Tag Archives: peace

What We See

What do you see?

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Does it often seem like despite your efforts to do good, that the things you fail in…the one thing you forgot to do or just didn’t have enough time to do …is the one and only thing people notice. That your failure is the one and only thing people see.

I have felt this often throughout most of my life. The one time I forget to check to see if all twenty of Madison’s hair ties are in her backpack when I pick her up is the day her teachers also forgot to pack them… (She has an obsession with her bracelets aka hair ties). Or the one time I give the wrong show and tell, I’m reminded of where the weekly theme is posted.. Or even the one day our of the month I decide not to do laundry, everyone is asking for something from it.

It can seem as though no one sees or appreciates how I have made random stops at the store during a crazy day to buy more backup hair ties…Or usually have show and tells packed up and ready to go days in advance…Or how I have been doing laundry every day for years. And the reality is, we do so much each day that no one does see… that does go unnoticed.

For years, I found myself getting upset from these reactions of others, from what people saw or what failed to see. That was until I reflected on what I myself was focused on. What I was seeing and that was also when I learned to laugh… often at myself and “the irony” of life.

As a society, what are we focused on? It’s so easy to give into the negativity around us. It is everywhere!

The tantruming child…

the grumpy cashier …

the car honking obnoxiously to get out of their way …

the rude coworker who doesn’t say hi back or even acknowledge you in the hallway…

or even the deceitful family member who knows how to push your buttons…

That’s what I was seeing too. All the displeasing things that were happening around me… and everything that was not happening. How the garbage cans in the kitchen were overflowing again or how the empty paper towels liked to wait for me to replace them. However, in focusing on these parts of the day, I was blinding myself to what was being done.

All the times that the garbage was taken out …

the fact that I rarely brought those garbage cans to the curb…

all the times that the paper towels were put away for me when unpacking from the supermarket…

all the people who were saying good morning or smiling back…

the shoes in which those family members walk and why they hurt so badly…

the chaos most of us walk through each day that tends to zone in on the negativity thrown at us…

instead of the good.

Who has time for the positivity anyways?

There really is a lot of good all around us. But we must make the time to see it. It is our job to consciously choose what to focus on. It is our decision. No one can hold that power over us.

Sooo…

Let’s be conscious on seeing the good. Let’s ask that grumpy cashier how their day is or better yet give a compliment.

Let’s say hello first to everyone who walks by us in the hallway at work and don’t worry if they don’t say hi back. Learn to let it go!

Let’s call up that angry family member randomly just to say hi.

Let’s pray for peace for that road raging person in the car next to us when they flash us their “friendly finger.”

Let’s thank our spouse for something that always do.

Let’s see the good…and if we can’t see it, create it!

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We need to carefully decide what we zoom in on. There are a lot of perspectives to see from. It is not our job to transform the grumpy coworker or angrily shout back at the road raged driver. Instead, it is our job to stop the cycles around us and zoom in on the good.

See beneath the surface.

Pray for softened hearts.

Pray for communication barriers to be lifted and removed.

Pray to see the good in everyone.

We all have battles we are fighting all the time.

While we may not have been there exactly, we have all been somewhere similar struggling to stay afloat…

struggling to believe…

struggling to live.

Learning to keep your eyes open to those around you instead of closing them out, is how we truly begin to see each other and lift each other up. It’s how people start to see you too. Be the change you want to see. Let’s use eyes to support not to judge. Imagine what is possible if and when we work together and support one another. The possibilities are endless!

Soo yes, I promise I will try to see you past the layers of each chaotic day …

but right now behind this tower of laundry…

you may not see me.

 

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Who’s Watching

Eyes aboard all around
the shipwreck’s gossip
washes over the town
who nurses with breast
who goes straight to bottle
yet the tides all bring
currents that steal sleep
some train and others coddle
and still they all ask the question,
Who’s watching?

Minds coast to speed
the wreckage drama
blankets with greed
who pays more
who files away into the depth
of the sand’s debt that burns
fires upon their feet
some nap and others explore free
and still they all ask,
Who’s watching?

