How do you be an introverted mama?

No, seriously, someone please tell me.

Yesterday was A Day. 8 a.m. doctor appointment: pee in a cup, get weighed, get blood pressure taken, drink the super sugary drink, get my Tdap (whooping cough) vaccine, wait around for an hour, get blood drawn. Then came work: I had a meeting, followed by a meeting, followed by a meeting, followed by another meeting, and then I had another meeting. Then I spent 30 or 40 minutes helping out on the exhibit floor because some other staff members needed to attend a meeting. After that: home (FINALLY!), pajamas (amen.), dinner (scrambled eggs with broccoli), a little resting. And, last but not least, bed.

But but the time I got in bed, the intense business of the day hit me, and I was just . . . emotional. I wasn’t upset over any one thing, but I was having a hard time holding in tears and my chest felt a little tight and I just kept wishing I could go somewhere and be completely alone.

But right now, at this current moment in life, I’m never alone. Here’s an accurate portrait: kjq0rab

As I type this even, this wee little babe is cutting a rug in his room. His room is insiiiiiiide me and I feel every move, poke, and kick.

It’s definitely amazing and miraculous and I’m thankful every day. I’m truly excited to add this little person to our lives.

And yet, there are also times when I’m acutely aware that my body is not my own. While I’m in awe of what my body is doing and can honestly say I like my pregnant body, I also don’t feel like I know this body like I knew my pre-pregnant body. My outward appearance is different and even the position of my internal organs has changed! That kind of disconnect can feel hard sometimes.

So last night, I started wondering if other introverted women struggle with being pregnant and a quick google search confirmed they do (no big surprise there). While my quick scan through the interwebs didn’t give me any answers, at least I know I’m not alone. Sometimes I feel guilty for feeling frustrated or completely overwhelmed by pregnancy. In those moments, I just try and take a deep breath and remind myself that what I’m feeling isn’t wrong and that if I’m feeling like it’s all too much, I just need to take a step back and find a sliver of quiet or inner peace and know that everything is happening just as it should.

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How do you be an introverted mama?

It used to be easy

An athlete, I am not. I never was. Training wasn’t something I participated in. Moving my body was never about reaching a specific goal. In fact, exercising was always really hard for me to do unless I actually enjoyed it. Going to the gym is not rewarding for me, as it is for some folks. But, by my late 20s, I knew I enjoyed riding my bike, hiking/walking, and yoga.

These three activities were easy for me to commit to in some fashion, because I truly enjoyed them. And perhaps I’m not the most athletic cyclist, hiker, or yogi; however, I was never afraid of pushing myself in a yoga class or on a bike ride. Hiking a long distance or up a steep trail made me feel strong and proud. That was what exercising was about for me. Less about chipping away at body fat and more about feeling like a Boss (with a capital B).

So, now that I’m pregnant, how is all that going? Well, if I’m being honest, I’ve never felt less capable, physically, in my life. My center of gravity is shot. I lose my balance easily and get winded even more easily. Raise your hand if putting on your shoes is hard.

*Raises hand*

So, how have I been coping with this aspect of pregnancy? Not all that well. I don’t like feeling vulnerable or fragile, but it’s hard not to when you don’t feel sturdy enough on your bike or can’t walk more than a few feet on a hiking trail without tripping. To add insult to injury, even something like a short one mile hike really tires me out. Halfway through it and I’m usually already preoccupied with the idea of sitting down.

Now, the real stinker of the whole thing is that sitting or laying down isn’t much better. I’m at a point where I’m fully pregnant and finding a comfortable position whether standing, sitting, or snuggled in bed is harder. My low back is just . . . so tight and sore. Always. At this point, yoga doesn’t provide a ton of relief. I think yoga does help me stretch things out a bit, but I’m always kind of uncomfortable.

Okay. So. Exercising isn’t as rewarding as it once was. Lounging on the sofa or in bed doesn’t feel much better.  What’s a pregnant lady to do?

