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I'm Back: My Victory Over Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

6.20.2014


It's taken me a long time to sit down and write this post. I think it's just difficult to relive those few months after Story's birth. Not that I'm not aware of my struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety every day. I am such an open book when the topic comes up because one of my goals is to not only increase awareness, but to normalize PPD and PPA. I am thankful that I had the necessary support to get through to the other side. If I can help save one life by sharing my story, it's worth it.

A precursor to my story: On Christmas Day 2013, my amazing mom gave me and each of my siblings the most thoughtful gifts. She had asked us to trace our hands and send her the tracings a little while before Christmas. I initially thought that maybe she was making some sort of family calendar or something - she did in fact used to teach preschool, so she has a million crafty things filed away in that noggin of hers. However, she used the tracings of our hands as reminders to pray for us. And she also felt that the Lord had given each of us specific verses as well as a couple of words that would potentially define part of our new year. When I received a laminated version of my hand (she had a copy and then she gave us a copy as well), I immediately started crying as I noticed the paper she had used - it was printed with various images of a mother with her child. I loved the Bible verse, a well-known excerpt from Philippians: "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 1:6) But I was stumped when I saw my two words: CONQUER & VICTORY. Not until I was in the thick of my battle with PPD and PPA did I cling so tightly to the truth that my mom had spoken over me. The Lord was going to help me conquer this battle and ultimately He would receive the victory. For me, my battle with PPD and PPA wasn't just physical - it was spiritual. And I am SO thankful that the Lord of angel armies was on my side!!!

(sidenote: I'm having a difficult time remembering the proper order of events, so I'm going to write them in the order I remember them happening.)

As I wrote in a previous post, Story's birth didn't go as I had hoped or planned. Initially, I had prayed and planned for a natural, unmedicated birth. Not so quickly, that all went south. I'm about as type-A as you can get, but I was able to ease into every decision with Story's birth with an unexplained peace. Our hospital stay went well. Story was able to latch and begin breastfeeding. I barely felt any pain from the c-section. Everything seemed to be going so well.

Our first night home was rough. I couldn't get Story settled, but I didn't want to wake Seth because I knew at least one of us needed to get a good night's rest. I didn't wake my mom either because I felt like I should somehow know what Story needed or like I was really the only one who could help her. I was exhausted. At 5am, my mom woke up and quickly ushered me to bed. When I woke up 3 hours later, that was the first time I remember that anxious feeling - my heart was racing as I jumped out of bed to make sure that Story was okay. Sure enough, she was perfectly content in my mom's arms, but I couldn't get myself to fully relax.

Fast forward to a couple of days later. Our dear friends Scott and Susy came over to see Story and check in on us. As I began talking, I couldn't control my tears. I completely broke down. I recall saying something to Susy along the lines of "I feel like I might have made a mistake." The fear that I had entered into parenthood before I was ready gripped me like a vice. I felt trapped. I literally felt like I had walked into a season of life I wasn't prepared for.

The crying was constant. The anxiety was never-ending. I remember looking at Story and feeling like I didn't have the physical strength to pick her up. I just wanted things to go back to normal. I felt like I was a terrible mother. Story was such a content baby, rarely making a fuss. But I just felt like I didn't have the tools to care for her and I was terrified that her precious little life was in my hands. The worst was when she started to lose weight - this was after she had a gain after her initial loss upon coming home from the hospital. The doctor suggested that I begin supplementing with formula. It was almost too much for me to bear. I was her mother, the one that was supposed to be providing her with the nutrition she needed to grow and thrive, and I couldn't even do that. Feedings would take forever, as I fed her from both breasts and then gave her a bottle. I was exhausted. I was at my breaking point.

Susy ended up writing Seth an email after they had been at our house. She expressed a great deal of concern for me, and suggested that I was perhaps dealing with more than just the "baby blues." She sent him a link to a site called Postpartum Progress where they list the symptoms of PPD and PPA. I remember as Seth and I looked over the list together, tears streaming down my face as I mentally checked off almost every symptom. We knew I needed to get help.

Roughly two weeks after Story was born, I had an appointment with my OB to discuss my mental and emotional state. I remember looking at my swollen face in the mirror and not recognizing myself. My OB was kind, but I don't think she saw the severity of my state in that first appointment. She prescribed Zoloft, which is a fairly mild antidepressant, and a pretty typical "first try" when it comes to mental health medication.

