Thursday, November 28, 2013

A year, not just a day of giving Thanks!

374 days ago, Gayland and I were sitting in a shoebox-sized Manhattan high rise apartment relishing in the fact that in one day we would celebrate two things:  Having made it to our first milestone in the pregnancy post hospitalization, 28 weeks gestation, and Thanksgiving!  Though we were without family or friends to share the season with, it still was the best Thanksgiving of our lives as we had overcome what seemed impossible and unachievable a mere five weeks before, staying pregnant!  It was a miracle then and remains a miracle now that Elyse is so perfect! 

Jump ahead a year and we find ourselves again giving thanks for the bountiful blessings for which we have been bestowed.  Needless to say, we are thankful we're in this life stage and not that one but we wouldn't trade that experience, the city or the fantastic people that forever touched our lives for the world!  

In preparing my "list of thanksgiving" this year, I thought it appropriate to look-up how the word Thanksgiving is actually defined.  Ole Mr. Webster says Thanksgiving is “the act of giving thanks; grateful acknowledgement of benefits or favors, especially to God.” Well eat a whole pie for Thanksgiving dessert and don't county your Weight Watchers points, he might as well have said Thanksgiving is defined as “Leslie Paffe’s life” because the two are one in the same!!

As I bethink on the year behind, I want to give thanks to God for my biggest blessings of 2013:

1.     Elyse Harlan Paffe – there are no words…if you’re a parent; you get it…I can’t explain beyond that.  She’s our world.

2.     Ignorance – I’m thankful I didn’t know, regardless how many times I was warned, how hard the first six weeks of parenthood is.  There is no preparation for sleeping in two hour increments, post-partum hormones (I still take drugs to remind me of those damn hormones), inconsolable crying, weird baby noises OH and balancing all of that with the fact you still have a marriage to keep in tact.  Yea, I’m thankful I didn’t know all of that!

3.    Turning 37 (in a month) - I’ve finally come into my own and this person, thankfully, looks different than the person I thought I would and should be.  I’m honored to say I’m a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, career-woman, part-time dream chaser, athlete, pie and cooking-maker, wine drinker, fantastic food enjoying friend.

4.     Family – It’s dysfunctional and crazy and maddening and beautiful and unique.  I wouldn’t trade any of them for the world.  

5.     Friends –I have been incredibly blessed to have a few that date back nearly thirty years, one that goes back to 2000 a few from my days in Nashville and newer friendships I cherish as much as the old ones.  Regardless where they fall on the timeline of my life, I’m so thankful for them all.

6.     Opportunity – We live in a free country full of opportunity if we only allow our minds to see beyond the limitations we set for ourselves.  For this, I’m thankful.

7.     Faith – It has kept me warm in the coldest days of my life and allows me to exhale deeply knowing God is in control and will lead us where we are supposed to go.  

8.     An amazing job – Working for companies life Spurs Sports & Entertainment and GSD&M Advertising look good on a resume.  Though they both provided memorable experiences and lasting friendships, not until I worked for the National Restaurant Association did I realize having a job could be fun!  I love my company, my bosses, co-workers and customers.  My wish is everyone could enjoy his or her work as much as I enjoy mine.

9.     Breastfeeding – It has been one of the biggest joys in my life.  With all the complications from the pregnancy, birth and post-partum issues, it still remains the only thing I planned to do that actually worked.  My goal was six months and I’m almost at ten.  With a strenuous travel schedule, I thought it impossible to continue, so this was, and will remain one of my biggest blessings of the year.

10.  Forgiveness – Generally speaking, nothing specific.  In the past year it has granted me the freedom to move on while still loving those that intentionally or unintentionally caused pain.  This is the biggest blessing we can give others and our selves.

As we all gather around the table, my hope is your day is filled with family, friends, memories, hope for the future and thankfulness for those things in life we take for granted.  Thanks to each of you for the goodness you have brought to ours.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Cab Of A Pick-Up

The cab of a pick-up hosts the stage for the story of my life.  Profoundly appropriate I suppose since I was born into a car dealing family in South Texas.  Two years ago today I found myself in a peculiarly uncomfortable, yet familiar place.  There were two people in this pick-up, Gayland and me.  For the first time in any relationship, I was riding shotgun next to the man at the wheel.  (In all other relationships, I was always the driver and that never, ever worked!)  He was looking through a clear windshield focused on the road ahead, while my eyes were securely fixed in the rear view mirror looking at the disaster my life had been behind me.  All I could think about was what we were heading for in the following week…marriage. 

