The Annual Calendar, The 10 Month Fog, and Postpartum Depression

toddler feet

In 2005, I started making calendars for the grandparents (and for ourselves) every Christmas. It’s this wonderful, neck cricking tradition where I pour over all of the photos from the year, trying to pick only the 20 or so best ones. I always end up in a very melancholy place while doing this because looking at the moments that are gone and the children that just keep growing is terribly sad to me. I know. Perhaps this should not be, but I can’t help it. I look at these fun old moments, and my favorites really aren’t calendar worthy, so I choose the ones that look like calendar pictures.

This year Amy is in charge of the calendar for that side of the family. She has asked me for six or more photos. Well, you know I can’t narrow it to 6, but I did my best.

For some reason, as I went back over these, this one memory stuck in my head, so I feel like I should share it.

I was sitting at my 6 week postpartum appointment, (14 months ago) feeling much better than I’d felt in…..well, 6 weeks. I had finally started taking iron pills again, and it was making a world of difference.

The midwife and the doc-in-traiing-of-the-day gave me the good ol’ postpartum depression questionnaire.  “Do you have feelings of hopelessness?” “Do you want to hurt yourself?” “Do you feel depressed?”  etc. etc.

I answered the questions as truthfully as I could, while still trying to maintain my integrity…..can’t be done….

She looked at me, wearing my biggest, brightest April smile, and she said, “Well, you failed the quiz, but you look okay. Are you okay?”

“No, I haven’t really been okay,” I told her, “but they sent me home from the hospital with no iron pills, and I was too far gone to understand the mistake and fix it. So I have four small children, I’m breastfeeding, I’ve been in pain, not sleeping, and I’m anemic. Who wouldn’t be depressed?  I’m just so incredibly tired, and I’ll be fine now that I’m taking iron again.”

My midwife also had four children, so she got it. We agreed I’d be fine, and that there was no way around the funk.

I wasn’t totally fine until THE WEEKEND. What happened on THE WEEKEND? Nonna came and weaned John David to bottles for me. She sent me out into the town while she stayed home and fed JD.

It was the strangest experience. It felt like leaving your house and forgetting your left arm. I jumped at the sound of every baby. I cried sometimes. I felt like I had done something terribly wrong, and I should run home and feed my baby! I was a little bit nuts!

I tried to enjoy it, and I did, but it was all so strange. My hormones were out of control. It was an experience I cannot describe. Eventually, we got him completely weaned, and suddenly it didn’t matter if I forgot my iron pills that day, or if I took only one instead of two or three. (I had a serious anemia problem).

I’m always telling postpartum women to not forget to take their iron. Ha! They probably think I’m crazy because not every woman needs them.

So most of the photos I chose for the calendar were from after the fog lifted. It was a 10 month–oh yeah–10 whole months– fog of crying, breastfeeding, dreaming about laundry, trying to get 4 small children out the door to take the kids to school or wherever. It was a year of learning how to multi-task, learning to accept my messy house, apologizing to Betty who was probably the only cleaning-lady in the neighborhood that knew and understood I could not get it all de-cluttered before she got there.

No, I don’t even have a cleaning-lady now, but I do hand out chores to the kids like candy.

It was a beautiful year, and it was the most stressful year I’ve ever been through, which is saying a lot considering all the year-long and half-year deployments we’ve weathered.

God got me through. Should I have been medicated?  huhuhuhuhuh uh-huh. Yeah. Definitely. But I really wanted to breastfeed my baby. Why? I don’t know. I can’t explain it. The same reason I want to do every little *best* thing there is to do. I like to drown myself in self-inflicted-pressure.

Am I okay now? Absolutely. I am more than okay. I am happy, blessed, and thankful. My house is still messy, but see, I’d rather have a fun blog and lots of children than a perfectly clean house. I was the girl that snubbed home-ec class (jokes on me) to take band and honors classes. My heart will never really be in the housekeeping. It’s important to me, but it’s not my gift, that’s for sure.

