Hindsight is always 20/20

When the doctor put my daughter in my arms for the first time, I smiled.  She was beautiful. And I remember being amazed at how soft her skin was.  The whole thing was amazing.  The drugs probably didn't hurt, either.
One minute old

What a contrast to my birth experience with Winston (W1).  He came fast and furious, which had a detrimental effect on me.  I don't remember any of those first moments after he was born.  I was in too much pain.  It was the kind of pain that I will never forget and wasn't even comfortable talking about until almost two years later.  I remember really seeing W1 when we were settled in our overnight room several hours later, after the narcotics kicked in.  When I found out I was pregnant with W2, I had all kinds of issues.  I started having panic attacks at work anytime I thought about delivery.  My heart would race, I would become hot, I'd get a headache, and I couldn't function for the rest of the day.

Eventually, I brought this up with my therapist.  She had me tell her my experience with all of the gory details.  This led to me being diagnosed with PTSD from W1's delivery.  Never saw that coming.  She also met with John separately to get his version of the story.  The next time we met, she said we both were traumatized.  She said usually patients tend to exaggerate their experiences but after talking to John, she thought I might have downplayed it.  (In all fairness, John remembers more than I do and he watched the entire event.  I had my eyes closed, so I was unaware of some things like the total chaos, a nurse passing out, or amount of blood I lost).  I do remember that shortly after W1 was born, John said to me "If you don't want to have any more kids, I will never ask you to go through that again."  From that guy that always wanted two kids.

A precipitous labor is one that is defined as labor that lasts 3 hours or less, from the first contraction to delivery.  With W1, it was 1 hour and 45 minutes.  I never knew there was a name for it until I was pregnant with W2.  People will say things like "you're so lucky your labor was fast!"  When in reality, precipitous labor increase the risk of trauma for mom.  It increases the risk for PTSD and postpartum depression by significant amounts.  There is nothing "lucky" about it.

I didn't know any of this and looking back, I can almost guarantee I had postpartum depression.  I couldn't talk about it, because even thinking about delivery made me sick to my stomach and want to vomit.  I burnt out at work and changed jobs about 7 months after returning to work.  I almost left engineering entirely, but luckily John talked me down.  I didn't talk about how I was feeling because I had this beautiful, healthy baby and I felt guilty that a healthy baby wasn't enough.  Goddamn you Facebook and Pintrest and all other social media that portrays new motherhood as being all sparkles and glitter.  I felt like I wasn't living up to expectations.  I felt isolated and ungrateful and completely alone. 

All of this came crashing back when I was pregnant with W2.  The fear was like a lead weight on my chest.  I was afraid of the pain, of the loss of control.  Every piece of research and anecdotal information is that subsequent deliveries are faster than the previous. I could not fathom having a delivery any faster.  There were new fears to consider: what about W1?  Who will take care of him?  What if I go into labor at home and scare him?  What if we have to take him to the hospital with us and I have to deliver without John?  What if we don't make it to the hospital on time and I rupture blood vessels again?  

Thank god for licensed therapists.  And thank god I was able to get in at the hospital for a scheduled induction at 39 weeks so W2's delivery was completely controlled (and fully medicated).  

Looking back, I should have gotten help sooner.  Two years is a long time to carry around that kind of fear and trepidation.  I should have gone to a new mom group or breast feeding support group.  I wish someone would have told me that being a new mom is hard.  Really hard.  And while there are great moments, they aren't all great moments and you shouldn't feel guilty for that.  I wish I had been kinder to myself and had more realistic expectations.

At the same time, I am a firm believer that there really are very few mistakes in life that should be regretted.  Everything we do or don't do, every decision and mistake we make, take us down life's path and mold us into the people we are.  I have very few regrets in life because that would mean I regret where I am today.  Like I said previously, maybe I needed to break down completely to be able to build myself back up and really feel whole.


Me too

Hitting the publish button on this blog post will be the scariest thing I've ever done.  

I'm a private person and I'm really good at keeping secrets.  Really good.  But secrets can eat at you, like battery acid slowly dripping into your soul, robbing you of laughter and joy and making the entire world seem like a dark place.  The world isn't a dark place.  I'm ready to trade a few secrets if that means I get a little more laughter and joy. Two big things happened this year that brought me to this place.

