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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Chancey Turns One!

Last week we celebrated Chance-man's first birthday! I can't wrap my head around how he is one already but I decided I'm going to (try) to not be a mom who gets sad about aging and wrinkles, as well as her kids growing up since both are inevitably going to happen. Besides, don't wrinkles just mean you smiled more in your life? 

I'm feeling pretty good that everyone in our house survived the first 6 months of Chance's life. They were kind of tricky for this first-timer, but even if I could have seen the future and my postpartum stuff I'd do it all again in a second.

Throwing Chance his first birthday party was definitely one of my top mom moments thus far. It was so much fun and I loved every second of it.
I took some fun "one year" pictures of Chance in his room for his birthday and I was glad about how many cute ones I got. I bought this banner at Target and filled up a few balloons and plopped a hat on him. I loved the color and randomness, they perfectly represent Chance to me!Bright and happy and random and fun. Chance really reminds me a lot of his dad these days. He is pretty happy-go-lucky and fine to simply go with the flow. He does so good no matter what we do and is just really cool and chill as long as he has enough food in his belly (just like his dad ha!) 

Here are a couple of the winners from his fancy-dancy photo shoot:
His party was fun! I decided to keep it smaller and just invite family. We ordered pizza and picked up some soda and crazy straws and called it good. My kind of party. I did make some sweet cupcakes that were easily my greatest baking creation to date. They were so funny to me and I cracked myself up. Andrew helped me make the cupcake toppers one night while we were watching football and we we about died with how they turned out. They are just golden. One of my favorite neighbor friends (Kelli Eudis) came over and helped me frost the cupcakes and it was a great masterpiece. (Cupcakes are right up my alley - full cakes that take lots of time are not.)

Check these bad boys out...
(I copied this idea from this post. I would really be lost without Pinterest.)

I didn't really have a theme for his party. I just knew I wanted it to be happy and colorful. To me his birthday was not only a celebration of Chance's turning one, but also a little internal party to myself for getting better! A few months ago I wouldn't have dreamt that I would ever have the energy and excitement that I did to put this party together. This year has not been my easiest, but over the last 3 months I have been feeling so much better and am so glad to be in the place I am now. I so firmly believe the hard times make the good times so much sweeter and that God has a specific timing and purpose for the hard things he hands us throughout our lives, as well as a lesson we need to learn from every single trial, no matter how big or small. Andrew and Chance fill my life with such a sense of fulfillment and meaning and making a family is just the coolest and best thing I've ever done.

ANYWAYS...we were so glad our families could come for Chance's party. I required let everyone wear party hats and it was a ball. Nothing like forcing people into participation to make a party a success! (#amiright) 

My mom and sister and her husband Danny came with their two kids Owen and Leah. I think I will always be sad that my dad can't be at stuff but I like to think he's always close by watching and happy. Andrew's parents Karen and Gerry came, along with Ashlee and her three kids, Aaden, Kate, and Luke. Andrew's sister Brianny also came with her boyfriend Josh, and cute Grandma Cow was a trooper and made the trek from South Jordan. (We all call her Grandma Cow because she has cows at her house. Andrew and Ashlee gave her that name when they were little and it stuck. It cracks me up.)We missed Grandma Fonny but she wasn't feeling well and needed to rest for her big hip surgery coming up. 


I asked Brianny to take some pictures with my camera and she did great and had fun. It worked so good because I was able to open presents and really enjoy the party. Ever since we lost my dad I've learned pictures are so special. They capture all the small moments and that's really all I want in my life. Just lots of happy moments and pictures to remember them. Everything else is just stuff.

Brianny snapped (a zillion) cute photos and I'll cherish them forever. Here are a few of the winners. 
Chance was a little passive about eating his cake and we didn't have all day so I smashed his face in it like I did with Andrew at our wedding. Everyone gasped and couldn't believe I would do that to my baby. Mom of the year right here, folks. He loved it I promise.
Naturally Andrew threw a cupcake in my face after I smashed Chance in his, which prompted a cupcake fight. It was fu.


