Self-Care: Cornerstone of Health and Healing

May 17, 2021

One of my biggest struggles as a mother has been recognizing the importance of self-care. I think I have convinced myself over the years that any time not spent on my children or my family was self-indulgent. I put myself way down on the list of priorities and that can contribute to mental health issues. During our last visit, my postpartum-therapist asked me to do something that makes me happy over the weekend. To be honest, I had a hard time recalling anything that made me happy other than things I do for my children. My daughter likes to read, my oldest son loves archery and my youngest just wants to nurse. I couldn’t remember the last time I did something because it made ME happy, and a mother should never feel guilty about trying to make herself happy from time to time.
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I told my therapist that I liked to garden and I love growing flowers. Today I practiced a little self-care by enjoying my peony beds and assembling a new toy for my youngest children so that we could spend a little time together outside.

I love flowers and not the fresh cut kind, unless they’re from my own garden. There’s something special about nurturing and caring for a plant until it blooms. Mothers should nurture and care for their children in the same fashion, but we should also remember to care for ourselves. I have two large peony beds that my husband and I have planted throughout the years, we started them on Mother’s Day shortly after we finished the house. I also have assorted varieties of hydrangeas, roses and petunias, plus a sweet little magnolia tree. It has made me happy to plant each of them and watch them grow.
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Gardening is definitely a form of self-care for me.

My personal forms of self-care are:

  • Writing (nothing that I’m forced to write and I struggle with prompted pieces)
  • Gardening
  • Photography
  • Cooking (when it’s something new and fun, and I’m not in a rush)
  • Reading
  • Watching birds and nature (my husband built me a bird feeder)
  • Mediate on my relationship with God

I started to create a list of possible self-care activities, but the point of self-care is that it’s enjoyable to the individual. The things that make me happy might not make you happy. I don’t enjoy fixing my hair, painting my nails or experimenting with makeup, like I know lots of other women might. I don’t read romance novels and I hate reality TV. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with those, but my point is that self-care is all about caring for your needs as an individual.
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It shouldn’t be anything that causes you stress. I actually stopped taking photos for a while because I stressed myself out trying to make them perfect and it was anything short of relaxing. All of the photos on this post were taken with my iPhone and they were stress-free. I will cherish them just as much.

What do you like to do for self-care? Any suggestions for not readily thought of self-care activities?

It Gets Darkest At Night

May 16, 2021

I sat in my recliner to go to sleep in usual fashion, but it rarely came quickly. I had managed to hide from everyone that I slept in my leather recliner holding my infant son every night. It wasn’t anything new; I had done the same with my daughter. It was a weird routine and anything short of “normal”. I had two pillows under my legs, a boppy pillow under my arms, a travel pillow around my neck and a blanket across me. I would put his Owlet sock on for good measure, even knowing the false alarms would send me into a panic. He liked to be held while he slept and it made it easier to nurse him. I was horrendously embarrassed that anxiety had taken such a hold of me. I had convinced myself that a vengeful God might steal him from me in his sleep; I feared I would have to pay penance for sins from my past.

In my mind at the time, I had a very vengeful God. He had dealt me a lifetime of suffering and heartbreak:

I had found my great grandmother dangling over her bed after a stroke.

My brother had been killed by my stepfather.

I suffered a hemorrhage following the birth of my oldest, and every birth after him.

In my mind, God and I had been at odds for a while.

Sometimes I’d lie awake at night watching Whittaker breathe, just as I had done with my other two children. This time the night seemed to get darker for me and I wasn’t prepared for how dark it would eventually get.

I’m not sure when the real “darkness” started to set in; it seemed to creep in quietly. I heard noises outside that would jolt me awake; sometimes I recognized them. It was a dog barking across the road, the sound of a radio, the steady hum of a car engine, the light or noise from a cellphone or something falling over in our yard. Things I would later learn were likely hallucinations.

Other times I was awoken by the heat. I originally thought my hormones were fluctuating or it was the additional body heat from the tiny boy laying in my arms. I had tried to adjust the thermostat but that didn’t seem to work and I even had my husband replace the digital one; I thought it was malfunctioning. Or maybe it was because my entire family slept in one room? This was largely due to my anxiety too. Our master bedroom consists of a king and queen size bed, and my recliner. The queen size bed was added when I felt guilty over my 11 year old sleeping on a cot. Don’t misunderstand–he had his own queen size bed in his own room, but he slept in my bedroom to ease both of our minds. What if there was a fire or someone broke in? What if he walked in his sleep and went outside? In my mind, anything bad could happen. And to be fair, he has a history of sleepwalking and sleep-talking.

