Marriage Matters

This is something that's been on my heart and mind for a little while now. It seems like everywhere I look on social media lately someone is getting divorced. And honestly, it breaks my heart a little bit every time I see it. I think about the hearts, families, and children involved and it just makes me so sad. I suppose that's in part because my [biological] parents are divorced. Even though they divorced when I was about Millie's age, it still affected me growing up. And there were absolutely times when it was painfully difficult.

It pains me to see it because I, too, know that marriage is hard. Although I won't go into detail (some things just don't need to be shared), Joe and I have had our fair share of tough times. There were days when I wasn't sure if we'd make it; days when I wondered if he really did love me. There have been days - weeks, even - when all I could feel toward him was anger and tension; days when we fought, and I cried my eyes out. 

Reality check: marriage isn't easy. It isn't all rainbows, butterflies, happy babies, and happily ever afters. It takes work. And military marriages? Well, it's my personal opinion that military marriages take twice the work because we endure frequent separations, cross-country moves, daily upheavals, and frustrations. There are times we go days or weeks, (for some of you months) without speaking. It's really hard to make a marriage work when you can't see or talk to them for long periods of time. 

When we got married 6 years ago, I had no idea that marriage would take work. I didn't know that we'd need to have the same discussion 5 times just to understand each other's ideas and expectations. I didn't know that I'd do certain things that would drive him crazy, and vice versa. I didn't understand the brand new challenge kids add to a marriage. And since I didn't marry a military man (he joined after our first anniversary), I had no clue what challenges we would face as a military couple.

Knowing how divorce can affect children, it was (and has always been) my aspiration to keep my family whole - no matter what it takes. I don't want my babies to know the pain and frustration I've dealt with throughout my life. Even though it was just a part of growing up for me, I think it's normal for us to want better for our kids. Doesn't every parent want that? 

In the end, though, we make it work because we made a commitment to God and each other. And it's not just a stay-together-because-of-the-kids type thing. It's actual work: having hard conversations, doing dig-deep Bible studies (and groups), and even counseling from pastors at church. We have to make "us time" a priority, too, although I admit that's something we struggle with. Really, that's mostly because our kids are so young. We can't always afford a babysitter (or find one we trust), and we can't always leave them with sitters because I'm breast feeding Millie. Instead, we try to find things to do together at home - new shows or movies to watch, talk about things after the kids are in bed, etc. 

I know that sometimes it's one person who wants to end a marriage, while the other has done everything they can to save it. I've seen it. Sometimes it's God's plan for a couple to separate for a while, and sometimes God allows a marriage to dissolve even though He absolutely hates divorce. That's probably another reason I feel so much about this issue. I know that divorce breaks His heart; how can mine not be broken over it?

Marriage is the foundation of our family - of any family. To have a healthy family - spiritually and emotionally - we have to make our marriage healthy. We have to put God first (also something we struggle with), recognize when we're having a hard time, deal with our problems, and do hard things. We're modeling marriage for our children, and I want them to know what they should be looking for when the day comes that they'll get married. I want them to see two people who love God, love each other, respect each other, love their family, and love others. Maybe that will include some arguing. Maybe that will include some tough times. But no matter what, I want them to know that we still love and are committed to each other. Because we don't give up when things get hard. We turn to God, ask for direction, seek help, and do the work we need to do to get better.

Marriage matters. Families matter. People matter. 


Brave: Battles Within

For a while now, I've been contemplating how I should approach this subject and if I should even post about it. It's very personal, so it's hard to talk about even though it has affected every part of my life. Since I try to be open about my life on here, I feel like it's something that needs to be shared...and, as always, it's my hope that sharing will help someone else in the process.

Before I go any further, I want to say this: If you read this and think, "I never knew; why didn't you say anything to me about this?" know that it's not because of you. It's because of me.

Many of you know that Joe went to NTC this past February. Millie was still brand new, and we had just discovered she had colic and reflux. Add a toddler to that mix, and I was beyond overwhelmed. Before he even left, I had anxiety about the 5 weeks I'd be alone. The first day he was gone (true to Murphy's Law), I all but had a breakdown. I'm not sure I've ever cried more in the span of 12 hours than I did that day, just from anxiety.The entire time he was gone, it was one thing after another. I took Millie to the pediatrician at least twice. All of us caught a cold. Then there was the ice storm, which resulted in a 72 hour power outage. The first night we were back in the house, there was an earthquake. (No, really.) Millie was barely sleeping at night, and Charlotte was...being a typical toddler. 

I was the epitome of exhausted. I didn't want to do anything but sleep. But then I also had a hard time getting to sleep. I would hear Millie grunting over the monitor, and my heart would pound because I just knew she was going to wake up and need to be fed. If she didn't wake up, I had a hard time going back to sleep. When she did wake in the middle of the night, it took forever to get her back to sleep. Some nights, I had thoughts that would terrify anyone. I was inexplicably angry.

During those 5 weeks, I assumed the feelings I had were because I had a toddler, a colicky newborn, and was doing it all alone. Sure, I had been able to get friends to come over and watch them when I went to get groceries, but the rest? That was all me. I figured that it was a combination of hormones and exhaustion. I reassured myself that once Joe came home, all would be well again.

Well, he did come home. We survived, although I'm still not sure how. That time is a complete blur. (With the exception of that stupid ice storm. I may never forget that one.) And yeah, things did get a little bit better. I had some help! Help getting them fed, bathed, and in bed. But at the same time...things weren't all that much better. I still didn't want to do anything but sleep. I rarely posted on my blog, or anywhere on social media. I just...didn't. Which is kind of rare for me. The inexplicable anger was still there, too. 

