Friday, July 20, 2018

The Second Trimester || Bumpdate 🤰🏻 Gender + Name Reveal

I cannot believe that I am already 24 weeks into this pregnancy and nearing the third trimester already! A lot of exciting things have happened in the second trimester. The best part of the second trimester is how great I have been feeling. I was sick with a stomach virus for a few days and that was rough, but apart from that, I have had so much energy. There are still occasional nights when I lose sleep because my stomach is extra gassy or nauseated.  Also, I am beginning to feel the 20 lbs (and counting!) added weight I am now carrying around.

Brooks’ nickname for me is “snail person” because he swears I move slowly everywhere. 

My increased blood pressure means I lose my breath really easily. Whereas I typically walk really fast and run up stairs two-at-a-time, I think it will be a few months before this snail gains speed again.

The most exciting part of the second trimester was discovering our baby’s gender and announcing his name. We had names picked out almost as soon as we knew we were pregnant.

Witnessing the sonogram of our baby was probably one of the most exciting experiences of my life. There are times when I feel like I have not completely processed the fact that we are having a baby. Seeing my baby move around, kick his little legs and suck his thumb, made it that much more real.

In case you had not heard the news, we are having a boy!

His name is Link Edward. Link after the Hero of Time and Edward after my father (my other hero;) ).

We did not have a special gender reveal party or anything like that, but Brooks put together this little announcement and took these fun pictures to share our announcement! He did all of this the weekend I was puking my guts out and basically bedridden for 36 hours straight.

This week Link is officially viable. His arrival becomes more imminent and close with every passing day. Brooks and I have been having fun putting together our baby registry and making preparation for our little family!

Overall, my pregnancy has been relatively smooth and enjoyable. As much as I love children, I have never been overly sentimental about being pregnant and having babies. I have also never been extremely sentimental about getting married. That might sound surprising. But I simply was not the kind of woman who sat around daydreaming about my wedding day or about the perfect pregnancy, birthing plan and birthing experience.

Nevertheless, I have been surprised with how much I have enjoyed the prospect of being a mama and enjoyed being pregnant. It’s been an adventure with its own set of challenges and joys! And I know there are only more to come.  

I have a couple questions for all of you mamas or expectant mamas! What are some essential items to add to my baby registry? Specifically, what are some items you didn’t think of before baby’s arrival but ended up buying later? (Trying to think of everything hehe :P)

Saturday, June 9, 2018

How to Help Your Depressed Friend

I think one thing you can do to help your friends who are depressed is to reach out to them not in the spirit of helping, but in the spirit of liking them and w anting their company. “I’m here to help if you ever need me” is good to know, but hard to act on, especially when you’re in a dark place. Specific, ongoing, pleasure-based invitations are much easier to absorb. “I’m here. Let’s go to the movies. Or stay in and order takeout and watch some dumb TV.” “I’m having a party, it would be really great if you could come for a little while.” Ask them for help with things you know they are good at and like doing, so there is reciprocity and a way for them to contribute. “Will you come over Sunday and help me clear my closet of unfashionable and unflattering items? I trust your eye.” “Will you read this story I wrote and help me fix the dialogue?” “Want to make dinner together? You chop, I’ll assemble.” “I am going glasses shopping and I need another set of eyes.” Remind yourself why you like this person, and in the process, remind them that they are likable and worth your time and interest. -The Artidote

One of my friends shared the above post on their Facebook timeline the other day. I loved the post so much, I started writing a comment replying to my friend about how much I loved it and pretty soon my comment turned into a full-fledged article. So instead of posting the comment on Facebook, I decided to share my thoughts with you all here (you're welcome).

When my brother died in December of 2013, I plummeted into a depression deeper and more miserable than anything I had ever experienced before or since. I think it was pretty obvious to everyone who knew me and everyone who lived in close proximity that I was not an extremely happy person, but I think few people realized the full extent of how sad and lonely and depressed I really was.

That was my fault. I had no idea how to even begin to explain to anyone what I was going through and it was hard to be honest about my emotions when they were incredibly ugly and painful.

I felt incredible shame in the midst of my grief. I felt like I had nothing to offer my friends and family because I was constantly sad and emotionally unstable. I felt conspicuous and uncomfortable around relatively happy people because their happiness only exaggerated my overwhelming sadness. Still, I was really good at hiding it and bottling up.  I was good at keeping a stiff upper lip and putting on a smile most days.

