The perfect storm

I’ve been a parent for 6 years now, so I should have known better than to think that the weekend of my half-marathon, which I had been planning for and training for for months, would go anything but smoothly. The moment you add children into anything that you do, everything is up in the air, a smorgasbord of possibilities, and the one that will land will never be the one you foolishly planned on.

Let’s, of course, back up to the point where the perfect storm of schedule nightmares really began.

My dear Sophie, my sauce-pot of a 6-year old, has never been able to breathe properly through her nose. Ever. If she has a cold, she can’t breathe. If she doesn’t have a cold, she can’t breathe. And when she talks, it sounds like she’s holding her nose. It’s awful. And perpetually boogery. Add in the super attractive snoring and gasping at night, and I figured I should ask our family doctor about it.

The first step was allergy testing, which made complete sense to me. I am allergic to everything with fur, feathers, pollen and dust (yay, me!), and I got my oodles of allergies from my mother’s handful of allergies, so I figured I had given Sophie an infinite number of itchy, sneezy, unhappy genetic gifts. Like the dutiful mother that I am, I took her to the same allergist that did my allergy testing waaaaaay back when I was about Sophie’s age, and discovered that Sophie had ZERO allergies. She was allergic to NOTHING. Which I immediately didn’t believe, because the kid is stuffed up, and itchy if we eat too much dairy, and breaks out into hives if a dog licks her.

The next step on the Sophie’s Nose Exploration was to consult an ENT. The lovely Dr. Zhang listened to Sophie talk for a few moments, asked me questions about Sophie’s sleep habits, her cold history, and agreed that she sounded stuffed up. She said that before she did anything she wanted to send us to a sleep study, since I had mentioned the super awesome jackhammer snoring and the gasping for air.

Have you ever done a sleep study? As an adult? It’s not fun. It’s this insane set-up with a bagillion wires connected to your head, your chest and your legs, and you’re forced to sleep in a bed that’s not yours with the hum of a variety of interesting machines, and then you’re woken up at 5:30 a.m. so you can be out of there by 6 a.m. It’s a couple steps short of torture.

You know what’s WORSE than having a sleep study done to you? Being the parent that gets to sleep beside the KID who’s getting a sleep study. First, you have to hype up this ‘super cool’ sleepover you’re going to. And then you have to get them to agree to sit still while they’re covered with a million wires (I can’t even IMAGINE Lillian having this done…Sophie is so pliable and amenable. Lillian would be like, F%&# YOU!).

My little Frankenstein

My little Frankenstein

And then you get to sleep in the same bed as them while they try to sleep with the crazy wires and noises and unfamiliar bed. And in Sophie’s case, she was sleeping flat, which she never does because of the boogers. She always sleeps propped up on a couple of pillows, but here we tried her lying on just one. Which of course caused her nose to try to kill her and stop her from breathing and she would thrash and cry and try to rip off the wires.

Finally the night end, I’ve not slept more than 1 hour in a row, and Sophie says to me, “That was FUN! Can we sleep here again?!” To which I say, “I hope we never have to do this again.”

At the beginning of April we got the results from our February sleep study, where the nice respirologist (the sleep doctor) explained that Sophie stopped breathing 70 times in a 7-hour period. Then he proceeded to tell me that the average kid stops breathing about once an hour…not 10 times an hour. He said she had moderate to severe sleep apnea, which means it wasn’t emergent, but it wasn’t awesome. It needed to be corrected.

Fast forward a few weeks to the Monday before the half-marathon weekend and Sophie and I were in the ENT’s office again, where she said she needed to stick a camera up Sophie’s nose to see if it was indeed her adenoids or if it was a neurological problem causing her to not breathe properly. Again I can’t imagine doing this with Lillian – first Sophie got a tissue shrinking solution shot up her nostrils, and then she got a camera, attached to a tube the size of really fat spaghetti, shoved up her nose. It was only for a few seconds and Sophie did squirm, but in the end Dr. Zhang got what she needed and declared that Sophie’s adenoids were completely blocking her nasal airway and needed to come out. Then, she was explaining the procedure, the risks, and the fact that with the sleep apnea she would be staying overnight for what is typically a day-sugery so they could monitor her oxygen levels. I found myself listening, nodding, and signing papers for pre-registration, which didn’t seem odd to me until we were at the receptionist’s desk getting an appointment for surgery THAT FRIDAY. As in FOUR days from then. As in TWO days before my half-marathon. As in NOT WEEKS AWAY.