We knew we were about to embark on the biggest adventure of our lives but very few others did.  Perhaps this only magnified the anxiety I felt, only having a select few to talk with about my apprehension and fear of committing to someone for the second time.  I vividly remember talking with him about my angst, expressing as eloquently as I could that I was scared once we dove into holy matrimony everything would change and we would not only fall out of love, we might not like each other too after the wedding was over.  His response was simple yet pure perfection, “And what if our future is better than we can ever imagine?”  The thought of everlasting happiness had never entered my mind.  That goes to show the baggage I carried around for so many years!  No wonder my back always hurt!

He was right and I left the baggage in the Dominican Republic.  It has been better than I could have EVER, EVER imagined, every mountain we’ve climbed, every valley we’ve hiked through and every obstacle we’ve successfully overcome, I wouldn’t change a thing!  It has honestly been the best two years of my entire life.

As we approach our second wedding anniversary in less than a week, I sit with him, in the “cab of our pick-up”, with sweet Baby Elyse in the back seat squealing, flailing her arms, kicking her perfect feet holding tight to his hand, thanking God every moment that he gave me this man, this child, and a clear windshield to look through at the long and glorious road ahead.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Curious Experience of Breastfeeding...

As I sit on yet another flight 36,000 feet above the expansive landscape of the southwest, I find myself thinking about motherhood but specifically, my experience with breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding has been the subject of many conversations in the media as of late and also sparked controversy amongst women that are passionate about it and those that choose not to or cannot (anyone remember the Time magazine cover, "Are you Mom enough" - May 21, 2012?).  I have friends that breast fed their children for upward of two years and I know people that chose to strictly use formula.  Whichever choice was made, the decision did not make one mother better over another.  I'm no medical expert so I cannot speak to the medical benefits of breastfeeding over formula or vice-versa but what I can speak to is my experience as a full-time-working-outside-the-home, road warrior traveling, breastfeeding mother.

What has been surprising to me is how discussing the female breast, even in the context of nourishing my daughter, always turns sexual in nature and inevitably, leaves me feeling uncomfortable.  I suppose this is due to the fact our society sensationalizes the female anatomy.  I'm not the mom that whips out the boob in public without a cover to either pump or feed my daughter but I wish breastfeeding did not cause such a stink!  I'm tired of feeling shameful when I have to bust out my breast pump and subsequently my breasts (and my cover), in the middle of a church parking lot in San Antonio, TX or stopping at a hardware store in the industrial area of Denver to buy dry ice to carry my daughter's livelihood back to her in Texas.  I completely understand why working mothers don't continue nursing once their maternity leave has ended and they are back in an office environment.  It literally is a second full-time job but a job I take very seriously and am thankful I have the ability to do.

There are many things I anticipated while pregnant that have become reality since Elyse's birth.  Breastfeeding I thought would be important to me but I could not have known HOW important it would be until it became the only thing I planned that actually worked out the way I wanted it to.  From her birth, my goal has been nursing for six months.  Even though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast feeding for a year or more, I felt like six months would be achievable considering my extensive travel schedule for work.  What I did not anticipate is the anxiety and sadness I am beginning to feel as she has started nursing less due to the addition of cereal, fruits and vegetables.  People tell you all kinds of things, both good and bad, when you are pregnant but not one person, even my lactation leader from the Le Leche League, told me that nourishing my child with my own body would create a bond beyond imagination.  I was also not told that beginning the weaning process would tear my heart to shreds and leave me anxiety ridden.   How did breast feeding become my saving grace in a year full of ups, downs and disappointments? It's the one thing no one else on earth can do for my daughter.  