When depressed, I was often so overwhelmed by my emotions or completely exhausted from them that I found it almost impossible to stay aware of my surroundings. This only exacerbated my sense of uselessness. It also got me into a few car accidents.

The weeks immediately following my brother’s death, my family was flooded with the generosity of our community.  Friends, relatives, acquaintances, and complete strangers reached out to offer and give us help. The gestures, the meals, the flowers, and the cards helped hold us up in the trying days. Months and years after my brother’s death there were still many people who reached out to us, but as time went on, this list dwindled down.

I never expected the bombardment of generosity to continue. In fact, it was relieving when it died down and my family had peace and quiet and room to grieve. In the months and years following my brother's death, my grief intensified. This startled me, but it also made sense. As more time passed, the more I processed the reality of his loss and the more poignant his absence became.

During these darkest months, it was not necessarily generosity that I needed most. It was not meals and cards and flowers. What I needed the most was compassion and patience and I was surprised at how little genuine compassion existed in some of the friends and acquaintances closest to me.

I don’t want to pit generosity and compassion against one another, as though generosity is somehow a bad thing and compassion is the positive alternative. I think these two work best in tandem. The point I want to make is that a lot of people want to be generous and even more of us want to appear generous.

Many people want to be hospitable. They want to give meals. They want to be thoughtful and kind. But…they also expect something in return and when their generosity goes unpraised, unappreciated and un-thanked, they grow hard-hearted and resentful.

People grew exasperated with me. And it’s no surprise they did. I wasn’t an easy person to reach. I wasn't a very thoughtful or aware person. I didn’t do a good job of making myself available. People told me, “If you just need someone to talk to, just let me know.” I took very few, if any, up on this offer. The last thing I wanted to do was talk about how sad I was, how I was crying myself to sleep every night, how pathetic and lonely I felt all of the time. And then there was always that voice of cynicism in the back of my mind that said “Do they really want to talk to you? Or are they just saying that?”

Depressed people are not nice people. They aren’t good at taking offers of help and they’re even worse at receiving help with appropriate thanks and gratitude. They can be flaky and unreliable. They’re broken and needy and hurting and desperate to feel like they still retain some usefulness and value in spite of their brokenness. They are all too aware and sensitive of the burden they are on the people around them and this often makes them withdraw even more into themselves.

In the midst of grief, sometimes it was the offers and attempts to help that hurt the most. I know this sounds ridiculous and very un-Christian (we should be thankful for help, right?) but I can tell you that anyone who has suffered depression has experienced this. The offers of help, the advice, and the kindly meant criticism typically serves to only exaggerate our overly negative views of ourselves. It gives us more fuel to dump on the fire of our self-hatred and self-loathing. It can make us feel more conspicuous and self-conscious and worthless than ever. Sometimes help hurts more than it helps.  

The people who were ultimately successful in reaching me in my hour of need were not the people who promised to be there for me if I ever needed someone to talk to. The people who reached me were the people who called to talk to me simply to talk to me, the people who wanted to hear my opinion, the people who wanted my advice and company, the people who recognized and acknowledged the likable qualities about me, the people who wanted my presence—not because I needed them—but because they genuinely believed I had something to contribute to them. The people who reached me were not the ones trying to be my friend simply because I was grieving, but the ones who were being my friend simply for me. The people who were successful in reaching me were the ones who didn’t try to force me to open up about my grief, but instead trusted I would share when I was ready. The people who reached me were the ones who showed me compassion and kindness even when I deserved criticism and condemnation.

There is a time and a place for criticism and tough love. However, someone who is in the depths of depression is probably already hyper-aware of everything they are doing wrong and all of the ways they are failing. Anyone who has struggled with depression knows that your worst enemy is the accusatory voice screaming in your head telling you you’re not worth it, that you’re nothing but a failure, and that you should just give up.

If you really want to reach the depressed, the mentally and emotionally trodden down, and the broken hearted, you have to first let go of your need to be needed and your need to be thanked and praised. We all want to be the generous person. We all want to be the benevolent hero. We all want to make a difference. But Jesus Christ demands more of us. He demands us to lay our rights down and show forgiveness and compassion when it’s not deserved, to be patient and loving even when our good works are received thanklessly or rejected altogether.
"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." Colossians 3:12-14
What is your experience with depression? Have you ever struggled to be compassionate toward those suffering from depression? 

