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My Jonah’s Journey: A True Overcoming

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Meet Jonah. He appears to be your average, sweet, curious, hungry, loves to poop his diaper 11 month old, right?

Would you believe that, on the day he was born, March 12, 2013 – this was Jonah:

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Jonah Anthony is my son. This sweet, precious boy came into the lives of my husband and I by surprise.

I thought I had the flu. I struggled for days wondering why I kept getting sick – and then there’s this little clock inside your mind that only women understand that goes “ding” – and the light bulb brightens. You take that walk through the drug store aisles almost hiding your face thinking so many different racing thoughts. You see, I already had two children. I was divorced then re-married. My husband already has 3 children. We weren’t planning it – but after that little walk through the CVS I came home and I waited. Then it happened.

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So of course. It began over again – pregnancy ,the cravings, the weight gain, the constant need to barf while sitting at my work desk because somebody decided to microwave fish for lunch (I curse you! I curse you!)

We finally saw his little heartbeat. My belly grew. We found out he was a boy. We named him almost right away. We saw him in 3-D.  We waited for our due date: April 5, 2013.

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Out of the blue after months of anticipation – growing into the idea of being a mommy again, feeling his kicks, wondering about him – what would he be like, falling in love with the way he would roll around and cause me heartburn – wake me up at midnight before he was even born – something we did not see coming – happened.

On March 12, 2013 I went into labor on my own after long day at work. When I went to the hospital I felt for sure they would send me home. Within an hour – I was told it was time to go. Heading for C-section. It was his time, 4 weeks early.

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Jonah was born on March 12, 2013 at 8:15 PM. He weighed 7 LBS even. I heard his first cry and I began to sob. I could see his red hair from the operating table. His sweet, tiny legs were kicking…

Then I noticed something different than what happened with my other two.

Jonah stopped crying.

I immediately knew something was wrong – I got to see him for about 5 seconds. I gave him a kiss. I cried at how beautiful he was – he looked just like his father but with my mouth. It was happiness – yet anxiety. I waited for word while in recovery.

My husband came in about 2 hours later. Jonah was not breathing well. He had been taken to the NICU. He had Respiratory Distress Syndrome due to being premature. His lungs were not ready to be born yet.

It was not until the next day at noon that I was allowed to see Jonah. I was taken by wheel chair to the NICU where I went to be by his side. I only had one picture of him since he had been born – this one:

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I immediately broke into tears when I got to his side. The picture I had seen was not what I saw when I first came into real contact with my son. This is what I saw:

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My beautiful boy – the one that had been kicking me, that I had wanted so bad to meet, that innocent little being – was covered in tubes, wires, monitors that kept blaring. I sat by his side and I sobbed like I have never sobbed before. The nurse came up to my husband and said “that is a normal reaction from mothers”…

What mother would not sob at the sight of her son in a tiny box – his eyes barely open, his skin pale, his hands penetrated with IV needles.

I started to wonder if it was something that I did wrong. Why did I go into labor so early? Was it because of the pneumonia and flu I had two months prior? Was it the medication I had taken? Was I not healthy enough to hold him inside?

Now this wonderful creation of ours – was suffering. I was not allowed to hold him immediately. I was, however, allowed to stick my hand inside his incubator and touch him. His skin felt so soft to mine. My heart was alive with love – yet petrified. A terror I cannot describe.

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Jonah had to undergo a procedure where a breathing tube was inserted and lung suffactant was entered into his lungs artificially to help him learn to breathe on his own. It was 4 AM – on March 14, 2013. We waited and waited – my husband sleeping on the couch, my mother sleeping on a cot at my feet. The doctor finally knocked on the door – Jonah was doing well. He had taken great to the procedure and was learning to breathe. I could finally hold him.

Our first moments were full of blaring monitors and difficult wires – meandering around his heart leeds in order to get him to my chest. Yet it was beautiful. He raised his head. He recognized my voice. I immediately began to cry.

I was to be released a few days later. We were informed Jonah would not come home with us. He was losing weight, he was still unable to breathe room air without the help of Oxygen. He also became jaundiced.

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Days passed. We would often come by the NICU in the middle of the night. We simply could not sleep wondering about our little boy. If we happened to time it right – we were able to stick our hands in and actually feed him ourselves.

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Slowly, at least it felt to us, better updates were coming in. At first his blood oxygen level was only 40%. He was coming into the 70’s. His oxygen eventually made it into the 90’s. Whenever it would lower, the monitors would go off, and naturally, we would jump and wonder why. Each day meant, if progress was made, another wire would come off. I remember that I could start to see his actual features – he had been so covered, I could not see his mouth, nose, or cheeks.