The rest of that day is a blur – I signed Sophie out from school for an extended absence, I notified the parents of the little girl I walk to and from school that we wouldn’t be able to help out the following week, I told the mothers and Ben and anyone else I could think of. I rescheduled Lillian’s deaf school appointments and her speech therapy, and I tried to think of all the things I was probably forgetting, all with the pall of the half-marathon and the 21 km I was scheduled to complete hanging over me. Where I was supposed to be out of town. With an overnight stay. Two days after Sophie’s surgery. I didn’t think I could do both – be a parent at the bedside of my baby AND be a runner completing the longest distance I had ever run. It felt impossible.

Until I talked to Ben that night who said that he felt I should still run the race. That even though he and the kids wouldn’t be there to cheer me on in person, there was no reason why I shouldn’t still go. That unless there was an emergency or some kind of major complication in the surgery, I should go be a runner after I had been the bedside parent.

So I did it.

I hung out with my giant baby, with her long arms and legs, talking her gently through the pre-op process, helping her pick out a new stuffie from the hospital staff, explaining that she would be awake and not asleep for the IV process, telling her she was brave and awesome and that we loved her as she chased bubbles into the operating room, then waiting patiently while she was being put to sleep and cut open, then sitting and waiting patiently in her room while Ben sat with her in recovery (he was to be there when she woke up, I was to sleep overnight with her), then hanging out with a sleepy, sore, incredibly brave Sophie while she asked for a hot dog, her new Fire HD tablet we had got her for her birthday and popsicles, then helping her fall asleep knowing that she would have an accident because she was so worn out and the IV was pumping her full of fluids while she slept, helping her get comfortable and changed after said accident, then helping her eat her hospital breakfast, where the novelty of it outweighed the sad state of it, and finally bringing her home with her Nana to see her family and begin the healing process and week-long vacation from school.

My girl, brave and strong, sleeping after her surgery.

My girl, brave and strong, sleeping after her surgery.

And then, I needed to turn my eyes toward the 21 km prize, because Sophie was a champ and was recovering awesomely. There was nothing for me to stick around and do that Ben could not do on his own. So, I went ahead as planned, with my running buddies Bethany, Andrea, and Toni.

We slept overnight in Mississauga, the city that we were running in, which is about an hour away from our house. This way, we could get up and go to the start line for 7:30 without having to wake up at 3 something and get all of our babies ready and our husbands ready and our cargo ready. We could just wake up, drive 20 minutes, and be there.

The first leg of our race was to get on the shuttle from the parking lot to the starting line. It was cool, but not freezing, meaning it was a good 20 degrees warmer than most of our training runs.

Our fellow runners waiting for the bus

Our fellow runners waiting for the bus. The guy in the ball cap said that it was below zero last year…you know, the last time he ran it.

Andrea looking fresh and excited

Andrea, looking fresh and excited

A pre-running selfie, trying not to freak out too much or feel like the worst mother in the world for abandoning her babies too much.

A pre-running selfie, trying not to freak out too much or feel like the worst mother in the world for abandoning her babies too much.

Bethany doing Toni's hair since it wasn't cooperating. This would be time 1 of 2 that Bethany did her hair.

Bethany doing Toni’s hair since it wasn’t cooperating. This would be time 1 of 2 that Bethany did her hair that morning.

After we got shuttled (and Toni got her hair done again), we caught up with the thousands of other runners who were waiting to complete relays, the half-marathon with us, and the full-marathon like the crazies that they are.