And then I saw the light. No, not the spiritual light you might be thinking I would find at the end of this story. This was a real light–or at least it was real to me. Did someone have a flashlight outside the bathroom window? “Jeremy wake up! What was that?” I whispered. I couldn’t exactly run to the bathroom window with a sleeping baby in my arms. When he or I finally got to the window it had vanished. Who was out there and what did I see? Was someone trying to break into our house, or maybe the garage? It hadn’t been that long since I saw our strange, shirtless neighbor in our driveway. I had convinced myself he was high on meth and casing our house or trying to steal our mail. He had pretended to jog and air box as I photographed him from an upstairs window.

Maybe it was him?

The light came again the next night. And the next night. It was always just a flash and only in the same bathroom window facing my recliner.
Who was out there?
Why did they keep coming back?
I’d try to wake Jeremy but by the time I had gotten him up, it was always gone.
I was afraid to sleep, but being awake was equally painful.
Once I saw the light it was impossible to get back to sleep, unless I finally fell into exhaustion.

Eventually, I didn’t need the noises or the heat to awaken me, I couldn’t fall asleep. Would the light appear again?
And it always came.

Night after night.

I eventually stopped sleeping. Most “new” moms lose sleep, but this was on a grandiose scale. I was lucky if I got 2-3 hours a night. The torment from the light and noise had made it impossible to sleep, I was always on alert, just waiting to see it.

The thought consumed me.

Who was tormenting me? I didn’t understand it. I live a rather secluded life. Our home is on a farm. My life consisted of trips to archery tournaments, practices and Cub Scouts. I rarely leave the house and most of my day revolved around convincing my 3.5 year old to brush her teeth, practicing archery with my 11 year old or nursing my then 6.5 month old from daylight until past dark.

I even put a note on my phone for the “light” to find.

“Y’all are going to cause me to have a nervous breakdown.  I’m not sure if I’m making things up in my mind or they’re real anymore. My PTSD symptoms are through the roof. I haven’t slept in 3 days. What exactly do you think I’ve done or capable of? …“

I kept asking myself and eventually started asking other people, who or what was out there?

I told my friend, it had to be the devil himself.

I had been driven to the brink of madness.

Or was I already there?

My 3 children and I, May 2021

An article in Frontiers in Psychology stated that severe sleep loss can cause sensory issues including hallucinations and delusions, and extreme sleep loss can even result in death. There are several studies that suggest sleep loss can largely contribute to postpartum psychosis and is often a primary complaint for postpartum mothers.

This is just a small piece to my story of having Postpartum Psychosis. It’s the only part that I’m comfortable sharing so far. In the weeks following my experience, I would contemplate taking my own life. I told everyone that some outside force was compelling me to do it. I knew about postpartum anxiety and depression, but I didn’t know that postpartum psychosis was a recognized condition. I hope that the pieces of my story might help some other new mom or someone in her life to recognize the symptoms and seek help. Postpartum psychosis isn’t readily diagnosed and finding treatment can be even harder. There are lots of resources available through Postpartum Support International. The United States have some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the industrialized World and this needs to change.

If you or a loved one is struggling with postpartum issues such as depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder or psychosis, please know that you are not alone. There are resources available and people who can help you find the help that you need. I will always be here with an ear to listen or to help you find providers in your area.

Halloween Safety Tips For You & Your Home

October 18, 2018

This post about Halloween safety is sponsored by on behalf of Erie Insurance

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost Halloween. Personally, I love Halloween, namely because I really enjoy checking out the costumes. My son’s school even has a Halloween Parade of DIY costumes only; it has been a tradition since before my husband attended the same elementary school (a very long time ago). Most of the discussions about Halloween safety surround costume safety or checking candy; most people don’t even think about trying to make their home safer during Halloween. Unfortunately, we live in a litigious society, and if someone is injured on your property, you might not be protected with your current homeowners insurance plan. Luckily there are insurance plans available for you to research online, for example, if you are looking for a specific home insurance policy, you may want to visit somewhere like to find the right policy that covers all your needs. A friend of mine did this for her house, ensuring that her policy covered her home from floods, storms and other disasters that could affect her property. She even looked up a water damage adjuster firm so that in the event her home did suffer water damage that she would get the maximum amount of compensation. It got me thinking about different tips that could help my family around Halloween. So, today I’ve partnered with Erie Insurance to share a some practical Halloween safety tips for your home and how you can check your policy to ensure that you’re properly covered in the event of an accident.