Charade of lies
sea marks it all lost
images gloss over cries
who labels it a spiritual hand
who coins it as religion
the island is huge
there is room for all to live
yet most find fault
in their way to stand
upon a deck
Where they still ask,
Who’s watching?

Ship ashore, crashes upon its shouts
the baby falls captive
to the deception of the sea
as her wounds are deeper
than the fear of falling
it washes upon that same beach
the chaos of waves causes tidal doubt
overwhelm her belief
that she is just that
more than enough
and who still stands by
their fingers all pointed out
who fails to watch now, who misses the boat –
when all she needs
is a smile to swim upon her sinking oar
“Good job Mama,”
as she asks them back –
Who’s still watching?

For what were you really looking for?


© Jennifer Kosuda and The Art of a Messy House (theartofamessyhouse.com), 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Kosuda and The Art of a Messy House with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Morning Routine

A person’s morning routine is so important.   More and more studies and research are showing that the way someone starts their morning sets the stage for how productive their day will be. Search it up! There is sooooo much information out there around this very topic.

Since my early 20s, I have woken up early to go for a run.   It did not matter where I was… at the beach, on an island, at a hotel, wherever and whenever, I found a way to get this run in. The endorphins were beyond addicting at the time; they were life changing.

However, like any addiction, it is important to be able to break it for several reasons.  Still, I ran and I ran…I refused to do anything else in my routine and if I did a class like spin or yoga, I would still find time to run.   I knew it was not healthy to depend on anything so much even if it was something healthy  like running.   Balance…balance…balance and there was no balance.

Since I had run throughout my entire pregnancy with my son, I pretty much started running right after delivering him.  Knowing my running history, my doctor had told me that I could restart again after almost a week but slowly.   This then turned into months later, I was running 6-8 miles a day.   It was too much on my body and soon I started to experiencing knee pains and other related running issues. I was overused, worn-down and my muscles were yelling at me to, “Slooooooow down!”

Still, it took my daughter and that second full-term pregnancy to slow me down.  I could not run once I hit the third trimester.  It was not possible without terrible pains and so then I was forced to find a new morning routine… Thank you God for that!

So, I started to walk every morning on my treadmill instead.  This was unless I was tired, which then I would take off against my will for my body and baby. Still during these first morning hours I continued to write. It started after a miscarriage that I started to pray each morning and then write scripture-based poems.  This continued for two years until I started to desire even more of the Word and writing.

This is how my morning routine gradually turned into one of balance and peace.   And while I am sure it will change over the years to come, I know that this is where morning need to start:

  1. Wake up early (weekdays at 4 and weekends usually around 6 thanks to my son… ha) Early riding definitely means early bedtime as much as possible too.
  2. Pray
  3. Read the Bible (There are great plans out there to help guide you through the Bible.  I am currently doing read the Bible in a year on the Bible app.  I highly recommend.)
  4. Scripture-based poetry that I send to close friends and family as a daily devotional/reflection/motivation.
  5. WAR – This is what I call it… I write for this blog, poetry or my book as I run (on my treadmill of course).   I use the Mutu System for my abs (my goal once summer hits is to become more constant with that) and I run still.   However, I now only do 3 miles when I run.  And the best part is…. I no longer NEEEED to run.  Although I do enjoy it, I skip it and do the elliptical sometimes and plan on branching out more this summer as well. Running is just a part of my morning routine. Therefore, I do not NEED it like I used to.
  6. Celery juice (16 ounces) on an empty stomach
  7. Warm lemon juice (16 ounces) 30 minutes after the celery (Sometimes, I switch these up but always waiting the time in between.)

And then I am ready for the craziness to begin as I finish the last minute touches of breakfasts and lunches and jump right into the day knowing that my mind, body and heart, and if needed some Kombucha, will continue to power and empower me throughout it all…

Judgment

 

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According to the dictionary, to judge is “to form an opinion or conclusion about something or someone.” The reality is judgments, good and bad, are thrown at us every day whether we see, know or admit it. And that’s not going to change, although I’d like to think that most people in this world are really good. Judging is part of human nature. However, it does not need to affect us in a negative manner.