The first happened this winter (on my birthday, to be exact), while laying on a table in a doctor's office getting a sonogram.  Something broke.  I broke.  I fell into a million little pieces and this time I couldn't pretend I was fine and that I could put the pieces back together myself.  After a week of severe depression and constant crying, I finally realized I needed help.  I still need help. I found a therapist and only after we had our first appointment did I tell John.  I was too embarrassed, too worried about being judged to tell him beforehand.  But I knew I had to tell him, if only to explain the charge on my credit card.

Then just a few weeks ago, I found a picture online that resonated with me so much, I book marked it and reread it every day for a week.  Just to look at the picture.  Here's a link to the article.  If you don't want to read the whole article, just look at the second picture.  It's a tattoo that when facing the woman, reads "I'm fine".  However, from her perspective (which would be upside down) it reads "save me."  

I read and reread the article and all I could think was 'me too.'  It is the simplest and most eloquent way to describe depression.  Two words.  And outward I'm fine, but the inward cry for help. I finally admitted to myself what I have been denying for so long.

I suffer from depression.

OK Sam, take a deep breath.  It's out there.  Your heart won't stop, you won't be branded or given a scarlet D to wear on your chest.  It will be OK.

Will it be OK?  What if a co-worker somehow stumbles on this and figures out who I am?  Or heaven forbid, what if any of my family read this?  There is still a stigma around mental health issues and that is exactly why I refused to admit it for so long. Will anyone even care?  I don't know.  But I know I suffered in silence because I felt (and sometimes still do) that admitting I was depressed was a weakness (it's not). That it made me a bad wife and mother. That in admitting that flaw, I was opening myself up to a whole host of mental health issues that seem to be passed down through the generations of women in my family like a screwed up family heirloom.  "Here you go Sam! A diagnosis of depression, just for you!"

I'm not looking for attention, sympathy, or anything along those lines.  I'm a work in progress and I'm just trying to lighten my load.  To be happier.  To be happy.  Sometimes I watch John and Winston play and they're having so much fun and there is something that holds me back.  I can see it and feel it and I can't stop it.  I want to stop it. I want to be able to be silly and have fun.

If anything, I hope maybe someone else sees a part of themselves in my struggles.  Someone else goes "me too" and realizes that maybe it's not her fault and she's not failing everyone around her to.  "Me too" can be powerful, especially when you've felt alone and adrift for so long.

I'm also hoping for understanding.  One thing I know firsthand is how hard it is to watch someone with depression.  Before my own experiences, I had a front row seat to some pretty serious depression and other issues in my immediate family.  Maybe I'll explain that later, but suffice to say that I didn't understand.  I was hurt and angry and I tried to understand (although I was pretty young for that anyway) but I couldn't.  Why can't you get out of bed?  Why don't you want to play?  Why do you say nothing for days or weeks on end and then explode?  I get it now.  Maybe I can help someone understand who has been fortunate enough to avoid this for themselves.  A little compassion and understanding goes a long way.

I guess I'm finally ready to take that risk and open myself up.  Maybe sometimes we're meant to be broken down completely. If my birthday had been spent some other way, maybe I never would have found the courage to get help.  Maybe spending time being broken is the only way that I will ever feel whole.  I'm trying to do right by my kids and they deserve a mom who is whole, a mom that can laugh and be silly.  The least I can do is try.


Change will do you good

As if having a baby wasn't enough change for me this last year, I have decided to change jobs.

A lot changed after having Winston, more than I was prepared for. Putting Winston in daycare was tough and I wasn't feeling satisfied at work, which made it even tougher. It took me a long time to make the decision, but ultimately, I decided I need to change in order to grow my career.

Friday I gave my bosses notice. That was one of the hardest conversations I've had to have. I'd be lying to say that I have no second thoughts. I feel like I'm letting my bosses down or something along those lines. It was like I was breaking up with them, which is probably the most appropriate analogy. You don't work in a small firm for 5 years without developing a relationship with the people around you. I wasn't quite prepared for how hard it was going to be.

