December Reflections, Day 19 – Something I Love

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Shortly after we lost Clara, a dear friend gifted me with Affirmators! Cards. These positive cards are PERFECT for people like me, who enjoy prompt-driven self-reflection but whose anxiety disorders make the usual Tarot deck a little scarier than I feel the practice is worth.

On this past Saturday, I went for a CT scan, ordered by my ENT, so that he can look at my sinuses to determine what has been causing some intermittent ear pain for the last several months. He is suspecting Eustachian tube dysfunction or TMJ, but my symptoms make it difficult to tell which, so he hopes a CT scan will shed some light on things for us. I had been relatively calm about the whole thing, until I set foot into the imaging center on Saturday morning.

This same imaging center is where we found out that Clara was a girl. This same imaging center is the one which alerted my doctor to the fact that something seemed amiss with my darling daughter. It occurred to me, as I lay back on the CT scan table, that the last time one of my doctors received results from this place, it was the beginning of a nightmare. Results from this particular imaging center heralded some of the hardest, most painful days of my life.

My scan was relatively uneventful. The tech was friendly, if reserved and as I was heading out she mentioned to me that the doctor would have my results on Monday. I told her that my follow up appointment would not be until Friday. She said that if something was found that needed to be seen more urgently than that, she had no doubt my doctor would call me. This is probably a very routine and reasonable comment to make, but it immediately set my anxiety tingling. That coupled with my personal history with this imaging center, and it did not take long for my OCD and anxiety to wrap their tentacles around what was turning out to be a very triggering morning. As I drove home from the imaging center, my arms began to tingle. As I entered my house, my chest began to feel tight. I indicated to my husband that, while the scan went without incident, I was beginning to spiral into that familiar territory of fear.

I spent the weekend wresting intrusive thoughts. Doing my best to not follow through the horror filled doors that they incessantly opened for me. I CBTed myself. I CBTed HARD. I weighed the rationality behind my fears, I considered the statistical likelihood of something being seriously wrong. I reminded myself that just because I have been through something rare and tragic, I am not a magnet for such things. In fact, subscribing to the lightening doesn’t strike twice theory, I’m LESS likely to experience something rare and tragic, now that I’ve already been through one such strike.

Finally, today, recognizing the heavy way in which my past experience was directing my current emotional state, I contacted my therapist, who blessedly squeezed me in. I have learned, through doing EMDR with my therapist, to identify when I am connecting my trauma to something generally unrelated or innocuous. I may not always identify it, but today, it was very clear that my fear about what will come from the sinus CT scan was being directly influenced by having received tragic news from a completely unrelated imaging test in the past.

My therapist fit me in and we went straight for EMDR.

During the session, in addition to processing my feelings about that I found myself feeling a lot of negative emotions about myself. At one point I referred to myself as a “stupid little girl” who should have known better than to expect for things to work out well with my pregnancy (yeah, grief does some pretty crazy things to you). I realized that I was holding a lot of anger towards myself that was completely unwarranted. I was, in some ways, blaming myself for having been through tragedy with Clara, and angry with myself for not being able to get control of my mental health now. In short, I was beating up on me.

I came home feeling tired and raw, which is normal for an EMDR session. And, determined to get through the next 3 days of waiting, I went to my Affirmator Cards to find something to focus on. I always shuffle and pull cards at random, and as I flipped over the Beauty card, I grinned. It’s the second time in only 3 weeks that I have pulled this card. Both times after shuffling thoroughly, and both times when going through periods of self doubt and/or melancholy. Clearly a lesson is being gently pushed my way.

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In my case, I don’t read this card as having anything to do with physical beauty. Instead, I’m focusing on the beauty of who I am. Mental illness included. I’m not perfect. I have good days and bad days. I have personality strengths, as well as weaknesses. I have flaws and faults. I have skills and merits. I have happy moments in my past, and sad ones, too. All of this adds up to a life that is rich in experience and beautiful for the variance it displays.

I’m going to do my best to focus on that for the next few days. Or maybe I’ll pull a new card each day this week, and dedicate each day to contemplating a new affirmation.