But that’s the tricky part: it’s a two-step equation that starts within.

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Equation:

Rewire + Deflect = PEACE

Rewire your own judgments  + Deflect others at you = PEACE

Peace also includes learning to not compare yourself to others and not taking things to heart which is definitely an area I struggled with for a long time…

Okay, once again, I can’t lie. I’ve always been the hyper-sensitive girl who cried at movies, many songs, at criticism, and even if I got in trouble… (which was rare.) Take for instance that day in Mrs. Fritzinger’s fourth grade science class after I let Anne copy my answers in the bathroom before class and got caught, the tears overflowed like a flood.

Sensitivity plus the fact that I was hyper-aware of those around me and their feelings, created quite a time bomb waiting to explode for years. I can taste the saltiness of those thousands of times when I tried so hard to swallow away the tears, instead of giving in to their currents.

Still, I was always sensitive and I have always wore my heart on my sleeve. The only difference now was I embrace it and use it as my strength. Empathy was a quality I was blessed with and when I could not control it, cursed with. I’d like to think now though after some insights, it’s mostly a blessing…

It is ALL about perspective.

So let’s jump ahead to motherhood…or rather parenthood. Judgments are everywhere! I’ve been guilty of being sleep deprived, overwhelmed and unprepared. Oh  and sometimes, or most times, my kids’ jackets are not zippered as we run into daycare. I see the watching eyes.

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Around when Madison was six months old, I was really at some of my lowest times emotionally. However, my children brought me joy except those days that turned into screaming match after screaming match.

And it had been one of those days, but I needed to hit up the store and get out of the house despite the chaos. In preparation for a party, I was missing one ingredient so I packed up the kids into the car and went for a “quick trip” to Shoprite. Quick was where I was wrong.

As I pulled up, I heard an explosion in the backseat so I set up a changing station in the trunk as my son stood next to me in the parking lot. (It never fails! Why does Mother Nature always call my kids at the store?)  To add to the moment, TJ had been screaming about forgetting his buddies aka army of stuffed animals at home. Bad mama! So lots of yelling and crying commotion as I took Madison out of the car to find out my next “surprise.”

Let’s just say the diaper had not worked.

It. Was. Everywhere.

I striped her of everything. She was naked except from her new diaper. There was a mess everywhere. It was then that I realized I had forgotten a change of clothes aaaaaand had no bags to put everything in.

Bad mom again!

I searched around. Dozens of people walked by me. I would say, “Excuse me.” All I wanted was a bag from someone’s double bagged groceries.

No one stopped.

No one looked.

And I’m pretty sure even though I’d hate to judge …

everyone heard.

On the verge of tears, I remembered that I had a blanket in the back seat and decided it was warm enough to use the blanket and diaper to wrap up my daughter and go into the store. My son was hysterically laughing now, talking about how his sister was naked under the blanket at the store. I wanted to laugh too but my anxiety was sky high.

To say the least, I got a lot of looks.   Right as we were going to the self check-out line, one person commented on how adorable they both were.  Instead of thanking her,  I quickly jumped to defend myself...

…from what?

“Adorable and naked. We had an accident in the car and I had to run in for one item. Mother of the year over here.” I made a joke about it which she laughed at as she walked away smiling.

(TMI on my part but I feel like parenthood unleashes a lack of filter or at least, it did with me.)

Had she even been judging? Had anyone been throwing negative stares? Or was it my own perception? Did it even matter?

Then, let’s flashback into time when TJ was 7.5 months old and diagnosed with 21 possible allergies. Due to his severe anaphylactic reaction to yogurt, he was required to eliminate all of them. I had been a new mom and strongly committed to breastfeeding him for many reasons. So I quickly decided that I would give up those foods too so that I could continue nursing him. It was what I knew in my heart was best for him. I wanted to at least try out the diet to see if it would work. I have never been one to dismiss something before I tried it. While the diet free of gluten, oats, tomatoes, nuts, peanuts, eggs, sesame, and dairy was difficult enough, the hardest part of it all were the judgments and isolation that came with it for those six months.