It wasn't until Joe started asking me, "what's wrong?" that I started noticing something was going on. It wasn't until I realized I was angry at Joe for no apparent reason that I started to think I might need help. It wasn't until I lost it with Charlotte that I truly recognized the problem.  

Like any good blogger, I headed for Dr. Google first. I scrolled past a few articles until I found one that looked right. The list of symptoms hit me straight in the stomach. I was at once relieved and scared; hopeful and embarrassed.

Post-partum Depression.

As soon as I read those words, I decided I needed to talk to Joe. He was very supportive, and we agreed that I should call and talk to my doctor. The next day, I put a call in to my OB/GYN. Thankfully, she agreed to call in meds for me and advised me to talk with my PCM.

It's been 4 months since that day. I initially hated the idea of being on medication, but I knew I needed something. And you know what? It helped. Although it does make me sleepy, I can avoid being a walking zombie by taking it at night. No longer do I feel overwhelmed by the simplest things; no longer do I feel inexplicable anger. I don't go from happy to extremely upset in 2.5 seconds anymore. I want to do more than sleep. I want to hang out with my girls and my husband, blog, post photos....all of what I did before. Do I enjoy taking medication? Nope. But I recognize that I need this...for now. There will hopefully come a day when I don't, but until then I'm thankful that it helps me feel more like me.

I've been planning on talking about this for a while, and with all of the 'hype' surrounding Robin William's death... I couldn't stay silent anymore. The entire time I was dealing with this without medication, I was in a deep, dark place. My lack of interest in things I normally enjoy, was like some sort of numbness. I just didn't care. The anger...was terrifying. There were times when I would be rocking Millie, trapped in anger, crying, and praying that God would help me not to be angry. I didn't want to feel the way I did, but I could not control it. 

I've seen so many posts in the last two days on depression that just make me sick. I couldn't control my depression - my anger, my numbness. I desperately, desperately wanted to. I hated the way I felt, the way I acted. I have so much regret for that moment I lost my temper with Charlotte. I didn't hurt her physically, but my actions spoke anything but love to her. For weeks, she reenacted what I said to her in that moment, and I was forced to relive it every time.

No matter what anyone says, depression isn't something you can just get over. I do believe in the power of prayer, and I did pray. But still the feelings lingered. Please don't assume that depression has a simple fix; it doesn't. If you know (or think you know) someone who struggles with depression, just love them and be supportive. Just because you don't understand their struggle doesn't mean it's not real. It's very real, very dark, very personal, and can be hidden from even the closest of friends.


Brave: Accepting Myself

It's probably no surprise to anyone when I say that I often struggle with the way my post-baby body looks. (Doesn't everyone?!) Truth be told, it's not even the stretch marks that bother me. I've come to accept those as loving little reminders of what my body is capable of doing - growing, birthing, and nurturing my babies. No, my problem is with the 15+ pounds my body has been hanging onto. 

Some women lose the pounds like crazy while breastfeeding. Other women, like me, lose a bunch in the first few weeks and then plateau. Sure, there are things I could (and probably should) do to help lose it. But more often than not, I find myself thinking "Oh, I should have done some yoga/pilates/exercise!" as I'm stepping into the shower. I know it should probably be more of a priority (as should eating better), but it's always a struggle for me. 

Right now, though, I've decided that my babies need my presence more than I need to lose 15 pounds. Millie needs my milk (which can change when you change your diet drastically) and cuddles, and Charlotte needs my full focus. It helps Joe more if he comes home to a mostly clean house than it does if I've played with the kids, worked on Jamberry, and worked out, but didn't do much else. So right now? I need to accept the way I look, even if it's hard.

After working through all of that in my brain, I decided that I was going to buy a bikini to wear to the beach this year. It's been years since I've even thought about purchasing one, so this was a pretty big deal. The current fashion trends made it easier for me, thank heavens. 

I finally found one I liked, and I ordered it, dang it. Because you know what? I may not be 125 pounds anymore. I may have stretch marks. I may have some cellulite, and bumps and bruises. But my body is still awesome. My husband seems to think so. My girls think so. More importantly, my Creator thinks I'm beautiful - who am I to disagree with Him?!  

I have birthed and nursed 2 babies - my body can do awesome things! It's time to accept it, and get over what anyone else might think. It's about me and what I'm comfortable with, not them.

I will say that I still had some nerves about how I looked when we were at the beach a couple weeks ago. (Sheesh, I can't believe 2 weeks has gone by already!) But when I look at the pictures we took? I don't feel bad about myself. And that, my friends, is worth far more than I paid for that swim suit. :)

I think there is something to be said for being comfortable with the way you are right now, even if it isn't where you want to be. Because I do want to lose those extra pounds, but I don't want to do it if it means sacrificing the quality of my breast milk (I often wonder if this happened when Charlotte was a baby) or time with my littles.

I've always struggled with body issues, even when I was thin. I don't actually ever remember thinking that I was thin, actually. I can look back now, though, and wonder how I didn't recognize it. Anyway, I know that one day I'll be where I want to be and then my kids will probably be bigger and I'll be wishing they were smaller again. ;-) 

So I guess that's why I decided that I was going to be brave, put on that bikini, and not be ashamed of the way my body looks, even though it isn't our culture's definition of beauty. Why do they get to decide what's beautiful and what isn't, anyway?