Before the agony of 21 km

Before the agony of 21 km

It was intense standing in the crowd of people, listening to the psych-up music and the announcements from Hurricane Hazel and the organizers of the race. The energy was one of camaraderie (so many runners wished us luck on our first half-marathon, helped us take group pictures, and chatted with us) and endorphins. It was crazy-awesome and, besides the water stations, it was the missing element in our training runs. That energy definitely helped propel us through the race.

Andrea took this picture...if I tried to take an 'in the crowd' picture, it would look like a bunch of t-shirts, no sky and no start-line.

Andrea took this picture…if I tried to take an ‘in the crowd’ picture, it would look like a bunch of t-shirts, no sky and no start-line.

We got to run through some of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in Mississauga. Most streets were tree-lined and crazy giant mansion-lined. It was also spectator-lined, with people shouting encouragement, playing music (both live and speakered), and waving super funny signs, like “This is the worst parade EVER” and “I wouldn’t DRIVE 42.2 km on a Sunday!” I was also passed quite efficiently by an older man whose shirt said, “Running Grandpa 80 81 82 83 84 years young”, who was running the full marathon. I caught up with him in the last few kilometers of my half-marathon. He KICKED MY ASS.

The first 16 km were good – I was strong, it was the distance I had run twice before, and I felt fresh and energized. And then I realized that I still had a 5K to run. Another 40 minutes or so. That’s a hard pill to swallow after 16 km. I dug deep and used the awesome volunteers who cheered and the super nice spectators who were yelling support to get me through the next couple of kilometers. Around the 19 km mark, I really started to feel tired. My feet hurt. My legs were lead. I wanted to lie down and sleep. But I was still so far (SO CLOSE) away. There were a lot of walk breaks in those last kilometers, but as I was passed by an elite marathoner with his bicycle entourage, he said, “Good job” as he essentially sprinted past me. I managed to say it back before he disappeared from earshot and it gave me the oomph to get to the end.

No one from my immediate family was there to cheer me on – Ben and the babies were home with Sophie, waiting for me to get back. I was trying not to think about it as I got near the finish line. And then I didn’t have to think about it any more because Toni was there, SCREAMING her head off for me, and my name was announced as I crossed the finish line with the Boston Marathon qualifiers, and then I saw Bethany and then Andrea, and I was almost weeping – with relief and gratitude and empowerment. Finishing that race was SO hard. The week before it was SO hard. The training leading up to it was COLD and hard. And going from someone who never exercised, who quit gym class in grade 10 because it was no longer ‘required,’ to someone who could run 21 km was AWESOME. I would do it again, now that my feet have stopped throbbing and my legs are almost recovered, and I haven’t run in a week. To feel that again? It would be worth it.

All of us medaled at the end.

All of us medaled at the end.

I might even do the full marathon next time. All 42 km of it. I just have to convince my running buddies they’re as crazy as me…

~ Julia

Just get out the door

I love running.

I love how it makes me feel. I love how healthy I am because of it. I love the number of baked goods I can eat fairly guilt-free (just don’t tell Toni…). I love how powerful I am, how far I can go, how peaceful it is, and how high the endorphins make me at the end.

LOVE IT.

But something horrible happens every time I get up to go running.

Goofy weak ankles require a little support.

Goofy weak ankles require a little support.

It’s not subtle, either. It won’t be ignored and demands to be listened to, paid attention to, adhered to.

Some fuel before I head out.

Some fuel before I head out.

Evil-Julia kicks in and starts smack-talking me.

Good morning, quiet, sleepy world.

Good morning, quiet, sleepy world.

I tell myself that I can’t do it.

Leaving the city behind

Leaving the city behind

I tell myself I am NOT a runner.

This hill always gets me. One day, I will run up it WITHOUT walking. Dammit.

This hill always gets me. One day, I will run up it WITHOUT walking. Dammit.

I tell myself that it will be hard, impossible, painful, and that I will fall, hurt myself, embarrass myself, let myself down.

Just some nice farmland on the route...you know, no big deal...yet SO pretty.

Just some nice farmland on the route…you know, no big deal…yet SO pretty.

I tell myself that I don’t look like a runner when I’m in my regular, day-to-day clothes – what makes me think I look anything BUT ridiculous and poser-y in my running gear?!