During those months, TJ was always sick so we cancelled on a lot of plans.  And when he wasn’t ill, I didn’t want to go to weddings or parties anyways. It was too hard to try to defend why I was doing what I was doing.

At that time, I had it all wrong though.

I had no one to defend myself to.

No one to answer to.

I knew that it was the right thing for TJ and knew it would benefit him in the long run. So why did I find it so hard to let go of what others thought and just live in the moment…

happily…

You would think most people would have been supportive.  Yet, do you know how many people would come to me and make comments about it like …

– I would never do that…

– I must be selfish because I would it consider it…

– Why are you doing this to yourself?…

The questions and comments came from so many people. And those were the ones, I actually heard. The Lord only knows the ones that were said behind my back.  It was such a sensitive time for me and I had the totally wrong perspective.

Looking back, I think many of these people were trying to be supportive but it was not the type of encouragement that I needed…

Not judging or at least I’d like to think so…

One person who always supported me was my husband. He knew my heart but he also always reminded me that it was always going to be my choice when I wanted to stop nursing and the diet. Yet, I still felt isolated at any social events I attended as I felt that people were judging what I was eating and what I was not eating, saying why they would never do what I was doing. It was an isolating cycle that I just kept running into. It was easier to isolate myself than face people’s opinions…

until I realized …

none of those judgments matter …

None! …

only God’s …

Food is everywhere! Socially, it is such a huge part of our culture. Through the elimination diet, I learned a feeling, an emptiness that no one deserves to feel because I allowed it to become like that. I learned what I never wanted my son to feel regardless of 50 allergies, 3 or none. It made me learn and devise strategies, recipes, and a lifestyle that would foster the complete opposite for son, future daughter, students, etc. It made me embrace inclusion, acceptance and advocacy in a way that protected every individual.

They say don’t judge a book by its cover but the reality is … they are… so accept it (deflect it) … but remember YOU write(rewire/renew) the story within… so make it good!

The best part is … no one judgment matters other than God’s, so embrace the stares as compliments, the questions as encouragement ….and smile back, letting your Mama/Dada strength shine through. I promise it will change you forever…

 

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Be Who You Needed

From my experience, it’s very easy to form excuses as to …

 

Why we are the way we are?

Or why we do what we do?

Why we can’t do what we are called to do?

Who made us the way we are?

Who said something that affected us deeper than forgiveness can reach?

Why we can’t be happy until that change happens, that miracle comes, that person changes… etc.

 

Excuses can be for everything. Excuses to why we can’t defeat our anxiety, why our flaws continue to get the best of us, why we can’t be different than those before us, why we can’t use that talent, why we can’t forgive…

They protect us in a way from failure… from being vulnerable … from embarrassment… from life…

But excuses are just that: excuses. They hold us back from our full potential. They prevent us from using our God-given talents. They lie to us so that forgiveness is not allowed in … that cycles can’t break.

Those are all lies. For forgiveness is the key. Forgiveness is what we are all called to do. Forgiveness heals everyone involved especially the forgiver. Cycles of the past like addiction, anxiety, abuse or even deep unhappiness … they do break! But it takes prayer, perseverance, patience and ….. forgiveness.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Ephesians 4:32 NIV

https://www.bible.com/111/eph.4.32.niv

One of the greatest things I ever did was forgive some people, some very close to me and others I may never see again, for things of the past. It was not easy. I battled myself for years… (truthfully decades about it … )

But lucky for me, the cool thing about forgiveness is that it doesn’t always require us to tell the people directly. Sometimes, it just involves that huge step within our lives to forgive and let go… to lift it up and use those scars for good.

So even though I did not tell them directly that I had forgiven them, I finally did it. My stubborn ways tried so hard to hold on to the grudges and the pain as backup excuses for when I messed up. It’s so much easier to pass the buck to someone else than face our own flaws or mistakes.

But this forgiveness brought so much more…. it brought a peace I could never have had with all that baggage still piled up.

One of the best quote I read around the time when I decided to embrace forgiveness was this one by Prince Ea, which has now become one of my life mottos.

“Be who you needed when you were younger.” – Prince Ea

Prince Ea’s actual post and page

So think back…

Who did you need as a child…

Who did you need as a preteen...