A couple of days later, the panic attacks started. I knew I couldn't be alone, and I was more than Seth could handle. My mom drove down to Nashville from Cincinnati to pick me and Story up. I felt a surge of peace, but my emotions were shot. At this time, I also made the decision to quit breastfeeding so that I could begin taking Xanax and allow my body more time to rest. Typically, it takes about 2 weeks for any type of antidepressant to cycle through your body, and having never taken any type of mental health medication before, it was a bizarre experience. My mom began to take care of me and Story. Every morning, I woke up and experienced panic attacks immediately. I remember running downstairs to find my mom and she would wrap me up in her arms and rock me while praying over me. She'd brush back my hair while I sobbed into her shoulder. She was so strong. Afterwards, she'd make me fresh juice and a healthy breakfast and encourage me to eat - I had already lost all of my baby weight at this point, and weighed even less than I did before I had gotten pregnant with Story. I had a mix of good moments with mostly bad days. My mom would have the Christian Sirius channel playing almost all day long, and I would just hold Story and sob. I didn't understand why I was going through this, why I had to suffer, why I couldn't be the mom that I had imagined I would be. I was worried that Story would suffer later on in life because of my PPD and PPA. One weekend, Seth came up to visit us, and I remember having a horrible panic attack where I was clinging to my dad, screaming that I thought I was going crazy. Having a medical background, my dad urged Seth to call my doctor and have them change my prescription. He could tell that I was having a negative reaction to Zoloft, and that it was indeed making my mental state worse.

The next several weeks are all a blur. I went back down to Nashville and began seeing a counselor. I also met with a nurse practitioner at the same practice who put me on a couple more antidepressants (one was meant as a sleep aide). My 30th birthday was horrible. I had one of my worst panic attacks that evening, and it was all Seth could do to just get me into the shower to calm me down. None of the medications seemed to be "working." After a rough go with the nurse practitioner, my OB got me an appointment with a psychiatrist who I remember being incredibly dry, but very smart. He started me on Effexor XR, which is in a different class of mental health medication. I also went back up to Cincinnati to be with my parents once more, and then back down to Nashville. So many family members and friends were there for me. They took turns with Story's late night feedings, sleeping on the floor next to her Moses basket. Ultimately, I had to learn how to be a parent apart from my parents, but I wasn't ready to be on my own with Story. I tried to do "normal" things, but it was so difficult because I was as far from myself as I could be. I remember Susy coming over to clean our house and stock our fridge because I couldn't. She then had Story and I come spend the afternoon and night at her house so I could rest all day in their guest room while she took care of Story. I will never forget how vulnerable I felt as I laid curled up in a ball on that bed, my eyes closed but unable to sleep.

Shortly thereafter, my sister Therese came and stayed with us for two weeks. As a professional counselor and as my sister, she was a huge resource. Therese was so good at refocusing my thoughts, and saving me from the downward spiral of another panic attack. She'd also have me focus on doing just one thing a day in addition to taking care of Story, instead of the never-ending to-do list that I was tempted to focus on. I had to learn that taking care of a little human being was enough - I didn't need to fill my day with chores, errands, and projects even though my type-A self was so used to that behavior. For some reason, I had a completely idealized version of what it would look like to be a stay-at-home mom in my head. I don't know where it came from. My perfectionism? My desire to be-all and do-all all the time? Probably some of that and more. My mom-in-law came down and stayed with me for a week, and then my parents hired a postpartum doula to stay with me while Seth was at work. I had two doulas from the same group - A Village Birth Services - Leanne and Brittany, but Leanne spent the majority of the time with me. She was amazing. Leanne would make sure my physical needs were met while at the same time encouraging me in my own mothering. She helped instill in my a confidence I didn't realize I had. She became a true friend. I began taking some natural supplements as well - Vitamin D being at the top of the list. And I also switched counselors - I was now seeing a counselor from Hope Clinic for Women who specialized in perinatal mood disorders.