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Saturday, May 26, 2018

The First Trimester || Bumpdate

Before I share how amazing the second trimester of my pregnancy has been (so far), I want to be open and honest about the first few months of my pregnancy. Because they were really rough. Brooks and I were not surprised to find out we were pregnant, but we also did not necessarily plan this pregnancy. I was one month into my school semester and I was anticipating another semester of straight A’s. I was already balancing a full-time school schedule with a part-time work schedule as well as taking care of a home and three dogs. In other words, my schedule was full. So when I found out I was pregnant, I was not exactly excited, at first. 

My first reaction was more like terror. 

The first few weeks and months of pregnancy were confusing. For me, they were emotionally rocky days. My first clue I was pregnant was that I kept having episodes of depression and emotional breakdowns. I would suddenly flip out and get irrationally angry or sad. At first I wondered if I was legitimately getting depressed. Then it dawned on me. What if I was pregnant? When February rolled around and my period did not, I quickly got my answer. We were excited. But I was still in the emotionally rocky my-hormones-are-driving-me-crazy early phase of pregnancy and it was honestly hard to be happy about anything. 

I kept plodding along as best as I could. I started having difficulty sleeping. I would wake up in the middle of the night. I would wake up sick to my stomach and not want to eat anything. I wouldn’t poop for days. I would come home from classes with work to do but way too exhausted to do any of it. I started missing classes and assignments. I felt like I was barely keeping up with everything. The dishes and laundry went undone at home. I got perpetually behind on work. By the time the week of finals rolled around, I was holding onto hope that by some miracle I had not destroyed my 3.6 GPA. I had started the semester with high hopes to boost that GPA to a 3.7 or a 3.8. By God’s grace I finished with a strong 3.55. Mostly B’s and a couple A’s on my final grades. I could live with that.

My adviser and professors have been so supportive through this whole process. Being part of a smaller department has really allowed me to establish meaningful relationships and friendships with my professors and advisers. Everyone assured me they would work with me to accommodate my schedule and still help me graduate on time. The whole situation felt very Jane-the-Virgin to me (just without the murder and love affairs). The drama was real.

A few practical lifesavers during the first trimester included my prenatal vitamins, my excellent doctor (that first ultra sound took my breath away!), my parents, avocados, and coffee (in somewhat limited consumption, of course. :P) Also goldfish, Gatorade, and these amazing nut-ginger cookies my mother-in-law found for me at Sprouts. Goldfish have since turned into my dogs' favorite treat. 

Everyone at my workplace was remarkably patient, even if they didn’t know the details of what was going on. I think as soon as everyone found out, the light bulb sort of came on. I could see the realization in all the faces, “That explains everything.” Not that my pregnancy should or ever will become an excuse for my performance. But morning sickness is a real thing and it It’s my responsibility to not overextend myself and commit to more than I know I can handle. However, it is a reason for me to give myself more grace when I do fail to meet perfection or perform as quickly with as much energy as I used to. 

I am also incredibly thankful to be in a work environment that supports families and mothers. I don’t feel like I have to compromise my career to be a mom, unless I decide that is what I want to do. I’m also so grateful to have a loving husband who’s been incredibly supportive through all of this. I’m not sure I know anyone more excited to be a dad. He’s already got our baby room mapped out, our stroller and car seat picked out, and guys, let me tell you, he’s going to rock this dad life like nobody’s business. We have a running joke in our relationship that Brooks is the domesticated one and he’s going to be the stay-at-home parent. Who knows? May become a reality here soon. ;)

At the end of the day, I have to remind myself of what’s most important. I have to take care of myself and my baby first. That’s all we mamas can do. There were multiple times this last semester when I was tempted to beat myself up for not performing better and I literally had to say to myself, “Give yourself a break, Dani. You’re creating a human life, for goodness’ sake.” I no longer have the flexibility or energy I used to have. But that’s okay. I might not have the time I used to have, but that’s okay too. I am still capable of more than I can imagine. If the timeline for my goals changes, that’s okay. I’ll still pursue them relentlessly. Motherhood is going to be a steep learning curve, but I love learning new things and I’m excited to experience this new adventure with my husband and all of the family and friends supporting us.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Happy Mother’s Day [to me]

A few weeks ago, smack in the middle of the semester, I found myself in the Emergency Room for the first time since I was three years old (that time I lied to my mother about “swallowing a needle”—yeah, that didn’t end well). I was about halfway through the first trimester of my pregnancy when all of a sudden one evening I had a massive discharge. Brooks and I rushed to the ER. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions but I was also terrified of what might have happened to our baby. I remember sitting in the waiting room while Brooks was on the phone with his parents and thinking, “I just want my mom.” I think every daughter (and child) can relate. In the most terrifying, painful moments of our lives, we just want our mothers. I know that has been true for me. Even as a married woman and a now-expectant mother, there are so many times when I just want my mother and so many more times that I am thankful for her presence in my life. 