 

Who did you need as a teen… young adult …

Who do you need now?

The moment I started to reflect on this is when I finally stopped sulking in the excuses and pains of the past… and saw the promises and possibilities awaiting me in my now. It’s when I took ownership on my present and my future… both blessings my past can no longer steal.

Being a mother and teacher gives me a platform for this for sure. However, we all have our own platforms to do this… to be this… to be who we needed … to be who we need… in everything we do and with every relationship.

So no matter what mess the past left you, every day is a new chance to forgive and be that person you too once needed.

It will change your life!

The Missing Ingredient

 

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I have always loved to bake, and try out new recipes of all types. After TJ’s anaphylactic reaction, I put that on hold for awhile out of fear and trying to process it all. That was until I realized that that was not the solution. Instead, together we started to create a whole new cookbook, pushing the old ones aside… for now.

Our allergy-free cookbook is filled with delicious meals and desserts from these past four years. And as we continue to add to our collection and experiment with our creations, we are always searching for the correct ingredients and amounts.

But if these years have taught me anything, it is about a crucial ingredient, that is often missing…

Prayer!

stuffing (dairy, egg & peanut free)Where do I even start?

With prayer!

Now, this is an area that I consider… a work in progress. However, its importance is one to share even before it is perfected. Is it ever really perfected?

Everything can cause us anxiety. The news, our food system, food allergies, irrational workloads, sicknesses, hectic days, hectic lives … to even the enjoyable aspects of life like trips and parties … they all have the ability to stress us out and steal our peace. There was a period of my life, (okay who am I fooling) …for most of my life, I handled the anxiety the same way:

Let it pile up…internalize it… let it pile up some more… try to do it all by myself… try to vent to someone about… let it pile up even more … fear the worst…explode …then repeat.

What is the saying accredited to Albert Einstein again? “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Maybe we aren’t insane, but we are overworked and over-worried, and missing one element (or at least I was), one important ingredient to the recipe of life, prayer!

So how does it work? It works everywhere and for everything.

To start, before each meal, pray over the food quietly or with your family and friends.

Thank You God for this food, blessing our bodies with it and for the hands that prepared it. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

Worried about that allergy or doctor appointment coming up for your child or yourself?

Thank you God for healing his body from allergies. Thank you for protecting him and the good news You will provide.

Or

Thank You God for healing and restoring my body. Thank You for the great news I will receive at this appointment and the beauty that you will create from my pain. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

Anxious about whether or not you should take the new job or do the new diet?

Pray over it. Thank You God for the blessing that this job … this diet … etc … will bring my life and my ability to do Your will through it.

Is your kid acting like they lost their mind in the car as you commute to work and school? (The Lord knows I’ve screamed back a time or fifty …)

Pray over them.

But it’s not just the missing ingredients from our needs, it is also the key part of even the moments of grace.

Is your heart beating a mile a minute as you just somehow avoided getting in a major accident with your two kids in the car? Pray and thank God for getting you out of that lane before the car behind you crashed into the one ahead. Pray for the people who did get hit every time you see an accident even if the accident is the reason you are late to work. Don’t curse and don’t stress. Pray, pray, pray.

It will help you breath better. It will help you think better. It will help you react better. It will help you understand better. It will help you love better. It will help you live better.

Do. It. For. Everything.

I’m not saying it will make your washer that broke restart or finally get money to grow from that tree in your backyard. Although sometimes God touches down in those situations too… (well maybe not the money-growing spruce…)

But what will it hurt? It can’t hurt. It can only bring you peace in places and times anxiety wants to steal just that.

Prayer is the ingredient I was missing for way too long. And even though we may have moments we feel like life in unfair…. What are these allergies even for? Why my kids? Why didn’t I get that job? That promotion? Or the other millions of questions that our days through at us?prayer is needed.

For we are called to pray for the blessings that these challenges will bring… the blessings that we cannot even comprehend that are waiting for us just around the corner.

So while our allergy safe cookbook may only be half written and stored away in our anything but organized cabinet, we are learning to pray through our mess… believing for more.