Slowly, I found life again. I remember laughing and suddenly thinking, "Wait...is this okay? Am I okay?" I was outside running. I was fixing myself lunch. I was smiling at Story. And it all felt glorious. As I look back, I don't remember there being a particular "lightbulb moment" where I became myself again. It was a gradual progression. And the more Story grew, the stronger our bond became. Here's one of my most favorite photos with Story:


I know that when I was in the thick of my struggle, it was hard to believe those who told me I'd get better - in fact, I'm not so sure I ever actually believed anyone. But I did hold on with all my strength to the truth that despite this broken world, the Lord promised me hope and a future. I am forever indebted to all those who were a part of my healing process.

If you are struggling, know that there is hope. Reach out to those around you. Talk openly with family and friends. There are far too many mamas out there who are feeling ashamed and afraid. You are not alone. You will get better. And if you have a day where hope feels too far out of reach, think of me and remember that I was once right where you are. You will move forward, I promise. One step at a time. And you know what? Your sweet baby will be okay too.


Saying Goodbye to Grampa

3.20.2014

As many of you already know, my grampa passed away this past October. We all obviously knew the day would eventually come, but nothing can ever fully prepare you to say your final goodbye to a loved one. I had the honor of speaking at his funeral. Here is what I had to share:

Grampa had the largest hands you'd ever seen. Seriously. When I'd hold his hand even as an adult, his would inevitably swallow mine in their gentle, calloused way. His hands spoke of years of hard manual labor, working in a factory repairing cranes. Grampa was a tough man in his younger years; strict in the way he ran his household and managed his four boys. He wasn't the perfect father, but when his youngest son, my dad Ray, needed him most, he was there. Grampa was there to drive my biological mother to her chemo treatments. He loved Maureen as if she were his own daughter. Grampa was there to drive us to school, wearing his cool patterned brimmed hats. Grampa was there to help Gramma pack up a cooler with a picnic lunch (allowing us to choose our own flavor of pop), and take us to Monroe Falls for a swim on a hot summer day. Grampa was there to cook bacon for our BLTs - a weekly dinner favorite - wearing his white butcher apron and constantly reminding us and Gramma to stand back so the hot grease wouldn't splatter on our fair skin. Grampa was there to trim my bangs, doing his best to keep them even while I wiggled impatiently on that rickety stool. Grampa was there, showing up at our house with a bag full of fresh vegetables that he'd harvested from his beautiful garden. Grampa was there to take us to the movies with a big brown grocery bag full of freshly popped popcorn for all of us to share. Grampa was there to eventually embrace another daughter, my mom Bonnie, and welcome her into his family. And over the past several years that Grampa had lived on his own in an apartment, he was there to greet us at the door, welcoming us in with a hug and a kiss. He would then sit with us and tell us stories of times past. It was always difficult for him to be a part of this chaotic current world, especially without his bride by his side. Any time I would call Grampa, he would answer with his signature "Hel-lo!" and as soon as I would say "Hi Grampa! It's me, Kelly!" he would laugh and say "My Kelly!" If I close my eyes for even just a second, I can almost feel the squeeze of his large hands and see those cloudy brown eyes looking back into mine. Even when Grampa couldn't be physically present any longer, he was present in spirit, praying for me as I became a wife, a mother, and while I suffered through the dark valley of postpartum depression and anxiety. Grampa was a constant in our lives. It was comforting to know that even though we were separated by distance, he was still there. Lord Jesus, thank you for the time you've given us with this man - the good and the bad, the hard and the happy. In the midst of our grief, it brings me great joy to imagine his broken body fully restored, walking with ease on the streets of gold. Thank you Grampa for caring for and investing in the lives of five young girls who are now grown women. Your legacy lives on. We love you, we miss you, and we look forward to being reunited with you on the other side of eternity.

The Story of Story

10.18.2013

For months now, I've been meaning to blog about my journey through the dark valley of post-partum depression and anxiety; however, before I put that experience into words, I first need to share with you the beautiful story of Story.

{written during our hospital stay}

Story's EDD was Sunday, January 13th. Well, that day came and went. We had an ultrasound that following Monday, which revealed that she had an ample amount of fluid still surrounding her, and she was just comfy. It was difficult waiting - wondering with each activity I would do (exercising, getting groceries, blow-drying my hair...) if it would be the "last time" before she was born. My doula and doctor had me taking both evening primrose oil and red raspberry leaf capsules. Thursday evening, January 17th, Seth and I sat down to a dinner of homemade chicken noodle soup and watched the second night of American Idol - a pretty typical evening for us. :o) That night before bed, I took the evening primrose oil vaginally as I had been doing for a few nights in a row. However, that time something felt different. At 12:26am on Friday, January 18th, I felt the need to use the bathroom, and when I did I lost my mucous plug. Very quickly thereafter, I began contracting. They were fairly mild, around 30 seconds long, but quite close together - 3-5 minutes. At 2:42am, Seth texted our doula Susie to let her know what was going on. She told me to try to get as much rest as I possibly could, and to keep her posted.