But I keep reminding myself two things: 1) Change is good and 2) We don't usually regret the things we do, we regret the things we don't do. So I'm stepping into a bit of unknown by taking a new position. It's a step up in responsibility. I've been quoting Office Space all week: "It's a big promotion. You'll have up to four people working directly under you." So not exactly, but I have accepted a position as squad leader, which sounds so much cooler than structural engineer.

I'm nervous as hell. I've never been responsible for others' work and I've never worked on the design side. Then there is new people, office politics, and new standards that come with a large office. It is a little scary but the only way to grow is to get outside your comfort zone.

With that, I'll end with a picture of Winston. This was a month ago now. I can't believe how fast this year has gone.

Winston pictures always brighten my day.


Time flies

...when you're having fun. Jeesh, it's been a while.
At the campground we stayed at in Denali National Park.
Hmm, where do I begin? Winston is almost 8 months old, which is hard to believe. We were recently in Alaska for John's work. The kiddo did great, but I won't be flying with him again any time soon.

I DNF'd Kansas. I will preface this by saying that I was completely undertrained going in, so maybe it's a good thing I DNF'd. But (once again) my lack of post-baby logistical planning got the better of me. I didn't think to try on my wetsuit prior to the race and as it turns out, my "workin' boobs" don't quite fit in my wetsuit and I was hauled out of the water by some very kind volutneers. And then I needed help getting the damn thing off.

Life lesson: Don't sign up for any races while you're pregnant. Someone please remind me of this if/when #2 is on the way.

As for the elimination diet, that saga continues. I did feel better, sleep better, and have more energy while I did it and I lasted about 3-4 weeks. So I went to a GI specialist and was completely disappointed in his opinion (take Fibercon and a prescription antacid) besides I felt like he didn't really listen to me. It didn't help he was as old as the hills. I have found a registered sports nutritionist and wellness expert that I'm going to work with to determine my food sensitivities. I never even filled that prescription and I thought it was a little careless of him to give me a prescription, tell me I have no choice but to take it, and not discuss the potential side effects, like poor nutrient absorption which can lead to all sorts of health problems including osteoporosis, which runs in my family.

Psshh, Western medicine. "Here's a pill, now stop complaining." I'm turning into a hippie in my old age. Between the good results I had on the elimination diet and a book I'm reading, "Digestive Wellness", I have high hopes that I will get to the bottom of this. I didn't realize how bad I felt all of the time until I did the elimination diet.

But probably the biggest change in the last few months has been that Winston sleeps like a champ. I mean 12 hours a night without a sound. Teething is the exception, and that doesn't bother me one bit. You know, being a parent is so much easier on a full night's sleep. It also doesn't hurt that I have the cutest damn kid ever.

Cyclist in training


Elimination Diet - Week 1

Week 1 of my Elimination Diet ended with the Rock the Parkway 1/2marathon on Saturday.  The race and my registration debacle deserve a separate post but the nutrition aspect is important.  Actually, what's important is that I didn't have any GI issues.

One of us was much more serious about this race than the other.
This last week has been a little tough and I did cheat a little (brand new package of 2-year aged white cheddar from WI.  I had to have a little).  But for the most part I was good.  I think coffee and cereal are what I miss the most.  Breakfast is the most difficult but I've found a good option, it just requires prep the night before.  One thing I learned is that when I cook, I always make more so I have leftovers in the fridge.  Other than fresh fruit, there is nothing quick to eat on this diet.

So right now, my preferred breakfast is banana quinoa with coconut milk.  I cook 1 cup quinoa as directed, then put in 2 overripe, mashed bananas, 1 tsp salt and coconut milk to cover and cook on low to combine.  I put it in the fridge and  eat it hot or cold in the morning.  Today I added blueberries as well.  I've been buying Silk brand coconut milk and it's pretty good.  It's fortified with calcium, which I need.  And it makes a great chai tea.

I'm feeling better and definitely less gassy.  Besides everything I listed last time, I found raw carrots also cause problems.  I also went to my primary care doc and have a referral for a GI specialist. I'll be calling this week.  It would be nice to have a professional agree with whatever I find (or tell me why I'm crazy).  So it goes on.  Week 2, here I come.



It's been a while, I know.  I swear I'd blog more if I could do it one-handed.  Quick family update: Winston is battling a cold since January but otherwise he's about the happiest kid you can imagine.  Work is work, but that's for another day.  Half marathon training is... done for all intensive purposes.