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Then there was the beautiful moment his father held him for the first time. I cried watching. He cried and smiled and laughed.

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I left the hospital on March 16, 2013. I left on the elevator with no baby carrier – just my luggage, my husband, and a heart drowning in pain and an ill feeling in my stomach. I was leaving him behind. How could I? There was no space at the hospital for me to stay – so we would journey up each day to see him and be with him for hours upon hours until we knew our little boy could come home. I could not wait to introduce him to his siblings.

My hands were cracked and bleeding from washing with hospital grade soap each time I even wanted to merely brush my skin with his.

Then on March 20, 2013, we walked into the NICU and found this:

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He was breathing on his own. He was free of monitors, tubes, leeds. His sweet face was so clear to us now. We could hold him at will, take his temperature, change his diaper, feed him, rock him, sing sweet nothings to him.

Lullaby…and goodnight…go to sleep little Jonah …

Our little trooper never gave up. From the moment he cried when he came out of me – to the moment he stopped crying because he could not breathe – through each moment we reached through a tiny hole just to touch our baby – grasping at a tiny bottle hoping he would eat even 10 little mls – this little boy fought to survive.

Jonah came home with us on March 21, 2013 – 9 days after he was born. In thinking of what we had been through – which we never expected – we were so blessed. Some wait months, some do not come home at all. We prayed and prayed. We said so many thank you’s, took so many crying breaths just wanting our son home in our arms.

And he came.

The Lord blessed us with this sweet surprise. From that moment that I saw the two pink lines (so not the flu)  to today – Jonah is such an inspiration. Our sweet, beautiful boy is thriving. He is high functioning – and registers on a full term scale – not a premature scale of development. He is trying to take steps. He says Mama with his face bright as he reaches for me in the mornings.

He plays peek a boo with dada.

These are the moments that for days we thought – we may never see. Somehow through it all, God blessed our lives with this sweet boy that was able to fight almost the impossible – when he had just been born. Our hearts hurt for other families that never get to take their babies home. After going through this and seeing my boy through glass and wires – I pray nightly for others in the same position. We are so thankful to the amazing doctors whose knowledge, compassion, and care brought our son back to mommy and daddy’s arms.

In just 9 short days, Jonah will be 1. We are celebrating with a whale themed party for Jonah and the Whale. We joked I looked like one when I was pregnant with him. He will have cake. He will have love. He will be hugged, and kissed, and cherished. For this is the boy that came into the world and fought to live. This is the boy that to this day – inspires me to be a better person, mother, friend. This is the boy that has taught me to cherish ALL of life’s moments – big and small.

This is our Jonah. Our miracle. Our overcomer.

Happy Birthday, Baby. We love you.

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My Heart Unlocked: The Key

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Love can teach you many lessons.

I have suffered with anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues for many years. These issues date back to around spring of 1998. I have been through several major relationships – one of which ended in a broken marriage. Following divorce depression can become especially overwhelming. I had already been suffering for a year and a half prior to our separation due to postpartum depression stemming from the birth of my daughter in May 2009. The darkness I exuded brought so much despair that eventually – my ex husband decided to leave.

My life seemed to begin over again. Here I was living alone with racing thoughts and questions: how did this fail? I wondered had I ever really been in love – why had this gone so awry  … it was at that point that I said to myself, and believed, true love really did not exist.

In April 2012, on a chance encounter, I met my now husband, Joe. My heart was dead bolted. Locked. My soul was marked with a “No Trespassing” sign. I was still struggling with my esteem. I felt rotten, ugly, like I had completely been doomed to never feel the essence of true love. I was faced with a man that I instantly recognized had the type of strength I had always dreamed of. Here before me stood a Veteran, divorced himself, who had also survived cancer and had three children himself. His intelligence immediately sparked my interest. I consider myself a very smart and talented lady in a lot of respects – but his intelligence was not condescending. I was used to the type of man who would patronize me by making me feel as if my quotient of wisdom was stupidity, not knowledge.

Joe and I talked for hours each day. This man understood and got to the bottom of the deepest pits of my inner demons so quickly. I believe it was his kindness, his warm smile, his gentle voice that spoke to me with such caring generosity – that truly unlocked my ability to open up so immediately. It came out of nowhere. All of this time I had wondered if there was a man who was patient, kind, forgiving, understanding, hopeful, and loving – that would actually believe in me despite my emotional baggage.