Well, I just do what I can. Sometimes that means suffering through the hike and breathing EXTRA hard during yoga. Other times it means sitting my butt down and not moving for awhile. It always means looking wistfully at people on bikes and reminding myself I’ll be back on one again one day. Pregnancy isn’t forever. And, another way to look at this whole thing is to consider that growing a child and giving birth to that child is also the most physical thing I will ever do.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to shower and eat a piece of plain toast so I can go drink a really sugary drink and hopefully find out I am gestational diabetes free.

It used to be easy

Things I’ve been reading

Baby news aside for the moment, books are still in the picture. Granted, my reading definitely dropped off with baby news. I think my brain could only handle space for so much at one time. The times I wasn’t reading much likely means I was feeling a little overloaded.

Interestingly, I didn’t really read (for pleasure) in July, August or September. My reading in those months mostly consisted around reading my twitter feed, reading baby/birthing books sporadically, and/or just not reading at all. There was a definite shift in October, though, where I either just crazed a return to my reading life or maybe was feeling more adjusted to this whole Bringing a Person Into the World thing.

I read four books in October: The Burgess Boys by one of my absolute favorite authors, Elizabeth Strout. That book truly hit all the right notes for me. I love the way Strout crafts characters. They are so real and so . . . human. Even the more unlikable characters end up worming their way into my heart somehow. The Burgess Boys differed slightly from some of her other works to me, as this book seemed more plot driven than others I’ve read. I feel like many of Strout’s works are more focused on character/character development than moving a plot along. It’s not that her other books contain no plot at all, but they tend to build slowly, as if simmering. The Burgess Boys full on boiled in the plot department. I loved it.

From there, I moved onto a book that I enjoyed at the time because it was . . . a bit of a fluff read. I honestly couldn’t tell you what the book was about now because I forget! And so, we’ll just skip over that one and move to the next two books (checked out from the library):

  1. Milk & Honey by Rupi Kapaur. I don’t know, guys. I . . . wasn’t crazy about her collection of poems. I gave it a go, but it just wasn’t for me. Thus, I don’t think I’ll check out her newest work, recently released.
  2. John Green’s new book, Turtles All the Way Down. I enjoyed this book very, very much. I identified to a certain degree with the anxiety the main character felt and how it impacted her life. Richly drawn characters + plot-driven story = a very readable book.

Currently, I’m sort of rotation through a few different books. I’m reading another Elizabeth Strout book, Amy and Isabelle. I also recently picked up Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Last, I’m chugging through a book called Being Both, about raising interfaith children who have parents from two different religious traditions. I’m enjoying all three of these books in different ways. To be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever not like a book Strout has written. Women Who Run With the Wolves is incredibly fascinating, and I’m surprised I didn’t read it when I was in college studying Women’s Studies. I’m excited to dig deeper into it. The last book, Being Both, is . . . not a fun read necessarily. I also wouldn’t say I’m learning anything new, but it is good to read more about this topic, as Josh and I evaluate how we’ll raise our kids and what our family life will look like in regards to religion and spirituality. I have *lots* of thoughts on the subject, but I’ll save that topic for a rainy day.

And now off I go to the coffee shop to tackle some work. No one can report to our office today, as a sewer line is being repaired. No complaints from me. I love holing away at my favorite coffee shop and working!

Things I’ve been reading

Books, Bikes, and . . . Babies

Well, here we are. A few days shy of my third trimester of pregnancy. How did we get here? (Just kidding. I know how we got here. But . . . it just all seems like a blur.)

You know those people who fall apart at the sight of a baby? Who know how to hold them, comfort them, make them smile? Yeah, that’s not really me. I’ve never been a Baby Person. For years, in high school and through college, I didn’t think having kids was for me. But then I became good friends with someone who had just given birth and all it took for me to change my mind was to watch her with her baby girl. Was being a mom easy? No. Was motherhood always fun and enjoyable? No. Was being a mom the best and brightest thing in her life, despite all this? Yes.

