Friday, May 8, 2015

A Mother's Day Letter to My Baby Girl

The Sunshine of My Life


This will be my second Mother's Day as your mommy.  What a wild ride the past 18 months has been.  As I look back over your short yet universe-altering life, I can't help but think of how much I feel like I'm screwing it up.

Every single day, I see others mothers getting it right.  Just this week I saw Duchess Kate dressed in a beautiful spring dress and high heels walk down steps holding her newborn Princess Charlotte, basically the same day she gave birth.  24 hours after I had given birth to you, I hadn't showered, could barely stand, and hadn't washed my hair for 3 days.  A royal I was not!  I was just happy the catheter was gone and that the walk to the bathroom was a short one.

We had a tough start, you and me.  I see mothers post pictures and blog posts about their first days with their baby, full of awe and wonder at the new life that they have created.  You and I, we had a tougher time. Your first days were filled with tears, yours and mine. They were filled with frustration and pain and feeling like I couldn't get a thing right.  Some mothers, they just take to motherhood naturally, but I unfortunately had a different path. We got there, you and I, but it didn't come easy.  

I am one of those mommies who has to go to work everyday.  Well, except Saturday and Sunday of course.  But those days are spent cramming a week's worth of errands in, grocery shopping and cleaning and laundry, which your saint of a daddy takes care of, and trying to squeeze us time in there somewhere.  The guilt I feel as a full time working mommy will never go away. I spent every day of your first 3 months with you, at home, but then our time together was over and I had to go back to work.  I am sorry that I am not home with you everyday.  I am sorry we don't go to the library for story time or to the park for a play date.  I am sorry we can't go to Target on a Tuesday morning just for fun.  I know there are things that we won't get to do because I have to go to work everyday.  And I am eternally sorry for that, with every fiber of my being.

Sometimes I lose my temper and get frustrated with you, my love.  Another way mommy just doesn't get it right.  I am so full of love for you, but in some ways you are so much like me, headstrong and determined to do it on your own.  Those are the best qualities I could give to you, but some days, after a long hard day at work, or when I'm not feeling well, or when I just want a break, those qualities can push me to, and even past, my limit.  Some days, hearing "NO!" for the hundredth time or having you throw your dinner on the ground pushes me to my breaking point.  I am sorry my love.  I know you don't do it to make mommy mad and I know you are still trying to figure things out in this big world of yours. Just like you are trying to figure it out, I am too.  

But I hope someday, that you will look back at all my imperfections, all the ways that I haven't gotten it right, and realize that somewhere in there was an imperfect woman who loved you with every ounce of her soul.  Who knew she wasn't getting it right, and tried to do better.  I hope you see a woman who loved you but also loved her job, and gave both everything she had.  I hope you see your mommy as someone who wanted it all, and did her best to get it all.  I know I will continue to not get it right.  There will be more bad days when I lose my temper and get frustrated.  But I will never give up on you, on us.  I always wanted a daughter, and God blessed me with the best one there ever was.  I am so lucky to have you, my Sabrina.  You are the best Mother's Day present of all.

Love always,

Monday, April 27, 2015

Time to Lose Some Weight! AKA Crush My Soul

That's me on the end- the chubby one in the flowered dress.

Okay everyone, it's time for me to get real.  I mean really real.  I blog about lots of things (infrequently these days due to a high stress job and a crazy life to boot), and I've blogged about my insecurity about my body and my weight before.  But now starts my journey to getting back on track.

First things first.  I don't do diets.  Don't talk to me about Atkins or Paleo or Mediterranean or South Beach or even Weight Watchers.  I just don't do them.  I don't follow them and I fall off the wagon and I get mad and frustrated and give up.  In the past, when I have wanted to lose weight, the only things that have worked are exercise and portion control.  I will not put butter in my coffee, I will not consume coconut oil or whatever other latest fad is going on.  I'm not knocking it for others if it works, and I do have a great respect for the Weight Watchers program because I know it works well for many, some of my family and friends included.  But for me, I have to eat reasonably, while still eating what I want, and to do this I must control my portions.  Easier said than done, judging from past experience.