 

2019’s New Vision

Although I will not be jumping from any planes at this point of my life, I’m up for this challenge.

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In life, it’s important to discover and/or admit to any chains that bind and hold you back. To identify them is the first step. Then, it is necessary to take steps, little or large, in defeating them.
Every single step is a step closer to where you want to be. 
After my experience with postpartum anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder, I learned a lot about what was holding me back from my full potential or even from living in the moment. That is when I began to make it a goal to break as many of these unnecessary chains as possible…
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…including my fear of public speaking.
In less than a year, I’ve come so far already! I was recently able to speak in front of a crowd of 250 students and adults without my involuntary shake, rosy cheeks, or profuse sweat coming to stop by. In fact, I even went off my script (What!?!! Unheard with over analyzing, over-worrying, over-planning Jen). I held it in my hand as only a guide and not verbatim. However, I still have more steps to take with this and some other chains to tackle.
But these are steps that without challenging fear I could never have taken…
Back in May 2018, I started to push myself to read at poetry events and readings, and while at the time there were very difficult, I did not realize until recently how much they helped with current projects and situations at work and life. The seeds that those readings planted.
Those steps back then, seemed like nothing… I was still drenched in sweat and shaking like a leaf as I walked away from those reading, doubting the purpose… but maybe we don’t always need to know the purpose… maybe it adds a value to our lives that will unfold … that will break free … that will make us more alive…
Sometimes it takes just one step …
… sometimes two …
… sometimes ten…
… sometimes just one more …
So how can we give up taking those steps each day when we don’t know what that next may bring. There may be just one more step needed to reach that dream or goal… so we must keep challenging ourselves … we must keep moving forward even after a stumble or two back… we must keep stepping.
Do you have a quote guiding you this year? If so, what is it? If not, join me in making a goal like this for yourself this year. It doesn’t mean you are sky diving or doing anything that puts your life at risk. It certainly does not mean you are looking up every possible cause of cancer on Google, and scaring yourself into isolation. (Been there, done that. Not fun… I do not recommend.)
Instead, it means to take those uncomfortable steps each day whatever they may be. And to be open to where it may take you for it may surprise you.
I plan to use it to press deeper into my goals … deeper into my faith …deeper in life. It’s kind of a paradox: as I plan to push myself past my comfort zone because I know it’ll bring me more peace …
and maybe in the meantime I’ll learn to dance over the mess.

 

The Comeback

The Comeback – January 2019
And we’re back!
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Stepping back…
When I stopped blogging over three years ago, I ended in a panic.
Here I was writing posts about remaining strong in faith in order to overcome fear; and there I was living what felt like a lie. Don’t get me wrong, I was genuine in my goal to not allow the anxieties of motherhood, food allergies, my miscarriage and life control me. My heart wanted so badly to help others through experiences similar to ours. However, I felt like a hypocrite because I myself was battling a war, invisible to most except those very close to me. I needed to help and heal myself in order to best guide my family. I needed healing in every sense of the word. I needed a break from researching, from reading articles, from adding more worry onto our already allergen and chemical aware plates and homes. I needed to find myself and allow myself the time to heal. I needed to admit that I was not okay, that I deserved more, and that there was more. I needed to do it for my husband, my son, my soon-to-be-daughter, my family and friends and most importantly, myself.
Reflecting back …
Having battled anxiety most of my life, I truly believed it was inevitable. The perfect setup. Since the age of five, anxiety was my middle name. (In fact, since I didn’t have an actual middle name given to me at birth, I used to joke to myself that this was indeed meant for me.) Anxiety was just my way,; it was part of my being and always would be … or so I thought. Luckily, I was very mistaken …
Then add into the mix:
-My 7.5 month old son had an anaphylactic reaction to his first taste of yogurt in the middle of a December snow storm where there were NO Epi-pens in the ambulance…
 
-We learned of his 20 more possible allergies at his follow-up appointment…
 
-His skin reactions, his daily breathing treatments, and his viral-induced asthma every time he got sick from age 1-2.5 after he had pneumonia…
 