Needless to say, the Affirmators! cards are something I have very much loved this year, and definitely recommend to anyone some prompts for their self-care or self-reflection.

Not to mention that they’d make an AWESOME stocking stuffer!

Sending love to you all,

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**Full disclosure: I am an Amazon Associate and the links in this post are affiliate links. HOWEVER, I would never recommend a product to you that I have not used myself and which I do not totally love.

December Reflections Day 17 – Five Years Ago

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Silas,

Five years ago you were just where you are this morning, albeit a good deal smaller, and on the inside of me, instead of the outside.
As we approach your 5th birthday, only 4 months away, with your first year of school following quickly behind, I have been doing a lot of reflecting lately on just how much you’ve grown. I am proud of you every day. Proud of your inquisitive spirit and your kind and thoughtful heart. Proud of your impeccable sense of humor and your willingness to learn when you make a mistake.

I know that you won’t always want to snuggle in my lap, occupying that same space, relative to my body, that I will always identify as belonging to you. So, I do my best to soak in these moments, and mark them on my heart. I love you, my precious boy. ❤
Love,
Mommy

December Reflections, Day 5 – The Best Book of 2016

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To anyone who has been reading in this space for any length of time, it will come as no surprise for me to say that I am a voracious reader. I convinced my husband to turn an entire bedroom of our house into a library, for goodness sake! In books, I have made friends, I have fallen in love, I have slain beasts, solved mysteries, and saved kingdoms. I read a pretty wide variety of books, but I am a die-hard Janeite and have loved Jane Austen novels since I first picked up Pride and Prejudice as a teenage girl. I have, of course, read and re-read all of her works many times over. Late last year, I was reading  Jane Austen’s World (an excellent blog for Janeites and Regency era fans) when I came across mention of the works of Stephanie Barron.

Stephanie Barron is the author of the Jane Austen Mysteries, a series of Regency-era capers, presented as diary entries by Jane herself and starring Jane and her penetrating wit, as the super sleuth. Barron channels Jane’s voice so well that I often forget that I am not reading Jane herself.

Though I am late to the Stephanie Barron party (the first book in the series came out in 1996), I am making up for lost time, since the series comprises most of what I’ve read in all of 2016! I began reading the first book in the collection, Jane Austen and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor, in January of this year, and am currently reading Jane Austen and His Lordship’s Legacy, the 8th book in the series (which is now comprised of 13 books).

I am naming Jane Austen and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor as the best book I read in 2016, not only because I enjoyed the book immensely, but also because Stephanie Barron has thrown open the gates to a new corner of Jane’s world. A world which I previously believed to have quite thoroughly explored.

What was the best book that you read in 2016, and why?

Happy reading, friends!

December Reflections, Day 2 – Lights

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No post today because I’m in Milwaukee seeing The Head and The Heart (and Jimmy Eat World and Fitz and the Tantrums, but mostly The Head and The Heart).  But here is a “Lights” picture for you from the show!

Love ya!

Kelly

December Reflections, Day One – On The Table

Good Evening Friends! I hope this 1st day of December has been a good one for you. Just like last year, I have decided to participate in Susannah Conway’s December Reflections. Each day (or at least the days I can make it happen), I will be posting a picture, some writing, or both, all centered around the prompt of the day (the full prompt list can be found on Susannah’s blog).

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Today’s prompt is On The Table, and I cheated a bit by instead posting a photo of the little altar I’ve made on a bookshelf in the library. This little collection of things is a positive reminder or boost for me whenever I see it. I keep some positive mantra cards nearby and will occasionally pull one out for contemplation. The last 3 days have been rough for me, as I’ve been going through a bit of a cyclical peak in anxiety. This peak has come after a relatively calm and well-managed time in my mental health. As such, I’ve been a little hard on myself and feeling pretty crummy about the whole thing.

In therapy tonight, my therapist honed in on a really great cognitive distortion that I have been repeatedly doing, in which I cast my own intelligence in a negative light, while ignoring my mental health issues as just “part of who I am”. She very wisely pointed out that intelligence is a good thing, and does not inherently cause anxiety. Additionally, anxiety is not “who I am”. It is a mental illness, and one that can be sent into remission.