I call this the home stretch. It's actually the 5 km mark of a 10.5 km run...so not really the actual homestretch.

I call this the home stretch. It’s actually the 5 km mark of a 10.5 km run…so not really the actual homestretch.

I tell myself I’m fat. I do. I talk about my thunder thighs and my chubby belly and my face that I feel looks bigger when my hair is up in a tight bun and that my butt jiggles when I run and that’s all anybody is ever going to look at.

One of TWO stunning ponds (although, named lakes) on the route.

One of TWO stunning ponds (although, named lakes) on the route.

I forget that I’m thirty pounds lighter than I was after Isaac was born. That I walked into a lingerie store to buy new bras because my boobs have shrunk SO MUCH and the lady told me, without any thought, that I was a medium (I’ve NEVER been a medium). That the clothes I bought at the beginning of this year because nothing fit me are too big for me and I’m rapidly closing in on the need to buy a whole new wardrobe. Again.

There's a blue heron at the end of the branch that's jutting out on the water. Can you see it?

There’s a blue heron at the end of the branch that’s jutting out on the water. Can you see it?

I forget that last weekend I ran 12.84 km, the farthest I’ve ever run and more than half-way to my 21-km-half-marathon goal for next year. I forget that I had to ask my brother-in-law, who runs twice as fast as I do, who has been running his whole life, who runs 10 km for breakfast, why my toes were going numb and he said I needed new shoes. Do you know what that means??? It means that I’ve logged so much mileage in these blue and hot pink shoes since the beginning of the SUMMER that I need new shoes already. Seriously.

I've caught the watching-the-sunrise-bug from Toni.

I’ve caught the watching-the-sunrise bug from Toni.

I forget everything good about what I’ve accomplished. But, I don’t stop moving. I don’t stop putting on my running gear that I laid out the night before for this very reason. I don’t stop making pre-run toast or peeling that pre-run banana. I don’t avoid reviewing the route, looking at the distance, and visualizing the scenery in my mind. I don’t stop myself from putting on those shoes, taking a deep breath and escaping the house like a ninja so I don’t wake up any babies as I leave.

Well-deserved chia-peach oatmeal with coffee and WATER.

Actual breakfast – warm chia-peach oatmeal with well-deserved coffee and absolutely necessary WATER.

And I step outside. And the cool air hits me. And the feel of the pavement is under my shoes. And the quiet of the early, early morning surrounds me. And all of the worries, the stress, the obligations, the responsibilities, the to-dos fade away. And I get to the end of my driveway and I start to run. And then I remember.

I’m a runner.

~ Julia

Thankful is as thankful does

I’m definitely a Christmas person – the lights, the sounds, the smells, the music, the family, the gifts, the love, the snow – LOVE it all – but Thanksgiving holds a special place in my heart.

There are very few moments in our regular day-to-day where we get to stop and really think about all that we have and then express explicit gratitude for it. Really, our days are (at least for me) tackled at a get-up-don’t-stop-keep-going-’til-you-drop pace, where there’s little time for rest, let alone reflection and then the expression of thankfulness.

But this season, this time when the trees turn and the air cools and the layers of clothing start piling up, is anointed with this beautiful gift of making time to be thankful. 

In our home, the home that Ben and I have been building together for over 8 years, thankfulness has sometimes been really hard to grasp. There was our first year of marriage, where Ben was unemployed and I had the worst job ever (went home in tears every night) and we lived in our crappy first apartment and had no money. Instead of wallowing, we forced ourselves to come up with one thing each to be thankful for every day the week leading up to Thanksgiving. Those fourteen things lit up our tiny one-bedroom like nobody’s business.

There was the year that we lost our baby, our Charlie. The year where nothing seemed to lift us. The year that sucked huge hairy balls of crap. The one where counting the blessings we had here, and not in heaven, was damn near impossible.

And then there have been years where blessings have overflowed, where the number of things to be thankful for was sky-high and singing in church choirs about praising God and going to the apple orchard and making pie and getting together as a family seemed like things we could do forever. Those are the times where Thanksgiving feels like it shouldn’t be just a season, but a year-round, daily activity.

