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Postpartum

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I feel like one of the reasons I was put on this Earth was to help people to find happiness and success in their lives. I enjoy sharing my life experiences when I know that others will gain strength through them. I’ve probably started a dozen blog posts in the past 2 years that I was just waiting on the happy ending before posting. Posts about how I had a baby and got my body back, how I’m training my ass off, and about how I was sick but I overcame it. Unfortunately, these things haven’t happened yet, and it makes me feel like a failure and a bad role model.

I have something that’s been weighing on me, quite literally, for quite some time now. I’ve been struggling pretty intensely for the past year and a half with Epstein Barr Virus (EBV). And since I’m well past the “dormant” phases, I’m also suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), (also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) but most appropriately as Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease (SEID)) and Fibromyalgia. It turns out I’ve probably had EBV for 15+ years (since I had mono as a child) but never knew it until recently, when things got bad.

But You Look Healthy
A few months after the birth of my son, I started to notice constant nausea and pain in my body that was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. I’ll spare you all the details. I figured it could be a number of things…exhaustion from working two, er, make that three jobs not including being a Mommy, having a newborn, breastfeeding 24/7, not sleeping for more than 90 minutes at a time, but with every solution I came up with for those things, the pain just got worse and worse. Despite my lab work being “perfect”, I knew something was not right.

Denial
I haven’t really talked about it much for several reasons. Part of me is in denial that this is really happening, and the other part of me knows it’s real and is hopeful that it will be over soon, and I won’t have to worry about it. This is a strange space for me, I have never before put a blog post together about something that’s beating me before I’ve overcome it. Probably because I really don’t want to put myself out there, in this vulnerable position. I fear that if I tell this story, people will see me as weak, or unhealthy, two things that I spend every waking moment of my life trying NOT to be. That and—let’s be honest—I’m not all that great at accepting help from other people. I also do not want to admit that I am not well. If I put this blog post out there, I’m admitting to myself and the world that this is true, which I’m not sure I’m ready for. I don’t want to have to answer a ton of questions because truthfully, I don’t have the answers. On the other hand, if I’m not open and honest, I’m doing a huge disservice to the people I care most about and want to be a role model to. Not only that but at this point, I feel like I’ve been keeping a secret that’s actually hindering my healing process. It’s time to move forward, as difficult as the process ahead might be.

I Can’t Seem To Fix It
I have a positive attitude most of the time, but sometimes I feel like it’s getting harder and harder to hold on to. I don’t understand how this could possibly be happening. I’d rather it not be true, and I’ve tried so many things to “get better”, from weekly nutritive IVs, rest, diet changes, and more, and I’m just not there. Lately there have been so many reminders that God is in control and I’m working hard to process that concept. That’s a different blog post altogether. I will say, though, that although I am sometimes confused by my relationship with God, I believe in Him and in the power of prayer.

When I was in labor with my son, I didn’t want anyone to know because I didn’t want to feel “pressured”. I would have flipped if my husband had received a text message like “is he here yet?” kind of thing. But in hindsight, I realize that people wanted to know when I was in labor so that they could offer prayer and support, not pressure. What can I say, hindsight is 20/20. 🙂 That said, there was a point in my delivery where I felt a shift in my mindset and I felt prayers from people. I felt His presence with me. I don’t feel like it was me that got through the experience of a natural, drug-free childbirth. It was my team, prayer, and Him that brought my son into this world. A power much greater than me, that’s for sure.

It’s very difficult for me to reach out for help. The normal “me” is positive, happy and has it all together. But the birth of my son reminds me that I cannot do everything on my own. It is with this knowledge that I open myself up, in the midst of my struggle, when I really, REALLY don’t want to. I’ve talked about this in pieces to some close friends and family members, but I have a hard time explaining what’s going on. For some reason I feel embarrassed by it, and can’t even look people in the eye when discussing it. I get the feeling from my friends and family that they aren’t sure how to help. Nor do I. But now I’m starting to feel like the answer might be in prayer. I hope that I will find renewed strength in being honest and vulnerable.

What It’s Like — In My Body and In My Head
I started this particular post the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I was in bed all day with a pain I can only describe as unbearable. In silent tears most of the day, with my phone in one had, researching remedies and reading things from support groups. I decided to write about my journey, as it helps me to process things. But I haven’t wanted to post it. And even today, as I read through it, I find myself editing it, taking out the “hard” parts, once again. Because maybe, just maybe, I’ll wake up tomorrow and this will all be over.