When I got home from therapy tonight, I decided to head over to my altar for a bit, and I pulled a mantra card while I was there. I smiled when I turned the Beauty card over, because it felt like a very appropriate reminder to be gentle with myself as I navigate this latest upswing in anxiety. And so, that is just what I plan to do.

See you tomorrow, friends.

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December Reflections, Day 31 – My Word For 2016

Here we are, the last of the December Reflections prompts. I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and expansion of using these little nudges to write every day. I know I said that I’d be going back to my regular posting schedule when these were through, but I’m already looking at at a new daily prompt exercise that I plan to start mid-January! So if you wanted to hear less from me… sorry. I do plan to take the first few weeks of January a bit slower (I will still be posting, just not every day).

Last year was the first year that I participated in Susannah Conway‘s 5 day journaling exercise to choose a word for the year. My word for 2015 was Linger, because I wanted to learn to slow down and savor life. I had the word as my phone wallpaper, and it was a constant reminder to stop and enjoy, to linger over life. Mid-way through the year, I found myself more frequently turning down plans, in favor of quiet but impactful, time at home with my family. I found myself saying yes to requests for train track building, even when laundry was piling up. I began to enjoy pulling weeds, because it gave me time to linger over the garden. I indulged in reading and knitting without guilt, because I knew that I was lingering over things that I enjoyed. I plan to continue this slow appreciation of life, even though it is time for my word to change.

Going into the journaling exercises this year, I thought I already knew what my word would be. After so much pain and heartbreak, I thought that I needed to nurture myself. I found myself initially drawn towards self-care words like nurture, tend and soothe. However, as I went through the exercises, exploring what I wanted out of the year to come, I realized that I needed a very different sort of word. A word which is often underrated. I realized that in 2016, what I want most of all, is JOY.

Initially, I dismissed JOY as being a weak word. I felt that it lacked the substance that linger had, and it lacked the comfort called up by words like nurture, tend and soothe. But JOY is more powerful a word than I think many give it credit for. It has been stitched onto one too many Christmas stockings, and is now a word we tend to pass over. However, if you consider what JOY actually means, it’s so much more than a simple Hallmark go-to. JOY is unbridled happiness. It is glee, without restraint. In order to feel JOY, one must be fully open, one must be free of emotional burden. You cannot be JOYFUL and dismayed. You cannot be JOYFUL and afraid. No, indeed when one is JOYFUL, that is all they are. Hence the saying, “pure joy”. JOY is pure. It is all encompassing.

I may find myself calling upon the comforts of tend and nurture as I move through 2016. It will be through taking care of myself and lingering over the things which make me happy, that I expect to find my way to JOY. But find my way, I will.

And so, from the bottom of my heart, I wish you all a very Happy New Year. In 2016, may you find exactly what you’re looking for.

 

P.S. – The fun little grouping of items you see above is my Word of the Year Alchemy Kit, from WishStudio!

P.P.S. – It’s not too late to choose a word of your own for 2016! If you’re interested in following the same path that I did, find Susannah Conway’s free course here.

December Reflections, Day 30 – Thank You For…

I owe thanks to a lot of people this year. I hope I have done a good job at telling you all (at least I have tried), but in case I haven’t, here’s a big list, in no particular order, of all the things I want to thank you for. If one is meant for you, hopefully you’ll know it. ❤