This year, like every other, has its own marks of sorrow, its own trials, its own triumphs, its own heaps of blessings. It’s a year where we’re finally settling into our family of five. It’s a year where we are working hard on our marriage, harder than we’ve ever had to work before. It’s a year where we’re making big changes (another blog post for another time!) and hoping like hell (praying like maniacs!) that we’re making the right changes. It’s a year where my list of what to be thankful for feels more thoughtful than it ever has.

So, in my pause of reflection, here’s what I’m thankful for most this year:

1. Ben – Father of our children, lover of my heart, fighter for our family, breadwinner monetarily, strongman in all things, I’m thankful that he’s the one I’m walking this path with.

He's a handsome devil...and sometimes just a devil...

He’s a handsome devil…and sometimes just a devil…

2. The babies – No one makes me crazier, loves me more, lets me love them more, teaches me more, forces me to grow more, and makes me sit in awe more than the three nutters I call mine.

Crazy in love

Crazy in love

3. My sisters – No, this isn’t a plug for the blog, but seriously? My sisters? Without them, I don’t know what I’d do. And this year, I feel like I’m calling on all of the favours for all of the things. I’m asking for nannying help, I’m leaning for babysitting, I’m demanding workout buddies, I’m talking their ears off, I’m handing over babies for them to hold while I let my arms rest – all of the things.

Maybe we should take another one...where we're not wet...

Maybe we should take another one…where we’re not wet…

 

Who else would push your kids and their kid and all of your kids' baggage up the biggest hill and STILL love you?

Who else would push your kids and their kid and all of your kids’ baggage up the biggest hill and STILL love you?

4. My moms – Who else can say, “Not only do I talk to my mom every day, but I love my mother-in-law like a second mother”? Not many people that I know. Lucky doesn’t even begin to cover the love I get from my mothers.

My mom loving my babies...and ME

My mom loving my babies…and ME

She lets me wake her up at stupid o'clock and STILL loves me!

She lets me wake her up at stupid o’clock and STILL loves me!

5. Soul-friends – The moms at school pick-up/drop-off, the moms at bible study, the women who listen to me rant and rave and brag and are nothing but supportive, even though I probably come off as a complete nut.

Any time women come together with a collective intention, it's a powerful thing. Whether it's sitting down making a quilt, in a kitchen preparing a meal, in a club reading the same book, or around the table playing cards, or planning a birthday party, when women come together with a collective intention, magic happens. - Phylicia Rashad

“Any time women come together with a collective intention, it’s a powerful thing. Whether it’s sitting down making a quilt, in a kitchen preparing a meal, in a club reading the same book, or around the table playing cards, or planning a birthday party, when women come together with a collective intention, magic happens.” – Phylicia Rashad

6. Time – For finding myself, for running, for learning, for thinking, for everything – I feel like I’ve stolen more time for myself than I ever have and the proof is in the distance I can run (12.84 KM!), the fitness I have, the peace that I feel, and the depression I’m actively keeping at bay.

Me, the road, my breath, my thoughts, my meditation, my time

Me, the road, my breath, my thoughts, my meditation, my time

7. God’s love – I know that everything that I’ve listed here, everything that I’m thankful for every day, everything that I am, and where I am and where I’m going is all because of Him. THANK YOU.

DSCF2145

This year has not been our easiest, our most blessed, or our hardest, most awful. But this year, like all the rest, the thankfulness is found in what we have and where we are right now, not in what we don’t have or where we didn’t make it.

To you and yours, a happiest and most grateful of Thanksgiving seasons. I hope it’s filled with love, light, and turkey. (Mmmm, turkey).

~ Julia

How I’m doing

It’s been quite a few months since I came out as suffering from a postpartum mood disorder (PPMD/PPD) and I was thinking it might be a good idea to let you know how I’m doing.

I am doing really, really well.