This isn't my first time wanting to lose weight, but it is certainly the most uphill battle I've faced with my weight.  I had my daughter Sabrina in November of 2013, just a few months after turning 30.  I swear, between the two of those life (and body) changing events, my metabolism, my body, everything changed.  I lost the weight quickly after having Sabrina, but I put quite a bit back on once I went back to work (mostly because I actually could sit down and eat a meal without a crying baby in one arm).  By last fall, I weighed just under 140 pounds.  Come wintertime, stress, depression, and lack of exercise, I went up to 144 pounds at my highest, using my home scale.  Doctors office scales are far meaner and I hate them and refuse to acknowledge their existence.  I'm sticking with my home scale to gauge my measurements.  

Yesterday, I had a sobering experience.  My daughter was napping, so I went to the basement and pulled out my spring and summer clothes to hang up in my closet, in the hopes that the weather will finally take a springlike turn.  I was so disheartened to see that all of my capri pants from last year (post-baby me, mind you) are a size 6.  The pants I am wearing now are a size 10.  2 sizes!!  And I can't even blame baby weight, because last summer I was 6-9 months postpartum, so that ship had sailed.  How is this even possible?  How did I let myself gain this much weight?  I don't even know when or how it happened.  It wasn't sudden, it must have crept up on me, a pound or two there, with no exercise done to prevent it.  

Living in the Northeast is brutal for exercise unless the treadmill or elliptical are your thing. For me, they just aren't.  The elliptical confuses me to no end- it's like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time, something I am not very good at if I'm being honest.  I can't force the upper half of my body to do something different than the lower half.  Bad things will happen.  The treadmill is okay but it is SO BORING and I do not have room for one in my home, not that I'd probably use it much anyway.  That leaves me with walking outdoors for exercise, which just honestly didn't happen this winter.  This winter was either the coldest on record (recent record anyway) or the second coldest.  Most days had below zero wind chills.  Sorry, but I'm not signing up for a 3 mile jaunt through sub-zero temperatures.  Not gonna happen.

Like every other mother out there, time is another huge factor in my weight gain.  Life is so hectic, working full time with a toddler, a teenager (my stepdaughter), and just a normal life to live.  I do a pretty good job of meal planning, so I'm not left scrambling at the last minute for what to have for dinner, because that is when you give in to take-out of the unhealthy persuasion.  But Chinese take-out and pizzas from Sam's Club are certainly part of my reality, because sometimes in the interest of time and sanity, those are the easiest way to get everyone fed reasonably cost effectively and in a timely fashion.  That's just life.  

But it's time to start changing my mentality.  Not to one of obsession with calories, because nothing annoys me more than someone who flaunts their healthy lifestyle in your face, but to one of making smart choices most of the time, allowing for the occasional indulgence in bread and ice cream (my favorites!!!).  To a mindset where exercise, some way, somehow, isn't something that can easily be disregarded.  Knowing that there will surely be days where getting my walks in just won't happen, due to working late or weather or illness or whatever, but not letting that derail me in the long term.  Making my health, my weight, my family's health a bigger priority.

I wanted to share this journey with those around me, because no matter if you are a mother (or father) of little ones or if you find yourself in a totally different place and time in your life, we all have struggles when it comes to diet and exercise.  It is so helpful to be able to share your struggles and your successes with others.  So today, I am officially kicking off my weight loss and fitness challenge.  I challenge myself to walk my goal of 10,000 steps 5 out of 7 days a week and to get to my goal weight of 135 pounds (or less!) in the next 3 months.  