Rest was not in the cards for me. I found that swaying through the contractions with Seth's help worked well for me, but I couldn't get comfortable enough to sleep. We turned on our labor mix, lit a candle, and tried to keep the atmosphere at home as calming as possible. A couple of hours later, I told Seth I wanted him to call Susie and have her come to our place. She also had a doula-in-training named Patsy with her who was coming along as well. When Susie got to our house around 4:45am, I remember feeling like I was already in a lot of pain. Because Susie is a certified midwife, she was able to check my cervix for progress as well as monitor the baby's position and heartbeat. At that point, I was at 3cm and about 80% effaced. I believe Story was at about -1 station.

Seth drew a warm bath for me, and I labored in the tub for a while. The weightlessness of the water felt really good on my abdomen! I felt better after being in the bath for a while, and was able to eat some yogurt and a banana afterwards. I constantly drank water and Vitamin Water Zero while laboring. Susie checked my cervix again a few hours later, and I was at 4cm. And then 5cm. And then 6cm. Progression was slow, but at least I was progressing. Through each contraction, Susie or Patsy would talk me through it - "Take a cleansing breath. Let it come. Let it sit. Let it stay. Let it rest. And take another cleansing breath." They were also great about massaging my body where I'd naturally tense up - my shoulders, my back, and my hips. Patsy spoke several scriptures over us, which I loved. They were both super encouraging with their words - just hearing "Kelly, you're doing great. You've got this" was SO reassuring to me.

After listening to Story's heart rate several times, Susie mentioned that she was positioned more to the right, and she really wanted to get her centered. Susie had me laying on my side for several contractions which were pretty excruciating. After checking her positioning again, it was clear that she wasn't quite ready to rotate to the center. Susie gave Dr. Strnad a call at the hospital, and we decided to begin getting things packed up to head over once my mom arrived at our house. My mom got to us around 3:30pm, and a few minutes later we left for the hospital.
Upon getting checked into the hospital and our labor & delivery room, we gave our nurse our birth plan  and she was pretty surprised to see that we didn't want a Heploc IV administered. I was pretty set on not wanting anything "medical" interfering with Story's birth. Susie had suggested that we consider having my water broken by Dr. Strnad in order to help our labor get past this standstill point. In order to have that done, I would indeed need to have a Heploc IV. We decided to move forward with having my water broken - although we found out it wouldn't be done by Dr. Strnad, but instead by Dr. Cox (whom we had never met) who was on-call that weekend. Upon meeting her, I was immediately comforted by her presence; however, upon breaking my water, she found that there was a ton of meconium present. Since there was a danger present that Story might have aspirated some of the meconium, I had to remain on the fetal heart rate monitors for the duration of my labor, which meant that I was pretty much stuck in bed.
Susie continued to coach me through the contractions, and urged me to surrender completely and go into a dream-like state. I was so exhausted by that point that it wasn't too difficult to let myself go. However, actually relaxing was a whole other ballgame. There were points where I'd literally feel my uterus rise up with a contraction, and it was the most difficult thing I've ever done to rest in it instead of fight it. One of the main things getting me through the contractions besides the support I had physically surrounding me was the fact that I knew there were so many people covering us in prayer. The Holy Spirit definitely interceded for me on several of my contractions - my mom and Seth recalled watching contractions peak on the monitor, and at the same time noticed that I had absolutely no reaction to them. The Lord was my strength when I had none.
After some time, the nurse and Dr. Cox came to check my progress. I thought for certain that I'd be at least 9cm. However, they said that I hadn't experienced any change. No change. The hardest two words to hear at that point in time. Dr. Cox said that due to the length of time that I had been in labor and my level of fatigue, it might be best for them to start me on a little bit of Pitocin. I immediately started crying, and looked at Seth and told him that there was no way I could receive any Pitocin without getting an epidural. I was too tired. Physically and emotionally, I was spent. Susie stepped forward and said, "Remember when I told you that if I thought you'd benefit from an epidural I'd let you know? I do believe that now would be a good time." Everyone reassured me that I did everything I could on my own, and receiving help wasn't a failure - it was simply the next step in Story's birth story. I had been worried that I would feel like a failure if I couldn't have story without medication, but the Lord spared me from that. I knew I had done all that I could. It was time.