While my six month nursing goal will be here next week, I don't believe emotionally I am ready to throw in the towel just yet (even though the thought of pumping in one more airport stall is enough to send me jumping from a plane sans a parachute).  In the scheme of life, this period of time is a small sacrifice to make for my daughter's sake.  I cherish and cling to the encouraging comments from other Moms that have walked in my shoes and I love my husband more and more each day for supporting my decision to stay the course.  And in those coming years when Elyse and I spar over everything under the moon, I will look back fondly on this time we shared and thank God for the bond formed over…breastfeeding.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Motherhood -- Five Weeks In

You all were right!  It's the hardest and best thing I've ever experienced!  In the first days post-delivery I only hoped I would get to a place where I could write about my story.  At just over five weeks as a Mom, I'm finally at a place where I can share what I've been through without falling to pieces.  My hope is this post is not used to judge me but rather helps me continue to heal and perhaps can help other women going through a difficult pregnancy, delivery and post-partum period.

As I stated in my last post, the delivery was a nightmare (along with most of the pregnancy though we've chosen to focus on only the good that came from our experience).  The first week home from the hospital I was a basket case!  When the baby cried so did I.  Extreme swelling over took my lower extremities (to the point I could not fit into my maternity clothes when we took the baby to her first appointment with the pediatrician) and my anxiety was so severe I ended-up in the doctor's office with symptoms of a heart attack only to realize I was having an anxiety attack.  Since the late 90's I've been on different kinds of anti-anxiety medications but in 2010 during my annual visit with my OBGYN she told me the medication I was taking was not safe during pregnancy so I decided to go without it and was able to control the anxiety with exercise, healthy eating and counseling.  Jump ahead to October 22, 2012, and a trip to a New York City hospital with three months of bed rest and all-of-a-sudden my coping mechanisms immediately disappeared and I was left with the worst anxiety I've ever experienced.  Coupled with the delivery and raging hormones, I was in one of the worst mental states I've ever been in.   

Bonding was proving to be a challenge and the guilt associated with that just about did me in.  The only thing I was able to do successfully was breastfeed but after a week the baby's latch wasn't right and I was left with blisters on my nipples that were so painful I was in tears every time she ate (thankfully we sought help with a lactation consultant and that issue has been resolved).

As my amazing husband said best, "No one can adequately prepare you for sleep in two hour increments." So, it goes without saying, the sleep deprivation was a bitch!  To be honest, I don't remember much about sleep during those early days.  I did try to nap during the day but the anxiety proved to make that a challenge as well.

The hardest thing for me to deal with is something I've only shared with one other person until the last few days, I have OCD that manifests itself in obsessive thoughts.  Since high school I've been plagued with the condition and only recently have come to realize what causes them (the thoughts began when I was 15 and my step-sister was convicted of accomplice to murder and put into prison until 2010) and am working on how to overcome them (anxiety triggers the thought episodes).  After 20+ years I finally found a book called "Overcoming Obsessive Thoughts" and realized I'm not crazy but rather have figured out what has been, at times, debilitating thought patterns and a method to stop them.     

I felt like I was so alone in what I was experiencing.  I knew the "Baby Blues" were real but I was heading for full-blown post-partum depression, which was one of my fears prior to having the baby.  At my two week OB appointment I had a full-fledged breakdown in the office and thankfully my physician recommended I go on Zoloft to help control my unrealistic fears and OCD.  Having to go on medication made me feel like an epic failure as a mother.  I'm not sure where that thought comes from as I'm a huge advocate of counseling and mental health awareness but for some reason I felt as though a real Mom would not need medication to get through this time.  It's a stupid thought really!

Yesterday my sweet baby girl turned five weeks old and I had a break through.  I drove with her by myself from north Austin to New Braunfels and though there was anxiety prior to leaving the house, once I was in the car I did beautifully.  I spent the day with my grandmother, aunt and cousin and rejuvenated my heart, mind and soul.  The time spent with these amazing women was the first time I've felt more like myself and know I'm finally on the path to mental and emotional healing.  It's a beautiful thing!

In summary, no one could have prepared me for motherhood and I suspect that rings true for all women experiencing this gift for the first time.  What I do wish, with all of the reading I did before hand, is that someone would have told me it's normal to have increased anxiety and for those with anxiety disorders, hormones and lack of sleep can trigger other issues too.  But alas, if they had I probably would have told them to stop with all the negativity and just share the great parts of motherhood.  After all, even with the unpleasantries I've experienced, every time I kiss those plump little cheeks, hear a new sound out of her sweet little mouth or watch my husband melt in her arms I think to myself, "I'd do it all over again to experience this moment again."