Joe has never once left my side since. He has seen me through some of the most difficult times. We have braved my depression, anxiety, addiction, and health issues TOGETHER. He has taught me the meaning of true love. The value of his confidence in me goes hand in hand with his undying affection for each and every part of me. He never questions me. Every day I wake up and I’m told I’m beautiful. Little notes written on the steam of the mirror after I take a shower – “I love you, baby.” These are things I have never experienced before. In looking back on the past I realize that I never once failed anybody or anything when it came to love – I just had not yet found what it was truly supposed to be.

In my Prince Charming I have learned how to open my heart again. The key was in someone’s ability to grasp onto my inner imperfections and show me the light in each flaw – and that knowing that despite any days where I may cry for no reason, be moody, yell obscenities, need time alone – he still guides me and holds my hand through each moment. The key was finding somebody strong enough to not let go when the darkest hours present themselves in such perilous light – and instead, that someone would hold me through it and turn that into time together that just makes us both stronger.

He is my best friend. He is closest to me. He knows me better in 2 years than anyone has ever known me in all 34 years alive. He has brought me into that place of happiness and peace – he has taught me that the emotional catalyst to renewing my faith was simply in believing in myself – and to to trust someone else to do the same. I love him more than I could ever imagine loving another human soul – and in this lesson, I have become whole again. After being torn to pieces – his hands, his face, his smile, his heart, his hope, his soul, his genuine belief in my genuine self – has put me back together with a soulful thread and that missing needle in the haystack:

Undying, true, selfless, faithful:  love.

It does exist. We are proof.

 

Cherishing Encounters

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The above pictured is my oldest son. His name is Ayden and he is 6 years old. He was born in October of 2007 – and in my first encounter with him – I was not awake.

I am one of the 2% of the population that fails when it comes to enduring an epidural. My body did not take the medication. When my induction did not go as planned and we headed for an emergency c-section, all I remember was I felt being sliced open and began screaming. I was screaming for help – yelling to stop.

I was immediately put to sleep.

I woke up two hours later to see my first born son by my side. I had missed his first breaths, his first cries. I had always dreamed of seeing and feeling a baby born – and I missed my very first experience.

Today Ayden is an active and passionate child. After myself and his father divorced – Ayden began living full-time with his daddy and not me. As heartbroken as I was – it’s the way things were at the time, and still are, 3 and a half years later after the separation.

I now have 3 children total. Ayden, his sister Mina who is 4, and my son by my now husband – Jonah is 10 months old. Ayden and Mina come for visits every other weekend for two days. I cherish these moments with their precious hearts – the way they reach for me.

My first encounter with a person this morning was, in fact, with my son, Ayden. He has always loved to sleep near me since he was 7 months old. The past years without being able to do so on a daily basis has been difficult for him. This morning I found myself at the foot of my Queen bed – Ayden’s feet in my face while I was in a fetal position trying to remain comfortable. Both him and his sister had wet the bed.

In an attempt to clean this while sleepwalking I apparently changed both of them, but left a towel underneath instead of changing the sheets. I giggle snorted a bit waking up with his feet in my face, while my legs were hovered over the side of the bed – feet curled in a painful position. My back was cracking, aching – my neck was stiff, and my head felt like I had taken a few blows from Mike Tyson.

Yet as I awoke and turned to move his feet – his little face was staring back at me.

“May I have Fruity Pebbles?” he asked.

“What time is it?” I grumbled.

He picked up my phone, turned it on, and in his smart – 1st grade voice – retorted “it’s 7:30. I’m hungry. You’re sleeping late.”

I remember laughing that deep, low sneer of mine that I often do when I’m being sarcastic. Yes, I wanted to sleep late, as a parent – he’s right, the kid is a smart dude, 7:30 is late.

“Sure, sweetheart. You may have some Fruity Pebbles.”

He smiled. He grabbed his sister in excitement and told her he would be back with their favorite breakfast and they would then choose a movie to snuggle up with mommy and watch.

It’s those moments I cherish, I thought. Despite being tired, having missed a dose of my medication, hardly slept at all without being overwhelmed with the scent of urine and dirty socks …

I woke up to my baby – the baby boy that I never heard his first cries, or saw his first breath – and I was never the first person to hold him.

But I will always be his mommy – and when he came back up with his Fruity Pebbles, he grabbed me and hugged me.

“I love you, Mommy.”

“I love you too, buddy.”

He knew that the moment he popped out – even if it wasn’t my words that he heard first. Mine will always mean the most – even if it’s simply a “yes, sweetheart” – when asking for his favorite cereal. These are cherished encounters.

Suffering and Honesty: Blogging for Mental Health in 2014

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From Canvas of the Mind:

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”  

The note above is brought to you by the Blog for Mental Health 2014 project by Canvas of The Mind (linked above).