I try to ignore the pain and most of the time, and with the knowledge I’ve gained in the last 7 months, I can. I guess that’s part of what makes it so difficult. One day I’m okay and another, I physically cannot get out of bed because of the unbearable pain that I can’t really explain, GI distress and nausea. The pain is so real and so intense, and it’s extremely depressing. I lay there and I wonder what the rest of my life will be like. Who am I if I am not the bubbly, energetic, fit athlete I’ve come to identity with? Who is this person lying in bed? I have not wanted to talk about this with my family and friends because if I don’t know how to explain what’s happening, and they haven’t experienced it themselves, how could they possibly understand?

Most people don’t know what Epstein Barr is, and when they hear “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”, they tell me to rest. They tell me it’s probably because I “do so much.” But here’s the thing… I don’t need a nap, and resting doesn’t prevent these flare-ups. And don’t get me started with “Oh I’m tired too, I must have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” I will literally drop kick you. Thank goodness it’s been renamed, but people still unfortunately are more familiar with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome than Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease. Anyone who has this knows that the name “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” is a bunch of bullshit. Pardon my French.

My “Recovery”
I’m told there’s no cure for EBV and the other super-fun related diseases/disorders I’ve seemed to collect, but on the other hand, I know people who have in fact “recovered” from it. I can see myself in the future, and I know I’m well, but I just don’t know how to get there. My Type A personality wants to know three things.

1: What caused this?
2. What I need to do to recover?
3. How long this is going to last?

Wouldn’t that be nice.

I’ve been getting nutritive IVs for the past 7 months and they have definitely helped. I’ve tweaked my diet even more, rest when I need to, etc. But anytime I catch a cold, try to exercise, miss any sleep etc., it takes me about 6 weeks to recover. I’ve tried to be careful after my recent surgery but I dropped the ball for a few days nutritionally and I can guarantee you it played a part in my recent flare-up. Lesson learned.

Going Out On a Scary, Scary Limb
If you’d like more information on EBV, SEID and Fibro, here is a great article. It broke me down, but gave me hope. I’m telling my story in hopes that I will help others with this as well and that my honesty will help me in the next phase of this journey. Please don’t feel bad for me, that’s not what I need. Just know that I’m not an unfit, lazy Trainer. 🙂 Not that anyone’s said that, it’s just how I fear others may see me. Please provide me grace during this time in my life.

“Lord Father, I’m going out on a limb and exposing myself in ways that make me extremely uncomfortable. I also have an immense amount of guilt for praying to be healed when there are people that need it more than I. Please put them first. Please help me find strength and freedom in truth, power in knowledge and the drive to not give up, with your help. I know deep down that you’re in control, as difficult as that is to grasp sometimes. Your plan is bigger than mine. I don’t understand your plan, but I understand it’s happening for a greater purpose. I pray for a sign that everything’s going to be okay. I can’t seem to do this on my own. Please help me heal. Thank you for hearing my prayers. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

I hope that this reaches others suffering with EBV, CFS, Fibro, etc. I hope that this connects us, we can one day share success stories and put all this behind us!

Peace, love, and Faith,

Melissa

 

Great article on Epstein-Barr Virus / CFS / Fibromyalgia
http://goop.com/the-medical-medium-and-whats-potentially-at-the-root-of-medical-mysteries/

CFS / ME / SEID
http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/02/11/385465667/panel-says-chronic-fatigue-syndrome-is-a-disease-and-renames-it
http://www.uptodate.com/contents/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-systemic-exertion-intolerance-disease-beyond-the-basics

Fibromyalgia
http://www.uptodate.com/contents/fibromyalgia-beyond-the-basics?source=see_link

 

I’ve had so much to say on this topic for the past year, but as soon as I sit down to write this post, I find myself staring at a blank screen. I’ve experienced such a huge range of emotions throughout this journey, I truly don’t know where to begin.

Before my son was born, I assumed I would breastfeed him for one year. Well aware of the benefits of breastfeeding and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation of one year, I thought nothing of it—until he nursed for the very first time, and I immediately wanted to retract my statement. Holy…painful…experience! All I could think of was, “I just gave birth and now I have to endure MORE pain?! This is SO not fair!” After a few days of raw, bleeding nipples and toe-curling pain, I wasn’t sure I would make it another feeding let alone 12 months!