I love how God gives us all different gifts. We all complement each other, and that is how it is meant to be.

Amy, let me know if you have any trouble down loading the pictures from here.

daddy love all 4 bros familycloseup bundled up snow family

(There are also several great ones on the About Us page that we could use for the calendar.)

This one is my favorite, Amy. It was taken by a really sweet friend in Virginia, and it reminds me of a super fun phase of our life. I want to go back, but I know the right thing to do is to make this place happy too. I think we’re doing a good job of that. This is like a two-year vacation at the beach, really. Then it will be off and away, to where– we do not know yet.

“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”   John 3:8

What do you think about when you look at your past year?

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How I Lose the Pregnancy Weight

 

BEFORE

BEFORE

What I look like, every single time, right after giving birth:  This was a few days after I had Caleb. I weighed about 170 pounds in this photo.

And this is what I normally look like:

cryingJDArlington

That’s a 35 pound difference.  (After all, a few pounds actually DO belong to the baby.)

  This is not my favorite topic:  weight loss.  I don’t like discussing it because it often makes us feel bad. Maybe it’s just me, but when I’m going through a heavy phase, hearing skinny people talking about their weight really gets on my nerves.  It can be a sensitive issue, and I like to make people happy, not sad, so I’m going to address this just this one time.  After this, you’ll read no more weight loss posts from me.

Being the vain person that I am, I do eventually always buckle down and get the baby weight OFF.  That may be easy and happen naturally for some of you.  If you gain 20 pounds, then what work do you have to do?  This post is for the women like me:  the ones that gain 40+ pounds no matter how hard we try to eat right and exercise.

I always feel like people come and visit me right after I’ve given birth, expecting to see me looking thin already.  Instead, they meet a chubbier version of April, that still looks pregnant, but the fact is that WEIGHT LOSS TAKES MONTHS, NOT DAYS.

When I’m pregnant, my body handles food and exercise completely differently.  It clings on to every bite I eat.  I have gained 55 pounds every single time, save this last time.  This time I gained 40ish.

By the time the baby is 9 months old, I almost always have it whittled off.  I can’t tell you how to get stick-skinny because I’m not stick-skinny, but I can definitely tell you how I lost 40-55 pounds.  ; )

Oh!  And you have to give the tummy circumference extra time.  After giving birth more than once, it may take you up to two years to get your middle shrunk back all the way, and you may always have a little extra skin.

APRIL’S RULES FOR WEIGHT LOSS:

1.  Breastfeeding.  If you can, at least give it a try.  It takes a while to see results, but eventually you should.  I have friends that didn’t have to do anything more than breastfeed.  I have other friends that breastfeeding did not help at all with the weight loss.  It definitely helps me lose the weight faster because it burns so many calories.

2.  DO NOT SIGN UP FOR A DIET PLAN.  Boooooooooo diets!!!  Don’t do it.  Crash diets do not work, and any weight you lose from the one month you’re able to stick to your crazy diet plan will just come back when you wake up and realize that that Nutrisystem food tastes disgusting.  (It does.  I’ve tasted it.)

3.  DO make permanent changes in what you buy at the grocery store, and try to get your husband on board.  (That’s the tricky part.)  One year after having Daniel, I realized that I had actually gained a bunch of weight while my husband was in Afghanistan for 6 months.  This was not pregnancy weight.  This was sedentary lifestyle weight.  I knew I had to get it back in gear.  First I read this book:

  She will drill into your head great fundamentals of eating right.  For me, it was a great reminder that I do not have to have dessert every day.

Then I made these dietary changes:

a. I cut out soda.  (except for a treat once every couple of weeks)

b. I stopped buying any junk food at all.  Not even Oreos.  Since that time, Alan has added back in buying ice cream (ugh).  I guess I need to get back on his case.  If it’s not in your kitchen, you can’t eat it.  It’s really that simple.

c.  I replaced the junk food with these snacks:

-greek yogurt

-yogurt covered raisins

-popcorn  (Read the label.  It’s not bad.)