The epidural was put in place about 15 minutes later with just Seth in the room. About 10 minutes after that, Dr. Cox came in to speak with us. Apparently, Story's heart rate had dipped several times during labor, and Dr. Cox wasn't seeing any improvement. Therefore, she didn't even want to start me on Pitocin any longer because she was concerned that Story wouldn't be able to tolerate it. She assured us that Story was completely fine and healthy, but she wanted to keep it that way; hence, she told us it was time to consider a caesarean section. Susie had mentioned earlier that when it comes to seeing dips in the baby's heart rate, c-sections are usually the next move that's considered, so we felt prepared. Seth and I just looked at each other and with complete confidence said, "Okay." We were ready to meet our girl, and we didn't want to do anything that would potentially lead to a dangerous situation for her.
It took about 10 minutes for the team of nurses to prep me for the OR, and then my mom, Susie, and Patsy all came back into the room. With Seth, they laid their hands on my and my mom prayed over us - me, Seth, and Story. It was an emotional, beautiful moment. While I was beyond tired at that point, I didn't feel nervous. I felt so loved and lifted up, both by those in the room with me and by those across the miles. They wheeled me into surgery to get me situated while Seth waited in the hallway. My arms were shaking uncontrollably due to medication and the fact that I was freezing, so they hooked up an air-vented blanket with a heated fan, and wrapped me in warmed blankets as well. I also had to receive more medication for nausea. Seth said that when he was admitted into the OR, all he could see was my face. When our eyes met, we both started crying immediately. I was overwhelmed with love for the man who had been my rock throughout my entire labor. It was a bonding experience unlike any other. A few minutes later, the man assisting in the surgery said, "Okay - you're going to feel some pressure." He was pushing Story down to the base of my uterus. Another minute later and we heard, "Oh! She has hair!" And then, in what felt like just a few seconds (at 10:17pm), we heard her cry. It was unlike any baby cry I had ever heard before. It was light and delicate. Seth and I were sobbing - we couldn't believe that our sweet baby girl was here!!! He was able to go over to the table where they were suctioning her and cleaning her off to take some photos. Upon returning to my side, the doctor said, "Dad - would you like to hold her?" Seth was so joyful as they placed Story in his arms for the first time. Looking at my daughter's face for the first time is a moment I'll never forget. They were even able to place her on my chest while the doctor finished my sutures. She was absolutely the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
They had initially told us that Story might have to be taken to the NICU after she was born due to the whole meconium situation, but after being assessed, they said she was fine and she was allowed to ride with us back to our recovery room. She was so incredibly alert, already trying to hold her head up! While I waited for the epidural to begin wearing off, she was placed on my chest and we were able to do some skin-to-skin bonding. She was also able to latch and begin nursing for the first time. Out of everything we had put in our birth plan, I'm so glad that we were still able to do those two things.
Labor was the hardest thing I've ever done - much harder than any marathon I've ever run. But I feel like the experience I had was incredible - the support and love I felt, both physically, emotionally, and spiritually, was unlike anything else I had ever experienced. I had labored for almost 22 hours, and the end result was the most precious gift the Lord could've ever entrusted us with. Even though our birth plan pretty much went out the window, I think the Lord was trying to show me that although it's good to have a plan, His is always better. And we are so thankful for our Story Rae, and can't wait for the day that she falls in love with our Savior who carried us through her birth.

What a gift...

9.06.2012

I feel like I can't start a blog post without the traditional "Oh my gosh, it's been SO long since my last post! I promise I'll get it together and post more regularly from here on out!" So sorry for those empty promises. I'm pretty sure only one or two people read this thing anyway, and I'm sure that my infrequent posting nature does not keep them up at night.

Anywho, we found out the most incredible news a couple of Wednesdays ago - we're having a little GIRL!!! We couldn't be happier about it! Seth and I were both hoping for a girl, but after praying through it, we realized we were incredibly open to either a boy or a girl...so much so, that we were both basically expecting it to be a boy.