In terms of the PPMD/PPD, I’m completely recovered. I don’t have a foggy brain anymore, I’m not anxious and overwhelmed anymore, I’m not flying off the handle with blind rage anymore. I’m controlled. I’m confident in my parenting. I’m taking care of myself. And I am actually thriving as a person, instead of drowning.

I am doing really, really well.

Of course, there was no magic pill or instant cure, there was no lightbulb moment that changed everything, but there was hard work and lots of help. And I wanted to share with you what fueled my success this time.

I stayed medicated. This is controversial, in that I was medicated all throughout my pregnancy with Isaac and even bumped my medication up at the end of my pregnancy. It’s controversial because it means Isaac went through withdrawal when he was born and was at a tiny (read: minuscule) risk for birth defects. But the risk of me committing suicide or hurting myself or my babies or landing myself into a mental hospital were all severely high if I had stopped taking my medication. I have been medicated since after Lillian was born and still am to this day. Will I be medicated for the rest of my life? I have no idea, but at this point it’s working and that’s all that matters.

I asked for help. It’s tough admitting you don’t have it all together. It’s even harder when you did have it together at the beginning and now it’s starting to crumble months after your baby is born. Especially because up until my confession in February, I had been the poster girl for what to do when you have a history of mental illness and you want more children. I encapsulated my placenta and took it as prescribed (no, really). I stayed medicated. I put supports in place for the first six weeks after birth to ensure I healed properly from my scheduled C-section. I got rest. I didn’t act like a hero. My house fell into even further disarray and I was okay with it. I did everything RIGHTAnd yet, everything still fell apart. Asking for help was eating humble pie and accepting that even though we do everything the way we’re “supposed to,” things can still fall spectacularly apart. But I did it. I asked for help. I called my therapist and got an appointment that week. I was told by Toni and Jacqui that I would be getting help from Toni, and I accepted it. Let the leaning and the healing begin.

I remembered what I had learned. I joked when I got to therapy that I was going for my PhD in PPD…that I had been here twice before, that this was my third time, and by the time this was done I would be set for life. Full of PPD knowledge. You know, it turned out to be true. I remembered what I needed to do. I remembered the importance of self-care and how vital it was to my past recovery. I remembered that sleep was a key component to getting through the day in one piece. I remembered that I had to take things one excruciating step at a time, not rush through or jump from step 1 to step 74398574. I remembered that it was a journey full of peaks and valleys. I remembered that the Julia that I remembered from before babies, before the first two rounds of PPD, before the miscarriage, before this moment would come back, that she wasn’t lost for good, that she still existed. And I remembered I had to trust the process, not jump ship just because it wasn’t working. My therapist told me that this would be my shortest journey through PPD. The first round was seven months with no help. The second round was five months with medication and therapy. This round was just shy of four months. She was right. My quickest yet. PhD in the BAG!

I exercised my tushy off. No, literally. I’m 30 pounds lighter than when I started this journey. Exercising, whether bootcamp with my sisters, hiking at ridiculous o’clock, or finding my zen in running, became an integral part of my recovery. It’s no wonder – exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy; happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.

Or maybe it’s something more like this (although I will argue that the above is COMPLETELY valid):

Exercise-is-better-than-antidepressants

I feel it when I don’t exercise – the anxiety, the irritability, the brain that won’t shut up, the anger that’s bubbling far too close to the surface. And I feel it when I do – the power that exists in me, the calm that comes from achieving something so simple yet hard, the brain break because all I can do is concentrate on my breathing when I run alone, or the friend/sister-therapy that comes from running with others. It is the thing that is gluing me together. It has replaced chocolate and mindless eating. It has replaced napping and hiding. It is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Period.

I am kind to myself. There are bad days. There are days when I feel like I’m not a great mom…or maybe not even a good mom. There are days when I feel like there’s no way I’ll ever be able to accomplish all the things I need to do…days when Isaac is screaming and Lillian is pooping on the floor and Sophie is late for school and we haven’t even left yet. These are the days I practice being kind to myself, not shaming myself. I don’t berate me for not having it all together (i.e. no poop, no screaming, on time school kid). I don’t sit there and fume and fight with the babies who only dig their heels in more when you rush them. I don’t let it ruin the whole day. I accept my fate in that moment (we are going to be late). I remind myself that no one is dying, that this is by far not the worst situation, that I’m normal and this is nuts and it’s hard because it’s hard, not because I’m failing.