-almonds

-100 calorie granola bars

-blackberries

-cheese

-cheese and crackers

-cereal

Pssssst!  You know all those articles that tell you not to drink juice, etc.  Well, okay, fine, it’s worse than water, but it has HALF the sugar of soda.  Also, coffee is extremely beneficial to your health, and it fills you up too!

4.  Oatmeal makes a great meal, any day, any time.  That wasn’t really a change, as I’ve always eaten oatmeal, but I just wanted to put that out there. ; )  It doesn’t have to be complicated and time consuming to be healthy.  These health magazines make it way too hard with all the complicated recipes with ingredients you’ve never heard of.  Instant oatmeal is just fine.

5.  EXERCISE.  Every day!!!!   I’m not talking P90X or Insanity everyday.  That is not my style.  Who has time for that?  Not a mom of lots of little ones!  You work in exercise wherever you can.  Buy DVDs that are 30 minute programs, or sometimes I just cut the long ones off at 30 minutes.    Just make sure that at least once a week you’re doing some kind of strength training.  I also do stretching at least once/week to keep back pain away.  Ever since my yoga teacher moved, I am a wreck.

WALKING IS GREAT EXERCISE!  Plus, it can give you alone time.  Whenever possible, as many days a week as Alan gets home before dark, I leave all the kids with Alan and hit the sidewalk for a 2 mile walk. Sanity time!  Remember!!  Jesus always went off alone to pray!  We should too!

In addition to that exercise, I walk my children home from school.  That adds in another mile, and when you add in pushing a double stroller, it is a significant work out.

If you really want to torch calories fast, RUN, or attend a strength training class.

My most successful weight loss was not related to pregnancy at all.  It was after that Afghanistan tour, when Daniel, my 3rd son, was a toddler.  I actually got to the point of no chubby middle section because I worked out really, really hard every single day.  I was doing a whole lot of running, and a little bit of weight lifting.

I will have to get my anemia under control before I can work out like that again!  I’m too tired to even think about all that stuff.  Meanwhile, I’ve still lost 45 pounds just breastfeeding, walking, doing yoga, and not buying cookies or soda!

6. DO NOT count calories.  Just eat somewhat healthy, and when you’re starting to feel full, you know, QUIT EATING.

7.  Sleep! Sometimes you might just be getting a late snack to stay awake.  Instead, assert your will power, and go to bed.

8.  EAT EVERY THREE HOURS, and duh, don’t skip breakfast.  Eating every three hours keeps you from getting that starving feeling that makes you pig out.  It also boosts your metabolism. Snacks should be small but nutritionally helpful.

9.  Oh yeah!  If you have a c-section OR even tearing from a natural birth, do NOT exercise until 6 weeks out.  Trust me.  I thought I could be all tough and carry around two babies at once, two weeks after giving birth, and there were busted stitches as a result.  Youch. You don’t want that. ALWAYS wait six weeks.

I wish I had more before/after pics to share, but I’m so vain that I always delete my ‘fat’ pictures…. However, I do not delete pregnancy photos, so here are a few of those:

baby1weight

baby2weight

baby3weight

See, I’m not one of those thin pregnant women….

As you can see, I never really posed for any ‘before’ or ‘after’ pictures, because the weight loss was always so gradual.  That’s the kind of change that lasts.  It doesn’t have to be complicated to live a healthy lifestyle.  Just get moving, and skip the non-nutritive foods at the grocery store!

 

 

Exotic Burger King

Pillows on their heads…Why not?  Energy required to keep up with these guys!
  Do you freak out and take a pregnancy test every time you exhibit any odd symptoms?
….Obviously, most of you probably don’t do that…but if you were me, I bet you would!  I just took one last week and passed it with a nice one-line negative.  Phew!  But after having trouble keeping my eyes open all day and a couple of light dizzy spells, it’s tempting to buy another one!
  