-Then my best friend from high school experienced the loss of her son (a heart-breaking stillbirth at 35/36 weeks)…
 
-Then my own miscarriage…
The anxiety just continued to build on and on, like a mountain I had no business climbing, yet there was no other way to get down. I was stuck. I was functioning but depressed. I was functioning but anxious. All. The. Time. Looking back, was I even functioning? Was I even present? Was I even living?
Nothing brought me joy. It was a terrible cycle: I would fake it first, then I would get so frustrated with myself for being disingenuous that I would beat myself up even more. A vicious cycle. The whole time my heart had the right intentions. It knew what it wanted and needed. It wanted to inspire others, but inspiration starts within, and fear had tried to wipe me empty. I was a cry for help through broken smile.
Then, I got pregnant with my daughter. It was a difficult pregnancy in the sense that I was nauseous, exhausted and sleep deprived for most of it, nothing like with my son who had spoiled me. She kicked my butt and belly literally! Many told me that it made sense since “girls steal your beauty.” What I didn’t realize yet, it was quite different: she was starting to inspire me…
…to redefine my beauty.
She arrived on her due date naturally just like my son had. What are the chances?!?! (Wish my lottery skills were just as good.) Her birth was a blessing and still the questions stood, why was I not content? Why was I unhappy? I felt so beyond guilty. How could I be this terrible of a person? Of a mother?
I was not beaming with happiness and joy, but she was beautiful and everything I dreamed of. From the time we found I was pregnant, I knew she would have a fighter’s heart like her Mama much like Kip Moore’s song “ Hey Pretty Lady” reminded me. And she had beautiful hazel eyes that resembled her daddy’s baby blues bringing back to Donna Lewis’ “I Love You Always Forever.” I dreamed this dream years before. I dreamed this dream for years. I needed to remember just that, as she smiled back at me … “a fighter’s heart like her Mama”...
The fight back to reality…
Those months that followed my daughter’s birth I found a breast lump, had other OBGYN scares, became engorged for an entire month when she had already been nursing for eight months, … the list was endless and really all added up to one diagnosis in the end: post traumatic stress from my son’s anaphylactic reaction then mixed with a hormonal imbalance leading to … postpartum anxiety.
I couldn’t see it then. I was too caught up in feeling and even scarier, believing, that I was dying. I really thought I was dying. I did not want pity, sympathy nor attention; I wanted someone to save my life. I was in a crisis. I was terrified that I was going to abandon my children. That I wasn’t going to be who they needed. And I beat myself up for it every day and every night. Panic attacks became a normal nighttime routine. I felt so alone all the time but the most isolated times were when those around me, helpless in their own way, asked me to snap out of it. I knew they meant well. But how? If only a snap of the fingers could do such a thing.
Finally, when my daughter was 9 months old I stopped nursing, still exclusively pumping for another 1.5 months. This allowed her to take the bottle that she had refused for the first 9 months of her life when she much rather take the boob. I am Taurus and while I don’t follow signs very often, I do know and admit to how stubborn I am. I was very headstrong about wanting to make it to a year or more, like I did with my son. However, reality hurts when it hits you especially as you are trying to climb your way out of rock bottom. My kids needed me in a different way, much more than just my milk could provide.
Stubborn ways would not save me, but letting go would. So I did just that …
Getting my groove back …
The power of the mind is incredible. I vowed to change my thinking: I would overcome this. I needed a therapist to connect with, to deepen my faith and learn to rely on that faith. I knew deep down that this would be used for good, I just couldn’t see how yet but I knew …
Walk by faith, not sight. – 2 Corinthians 5:7
After therapy for a few months and then even doing some sessions of EMDR light therapy, I had some eye opening experiences, a lot of healing, and even more forgiveness. As the ELA teacher in me would say, I also had some aha moments and lessons learned:
  1. Postpartum anxiety is real! How can it not be? Have you ever watched the news or googled searched something or even scrolled your Facebook news-feed to find only positive posts. I think not! I’ve learned Google was the devil for a Mama like me who spent much of her time being undated by negative judgments and news. What we all really need is someone to lift us up. So do just that, surround yourself with positive words. Click on a Bible app or put some positive affirmations on a notes page of your phone. Google search uplifting quotes so that when you go to search up something not-so-positive, you see the inspiration instead. Surround yourself with those who lift you up and cheer you on, not those who judge. It may mean eliminating or limiting social media or even some people. It’s difficult, but possible and worth it.
