sake, but because I’m highly introverted. I can’t be around people all of the time and continue to function. The same is true about my family; they don’t get to be exempt from my nature. I’m a better person when I get sometime alone and I’m a better wife and mom the same way.

Secondly, when I don’t take me time Nick doesn’t get quality time with his son. Sure, I want to be Milo’s favorite but I don’t want him to not want his Daddy. Father/son relationships are just as important as Mother/son relationships. But a smothering Mom can impede the fostering of the Father/son relationship.

I won’t be feeling guilty for me time any more. It’s not selfish, not when it’s used in moderation. The flip side is still protecting Nick’s me time. It’s difficult to balance it all, but we’re working on it.

Good Mom Bad Mom

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I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. Sure it’s a good way to stay in touch with family and friends. Lord (and my FB friends) knows I love to share pictures of Milo. And it can be resourceful too; I’m part of a couple different mommy groups which makes it helpful to get advice from other experienced Momma’s. But I find that Facebook often brings out the worst in people and the ones that make the most sad are the very ones I often turn to for help, the Mommas.

I was a part of a particular breastfeeding group that I recently had to make the decision to leave. Don’t get me wrong, breastfeeding is tough and it’s good have such groups. And I’m sure that most of these women are actually quite nice. But heaven forbid you ever utter the “F” word: formula. This sect of moms seem to believe that formula is poison and any mom willing to give their child it should have their kids taken from them. It wasn’t just that they had made the choice to breastfeed; it was that any mom who didn’t make the same choice was a lesser mom. I found their criticism to be so harsh that I left the group. As much as I wanted the resource, I couldn’t take the judgment posts blowing up my newsfeed.

And it’s not just about breastfeeding. I have friends, whom I love dearly, that post very argumentative articles for and against vaccinations. Now I’m all for research and educational articles, but again I’m not sure why we have to attack other moms who haven’t made the same decision as you.

It’s how or if we sleep train our children. Do you feed your child baby food or follow baby led weaning? If you use baby food, is it organic or did you make it? Are you a stay-at-home-mom or do you work outside the home? Are you a helicopter parent? Do you give your children too much independence? The list goes on and on.

Judging my what I see on Facebook and the conversations happening around parenting, there is a Good Mom and there is a Bad Mom. There is no Ok Mom, it’s only either good or bad. But the difference is in the eye of the beholder.

Can I offer what I consider to be the reasonable definition of a good mom and bad mom?

A good mom feeds her child. Period. If that baby is eating and growing, momma is a good mom.

Good moms help their child get sleep. Does it take extra cuddles? Fine. Is it nursing that helps your baby sleep? Great. Good moms know their child needs sleep and helps them achieve it in whatever way necessary.

Good moms make sure their family is being provided for. Does a good mom need to work to provide extra income? Sometimes. Does a good mom know when she’s a better mom by having a job outside the home? Yes. Does a good mom decide her most fulfilling job is the home? If that’s true for her, yes.

Good moms make sure their child is clothed, wards off sickness, seeks treatment when illness doe occur, love their child unconditionally, and always has the child’s best interest at heart.

Bad moms neglect their child. They routinely skip meals. They offer no comfort. They are self-centered. Bad moms do exist, but I don’t think they’re as common as Facebook seems to assert.

Motherhood is tough. Children are never easy and we’ll never fully understand them. But could we make the battle a little bit easier by not battling against each other? Could we recognize the differences in parenting styles as just that, differences? I’m not a better mom because I breastfeed and stay-at-home just like you are not a better mom for having a natural birth and not vaccinating your child. We’re both great moms because at the end of the day we love our kiddos and would do anything for them.

Making Memories

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My mom has a go-to story about me when she talks about how routine I am. I was only 3 or 4 when we drove from Galva, IL to Randalstown, MD to visit our extended family. It was a 14ish hour journey. The house we lived in had a manual garage door, so when we got home my dad was too exhausted to bother with getting out of the van, lifting the garage door, getting back in the van, and pulling it into the garage. So instead he decided to just park the van in the driveway and would take care of unloading it the next day.

This is the point in the story when I had a major breakdown. Apparently I just started crying for (what seemed like) no reason. My parents tried everything to console me, but nothing was working. I’m not sure which parent came up with it, but one of them wondered if I was upset because we didn’t pull the car into the garage. Already exhausted from the drive and then my crying, my dad took me back out to the van, buckled me into my car seat, and pulled the van into the garage. I stopped crying. All was right in my world again.

My mom will laugh when she tells the story. In its own crazy way, it’s hilarious how much I depend on routines. But this passed week was the first time I realized, that must have been torture on my parents when it was happening. Sure my mom will laugh about it now, but I bet they were both at their wits ends in the moment.

On Sunday evening we headed out on our first family vacation: a 16 hour drive to New York City. Our first leg of the trip was the 2 hour drive to my parents’ house to drop off the dog. Milo slept the entire way, so it seemed like we were getting off to a really good start. We dropped the dog off with my parents and had a quick dinner with them.