I will check in periodically during the coming weeks to update my progress.  I know I will have setbacks, and I know I will struggle.  But hopefully at the end of this challenge, my own personal challenge to myself, I will come out at the healthy weight I want.  If you have had your own successes and want to share something that worked for you, or share your story, I would love to hear from you.  Just like when it comes to raising a child, fitness and weight loss takes a village too!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What's the Rush? My Fears on Baby #2

My daughter Sabrina, at 16 months, is so stinking much fun right now.  I am loving this age. Yes, she has terrible two tendencies already, stamping her feet and shaking her head no to assert her opinions, but she is growing and changing with every second that passes by. Every day is a new adventure and I love sitting back and letting her grow into whoever it is that she is going to turn into as she grows older and more independent.  

Her independence is as endearing as it is frustrating.  Though I get irritated when she arches her back and grunts her displeasure with different situations, I also remember that this is the daughter I wanted.  One who thinks for herself, one who isn't afraid to speak (grunt, shriek, scream, etc) her mind.  One who would rather do something for herself than have it done for her.  And while some things that she'd like to do just aren't feasible at her age, I am insanely proud of her for wanting to do them.  

My parenting journey hasn't always brought me this much joy, to be honest.  It has been a long, hard battle to this point of comfort and enjoyment.  I was ill prepared for the changes that motherhood brought.  I thought I was mentally (and physically) prepared, but that was far from the truth.  While many women have traumatic birth stories, Sabrina's birth was mostly comfortable, about 1 hour of excruciating hip pain, and a begged for c-section which ended a long 17 hour labor.  That part I'd do over again in a minute.  I had a couple rough days after my c-section, but once I was up and walking around and gaining my strength back, my recovery really was smooth sailing.  Getting my staples out was scary and stressful, but the truth is I didn't feel a thing.  They were out before I even had time to squirm.  Easy peasy, right?  

Sabrina is heading towards that 18 month point at which most couples start discussing planning for baby #2.  Or baby #2, child # 3 in our case, as I have an almost 16 year old stepdaughter, my husband's daughter from his first marriage.  The thought of having another baby crosses my mind each and every day, for one reason or another.  But the truth of the matter is, I don't know if I want to.

I'm sure there is a collective gasp coming from society at large right now.  How dare you not be chomping at the bit to have another baby?  That's what you do in today's society!  You have a baby, then 2-3 years later you have another one.  It's just what you do.  Well, guess what.  I'm not feeling it at this moment in my life.  So why do I feel a huge, overwhelming sense of guilt about that?  Why do I feel like I am less of a mother because I am not charging headfirst into baby #2?

I've blogged before about most of the reasons that I am not rushing to have another baby. This isn't new territory. But what I haven't blogged about is the crushing guilt that goes along with it.  

First off, I was not someone who loved being pregnant.  While my pregnancy was pretty low-key, I slept horribly almost the entire time (you'd think that would have prepared me for the sleep deprivation to follow!), had terrible issues with heartburn, and just generally was uncomfortable.  I had no pregnancy glow about me.  I was simply just a woman who wanted to have a baby, and pregnancy was a means to an end.  People would ask me "Don't you just love being pregnant?!" to which I would snort and reply with some sarcastic comment to signify that NO I did not LOVE being pregnant.  I couldn't wait to NOT be pregnant, as a matter of fact, and I can't say that I have ever really missed that feeling since Sabrina was born.  I am happy to see my feet, to be able to paint my own toenails, and to down caffeine by the gallon if I so desire without feeling guilty or being judged.  

Already mentioned how birth was no big thing for me, and honestly wouldn't be moving forward.  My doctor mentioned a VBAC to me, but if I ever do decide to hop on the mommy train again, it would be on a one way track to the operating room for a scheduled repeat c-section.  Why mess with what already has worked?  I don't know that I would elect for major surgery, but since I already had to with not much of a choice, and I know what to expect, I'll pass on the sitz baths and the fear of using the bathroom in favor of a sore abdomen and temporary lifting restrictions.  Judge me if you like, but I have NO guilt about that part of this conundrum I find myself in.  C section or bust.