Chance got so many fun and thoughtful gifts from our families, he was so spoiled! (Honestly I think he would have been just as happy with tissue paper and boxes and string...butttttt.....whatever.) His cousins had fun helping him open his presents. I was stoked because I don't have to buy him toys for like a year and bonus he's entertained for a while. Thanks family! :) 
^^^I love everything about this one. Andrew's face, Chance playing alone, and Kate's wings. ^^^

I printed out a bunch of cute pictures of Chance and had all our guests write him letters on the back for him to read when he was older. Everyone did it, and I'm so glad he can remember his first birthday party by these! Even the kiddos had fun drawing some pictures and writing him little letters. I loved it. 


We capped the night off with Chance's favorite, a bath in the sink, and he was thrilled. Chance loves the water more than anything so he loved when we stripped him down and let him splash all over the place with everyone watching. 

We had such a memorable night. Thanks to all our families for coming and for the sweet gifts! We love you all! 


xoxo
-steph 












Friday, September 1, 2017

First Family Camping Trip!

I had a checkup with my neurologist for my stupid postpartum stuff last week. I sat in his office and proudly told him all that I was doing to try and get myself feeling better. I told him I was reading books, joined a postpartum support group, I signed up and attended my first MBSR course, started exercising, you name it and I've been doing it! When I told him about all the stuff I had going on he looked at me like I was kind of crazy (weird...) and told me the best thing I can do to feel better is start doing things that make me happy. Embarrassingly enough, I hadn't even though of doing this.

So I decided to take a chill pill and just spend some time with my two favorite people in the world. And want to know what? It's working! Weird. Doctor's actually know what they are talking about! Who knew?

I suggested to Andrew we head up to the mountain because next to my home, they are one of my very favorite places. So we packed and headed up the Alpine Loop. 

Andrew is in the Young Men's presidency and has to take the deacons camping once a month. It has been pretty rad because we have learned where all the sweet secret camping spots are. 

Andrew has turned into a fancy pants chef these days. I love it so much, he's on a roll with making some good food. He decided to try dutch oven for the first time and made us chicken and veggies and oh.my.gosh they were so good. 

It was kind of a dream to be up in nature with Andrew and Chancey pants. To get to our spot we had to take the Suby (my trusty Subaru) off roading on a pretty rough dirt road. We accidentally busted our bumper (whoops) but it was still worth it. 
We found this little spot you had to hike to and the weather was crisp and perfect. We bundled up Chance and let him crawl around and get super dirty like a little boy should be. Andrew took him around on his shoulders (he loves to be up there and clings to Andrew's hair for dear life) and they explored a little. My dad would say we "recannoitered", he loved that word.
We stayed up super late talking and Chance fell asleep in my arms, which NEVER happens and it was a dream.

Chance and I slept perfectly but Andrew was up all night, bless his little heart. He was so worried about Chance being cold that he didn't sleep at all. Chance and I were out though. 2/3 is pretty good in our house.
It was a fun little getaway and I couldn't help but feel so grateful to God for places like this and moments with those I love. If I've learned anything over the last few months, it's that life is precious and every moment matters. I found this uplifting article that's relevant that I wanted to share.

I love the mountains and my people. I don't want summer to end! 

xoxo
-steph 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Feeling all the feels...

I had an overwhelming feeling today that I need to start writing again. That writing could be healing for me. I've been a regular journal writer since I was 8 years old, but the last little while my I've slacked off as life has gotten busier and crazier. 

There’s something about putting my thoughts down into words that seems to be therapeutic and healing. Almost as if I’m talking to a best friend who’s listening, and saying exactly what I want to say in an easy and understandable way, something I never can quite manage to do in real life, especially as of late! I also feel no pressure writing on my blog because I think I have like four readers.

This summer has been one for the books. Unfortunately, the bad books. The ugly books that you don’t ever want to open, let alone read again. What should have been the happiest time of my life has been stupid hard. I have a beautiful husband, an incredible job, amazing friends and family, and now the most beautiful little baby I had ever seen in real life. I still look at him in awe and can’t believe he’s mine. This summer, after countless tests and doctor visits, I was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression and anxiety. It has been a trip, and I only hope that one day I can look back on this time and remember it was sucky and that I came out of it and am a better person for it.  I’m guilty to admit that before this experience I didn’t understand depression and anxiety, though its roots run deep in my family. My dad had severe bipolar, and other members of my family have suffered with anxiety and depression. Writing this down feels horrible but the truth is, I thought people who suffered from depression should just snap out of it and just think positive. I thought they were using the word “depression” as a way to shy away from having to face the pressure and demands of this life. My feelings around depression and anxiety are the same as my feelings around having a baby: there is no way you can understand it until you have lived through it.