To make matters worse, I was dealing with D-MER, short for Dysmorphic Milk Ejection Reflex. It sounds weird, but what it actually means is that I experienced extreme depression before my milk let down, which then lasted most of the feeding session. As soon as he was finished it would disappear, but it made nursing him very difficult and made pumping almost impossible. I’m extremely thankful that milk supply was never an issue for me, but then of course there are side effects of having plenty of milk. Goodbye morning workouts, or ANY workout for that matter, until baby was fed!

Even with a broken tailbone, I took only 5 weeks off from training, and 6 weeks off from my full time gig at the office. I had this twisted idea in my head that I would have a baby and then go right back to my “normal” life. Unfortunately it took about 8 months, 3 doctors, 1 husband (haha) and an extreme amount of stress before I really understood that I couldn’t continue on the way I was. I would nurse him most of the night (he wasn’t a fan of sleeping through the night at ALL), then teach camp, work my full time job, then train again in the evening. It was easily a 20 hour day, and with an infant and breastfeeding on demand exclusively, it was too much.

Incredibly stressed, suffering both mentally and physically, I needed to reassess my goal. I was at 3 months of breastfeeding, and knew if I had any chance of making it one more day (let alone 12 months), I would have to create a more attainable goal. With the support of my husband and friends and decided I wanted to get to the 6 month mark and then I could quit breastfeeding.

Luckily, reestablishing a smaller goal did the trick! I was able to reach the 6 month mark and after that, I started to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t get me wrong, it was never “easy” by any means. It just got “manageable”. In fact I heard a quote recently that describes breastfeeding quite perfectly,

“Breastfeeding is incredibly difficult, except for when it’s easy.”

Last week officially marked 12 months of breastfeeding and I feel like the most accomplished woman on the planet. I am still working 2 jobs (more than that, actually), and am still breastfeeding without ever having to supplement with formula. I actually worked my tail off to build up a nice supply in the first 4-5 months to ensure my LO would be able to be breastfed as long as possible regardless of how long I made it. With that supply, I was able to help a friend out by donating some breastmilk for her sweet baby. This donation actually helped me in meeting my goal. Knowing that I was blessed with a very generous milk supply and that there are other women who aren’t as fortunate, I felt it was my responsibility to keep going.

This entire journey has been incredibly difficult, yet enjoyable and memorable at the same time. As I look back, I remember crying when nursing, having to do anything to distract myself (lots of squats, usually, because the wave of depression was so intense I did anything to keep my mind off of it), and wanting to quit on a daily basis. I am finally “here” and want to jump up and down and throw my pump off of a tall building, but I can’t. I can’t because I am doing the most beautiful thing for my child. (Also that pump is freakin’ expensive and that would be a totally idiotic move.) I know I have the support of my friends and family if I do decide to stop, and a few doctors have gently suggested I consider it (for my own health reasons), but they are also incredibly supportive of my decision to continue.

I can’t describe the emotions that come over me when I contemplate ending this, and I know that most Mommas understand what I mean by this. I should be ecstatic that I have hit my goal and I should now be able to give myself permission to stop breastfeeding. But I can’t. But I want to. But I don’t want to. I feel selfish. I need to stop. Or do I? I do realize that my full physical and mental wellbeing will not be restored until I stop—but I can’t yet. The mix of emotions and hormones is overwhelming. One second I feel like I could breastfeed forever, and the next I feel like I cannot go on one more day. The amount of hours I have spent sitting still in a chair while my LO eats is insane. Those are hours I will never get back and for a Type A workaholic like myself, that was very difficult for a very long time. However, I thankfully grew to love that time together and as the end draws nearer, I cherish our moments together more and more. Thankfully, Honey Brown Photography was able to capture some of these beautiful moments on film. I will treasure them forever.

For now, I will continue breastfeeding. I no longer have a goal, now the plan is to continue on as long as I feel I can. I think part of my reward for hitting my 12-month goal is to no longer have a goal. There’s something really “freeing” about having hit the mark. I feel like every day I continue on is an extra special bonus for my little angel.

A very special thank you goes out to my husband, friends, doula and family for being so supportive. I’ve called you in tears plenty of times this past year asking for reassurance that if I quit before my goal I was still a good Mother. Thank you for all you have done to help me hit this milestone, I couldn’t have done this without you.

Peace, love, and breastmilk,

Melissa

 

Ahhh, just the name itself calms my nerves. So what is Peace & Calming you ask? About six months ago, I was asking that very same question.