    Don’t worry.  I’m not pregnant.  That would not be funny at all.
   I just have anemia.  I hate anemia.  I don’t have time for anemia.  There are four small children who need an energetic mommy!!!!!
  I’ve even taken to eating spinach.  Apparently it is high in iron.  We’ll see if it helps, so far it has not.  Remembering to take my iron helps a ton!  I just cannot always remember, and I hesitate to leave a drug that lethal out on the counter to remind myself.  
  Ironic how something I need so badly is so dangerous for my children.
  Today I did a crazy thing.  I checked my kids out of school at lunch, drove all four of them to Burger King, and met Alan there for a family lunch out.  It was really nice and relaxing, and I just felt like we needed it.  This is a rough season for us.  It will pass, but I thought it would be great do something a little out of the status quo today.  
  Burger King may not sound exotic, but when you have four children, going anywhere all together as a family is exotic!  We never go to restaurants, unless we’re on vacation.  
  Believe it or not, all children were on their best behavior.  JD slept, and the boys all sat quietly in their chairs and ate their food.  We got lots of smiles from onlookers waiting in line.  We had that feeling of, “Ah, we’re okay,” for just a little while.  
  
 I had a rough couple of days with JD, but he was really good today, and I was so thankful!
  I cleared the afternoon–which just means that I skipped doing the laundry and dishes and picking up–and spent time playing with Joshua and Caleb while the “littles” napped.  Joshua likes to host the “Lego Room Olympics”.  This is where we have contests involving the activities that are kept in the Lego room.  (By Lego room, I mean our dining room.  That’s where I keep small toys and messy toys.)  
  Today’s Olympic games included a Lego building contest and a drawing/story contest.  I was so happy for Caleb because last year he wouldn’t even attempt writing anything, but this year he wrote a full caption for his picture.  
  
 Mom and I will have to spend all day tomorrow making up for that skipped laundry time because I also skipped laundry to take the boys to lunch, skipped lots of things to sleep later than usual, and then I skipped laundry to take a nap.  (Seriously having trouble with the sleeping….)  Thank you, Megan and Cara, for that nap!!!!
  
  Wait.  Did I say Mom!?  That’s right!  My parents are on their way, and they will be here tomorrow!  
  WAHOOOOOOOO!  I’m so glad they enjoy coming and helping with the “grandkids”.  This will be such a great break for me!  Caleb was so excited, he went to bed with the biggest smile on his face. 
  **Quote of the Day**
This conversation actually happened at dinner last night.
Alan:  So what did you boys learn in Bible class today?
Boys:  We don’t have Bible class at school.
Alan:  What?  You don’t learn about the Bible at school???
boys:  No, we just don’t talk about God at school, except for in the pledge.  (ha)
Caleb:  We just learn about things like planes, and pumpkins, and angimals  (animals).
Alan:  Well, now, why do you think that is?
Caleb:  I don’t know.  Maybe the schools were hypnotized by Satan, I think.   No.  No, maybe they were hypnotized by the angimals.  (animals)
I’ve gotta remember to ask Caleb more questions!   Such creative answers!  ; )
****
Next time you see me, maybe I’ll have a smile on my face.  I feel like this struggle I’ve had is part anemia, part postpartum depression, and part normal response to a demanding phase.  People can’t be giddy-happy all the time.  That would just be obnoxious, right?  ; )  As my sister-in-law said, if I weren’t overwhelmed by caring for four small children, I wouldn’t really be human.  This is just a phase, and hang with me.  I still look for the humor in things, even if I’m not quite as sun-shiny-happy as I’d like to be.  
For now I have great hope.  My parents will be here tomorrow, and I am more excited than Caleb is!!!  I’m also super sleepy.  What am I thinking staying up past 10:30?  Good night all!  
Don’t forget to steer clear of those hypnotizing “angimals”!!!!