For all of my dedicated readers, those who come and go, and for all of my wonderful Twitter followers and Facebook friends (I do NOT have a public Facebook group, my Facebook is private) – you all know my blog was started at the beginning of January 2014 to chronicle my journey and dealings with my own mental health. I chose to speak up about life with Panic Disorder, Depression, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Addiction.

My blog continues today to show you my experiences. I speak with transparency. I hold nothing back. Those who know me or come to know me often wander here to get a heads up on how I’m doing or to read my inspirational words and quotes. Some appreciate my sarcastic humor when it comes to living with Panic Disorder while having three children. Others have been overcome with appreciation for my sharing of my recent pathway to freedom from addiction.

I pledge to the above and will be highly active in this project this year and every year. The intentions of my blog will not change – although you may see some different types of postings depending upon how I’m feeling or what I’m inspired by, it will always be related to helping others understand how mental health works and I will always be open to giving a shoulder or support for others in need. While I am not a doctor and do not provide medical advice – I am always an open ear, and sometimes people find that slightly more useful.

No I’m kidding. I was just giving myself props.

Welcome to my blog and again, to this project that I plan on being very passionate about. If you have already seen my previous posts you will see I already was in the first place – and I am very excited to take part in this.

Peace, love, and welcome to my crazy world.

From the Diary of an Anxious Mother

Dear Diary,

Today I am still dealing with a very sick 10 month old. Winter months, I used to love, as I could skip in the snow when school got called off, or sleep, or watch TV while ingesting copious amounts of Totinos Pizza Rolls.

Motherhood makes me hate Winter.

Flu, strep throat, stomach bugs, cabin fever…

(Cue the germophobic mother who hates cleaning up vomit and panics if the children’s temperatures go over 98.6)

(OH MY LORD THEY MUST HAVE CHOLERA)

I attempted to give the baby a bath (antibiotics are the bane of childhood: insert diarrhea all over the bed, pillows, and of course, the child). Shortly after drying him off, he began choking and gagging as if he had something stuck in his throat …

(OH MY LORD HE MUST HAVE SOAP POISONING HE’S GOING TO GO BLIND)

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Upon bracing myself, patting his back, waiting to be spit up on from whatever poison the innocent bathtub experience must have been ingested into his tiny system – he smiled, he giggled, and reached to stroke my face (as if to say “no really, mom, I just bit down too hard on the wash rag you gave me to play with while you so gently stroked my hair with tear-free shampoo”).

I placed the baby down for a nap and composed myself. These things happen, I said, constantly within my racing thought provoking brain, and sat myself down with a nice cup of Pepsi (do I really need this caffeine, I mean come on, who needs Pepsi when you have Panic Disorder). I turned on the television and put my feet up – flipping through channels and finding something cool to watch (oh hey Food Network, I love Chopped) – “so whose parenting skills are on the Chopping block…” I laughed to myself (while in my head, imagining Ted Allen looking so slyly at me like “Guess who ISN’T getting the 10 grand?”)

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Oh, come on, I lamented, now microwaving myself a fancy steamers meal (quick – four and a half minutes to cook, what if the kid chokes again, or if he has another toilet incident BUT NOT IN THE TOILET) – give yourself a break. You are a great mother – even though you live with Panic Disorder.

I am an anxious mother. I find myself in panics (your heart races, you are short of breath, you shake)

(OH MY LORD THE WORLD IS ENDING – ARMAGEDDON – THE ZOMBIES ARE COMING – QUICK HIDE THE CHOCOLATE AND PACK THE LUGGAGE!)

It’s not just that I panic over situations above (the word hasn’t ended, there’s no armageddon, and unless you have Shaun of the Dead on repeat, the zombies really are not coming) – I panic over SIMPLE things.

That one cracked dish the baby had his hands on – oh dear, did he just bite into that crack and slice his gums, or for that matter, do I need poison control? Is that a tiny bit of glass he just shoved down the back of his budding throat?

Oh, nevermind, that was an old top from demented plastic tupperware (sorry, sorry, I wasn’t looking, darn “Jump to Conclusions” mat)

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(OH MY LORD I LET HIM WATCH OFFICE SPACE – HE’S GOING TO LEARN HOW TO CURSE EARLY)

This is the diary entry of a mother who lives daily in panic. It is a learning process. It is a continuous battle of soul searching, coping strategies, relaxation techniques, new daily activities. I am in a continuous, relentless motion of “how to prevent myself from freaking out over the child falling backwards into the Pack and Play” – I am a proud mother of THREE. Yes, THREE. My children are ages 6, 4, and of course the above mentioned, 10 months.