Listening.
Holding my hand.
Letting me feel crazy without judgement.
Sharing my pain.
Sharing your pain.
Believing in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.
My very first surprise party.
Hugs.
Inviting me to speak.
Seeing me as a human, and not just another patient.
Believing so strongly that things will be okay, even better than okay, that I begin to believe it myself.
Biking.
Compassion.
Her quilt.
Bravery.
Reading.
Following.
Sharing.
Pushing for the blood work.
Smiles.
The books.
Organizing a ninja friends support network. Holy shit, seriously.
Flowers.
Just being there, and making sure I knew that you were.
The way that you hug my neck.
Talks at the breakfast bar.
The art.
The statue.
Talking me through.
Keeping me accountable.
Shopping and drinking in Haight-Ashbury.
Sea Lions on the pier.
Alcatraz.
First class.
Dim sum.
Anchor steam.
Actually, just ALL THE food in San Francisco. Oh my god, that Thai place.
In fact, just all of San Francisco. All. Of. It.
Ikea.
Fancy beer.
Seeing me.
Tiling.
Saying “Mom, you know, I love you.” at completely random moments.
Encouragement.
Trust.
Support.
Dinner.
Sky diving.
Toilet humor.
Family jokes.
Finders keepers, smackie boy.
Being sensitive to my feelings.
Your shoulder.
Galena.
Persistently complimenting me, even when I’m terrible at receiving them.
Appreciation.
Merry-go-rounds.
Trying something new.
Teaching me to see.
Strength.
Counsel.
Humor.
Opening a well of gratitude within me.
Babysitting.
Babysitting.
Babysitting, again.
Understanding.
Being strong when I wasn’t.
Being available, at the drop of a hat.
Getting me outside.
A present for no reason.
Being so mature.
Checking in.
Your perspective.
Letting me cry.
Being okay with repeating yourself when I need something hammered in.
Lifting me up.
Reminding me to stay open.
Being proud of me.
A picnic on a warm, Fall day.
Reminding me to play.
Tolerating my yarn hoarding.
Tolerating lots of other stuff, too.
Patience.
Adventure.
Unconditional love.
The beard.

I love you guys. All of you.

Thank you.

December Reflections, Day 29 – Home

I was born in Oklahoma, and I have made my grown-up home in Illinois. However, between the very formative ages of 2 and 19, I lived in Texas and so I will always consider Texas to be “home”. In about 6 years, I will have lived in IL for as long as I lived in Texas, though I am not sure it will ever feel the same way. I can still picture the wildflowers in my mind. Highway medians and grassy slopes painted in orange and purple. I can feel the August heat on my skin. I remember the way it feels to dip your feet in a Texas lake, when it has been warmed day and night by the summer sun. Quite different than the frigid (but beautiful) gargantuan lake that I am nearest to these days. My love for Texas is a purely geographical one however, since I stick out like a political sore thumb in my very much “red” home state.

In fact, if we lived in Texas, our experience with Clara would have been even more difficult, something hard to imagine. This is because Texas is one of several states which currently bans abortion after 20 weeks. The thought here is that, by 20 weeks, a woman should have already “decided” to have her baby or not. *deep breath* This line of thinking is so wildly misguided that it makes my head spin. I’m not going to break down all the reasons that I believe a woman has a right to choose, today at least, and instead I will focus on what happened to me. 

I decided to have my baby. I decided to have my baby before I was even pregnant, because my baby was an on-purpose baby. My baby was very much wanted. I went to the doctor appointments, watched the ultrasounds with bated breath and even bought a home fetal heart monitor because I was just so excited about this baby. At around 20 weeks, a woman with a routine pregnancy will undergo her anatomy scan. This scan is done specifically around the 20 week mark because that is the best and earliest time to check for very important anatomical development milestones and defects. It is also at this ultrasound where a woman usually finds out whether or not her baby is a boy or a girl, if she chooses to find out. We had our 20 week ultrasound right on time and were delighted to discover that we were having a girl. Our first daughter. We had exactly 3 days to dream about what it would be like to have a little girl, before we got the call. They found something and we needed to do a follow up, more detailed, ultrasound. Sick with fear and panic, I immediately called the high risk OB to schedule, but was unable to do so right away because well, insurance in America (we can get into this another time, I just don’t have it in me today). So, I had to wait for a bunch of yahoos who don’t know me from Joe to unwrap my future from all the red tape that they had wound around it, before I could even schedule the appointment for the follow up ultrasound. I think it took 2 days. On the 3rd day, approved referral in hand, I called the high risk OB that we’d been sent to, and scheduled ourselves for the following Monday (which was the earliest they could get me in – ugh). This would be a total of 6 days after the phone call, 9 days after the initial anatomy scan. I was now 21 weeks pregnant. In case you aren’t paying attention to the dates, that’s already too late for a Texan to receive an abortion, and I hadn’t even gotten my diagnosis yet. At the high risk OB appointment, we received the devastating Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele diagnosis, which you have probably already read about. If not, you can read that story here.