Fall: Taking Stock

Three months out from the new baby:  This is what my closet actually looks like right now.
  Ah, Fall.  Who doesn’t love Fall?  The further north you live the more exciting it is!  (And also a little foreboding at the same time).  
  I love it just as much as anyone, and as CEO of our little abode, it is my duty to take stock of everyone’s closet situation each fall.  Then I must fill in the gaps, as well as assess exactly what size jeans we all need!  
  It took me two weeks to do it, but I now officially have all closet assessments completed.  : )  I’m still not sure what size jeans everyone wears this year, but perhaps I’ll get that figured out this weekend.
  
  I wish I had taken photos of the mounds of 3T clothes I found in Dan’s storage bins.  Having two big bros paid off.  I actually hauled out three paper grocery bags of excess clothes.  Not kidding.  Who in the world needs 25 pairs of pants!!??  Daniel would like you all to know that he doesn’t need any new clothes whatsoever…probably until he graduates high school.  ; )
He only needs a few fleece sleepers.  Note to my family: If you’re buying him one for Christmas, he will need 9/12 month ones at that point.  For now he is officially a 6/9 month size baby. 
  Joshua and Caleb were fairly easy as well.  Both Nana and Nonna have been shopping for us, so I will only have to buy pants if Joshua really has outgrown the 8 slims.  The verdict is still out on that since the boy lives in Adidas pants, and the 8s still seem to be long enough as far as those go.
  
  But, hello?  What happened to my clothing??  
  Having 4 babies in 7 years happened, a pretty common plight to women, I suppose.
   I am three months out and 28 pounds down, but since I gained 40, most of my clothes still do not fit, especially fitted shirts and pants.  That weight does not fall off over night, it just doesn’t, but this closet is serious motivation to get my butt back in gear.
   Thanks to my closet, and to my disappointing return to Yoga Monday night, I have been on a real get-back-in-shape-roll this week.  
  Yep, Monday night I started back to Yoga class.  Now if you’re picturing a relaxing evening of stretching, believe me when I tell you that’s not how I would describe this class.  Monica knows I have 15 pounds left to lose, and a postpartum gut to go with it, so she designed it to be a work-out!
  It was embarrassing.  I was a sweating, grunting, falling mess.  Forget “Warrior Pose”.  I was more like “Warrior Down”.  Help!  The warrior is shot!!!
  Oh!  Plus she has her studio wall lined with……MIRRORS.  The horror.  Have you ever had to watch yourself do Yoga, while the person beside you weighs about 100 pounds?  
   It’s rather humbling.
  But you know I’m not one to sit down and mope.  I took it as a wake-up call.  So Tuesday I went back to running, Wednesday I just walked, Thursday I ran a little further plus did an ab workout (which I should be doing about everyday), and today….well, nothing so far, but I have plans!
  I really wish I could do the Fitness at the Park class with my friends, but alas, two babies make that prospect very intimidating.
  Speaking of running, Joshua got all excited and wanted to go with me last night.  Of course, I thought that was great, but when we went outside he grabbed his bicycle.  I had to settle for him biking with me.  And you know what?  I ran faster and longer because I just didn’t want to let him down.  Ha! Isn’t that funny?  
   He was a great work-out buddy.  He purposefully rode slowly so that he could ride beside me and talk my ear off.  Of course, all he talked about was video games and Skylanders. 
  A very wise mentor once told me to always listen without complaint to little boys droning on and on about such topics because this is your chance, while you’re still ‘in’.  If you let them know now that you are not interested in what you are saying, they will internalize that, “Mommy doesn’t want to hear about the things I care about”, and then when they are older you will be left out of the information you do want to hear about!  Thank you, Tracy Brown.  
   It’s funny.  All Joshua talks about is video games, but he hardly ever plays video games.  He plays them for 5-10 minutes tops, and then he’s back out on the trampoline, playing out all that he saw on his game.
   Caleb, on the other hand, would play them all day if we let him, but he doesn’t discuss them, never buys them, and never asks for them.  So many things I don’t understand!
…..So we’ve heard some cute things lately, and of course I must share:
1.  While out running/riding a bike:
    Joshua:  Oooo.  
    Me:  Aw, poor squirrel (fresh roadkill)
   Joshua:  (stopping his bike)  I gotta see this.
   Me:  No!  Don’t touch it!  We never touch dead animals.
  Joshua:  I wasn’t going to touch it.  I just want to see it.  I gotta stay.  I want to see a car run over it. 
  Me:  Ewwww! Oh, no, absolutely not.  Let’s go.  That would be awful.  Gross, Joshua!
  Joshua:  *sigh*  That’s just because you’re a girl, and girls think everything is gross.  They’re always like “ewww gross” (in his best mimicking girl’s voice).
2.  Joshua:  I’m so excited I’m going to get a Skylanders’ Swamp game.  All my friends have Skylanders, but don’t worry, I won’t ever buy the one that burps (He said his name, but I don’t recall), because I know you don’t like that.  Even if everybody else gets him, I won’t get him because I know you do not like him.   : )
3.  Caleb drew this picture in Art Class.
    Then he came home and showed it to Alan and Joshua.  He explained that it’s a machine he designed that will do your homework for you, if you put a dime in it.  Then he got out his Legos and started to build it.  He and Joshua were very excited about this.  I don’t think it ever occurred to either of them that this was anything that couldn’t be created.
Have a great weekend everyone.  I will obviously be doing some clothes shopping!