Next week is Rock the Parkway and I'm not as prepared as I'd like.  Big surprise. We've had a rough month, sleep wise, which has left me chronically sleep deprived and lacking motivation.  On top of that, I'm still having lots if GI issues, which is usually reflected in the little one as well.

To be honest, I've always had GI issues but they've been manageable.  The gluten problem became noticeable when I started 70.3 races and when I was pregnant.  Since I love all things carbs, I went right back to gluten after Winston was born.  I don't know if gluten is my only problem or one of many.  So with a big push from John, I'm starting an elimination diet.  Today.  Right now.

I'm am not happy about this.  But apparently, since my problems are passed on to the munchkin, John is really tired of the two of us feeling like crap.  It was an elimination diet or go to a GI specialist.  This seemed the better option than having a scope stuck up or down anything.  But I'm still not happy. Especially since John has only committed to doing it with me "82%".  But he has graciously offered to eat all the food in the house that I can't have.  For the next. 3. weeks.

I'm going to try to do it all, which means eliminating gluten, legumes (soy, beans, etc), dairy (this will be a tough one), beef, caffeine, alcohol, nuts & seeds, and sugar.  What in the hell do I get to eat you ask?  Some meats, rice & quinoa, veggies, fruits, water & tea.  Except I have a hard time with green tea, so even that's out.

And I'm supposed to keep a diary of food, sleep, mood, etc.  After 3 weeks I can start to reintroduce foods in, one new food every 3-4 days to track any changes.  Let's get started: Day 1 - pissed off.  The neighbors are all standing outside in this gorgeous weather, drinking beer.  I'm trying to plan what in the hell I'm going to eat all week.  I should look at this as an experiment and maybe that will make it more tolerable.  We'll see.  If I can run the half on Saturday without any GI issues, it may be worth it.


Lab Rat

Take two daily
Before Winston was born, a friend alerted me to a study that KU was conducting.  The study is following breastfeeding women to see if high doses of DHA prevent bone loss due to lactation.  I qualified for the study and set everything up with the researchers before Winston was born.  Then I went back in a few weeks later to get my pills.

I did know it, but apparently when women lactate, the lose up to 8% of their bone density, which is a fairly large amount.  It makes sense - I have to assume it takes a large amount of calcium and other minerals to produce breastmilk, I just didn't realize it affected bone density.  My mom was diagnosed with pre-osteoporosis years ago, before turning 50 if I remember right.  Since this study does no harm at the least and may help bone density at best, I thought it'd be good to volunteer.

The study is using either a placebo or 2 grams of DHA in pill form.  (DHA is a type of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil.)  For comparison, John and I have been taking a high-potency fish oil in gel form.  The standard dose for an adult is 230 mg DHA or 0.23 grams.  The study does is almost 10 times that amount.  That's some expensive fish oil!

Besides getting my pills, I had to answer a bunch of questions, have height, weight, and blood pressure measured, give blood, urine, and breastmilk samples, and have a bone density scan done.  In the following 3 months I also had to do a food diary for one 3-day period.

I had my 3 month follow up a few weeks ago where I learned, much to my delight, that I'd lost almost 10 pounds since my first visit.  And as luck would have it, the kinesiologist who operates the bone density scanner is a triathlete.  After the study is over, he offered to do a body composition scan for free (read: very expensive body fat test that normal people not associated with a university or professional athletes don't have access to.  Score!).

I'm pretty sure I'm not in the placebo group.  How do I know?  Like any good engineer, I wanted to know what was in the capsule.  And unless they are going to great lengths to produce very realistic placebos, I would venture based on the odd citrus-fish smell that I have the real deal.  Don't ask me why they use citrus to mask the fish but the fish oil John and I buy does the same thing.

There is some compensation involved.  I get paid a whopping $25 for each visit I complete.  I have visits at 6 mo, 12 mo, and 18 mo.  It doesn't even cover my hourly pay for the time each appointment takes, but assuming I do have the fish oil, the cost of supplements is worth it.  And why not help further research?  Maybe in a few years it will be standard for breastfeeding women to get prescription fish to help prevent bone loss.