My symptoms started in May. I started having muscle twitches on the arch of my left foot. They would come and go every few minutes, sometimes for a brief second and sometimes for minutes at a time. To say it freaked me out was an understatement. I started reading online trying to figure out what was going on, which was a big mistake. I started reading about MS and ALS, and the fear became all encompassing. The more I stressed, the more I read, and the worse my symptoms became. What started out with a twitch in my foot soon spread to my calves, hamstrings, shoulders, back, even my face. I started experiencing tingling in my toes and hands, and even had numbness in my face one evening that drove me to the emergency room, where I was dismissed for anxiety. Then the fatigue settled in, and with it brought what I can only describe as the biggest, darkest, cloud that came to rain over me and follow me around, tormenting me wherever I went. What started out as anxiety quickly spiraled into depression, and I became absolutely, positively convinced that I was dying. My body was shutting down. I started throwing up, having diarrhea, and was unable to eat or sleep. I lost 10 pounds far too quickly. I was jittery, helpless and hopeless, and would stare at Chance and just think, “I’m never going to be able to see my baby grow up.” I wondered how he would look when he was older, and thought that maybe I should start writing him letters for him to read when he was older, in case I wasn’t around.
I remember taking this picture and thinking it hurt to smile. Then I saw it and thought, I look as bad as I feel! Haha!
We took a few vacations this summer, one to Seattle. My symptoms had just started and I noticed anxiety and some weakness when we were walking around, but I was still functional and we had a good time. Then we went to Lake Powell with some friends the week after Seattle. I was also functional but had a lot of anxiety leading up to the trip. Once we were there we had such a good time that I barely noticed my weakness, though I still had constant twitches throughout the trip. After Lake Powell things got real bad real fast and I didn't know what was happening to me. We headed to San Diego the following week (yes, we had lots of fun things planned this summer, we were ready to party!) but it was there that things started to spiral out of control. I spent most of my time in San Diego in bed, crying and miserable. I was too tired to take care of my baby, my muscles and whole body ached, and the depression became crippling. I remember taking a bath while we were in California and looking out the window. Down below was my family. Outside, enjoying their evening. They were happy, healthy, and normal. I was above looking down on them and felt so far away and so alone. No one could understand what I was going through. The crippling fear, the aches and pains, and the devastation of hopelessness.  Right then and there I prayed to Heavenly Father to give me strength to get up and go outside. To spend the evening with my family and baby. To pull it together enough to get out of that bathtub. Those types of prayers became normal after that. Not just praying to make it through the day, but to make it through the moment. To be able to get up and get Chance. To be able to eat. To be able to go to the grocery store and have the energy to get Chance out of the car. Time stood still. 

Things got so bad in San Diego that we didn’t waste any time setting up doctor appointments for when we got home. I went to a few doctors (one that told me he thought I was drinking too much water...uh....) and ended up with a stud doctor in our area. He was so helpful and knowledgeable that I felt a sense of calm knowing I was in his care. He ordered lots of blood work, an MRI, an EMG, and even tests for Celiac Disease and Lyme Disease.  I was also referred to a neurologist who happened to be the head of neurology at St. Mark’s hospital (and a member of the Mo Tab so he's basically a celebriy - woot!)

When it was finally time for me to see him I was at rock bottom. I was only able to sleep two to three hours at night, I was forcing food down, had lost too much weight, and the twitching, fatigue, and muscle pain was so excruciating I found it challenging to walk and do basic things around the house. My anxiety was through the roof.
Andrew and Chance with me at the neurologist's office. Andrew is a stud and has been with me to all of my doctor appointments.
I sat in his office, reading to him what I had brought with me, which was a list of all my symptoms, and when they started. As I made my way down the (longggg) list of things that seemed to be shutting down with my body, I couldn’t help but start sobbing. I was a freakin' train wreck. He was going to tell me it was bad, I just knew it. After taking his time looking over my MRI, EMG, and other test results, he did some poking and prodding and testing of my legs and arms. He then politely looked at me with the kindest expression and said “all of your symptoms are very common for severe postpartum anxiety and depression.”

I just stared at him, tears flowing down my face.