Now that we had a diagnosis, we had to learn. We had to soul search. It took us several days of crying, reading, talking and calling the doctor with questions before we landed on the decision that was best for our daughter, and our family. From there, it was going to take us another week or so to get our surgical abortion approved by insurance and scheduled. Unable to bear the torture any longer, we decided to schedule our procedure without waiting for insurance, and hoped that they would cover the claim later (they did, since our diagnosis was considered a lethal fetal anomaly). Even without waiting for insurance, we had to wait 4 days before we could get an appointment at the clinic, to begin the 3 day procedure. With no laziness or procrastination on our part, it took us 2 weeks from the initial anatomy scan where an anomaly was found to Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele diagnosis, to our eventual abortion. I was 22 weeks pregnant.

Due to the way a fetus develops, an anatomy scan cannot be performed with reliability much earlier than 20 weeks (some doctors will give this a 1 week swing on either side). When states put restrictions on abortion at or before the 20 week mark, they do not discourage women from ending unwanted pregnancies. Instead, they add hurdles and burdens to women ending a pregnancy for medical reasons. If we lived in Texas, we would have needed to travel out of state for our procedure. I am sure I don’t need to break down how awful that would have been emotionally, not to mention it is not ideal/medically advisable for a woman to travel and be unable to return immediately home after an outpatient surgical procedure.

In my current home state of Illinois, abortions are banned after 24 weeks. This is not much better than Texas, to be honest, but it was enough for us to be able to stay in state (though we did have to drive almost an hour there and back, 3 days in a row).

Today was going to be a simple post, an ode to the big skies and wildflowers of Texas, but as I wrote, I realized that I had bigger things to say about my beloved Lone Star State. I understand that abortion is a touchy issue. I do not expect us all to agree. However, what I hope is that people will listen, and understand that there are more reasons for abortion than just unwanted pregnancy (though I firmly believe that bodily autonomy makes that an okay reason, too). There are many assumptions about abortion, and about the kind of women who have them.

Assumption is a dangerous thing.

 

December Reflections, Day 28 – A Secret Wish For 2016

I suppose it’s not a secret wish if I post it on my very public blog, but here goes. I have been working on something. *cue mischievous grin* I have been quietly putting together a talk around what I am calling being a Mompostor. What is a Mompostor?  I’m glad you asked! A Mompostor is someone struggling with the motherhood version of Impostor Syndrome. Impostor Syndrome is the inability to accept one’s own success or achievement in areas of academia, creativity or other accomplishment, despite a body of evidence which indicates talent or skill. It’s an uncomfortable sense felt by everyone from writers to CEOs to, as I want to discuss and explore, Moms.

But why am I putting together this talk? Well, here’s the secret wish part – I’m going to apply for a speaker slot at Postpartum Progress’ Warrior Mom Conference 2016 in Atlanta. I have no idea whether or not I have even a breath of a chance at landing a speaker slot (because Impostor Syndrome tells me that I have no real credibility), but I do have impactful words to share and a powerful voice with which to share them.

I plan to attend the conference, even if I do not get accepted as a speaker. Let me know in the comments if you’re going, too! I will keep you all posted on whether or not I am selected as a speaker (should know in March), so send me your good vibes, prayers, finger and toe crossings and thank you for your support and encouragement. The messages that I have received since I started blogging have been integral to developing my confidence as a writer and storyteller. Thank you. I hope that, together, we can continue to build this community, fostering discussion and support around matters of postpartum mood disorders, motherhood, pregnancy loss, abortion and grief.

Thank you for all you do in helping me turn grief into growth.

Peace and love to you, friends.

December Reflections, Day 27- 2015 Taught Me…

2015 taught me…

…to stop, look up, and see.

…to feel gratitude in a way that I never imagined possible.

…to trust my support network. I would not have made it without them.

…that I am way more brave than I ever give myself credit for.

2015 taught me that the sun still rises, after even the darkest of days.