We got back on the road and, within a half hour, Milo was crying. It started off as a whine, just a little whimper. Slowly he started to escalate until he was screaming and an hour had passed. I was driving and Nick was in back trying to soothe him. I focused on my part, driving, but all I could think was “he needs to fall asleep. What if he screams the entire way to New York?!” He fell asleep for a half hour and then woke again. It took another 30-60 minutes to calm him down.

I was taking another shift driving at 3am through the hills of Pennsylvania when I started thinking about it. Was this one of those moments we’ll tell stories about 20 years from now? This is how it happens, isn’t it? It’s not always the glorious moments, it’s the moments you wonder how you will survive that turn into the stories you’ll tell over and over again. I think stories about me from childhood are hilarious, but I wasn’t on the receiving end of them. Now that I’m a parent I realize how the process of making these memories can be quite painful at times.

Needless to say, we all survived. We had a wonderful week with family and wouldn’t change a moment of it for the world. The trip home even went slightly smoother than the ride out. But yes, someday I will tell Milo’s spouse about that first vacation. And I will warn her that someday she will have her own stories to tell.

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

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From day one, I’ve been the mom who knows every symptom for every common, and not so common, ailment in infants. Every little tick had me rushing to Web MD and Baby Center. Every day presented me with some reason to be worried. It was so bad, at Milo’s one month appointment, the doctor asked me if I had a good support network of people and if I was getting enough sleep. No joke.

Over the last several weeks, Milo has been acting “off.” He’s waking at night, screams bloody murder when you try to lay him down to change his diaper, and will only nap in my arms. Naturally I started reading on developmental milestones, night weaning, and sleep training. My husband and I put a plan in place that he would be the one to get up with Milo at night because if I did the only thing that would soothe him was to nurse him.

Of course I tried to find a way these were all related, but my browsing was coming up empty. This week things got even worse and left me with even more questions than answers.

Milo developed a fever on Wednesday. He was incredibly snuggly and slept all afternoon in my arms. I wasn’t too worried; I chalked it up to teething. Yes, I consulted the internet and read up on how to know whether a fever is teething related.

To be safe, we called Prompt Care and spoke with a nurse. The only symptom he had was a fever. We went through dozens of other symptoms: did he have a runny nose, cough, was he tugging on his ear, etc. No, no, no. The nurse said it would be worth getting him in the next day to be checked out and to give him Tylenol through the night.

It was a long night, but we survived. The next morning, Milo’s fever was gone. He was playing and eating as usual, so we assumed we were out of the woods. Then around 3:30 that afternoon, he started feeling warm again and acting lethargic.

When Nick got home from work, we talked it over and decided to take Milo in to get checked out. We arrived at Prompt Care only to be told it would be a 2-3 hour wait. Milo didn’t seem to be in pain, it was just a high temperature, so we decided to go home and wait it out until the morning.

This night was even worse than the first. He woke every two hours and would only be consoled by nursing. By the time this morning rolled around, his temperature was back to normal. Again. It was so frustrating. His only symptom was a fever, but he didn’t even have that. I couldn’t find any answers online, so we went back to Prompt Care.

We went through all of the standard questions again. No, no, no. He doesn’t have any of this. The doctor came in, took a quick look in both ears, and confirmed he had a double ear infection. Now I know the symptoms for an ear infection; I had considered that several times. But until the fever, he didn’t show any issues other than being uncomfortable lying down. He never once tugged on either ear, which is the most common sign of infection.

The doctor warned us we’ll need to keep an eye on Milo. She said he’s the type of kid that will hit his head and we won’t know until we see the blood trickling down. Apparently Milo has a high threshold for pain, so without being able to verbally communicate that was a problem it just went undetected.

It was a good lesson for me. For one thing, I spend so much time researching symptoms. I can tell you what RSV commonly looks like, how to prevent thrush, and what the criteria for colic is. But this doesn’t make me an expert. Doctors are still experts, that’s why they spend so much time and money on schooling.

Secondly, sometimes you just have to make a judgement call. I asked several moms for advice and got several different opinions. Some said get him in right away, others said not to worry. It can be frustrating trying to make a decision, but it really comes down to what you are comfortable with. To be honest, I probably would have waited even longer to take him in except we’re going on vacation next week.

Lastly, our children are so unique. I should have already known this. Milo has never been phased by shots except the immediate pain, he hasn’t had any swelling with teething, and he can fall over and recover with remarkable speed. Yet I still hold him to the expectations and standards of the many. Milo isn’t one of the many; he’s Milo.

Lesson learned. I’m also aware of my own humanity, so I entirely expect to make this same mistake at least once more in Milo’s life. And probably the lives of my future children. In the meantime, I need to figure out how to block Web MD on my phone.