  2. You deserve happiness.. I deserve happiness. Everyone deserves happiness. Don’t let the lies of the world make you believe something else. Learn what makes you happy as an individual. Then, do what makes you happy. For me, it’s prayer, writing, poetry, being creative and running. It’s not selfish to know and make time for what brings you joy. Even if it does not involve your kids directly, it indirectly does in a greater way than you think. It’s easy to lose yourself in motherhood, and in life in general. So, recognize and embrace what makes you, you.
  3. Forgiveness is key. Or else you cannot fully move on from the past. I had some major resentment raging in me still and often pointed my fingers at others to temporarily let go of it. Cycles will be cycles if you do not forgive. Just think about it. It doesn’t always mean we have to tell the person we forgive them. Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense to, while other times it is necessary. Either way it is a conscious decision that heals the heart. It was one of the deepest releases and moments when I did just that. It made room for a whole lot more of love, joy and hope. It made room for peace.
  4. You are not alone. Even in a dark room breastfeeding your baby when everyone else seems to be have cocktails at a party or watching television, and you are worried about your milk production or if your daughter’s rash means food allergies like your son, you are never alone. Isolation can happen after a baby. Do not feel guilty. Reach out and build a support system. Like I suggested above, put positive sources of entertainment on your phone as you nurse like a Bible app, read positive news, journal, or write a poem. Sometimes, I would forget calculating how long she nursed and wouldn’t allow my phone near me. Instead, I would sing songs and just talk to my daughter. There are support systems for everything. Find other food allergy families, if you need support. Postpartum groups for breastfeeding are wonderful for so many reasons beyond nursing. Build that village and remember you are never in it alone. Ask for help… that makes you stronger than you think.
  5. Take care of yourself – even if it means taking the drug the doctors recommend or the yoga class you feel like you do not have time for. For those who know me, they would tell you I really try to take the natural, organic, GMO free route as much as possible. However, in hindsight, I should have taken the medication the doctors had prescribed for the postpartum anxiety. But I didn’t and while it took longer, I healed. Healing is possible for everyone.
Reflection back …
So often we label mental health has a weakness. We label food allergies as a weakness. We label asking for help as a weakness. We label, we label, we label. The problem is we label. I found new depths of strength and courage in those labels though. I found a way to stand confident in the fact that history will not repeat itself. But I had to forgive myself and a bunch of others before I had enough room to let amazing joy fill me up.
The reality is once you can learn acceptance in the now, no longer putting life on hold for the greener grass of tomorrow that may never come, that is when you start to live. That is when joy fills your heart. I never had real joy before now. I faked it and was full of shame because of it. But now I realize, through acceptance of myself, forgiveness of my past and that of others who may have left scars, I’m so much stronger than I’ve ever imagined I’d be.
My son, TJ started off with 21 food allergies and has outgrown all but 3 (dairy, eggs, peanuts) at his age of 4.5 now. My daughter Madison Grace has a kick-ass immune system and can’t have sesame or straight dairy milk. And don’t get me wrong, it sticks when we recently learned of her sesame allergy. It stinks when we attend birthday parties and TJ can’t eat the pizza or the cupcakes. However, we have our yummy alternatives and they are accepting of it. They are happy. Don’t get me wrong fear throws a lot at me still as it does for everyone. We all have our own battles but it’s more important to know the battles have all already been won. (John 16:33)
The difference now is I own my joy and it’s wrapped in my deep faith. Its home is in my heart and if it’s possible for me, it’s possible for anyone. Even in my lowest, I’ve never believed in the word impossible. Nothing is impossible with faith. Stand for something, or fall for everything.
And we smile back…
And now I can truly say I genuinely smile with my son who has been waiting the whole time for me to do just that, to let go, smile on… for we are truly learning to embrace the beauty and art of a messy house!
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