The simplest of “whoops, the football just went under the table, let me go grab that” turns into “the child just bumped his head getting out from under the table”

(OH MY LORD RUSH TO THE ER – IT’S A CONCUSSION)

I simply have to examine myself in each moment. Learning to breathe and deal with the small things without overreacting is probably a course I should have taken in college (oh wait, ponder this, I have a Masters in Counseling…) 

I remember that these are tiny human beings. Their innocent, graceful souls are just now budding as they hit each life milestone step by step. Accidents happen. Sickness happens. Vomiting in a public place after overeating at Chick-Fil-A – it really does happen.

(OH MY LORD THEY HAVE NOROVIRUS – GET THE BLEACH)

(no, they over ate, especially your biggest one, he knows how to sneak peppermint sticks from the pantry without getting caught and then he goes into the corner and chows down – and then you wonder why he grabs his stomach in pain)

Another life lesson from the dealings of an anxious mother: I’m learning not to keep my eye on EVERYTHING.

If I do, I will read into it. I will wonder why, how, my mind will go off into oblivion for minutes upon minutes about how to handle the situation – do we need urgent care?

(OH MY LORD ARE THOSE PEPPERMINT STICKS EXPIRED)

Truthfully parenting is a very difficult responsibility. It’s a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week, experience in being a chef, house cleaner, nurse, friend, and nurturer. For somebody who struggles on her own with anxiety, this trip down the lane of raising children often becomes difficult. I simply now am embracing that IT IS OKAY to worry. No one wants these little beautiful beings to be in any pain or get into any trouble. I, however, on a daily basis have to take the IT IS OKAY and bring it to the level of not having a completely full on heart rate at 160 over a lost shoe, a leaf on the floor (THERE COULD BE E-COLI ON THAT) . 

It is a true lesson in human strength and spirit to live on a daily basis with something that can take years upon years to get under control. I know I am not the only one. Some would think that these struggles in parenting are normal – sure. No. Not really. Mine are not. Another mother may take her kid eating dirt as “yay I don’t have to make lunch” – I take that as:

(OH MY LORD ITS PROBABLY GOT SOME WILD ANIMAL POOP ON IT – WHERES THE RABIES SHOT)

So not me:

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I’m always stuck on “First child eats dirt, parent calls doctor…” – it is an endless cycle.

Sure, they make medications for that. Insert section into this diary entry, where shortly after wondering if my parenting was on the Chopping Block, that I reached for my anti-anxiety medication with the hopes of being calmer by the time the child woke up: just in case he dirtied up the crib again and I find a piece of broken tupperware in his poop…

I am on an uphill battle to fix this – I know I can get better.  I know I can find a happy medium between understanding what’s normal, what’s not, and being okay with what’s not and knowing – in 99.9% of the cases, it’s an easy fix.

The battle to the top of this mountain includes learning how to embrace vomit as an ordinary process – not always a crisis – and other tiny things I’ve spoken of above that have happened today. I will get there. I welcome other mothers in all of their wonderments of raising children to speak out on how to find parenthood more delightful, less frightful.

I AM  A GOOD PARENT even if I find little things terrifying.  I live with panic disorder and I am still on a learning upswing as to how to incorporate relaxation into my daily routines so that anxiety does not bring this mother down into the pit of (OH MY LORD DID HE JUST ….)

So as I grab a piece of the hidden chocolate (just in case, you never really know if the Zombies are coming), and I sip from my broken tea cup (the one the second kid decided to drop on the carpet while it was full of Fruity Pebbles, and then so gracefully with her hair in her mouth and her hands unwashed, decided to eat each pebble off the floor)… I remember that having a struggle is NOT A SINFUL THING – it’s only a bad experience if you do not attempt to learn from it.

Each new day is a new journey into the unknown. From one anxious mother to any others out there – I want you to know I understand your plight. Panic Disorder is no walk in the park, but we can all decide to live with it, hold on, and brace ourselves – and in this realization, I just noticed that my parenting skills were not on the Chopping Block.

(OH MY LORD IT WAS A SEAFOOD DISH – THAT JUDGE MUST HAVE FOOD POISONING – THAT BASKET WAS NOT IN THE FRIDGE!)

Ah. Back to life. The baby is awake. It’s time to take the baby for playtime in the playroom – and enjoy those moments where my heart rate is just a little bit normal, I don’t feel nauseous, I am not lightheaded, and I can stand up without shaking, freaking, screaming, or having the sudden urge to dial 911.

These are beautiful moments for an anxious mother.