How could this be? I loved my baby! In fact, I was obsessed with him. I thought people with postpartum depression wanted to hurt their babies or had crazy hallucinations! And I don’t have depression! I’m usually the happiest person ever! I love life!

As much as I was telling myself this was the craziest thing ever, I felt a sense of calm just a few minutes after I let this sink in.

He is right.
I am sick. I have postpartum depression and anxiety.
I’m not dying.
I am sick and it’s not my fault. My hormones are out of control and I’m going to get better.
I am lucky. This could be much worse.
I'm okay.

When we left the doctors office that day I had a huge sense of relief, and for the first time in months I finally felt hope. I was going to get better! It wasn’t going to happen overnight but people get through this all the time.

On the way home Andrew and I celebrated by getting me a giant cheeseburger, which I swear I devoured in record time. I was already on my way to recovery.

When we came home I started reading everything I could on postpartum depression. I still wasn’t sleeping very well but the eating was getting better. The anxiety had calmed down but oh, how my body ached. Every inch of it hurt to my core.

The first things I did when I started researching was join a postpartum moms support group. I found multiple ladies who were going through or had experience the exact same thing I had. A surprising number of people have anxiety and depression present with primarily physical symptoms. Everyone's bodies handle stress and worry differently, and apparently mine just exhibited in the form of physical pain. It helped SO much to talk to these women. And I will forever be grateful for some of these strangers’ support during this difficult time in my life.

I also set up appointments to go to a chiropractor, a psychiatrist, and back to my family doctor. Then I went to work and filled out paperwork to take a short-term medical leave. I instantly went from fearful and fragile, to hopeful and determined. I ordered books about postpartum, and even signed up for an 8 week MBSR workshop (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) that one of the ladies in my support group recommended.
I will never forget this day. It was the first time I started feeling better! I told Andrew we had to go out to eat to celebrate, and I was giddy with excitement that I was getting my life back on track. Woot! 

I have now been home with Chance for about a week and a half, but my diagnosis of PPD/A was 4 weeks ago. I am significantly better, but nowhere near healed. I am learning patience, recovery from this is brutal and slow. I have good days and bad days. On my bad days I have to remind myself that I am starting to have more good days than bad days, and eventually the bad days will subside and disappear. Many people I’ve talked to who have been through this all tell me the same thing, “be patient with yourself in your recovery.” At first I wasn’t sure what this meant. I thought if I found out I “just” had postpartum anxiety and depression I would get better right away. Now I completely understand what they mean.  Many days my recovery has not just been taking it one day at a time, but one MINUTE at a time. I take two steps forward and one step back.  Once I started having good days, the bad days completely discouraged me. I would lay there and think, "Am I ever going to get through this? What if this never goes away and this is my life now?" To be honest these thoughts still challenge me, and I’m trying to learn how to control them. Now I am just getting to the point where I’m just starting to have more good days than bad days. Where I can talk to people and not think about how I’m feeling, where I’m just living my life. I went to church on Sunday and felt good the entire day! It makes bad days a little bit more bearable because I’ve seen good, and that gives me lots of hope that I'm going to get better.

I am so grateful for modern medicine. I am so grateful for therapy and doctors. I’m so grateful for a husband who loves me unconditionally, at my best or my worst, and for my sister and mom and Andrew’s family who have been extremely supportive through this whole thing. I'm so grateful for good friends. All these people have helped with Chance and listened to me cry and have just been there through it all.

Most of all I am so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father and a Savior who I feel like have been the only ones who truly understands what I am going through at this time.
I want to say I don’t know why this is happening but the truth is I know exactly why this is happening. I feel very strongly that Heavenly Father wants me to learn and grow from this. I am so much closer to Him because I have gone through this. I also feel very strongly that he wants me to share my experience and testimony with others. I truly have felt His comfort, love, and arms around me at my darkest times. I know that I will be a better person when I come out of this. A better wife, mom, and friend.

For now though, my life has slowed down considerably. I’m taking it one day at a time, and trying desperately to enjoy the little moments in my life as I get feeling better. Because I'm not working right now, I cling to the tiny moments at home with Chance. The little laughs. The slobbery kisses. The sweet sound of Andrew singing to Chance in his nursery at bedtime. The chubby fingers wrapped around mine. The messy face at lunchtime. My boys are my world. I can’t wait to be all better!

xoxo
-steph