In short, Peace & Calming is a Godsend for those suffering from stress, anxiety, depression and/or tension that want natural ways to relieve these symptoms. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18.1% of U.S. population). Essential oils help to alleviate any sort of emotional issues one may be going through. They are unlike any anti-depressant today. EOs work by bringing refreshment and balance to the limbic center of the brain, which controls emotion, reasoning and smell.

I was first introduced to the therapeutic qualities of essential oils through my midwife and doula. They both recommended P&C to me after the birth of my son to help relieve depression and anxiety. I wasn’t sure what it was at the time. In fact I had no idea it was something that needed to be ordered, that I couldn’t just walk into a grocery store and get it. I also had no idea how well it was going to work. I only wish I had ordered it sooner!

Peace & Calming is an oil blend created by Young Living to help individuals deal with various problems related to the nervous system and emotional balance. This blend has historically been used to help reduce depression, anxiety, stress and tension. P&C may be useful at the end of a stressful day to calm nerves and emotions, promote relaxation or to relieve insomnia. By helping the body relax, more blood is able to circulate to the brain, allowing goals and dreams to be visualized more vividly and accurately. It has also been stated that this blend may help hyperactive children get off Ritalin and may also help children with hypertension.

Peace & Calming can be diffused in the air or applied topically. Apply Peace & Calming topically under the nose, to the navel, on the back of the neck, wrists, back (diluted), and on the feet. It can also be worn as a perfume or cologne. When I first started using P&C, I would carry it with me and inhale it from the bottle during times of increased anxiety. I also created a new deodorant from it, making it a part of a new premium line I’m now offering on Etsy. Having it in the deodorant is great because it makes me feel like that stress reduction is “with me” all day long. It feels as though I’ve got a force field around me, helping protect me from anxiety! I also apply this to the bottoms of my feet (I apply it diluted) before bedtime. I get a much more restful night’s sleep after an application, with an occasional side serving of some wacky dreams!

Safety Data
Avoid exposure to direct sunlight for 3 to 6 hours after use, as this blend may cause increased photosensitivity.

Companion Oils
Lavender (for insomnia), chamomile (for calming)

Additional Top Oils Helpful for:
Depression: Lemon, Frankincense, Lavender, Joy, Bergamot, Valor, Ylang, Ylang, Rosemary, Rosewood, Tangerine, Grapefruit, Hope, Jasmine, Neroli, Sage, Sensation, Valor
Anxiety: Lavender, Orange, Lemon, Roman Chamomile, Valerian, Melissa, Copaiba, Ylang Ylang
Panic: Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Ylang Ylang, Awaken, Bergamot
Stress: Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Stress Away, Tranquil, Bergamot, Lemon, Common Sense
Tension: Cedarwood, Stress Away, Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Traquil

Frequency
Emotional; approximately 105 MHz

Single Oils Contained in This Blend

Tangerine
Contains esters and aldehydes, which are sedating and calming to the nervous system. It is also a diuretic and a decongestant of the lymphatic system.

Orange
Brings peace and happiness to the mind and body and joy to the heart, which feelings provide emotional support to help one overcome depression.

Ylang Ylang
May help balance the male-female energies so one can move closer towards being in spiritual atonement and be able to focus their thoughts, filtering out the ever-present garbage. It brings back feelings of self-love, confidence, joy and peace.

Patchouli
This oil is sedating, calming and relaxing, allowing it to reduce anxiety.

Blue Tansy
May help cleanse the liver and calm the lymphatic system.

You can order Peace & Calming directly from Young Living. Anyone can order it, but you’ll need my sponsor/enroller ID in order to process your order. My ID is 1563299. If you want to take advantage of wholesale prices, you can become a distributor (no obligations to sell, it’s like a Costco membership) or if you’re local, I’m happy to place the order for you using my account and you can pick up from me.

Peace, love and…more PEACE!

Melissa

 

* This the posts in this blog were written to provide information to help educate readers in regards to the subject matter they contain. The author is not liable for the misconception or misuse of the information provided. It is not provided in order to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any disease, illness or injured condition of the body. The author shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss, damage, or injury caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by the information contained in any of the blog posts. The information presented herein is in no way intended as a substitute for medical counseling. Anyone suffering from any disease, illness, or injury should consult a qualified health care professional.