Rainy Day Review

As I was de-cluttering our bedroom yesterday, I came across this highly detailed Google art that Joshua did this past year in Art class.   I LOVE his great attention to detail.
Here’s another one:
This was his Mario /Baseball themed one. 
  Last week my mom was here.  It was amazing how much laundry got done, how many delicious dinners were cooked, desserts made, and even a little guilt-free free time.

  Mom left yesterday, and by lunch time today I realized that today will look a lot different than that.  By 11am I was already out of burp cloths, the living room looks like someone ignited an explosive device in a baby store, there is no make-up on my face, and I keep day dreaming about laying my head on my pillow.
   The thing is that not only do I just have a lot to do, but also it’s raining outside, so the whole house just feels…..gray.  We’re all stuck in the house together:  sleepy Mommy, 7-year-old with serious cabin fever, GRUMPY 6-year-old, “I don’t want to nap” 2 year old, and of course our darling 2-month-old.  
   I have gotten a lot done this morning:  dinner cooked, children fed, dishes cleaned, laundry cycled (with the help of Joshua and Caleb), plus I finally took care of some important calls I needed to make.  Oh!  And it turns out that I didn’t miss Daniel’s preschool Open House or Meet the Teacher Day!  I just wrote them on the wrong month of my calendar.  Phew!
    
Anemia…..
    While I probably should be working on the disaster area that is my house, I decided to stop and blog instead.  I ran out of energy.  I ate my Total this morning, took my multi-vitamin as well as my iron supplement, drank my OJ for vitamin C, but I’m still dragging around here wishing I were asleep.  Anemia is so not funny, ya’ll.  Most people are supposed to be over it by 6 weeks postpartum.  I think I’m on week 10 (lost track), and it is still very much a problem for me.    I had a few people suggest other iron type supplements, and I’m sure they are good, but the iron pills work just the same I think, only I can’t remember to take them as often as I should.
   My current fantasy:  Give all four children to my hubby while I check into a hotel and sleep for 10 hours or so.  Napping is hard here because even when I get the littlest ones down for their nap, the children always find me.
   I guess I should stop whining about how tired I am and go attempt to take a nap.  JD and Daniel are both asleep.  DaddyO and Nonna arrive tomorrow.  We are excited about them coming and introducing them to our little Bobby.  We also have Joshua’s doc appointment and Open House tomorrow.  Hmm….if only I could get the caffeine patch!
Meet the Robinson’s, one of my favorite movies!
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