But seriously, this is the point in this story where things get dicey.  Pregnancy, eh. Birth, whatever, I'll deal.  The aftermath of birth, life with a newborn, AGAIN?  That's where I have my biggest dilemma.  Newborn phase.  Up every 2-3 hours.  While recovering from a c section.  Only this time, WITH A TODDLER!  Oh my.  It gives me palpitations.  

My Sabrina wasn't and isn't a good sleeper.  Still, at 16 months old, she gets up at least once at night.  A vast improvement from the innumerable sleep issues we've overcome in her life, which my sanity and I are immeasurably grateful for.  But still.  I've had a tough track record with her thus far, generally only getting 2 hours of sleep at a time between feedings in the early months, and with her getting up twice at night until not that long ago.  Forgive me if I'm a little gun shy about going down that path again.  I never again will question why sleep deprivation is used as a torture tactic.  I would have given any military secrets I had, along with my left and my right arm, for a good night's sleep.  With Sabrina, I didn't know what I didn't know.  But now, I KNOW.  I know what I'd be in for.  Yes I survived it once, but at some points barely.  

My biggest and most real fear in having a second baby is opening myself up to the possibility of having postpartum depression. Again.  For the first 3 months of my daughter's life, maybe more, I lived in some sort of drug-like fog.  I felt everything and nothing all at the same time. I felt more like a bystander in my life than a participant.  I had a physical, visceral fear of nighttime.  Because nighttime brought the hardest hours of the day for me, the hours from 12-6 when my saint of a husband went to bed and I was left on my own with a baby that they told me was mine but I had very little attachment to.  This baby that ate and cried (a lot) and slept (a little).  This baby that I knew I loved somewhere deep inside of me but that I more often than not felt annoyed with. What the hell kind of a mother was I?  One that was just going through the motions, I can safely say now on the outside of my fog.  One that knew what she was supposed to do and did it, but not because of some deep seeded motherly instinct.  My husband, my parents, they tried to pull me from my fog, but the truth was I just had to heal, whatever that meant. Time, I think, was the healer.  It healed my body, healed my hormones, and eventually, after a long while, started to heal my mind.  But there were days that were so dark, so unhappy, so scary, that I wasn't sure how I was going to make it.  

There's no guarantee it would happen to me again.  But there's also no guarantee that it wouldn't.  Only this time, it wouldn't affect just me and the new baby, but also my Sabrina. My Sabrina that has already been negatively impacted by her mother's battle with postpartum depression once in her short life.  Could I really do that do her again? 

I keep telling myself that everyone seems to have a second baby.  It can't be that hard, can it?  Every day I see stories in my Facebook feed about friends of mine with one baby adding to their family with baby # 2 on the way.  I am honestly overjoyed for them.  I know that having a sibling adds something to a child's life.  Teaches them to share, teaches them that sometimes others come first, gives them their first friend. But right now, I am not in a place where I am ready to make that decision for our family.  

There are many practical implications to the decision to have a second baby.  We technically do have a fourth bedroom that we could turn into a nursery, but it has significant drawbacks. It is a tiny little room that has no heating or cooling vent in it.  In the winter, it wouldn't be hard to run a little space heater in there; in fact, we still use a space heater in Sabrina's room and it works just fine.  But cooling the room is a more difficult feat.  It has one mini-window that cannot hold a window air conditioner.   So in the heat of the summer, I honestly do not know how that room would be temperature controlled.  Another downside is that room happens to share a wall with my teenage stepdaughter's room.  Our house is old, has little insulation, and certainly isn't sound dampening.  A teenager and a newborn aren't really meant to share close quarters like that, as teenagers are up til all hours in their rooms and newborns are doing the same...  in far different ways.  I just don't see that dynamic playing out well.  Finally, turning that room into a nursery takes away our guest room, which is used when my parents come to visit but mostly is used as my dog's room.  Yes, Baby has her own room and sleeps on the bed in there every night.  Previously she slept in the bed in Sabrina's room.  She obviously made the move to the guest bedroom when that room turned into a nursery.  If our guest room were a nursery, she'd be out of luck, and so would I, as my dog does not do well with change.  She'd be forced to sleep downstairs, which I don't really see going over too well.