My mother is the strongest person I know. She has survived so much, and more than that, she has thrived under the most trying circumstances. I like to think of my mother as a healer. She is not the kind of person who necessarily makes you feel nice or good about yourself all the time. However, she is the kind of person who is not satisfied with treating symptoms while the underlying issue goes unaddressed. Whether it’s physical or emotional pain, she fights until she gets to the root of the problem. In the past, this has meant spending hours researching genetic disorders at the university library and going through doctor after doctor until she got the right diagnosis for her son. It has meant overturning her lifestyle, her diet, and some of her ideals in order to find healing for herself. She is not afraid to put her finger on the throbbing source of pain, whether that’s her own pain, my pain, or the pain of social injustice. She’s not satisfied with Band-Aids and cheap patchwork. She’s not satisfied with putting on a smile and a stiff upper lip when inside she’s suffering. If she has to uproot her entire life, execute complete demolition, and start building from the ground up again, so be it. She will. 

She doesn’t need the validation of the world or anyone else to go forward confidently in her convictions and make the decisions that are right and good for her.

My mother is one of my best friends, a fierce woman I aspire to. She is not a perfect woman. She has never pretended to be. Her flaws often speak for themselves and she’s not afraid to own them. She knows they don’t define her. She knows WHO defines her and she goes forward confidently in that assurance.

She has taught me so much about being independent, being brave, and being confident in my own skin. She never forced me or my siblings into a box. She always trusted (and she still does) that we would figure things out on our own. Sometimes this meant tough love and letting me make my own mistakes, trusting that I would learn from them. 

Back in March, my husband and I visited my brother’s cemetery on the anniversary of his birthday. It’s an annual ritual for us. At first, I worried that visiting my brother’s cemetery was like holding onto the past. However, lately I have learned that stopping by his grave every year helps me see how little the past has a hold on me. It's a beautiful contrast to come back to his grave years later, and realize how far I have come from the broken young woman who was first sitting her years ago. 

This year Brooks and I visited the cemetery with the new and happy knowledge of the life of our own baby. My brother’s grave looked different in light of recent events. I saw it through the eyes of a mother losing a baby, parents losing their son. My stomach sank like a brick and I told Brooks, “I can’t imagine losing my baby.” He reiterated my feelings, "I know. It terrifies me." Yet I know so many mothers who have and I don't know how but they continue on like warriors. For the first time I felt the enormous weight of fear and uncertainty that comes with having a child. I can’t imagine the amount of faith and courage it took for my parents to raise all of us and continue life after losing their baby. I can’t imagine the strength it takes for any mama who has lost a baby, whether through a miscarriage or otherwise. And I’m so proud and in awe of the mothers I know who have gone through this loss and come out the other side as conquerors. I hope I can be as brave as you.

We daughters take so much strength and love and encouragement from our mothers. I was so blessed that day in the ER to have the presence of my mother and mother-in-law. As always, I was amazed by the calm and confidence my mother carried herself. This was the same ER she and my father entered only to be told their son had “expired at the scene”. My dear mother has probably lost count of the times she has gone to the ER, what between all of the stitches and staples her children brought on themselves, and then the many scares of a son with a precarious genetic disorder and chronic autoimmune illness. How many times has she had to wonder, “Will my child survive this time?”

That day in the ER turned out to be the first day Brooks and I heard our baby’s heartbeat. Everything was fine. The discharge that scared us turned out to be implantation bleeding and quickly ceased. We followed through on some bloodwork to make sure all my hormone levels and everything looked good. I am well into my second trimester now, under the care of a fantastic physician, and so far baby is still thriving. I look forward to the day when I can feel him kick inside of me and the day we eventually get to meet him (or her). From the ultrasounds, we can tell he certainly loves to dance already!

Baby Carlson (we have affectionately nicknamed him our little Korok—all you legend of Zelda fans will get it!) is due to arrive early November later this year. We can’t wait to meet our baby! 

Happy mother’s day to my mother and my mother-in-law and all of the incredible mothers and mothers-to-be who I have the privilege to know and love. You all are my heroes. Keep fighting the good fight! 
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