Life is hard. Not because we're doing it wrong, just because it's hard.

Glennon Doyle Melton (Way-back-play-back because I LOVE this quote so much.)

I have a village. There is no supporting cast as important as the village that helps you raise your babies. It is the thing that we turn to when we have a question, want perspective, or need an ear to just listen and then respond with, “I get it. You’re not alone.” In one of my earliest therapy sessions, my counselor said that I needed to create a village for myself, that without it I would be eternally lost. And she’s right. My village is HUGE and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Shout-outs go to The Mothers, both Ben’s and mine, for loving us and our babies, for providing second homes and soft places to land when things get out of hand, for hugging and listening and never judging. Props over to my sisters, my soulmates, the people that God saw fit to put in my permanent family, especially my nanny Toni, my dopelanger-in-spirit Jacqui, and Kim, my sister-in-broken-brainedness. To my dear broken brain friends, both past and present, thank you for never letting me feel crazy…but rather, helping me feel normal. To my kindred spirit Laura, for crafting with me, praying for me, and listening to me – love you! And to the ladies of the drop-off brigade – Heather, Bethany, Andrea, Michele, and Danika – without you holding Lillian’s hands, being second moms to Sophie, sharing in the school experience, this anxiety-ridden gal would have no friends at school. Thank you thank you thank you.

I have Ben. Beyond the village, you also need a good man in a storm. Ben is that good man. He watched me sob on the couch as I worried they would take away our babies and lock me up when I confessed to the third bout of PPD. He held me and told me we’d do whatever it took to get better. He never left me, even when I was being an asshole to him (PPD brings out the worst in people). He never blamed me, even though I felt like every crappy moment was my fault (I own the brain, ergo…). He has never stopped loving me, even when I made it impossible for him to love me. He let me run. He gave me time to regroup. He’s taken 50% of the night feeds since the 7-week mark. He is awesome. And to top it all off – he’s a great dad to our crazy kids. To the moms who are fighting this alone, I don’t know how you’re doing it. You are my heroes, because this is hard and hellish with a partner…without one, you must be made of steel or something. Seriously. I bow to you.

To the moms who are still fighting – don’t lose hope. I got my PhD. I survived my third round. I’m a confident, well-adjusted (most days) mom of three kids. I am still here, better, stronger, more vivid than I was before, and you will be too. Promise.

Babies and Mama

~ Julia

 

Mother-runner

According to my mother’s lore about my childhood, my first steps were not timid or slow. Allegedly, I ran across the basement at my grandparent’s house a few times. And then realized I was running. And then I sat down. But the first steps were running strides. I kind of love that. Because I kind of love running.

My affair with running has been an on-again-off-again relationship spanning my entire life. In grade 1, I joined the cross country team at school and loved it. I was never as good as the girl who came from an Olympic legacy (no, seriously), but I loved it. When I switched schools in grade 4, I joined that cross country team. Again, not the fastest or the best, but still in love. In high school, other things took my attention – grades, clubs, meetings, student associations and choosing church over everything (if there was a meet or practice on a Wednesday night when we had church services, then it was an automatic no-go). Also, high school started to care how fast I was. And joining that cross country team meant talking to a bunch of new people since my best friend at the time didn’t love running and I was easily swayed (damn peer pressure). So I quit. And got bigger and more sedentary.

Then university came. In the beginning, I didn’t join any athletic anything, nor did I take advantage of the free gym pass given to every student. I was stupid. But busy. Again. Busy being lonely and studying and trying to keep my head above water.

I was a Chapters-girl, going to the bookstore/coffee-shop for fattening drinks and quiet-yet-not-alone study time. And sometimes, shockingly, I would browse books.

Okay. So maybe it was all the times.