At our ultrasound, we had our tech tell us to look away whenever she was inspecting the "parts", and then at the end of our appointment she went out in the hallway with a blank card we had given her and wrote the gender inside. And of course she sealed the envelope! There's no way I could have walked around with that thing unsealed in my purse all day!

Seth and I went to dinner together, just the two of us, and after we ordered we pulled out the card. Seth opened the envelope, slid the card out, and on the count of three we both looked at it. We were SO shocked, and SO thrilled! Seth literally said he wanted to hug everyone in the restaurant. And I'm sure he would have if our stomachs weren't growling so loudly.
It's a girl!!!
SO happy.
We were in a state of euphoria all through dinner, pinching ourselves over and over. We could NOT believe it!!! I had literally been researching boy names at work earlier that day, I was so convinced it was going to be a boy. One of the best parts: we already know what her name is going to be. Mum's the word though! We won't be revealing her name until her birthday. I probably won't tell you her initials either. And no, her first name's not "Felicity" - good guess though, Sus!!!

Later on that night, we had a little gender reveal dessert at Scott and Susy's home. Molly came over, and Luke and Lindsey were with us via iChat. I had baked both blue and pink cookies using this recipe I found after a little research on Pinterest. Needless to say, mine didn't look nearly as picturesque, but it was all worth it watching everyone's reactions as they broke into the cookies. Pink centers, of course! Although I'd prefer to have made the center yellow, I thought that might be a little too ambiguous. :o)
Pink center.
A couple of weeks later, the news is still sinking in. I'm beginning to feel her little fluttery movements, which is just so amazing. Seth was able to feel her move the other day as well, and I've never seen a more excited daddy-to-be. We're just beyond blessed. What a gift...

Creating.

1.15.2012

There's so much I need to update you all on (and I know I still need to post more details and photos from our trip to Hawaii - was that really already 4 months ago?!), but I want to take a moment to post some photos from my more creative moments over the past little while.

paper labels for Susy's baby shower
cute foodie tags for Susy's baby shower
place"cards" at Thanksgiving dinner
the kids' place"cards"
homemade Christmas gifts
grapefruit marmalade & Burger Up ketchup
The marmalade was delicious!!!

It feels good to create, doesn't it? Here's to more creating in 2012!

The Day I Decided Not To Run

11.12.2011

I did something this morning I never thought I'd ever do: I decided not to run. And we're not talkin' a normal get-up-and-go-to-the-Y-and-jump-on-the-treadmill kind of run. We're talkin' a half-marathon-that-I-signed-up-and-paid-for-and-drove-all-the-way-to-East-Nash-to-pick-up-my-bib-for kind of run.

In middle school and high school I ran track, which I abruptly quit my junior year for two reasons: 1. I wanted to pursue theatre and 2. my coaches were anything but encouraging. I would go to practice anxious and already discouraged. I didn't fall in love with running until I saw my amazing friend Danielle complete the Chicago Marathon in the fall of 2004. I'll never forget standing next to a man who was cheering his heart out as a beautiful woman came bounding by, screaming out, "That's my wife! That's my wife!" I'm still moved to tears recalling this moment. Witnessing D accomplish her goal, and seeing so many other do the same motivated me and my friend Kristi to train for and run the Cincinnati Flying Pig Half Marathon. We stuck with each other the whole way through, being cheered on by our families and friends. It was an amazing moment, crossing that finish line, knowing that I had completed my first half marathon.

When I moved to California in August of 2005, my friend Sue was a huge encouragement to my running. She was an avid runner herself, and she motivated me to get to the gym or get outside and run, no matter how tired I was due to my heavy work schedule. My pace was slow, but steady, and the more I ran, the faster I became. Seth and I would go for runs together occasionally, and we even completed three more half marathons together. It wasn't until June of 2008 that I ran my first marathon. The San Diego Rock 'n' Roll marathon. My friend Jamie who I worked with at Anthro was also training for it, and we did a handful of our long runs together, with her husband Justin as well. She was quite a bit faster than me, but that only challenged me to dig deeper. Seth met us at various points to give us Gatorade and water, and a couple of times he ran the last mile or two with me. Finishing that marathon was a huge accomplishment for me. I ran the entire thing, and I can distinctly remember how difficult the last 5.2 miles were. I wanted to stop. I wanted to cry. But I kept going. Mind over body, I made it to the finish line.
Still excited at mile 12!