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Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding Using Brioche Bread

March 15, 2018
chocolate chip bread pudding

Last week we made a quick trip into Aldi because a friend told me that they had a nice selection of organic baby food. We found that, but I also ended up with the ingredients to make this Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding. We can’t go into Aldi without coming out with at least one loaf of their brioche bread. My husband loves to use it to make French toast and they stock a rotating variety of flavors. During our trip they had a chocolate chip variety with a swirl of what appeared to be vanilla custard. It looked delicious and he couldn’t resist. My husband used one loaf to make French toast and he left the remaining loaf for me to make something with our son. I had planned to make French toast again, but he ended up having a 10am basketball game so labor-intensive French toast was a no-go. I needed to be able to make something that didn’t require me standing over the stove; I was parenting solo that weekend because my husband was in Korea and I had two kids to get ready for a game. My version of bread pudding is basically the same recipe that I used for this bread pudding, except it can be dumped into one casserole dish and baked in the oven. Here’s my recipe for Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding using Chocolate Chip brioche bread. I hope you’ll check it out and feel free to substitute other varieties of brioche bread in this recipe.

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New Philips Avent Anti-Colic Bottle With AirFree Vent

February 12, 2018
philips avent anti-colic bottle with airfree vent

Compensation was provided by Philips Avent via Momtrends. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions of Philips Avent or Momtrends.

I have exclusively breastfed both my son and my daughter. My son was close to two years old when I weaned him, and I thought I would never break him from wanting to just comfort nurse. My grandmother expressed concern with both of my children, she thought that they should at least know how to take a bottle. I heard the same question more than once, “What if you got sick or something suddenly happened and you couldn’t feed the baby?” My daughter is going to be six months old at the end of the month, and I’m finally taking her advice to heart. We’re trying to introduce her to drinking expressed breastmilk from the new Philips Avent Anti-colic bottle with AirFree vent. Today I’m sharing a few reasons why I decided to use this bottle and a few tips for how to transition your child from bottle to breast.

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Do You Know What’s In Your Pet’s Food?

February 6, 2018

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CheckYourPetFood #CollectiveBias

Do you know what’s in your pet’s food? For many years, I had no idea how to read a pet food label; to be perfectly honest, I didn’t know how to read my own food labels. If I saw a brand on the shelf like nutra thrive I didn’t even think of checking the nutra thrive reviews online to see how healthy it was compared to the food I was using. I generally fed my pets based upon recommendations from my friends and family, not what others were saying online. It wasn’t until my grandmother’s dog developed an intolerance to several pet food ingredients that I forced myself to learn how to decipher pet food labels. It’s obvious that you would be cautious about feeding certain ingredients to a pet with allergies or an intolerance, but it’s also important to be knowledgeable about labels to ensure your pet’s overall health and quality of life. Being a dog owner, knowing that there are a number of raw dog food suppliers in the UK, it will be hard to forget the importance of feeding your dog the right ingredients. Keeping it natural could make a difference to your dog’s health.

A quality dog food, regular exercise, fresh water and training are all integral to having a happy, healthy dog. Today I’m teaming up with Purina® and Meijer to share some tips for reading pet food labels, and to answer some common questions about feeding your dog.

Do You Know What's In Your Pet's Food?

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Snow Day On The Farm: Highland Cattle

January 24, 2018
highland cattle

I haven’t been posting as much, because I’m tending to my baby daughter.
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She isn’t very fond of me using my laptop or taking a shower, if the truth be told. The updates about our lives on the farm have been few and far between since she was born. It snowed here last week; I had my husband entertain our daughter long enough for me to venture out and take some photos of the snow.
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It seems like everyone really enjoys updates and photos of our Highland cattle. They seemed right at home in the snow and winter weather.
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The breed is native to the Highland region of Scotland, so they were well suited for the temperature change.

Please enjoy this glimpse of a snow day on the farm with Ali and Hali:

highland cattle

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