During one of those browsing sessions, I came across the The Complete Book of Running for Women by Claire Kowalchik, and I would flirt with the idea of buying it. And then the flirting turned serious and not only did I buy it, I brought it home and I read it. Cover-to-cover read it.

This book gave me so many things and is the backbone of my adult running. It taught me how to pace myself using my breath, it explained sports bras (for someone who has boobs but had never really exercised, this was important and new information!), it taught me how to tie my shoes (no, seriously), it gave me motivation, and it gave me an easy-to-follow 10-week training plan that would get me from thinking about running to running continuously for 30 minutes. In short, it was (and still is) magic.

So I did it. I ran faithfully four times a week for those 10 weeks, and it worked: I ran for 30 minutes continuously with Ben (my then-boyfriend *swoon*). It was completely awesome.

And then I just stopped. Because that’s where my training program ended and I didn’t have anyone but me to stay motivated or anything to work towards. I let it go. For a really long time.

I got married to my dreamy boyfriend, worked, had a baby, worked some more, had another baby, stopped working out of the home, and had a miscarriage. My heart was broken, Oreos were my best friend, and I was the heaviest I’ve ever been. I was the saddest I’ve ever been.

This was right around the time that Jacqui, Toni and I started going to a bootcamp together. At the time when I needed something to do, something that wasn’t about babies or dead babies or marriage or dishes or laundry, when I needed something just about me, it was the perfect fit. And after the miscarriage, it gave me an outlet that wasn’t wrapped up in refined sugar and carbs to kick misery’s ass.

Part of my recovery after our miscarriage was that bootcamp and rekindling my love for running. It included Ben putting together a 5K run, complete with signs and certificates, for me and my family and friends, to celebrate and remember the baby, Charlie, that we lost.

The group that ran with me

The group that ran with me

And then I ran my very first 5K chip-timed race, The Santa Pur-Suit, with Ben and my dear friend Jill, finishing with a time of 43:01:2.

The three Santas post-race

The three Santas post-race

If you’re keeping track, I’m missing a baby. A few weeks after this race, I got pregnant. And because of some spotting and cramping, I had to (and wanted to) stop running. I had a healthy pregnancy, an early, yet safe delivery, and a healthy baby boy. And I was itching to get back to running. And exercising. And being active. And feeling awesome again.

It’s been 7 months since our last baby appeared and 5 months since I started moving again. Walking to and from school with Sophie has been a great warm-up to more intense exercise, but even those two hilly 20-minute walks every day aren’t enough for this busy mama.

Now, I am working out/running 3-4 times a week and it has been a huge part of my recovery from my third bout of postpartum depression. I find that if I don’t get some sort of exercise in, I am a beast, my worst self, my most anxious most angry most resentful most awful me. So as part of my healing regimen, I go to therapy once a week, I take medication every day, and I make sure that I don’t go more than two days at a time without something active. In this moment, running is saving my life.

This past weekend something absolutely magical happened: I went on my first outdoor run of the year AND I went with three of my sisters: Toni, Jacqui and Kim.

The sisters getting their run on

Getting our run on

I can not tell you how happy I was during and after this run. It was the highlight of the weekend, of my week, of the months since my brain broke again. It was by far one of the best days ever for me. And all because I got to share the beautiful, early-morning-early-spring air with three of my biggest supporters, cheerleaders, and best friends.

Duck pond on our route

Duck pond on our route

It was completely free (aside from the gas and the pants and the shoes). It was so simple: show up, talk, run, talk, have coffee, talk, go home, shower. It was so healthy: fresh air, exercise, camaraderie. It didn’t involve Oreos or feeling sorry for myself. And it was so freaking empowering to finish.

Affirmation

Affirmation

I love running. It’s hard. Some runs really, really suck. But in the end, I’ve never regretted going on a run. Never. I’ve regretted sleeping in, eating too much, and watching too much TV. Never ever a run.

I read this recently and it sums up completely how I feel about running in this moment in my life:

“Running can help you through a cycle of depression or self doubt by making you feel strong and in control of your life.” – John Stanton

IMG_20140329_074628

I’m ever so grateful for this gift.

~ Julia