I continued to sign up for races, and run them well. By "well" I mean that I was able to keep a steady pace throughout the race, and finish feeling good. I've never been the fastest - nor will I ever be - but I remember when I was running a 10:30 mile...and I'm now running an 8:00 mile. There have been a couple of races that were a little rocky ::cough cough The Cleveland Experience that I never want to experience again cough cough::, but overall I've really enjoyed this process. Willing your body to do something you never thought would be possible is an amazing feeling.
Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon 2009
A family affair!!!
San Dieguito Half Marathon 2010
Maui Marathon 2011

However, I think I'm at the point where those feelings of anxiety from high school track are creeping back in. Every race, I'm nervous, but not a healthy kind of nervous. I think, "Oh gosh, what if I don't complete this marathon faster than the last?" "What if I need to walk for a minute?" What if, what if, what if. The worst part is, if I don't finish with a PR every time, I feel a little bit like I failed. So many runners follow a ton of mantras to get them through the race: "Pain is gain." "One mile at a time." "You're tougher than the rest." "Define yourself." Yikes. So if I don't do well, does that define me as a failure??? Being type "A" and a runner is usually a good thing, but in instances like this, it can be pretty detrimental.

Seth and I have endured quite a bit of transition over the past five years, and even in the past few weeks. I've taken on another job, and have found that my schedule is once again full of work, leaving me very little time to spend with my hubby, let alone go for that ever-so-important long run before the big race day. This past summer I signed up for a handful of races, including the Nashville Half Marathon that took place this morning. It was my last long distance race on the books for a while, so initially I was looking forward to it. But with all of the change that's taken place lately, I've been feeling overwhelmed. And while I'll always enjoy a good sweat, I haven't felt excited about the race I was supposed to run this morning. In fact, I was pretty much dreading it. There wasn't any room in my mind to process through the fact that no matter what my finish time was, I should be proud of myself for yet another accomplishment. Bottom line: my heart wasn't in it. I woke up at 5:30 this morning, and sat up in bed. I was worn down, emotionally and physically. I turned to Seth and I told him, "Babe,  I don't think I can do this." While there are people out there who might argue that Seth should have said, "Yes babe, yes you can! You can do this! Let's go!", he listened past my voice and heard my heart and said, "You don't need to do this babe. You can rest." It's almost as if I needed someone to tell me it was okay...to give me permission not to run. It's okay that I didn't want to run. It's okay that I knew my body couldn't handle an early run in the cold. It's okay that I didn't think I could PR. It's okay. I'm not a failure. I'm not a quitter. It's okay.

We slept till our bodies/Bou woke us up, and then we spent time together. We actually went on a run. A slow run through the beautiful streets of our neighborhood. We were able to talk and soak in the morning sun and the changing leaves. Spending that time with my husband was more precious to me than getting another medal. And I'm clinging to that.

Sometimes in life, I think our passions can become our idols if we're not careful. Some might argue that that's okay, but for me it's not. Jesus should be the one I'm making time for before anything else. Jesus is more important than marathon #8. I want to continue pursuing a healthy lifestyle, but I want to be careful that I'm even more protective of my time with the Lord than I am of my precious hour of daily running.

Yes, there will be more races. More half marathons. Probably even more marathons. Hopefully, as I continue to become more like the woman that Christ intends for me to be, I'll be more comfortable with the idea of looking at each race as an opportunity to build endurance and character, rather than a definition of either success or failure. I'm beginning to understand that I can define myself as a runner, and not PR every time, or even run every race. Like today. The day I decided not to run.

Falling in love with stitching on paper

10.20.2011

My dear friend Susy is currently pregnant with her third child - a sweet little girl - and I was honored to create her shower invitation. I decided to try my hand at stitching on paper, and I think it turned out pretty well if I do say so myself. The girls at Social Graces are teaching me how to use Adobe Illustrator, which is the program I used to create the design. I glued down the triangles individually, then stitched through the paper to create the look of bunting. I'm so excited to celebrate Susy and Little Lady Anderson in just a couple of weeks, and even more excited to meet this sweet babe face-to-face in December!