We often go to Pittsburgh to spend time with my parents there, visit extended family, and watch our beloved Steelers and Pirates play.  Traveling 6 hours in a vehicle with one child is painful enough, but throw in a newborn and a toddler?  Those palpitations I mentioned earlier are back.  I do everything but stand on my head to amuse Sabrina on those never-ending rides, but throw in a baby to boot?  Mama might opt to stay home instead.  

I know there are always difficulties in life if you look for them.  And yes, I admit that I am not a glass half full kind of girl most of the time.  But the decision to have another baby is one that is life-changing, and I am not willing to make that decision based on societal pressure, real or imagined, or just because "it's what you do".  I may never be fully ready, but the fear and the guilt that I feel is enough to know that I have to trust my "gut" (as Leroy Jethro Gibbs would say) and just wait.  And if, in the end, our family doesn't add Baby #2, I hope that people won't judge me or think less of me.  It isn't a decision that I am taking lightly, that's for sure.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

MIA: What Have I Been Up To?

My husband asked me the other night why I haven't written anything on my blog lately. And it hadn't really occurred to me how long it had been.  Hard to believe my last blog post was 11/18, Sabrina's first birthday.  My response was that I didn't really have much to say.. and that is partially true.  This time of year hits me hard, and this year is seeming a little worse than normal.  I have never been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder but I am completely confident that I do in fact suffer from it.  The days seem so long this time of year, despite a decided lack of daylight and sunshine.  I find myself feeling in a Groundhog Day-like loop of going to work, coming home, spending time with Sabrina (which these days involves her being tired and cranky from her decision to only nap 1 hour per day now), making dinner, cleaning up dinner, collapsing in my recliner, and falling asleep there usually by 8 or 8:30.  I am just a barrel of fun!  

I shouldn't complain, because my life is fantastic overall, but I can't seem to strap that smile on my face and suffer through the winter blues.  I find myself irritable, depressed, anxious.. ya know, all the good stuff.  Combine that with my 14 month old still waking up 1-2 times per night, a dog that has adopted Sabrina's sleeping habits who wakes me up around 12:30 every night, and you have one grumpy mama who is in need of a vacation!

But stepping back and reminiscing over the last 2 months since my last post, life has been really good.  Thanksgiving came and went quickly and we had a really enjoyable Christmas season. Best of all, we were able to go to Pittsburgh to spend Christmas with my family at my parents' house, which was something really important to me.  Pittsburgh is who I am, it's in my blood, and I want Sabrina to get to experience at least some of that...  until we move back home someday.  :)

So here's some highlights from the last 2 months that I've been absent.  Work is extremely busy and life is extremely exhausting, so I find myself working longer hours which leaves me exhausted at home, hence no blogging. If that groundhog sees his shadow on Monday, I am driving to Punxsutawney and having a word with that rodent!  

My favorite picture from Sabrina's 1st Birthday Party- Cake Smash for mommy :)
This little ham really loved having her pictures taken for her first birthday and Christmas!
My favorite picture of Sabrina, maybe ever...  this shows her true personality!
Mommy and Sabrina
Nestrick Family 2014
Christmas Card 2014
Posing with the tree
Hubby and I got to go to the Steelers/Chiefs game the Sunday before Christmas in Pittsburgh!
Sabrina and Santa- so stinking cute!!!
3 Generations of Love at Christmas Eve Mass
Christmas 2014- What fun we had!
Sabrina's Favorite Present from this Christmas- her kitchen!
Looking back on 2014.
January 6 marked 18 months of wedded bliss with my husband and my best friend, Chris.

So now you're caught up on my life.  It's a wonderful life, even if it is a bit like Groundhog Day these days.  Hoping for sunshine and warmer weather to come quickly, so I can get out of this winter blues funk and get back to feeling like myself again!  Until then, here's hoping for no snow, lots of sleep, and lots of love and happiness to all!  :)