 

The main reason I started this blog is to help educate people who want to live happier and healthier lives. There is so much information floating around these days, sometimes it’s hard to know what’s true and what’s not. I will be the first to admit that I had some unrealistic expectations of myself postpartum. I assumed that being fit and eating healthy, all of my weight would just fall off. Sure the last 10 lbs would probably be “tricky”, but nothing I couldn’t handle and certainly they wouldn’t stay on longer than about 4 months. I am currently 4 months postpartum, and here to tell you the truth about baby weight.

My Midwife put it to me this way, “There are two types of women that breastfeed, those that can’t keep weight on, and those that can’t lose the weight until they’re done breastfeeding. Unfortunately you will probably fall into the latter group.” Awesome. After 42 LONG weeks of watching the numbers on the scale increase, there was nothing more I wanted than my “body back.” I know all the Moms reading this right now are nodding in agreement. Being a Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor adds some extra stress as well, since I feel like people have high expectations of me. Maybe they do and maybe they don’t, but I definitely strive to be the best example for them that I can. So now, at 4 months postpartum, I have an extra 14 lbs that just WILL NOT BUDGE and although it’s not what I thought would happen…I’m finally okay with it.

After labor and delivery, you are left with a beautiful child and…a still slightly enormous belly. Except it’s not hard and there’s nothing moving inside of it anymore. It’s just all soft, squishy uterus. Ewww. They say it takes about 6 weeks for your uterus to return to it’s “normal” size. Your organs also have to shift back into place—there’s a lot happening in there. So it’s expected that it takes some time for things to return to normal. I lost more than half of the weight I gained in the first 10 days. I got compliment after compliment and I thought to myself “Oh yeah, this is so easy.” Everything I heard about breastfeeding made me believe that the weight was just going to fall off. And it did…but it was mostly water weight, and it stopped after about three weeks. From 3 weeks postpartum until now, I have lost a whopping 4 lbs. and let me tell you, my diet has been ON POINT. I’ve been exercising and eating right, so what is the dang deal?! It’s frustrating to say the least. I walk around “sucking in” because I feel I can no longer get away with saying I “just” had a baby. I feel like others judge me and honestly, those without kids probably do. I’m sure they assume I’m just not putting in the work to take care of it. And I now realize that that’s just not the way postpartum baby weight works when you’re breastfeeding. At least not for me.

So, you’ve had a baby, you’re breastfeeding and your hormones are still super out of whack—I mean come on, when is my hair going to STOP falling out already? And there’s this other thing—you are the sole food source for a little tiny human being that you just grew inside of you. I’d say that’s kind of a big deal. Truthfully, it is absolutely normal for your body to hang on to an extra 10-20 lbs while breastfeeding. Your body is AMAZING, and it is going to do exactly what it needs to do to ensure that you can produce and supply enough milk to nuture your child. I think that’s pretty freakin’ amazing. It’s just like in pregnancy. I remember agonizing over every pound I gained, wondering if it was true “baby weight” or if it was because all I felt like eating were carbohydrates. Looking back…I shouldn’t have stressed nearly as much as I did. My body was creating life!

I see other women’s posts online about how all of the baby weight just “fell off” and how happy they are, and I find myself wishing that was me. But it’s not me, and there’s a darn good reason that’s not me. My body is doing exactly what it needs to be doing. Having birthed a child (sans epidural, at that), I now have so much more respect for my body. If it wants to hang onto 14 lbs, well so be it! I’m fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed, which I know is more than a lot of women can say. Although there are lots of crappy side effects, I am truly grateful that I am able to provide food for my sweet baby. I know that my body will get rid of the weight when it is time. Right now, I am eating a super clean, healthy diet not because I want the weight to come off, but because that is what my body needs to provide the most nutritious milk for my son. I also know that the healthier I eat—the healthier I feel. The healthier I feel— the more I want to exercise, the better my relationships are and the better wife, mom and friend I am.

Instead of looking at these last 14 lbs. as being “stubborn baby weight” pounds, I look at them as “necessary milk supply” pounds, and that changes everything. Attitude is everything, so make it positive. Act positively, think positively, be positive. You created life, and now your supplying your baby with the nutrients he/she needs to grow and be healthy and happy. STOP thinking about this baby weight RIGHT THIS MINUTE and be PROUD of yourself.

Here’s to all the breastfeeding Mommas out there! You are amazing! Here’s to positive thinking, healthy milk supplies and healthy, happy babies!

Melissa