And so this past May when we found out we were expecting, we were pretty delighted. I won’t lie, though. The whole thing has been so strange, too. I mean, I’m literally sharing my body and growing a little soul, a little person. Some days I feel so connected to this little baby. Other days, I’m freaked out by impending motherhood. Mostly, I simply accept whatever weird, mixed up, complicated feelings I have and just accept them for what they are.

Meanwhile, my body is changing in all the expected ways. My belly is rounding out. I have constant sciatic nerve pain shooting down my left butt cheek. My lower back is frequently sore and tight. My breasts are gigantic . . . and they itch! Like all the time! I often have issues with a pinched nerve that makes my arms hurt really bad. Long gone are the days of multi-mile hikes. After a mile I’m huffing and puffing and have to go very s-l-o-w-l-y. I stopped biking (for the most part) a few weeks ago because I very suddenly hit a point of not feeling stable or steady on my bike. Sometimes my fingers swell. Sometimes my toes look like little sausages. There’s baby kicks and movements galore! Oh, and heartburn. There’s a lot of that. Sleeping is hit and miss; though, I’m always tired. And, yes, I definitely tear up at things more easily than I did pre-pregnancy (thanks, hormones!). But, things have been healthy so far. I may not always feel great, but I don’t take these healthy 27 weeks of pregnancy for granted. And, to be honest, I kind of love my pregnant body.

Mostly, I’m finding that I approach motherhood in much the same way that I approach other new experience: I feel kind of anxious, cope by watching lots of Gilmore Girls and Golden Girls, shrug my shoulders, and tell myself I’ll figure things out eventually (because I will!).

And in the meantime, there’s reading all the pregnancy/childbirth/breastfeeding/how-to-get-your-baby-to-sleep books. And prenatal yoga. And doctors appointments. And meetings with our doula. And labor and childbirth classes (starting Monday!) and newborn care classes (starting later this month!). And baby showers.

One benefit of having a baby due at the end of January is . . . there’s not much else to do in Michigan in the winter than hibernate. What better way to spend time bonding with and getting to know this new little family member than in the winter, timed perfectly with the winter Olympics?

Here’s to new adventures!

 

Books, Bikes, and . . . Babies

A story.

Reading the news about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which also includes defunding Planned Parenthood, is on my mind in a big way today.
When I was fresh out of college and working with elementary school students as an AmeriCorps volunteer nearly 10 years ago, I was pretty broke, but loving the work I was doing. There were few big downsides, though. The first was that since I’d never worked with kids before, I picked up ALL the kiddo germs (pink eye, so many terrible colds, multiple rounds of strep throat, the flu, etc.). Another downside: my health insurance wasn’t great and had a crazy high deductible.
No one ever wants to get sick, but it happens to all of us. What happens, though, when you get sick and don’t have enough money in your bank account to see a doctor? That’s stressful and demoralizing. As an AmeriCorps member, I made just enough money to live and pay expenses (and splurge on a weekly cinnamon bun at West End Bakery with my girlfriends). One time, upon leaving an urgent care with a really bad case of strep throat, I was told I needed to pay $214 — this was the cost of being seen by a grumpy physician’s assistant and getting a strep test to tell me what I already knew: I had strep and needed antibiotics. Well, I burst into tears. I did not have the money to pay. I know the folks working behind the desk were just doing their jobs, but they acted like I was a nuisance, when I was clearly sick and very upset. $214 was SO much money to me. Finally, I was told I could be put on a payment plan. And so I paid off my bill in $25 increments, which took around 8 months. Thankfully, I eventually learned of a low cost health clinic that made seeing a healthcare professional a lot less stressful for the most part; however, it was only open certain days of the week, so if you needed to see a doctor on a Wednesday, well, too bad.
But the point is… shouldn’t there be a better way? We all need health care. We all deserve access to health care so that we can get the help we need when we’re sick, as well as learn of preventative measures we can take to stay healthy. While not perfect, that is what the ACA is all about. It’s a start.
I also want to say that there was one thing that was never stressful for me during that time: routine gynecology visits and wellness checks. That’s because I went to Planned Parenthood where I was always, always, always treated with dignity, respect, and kindness. Going to Planned Parenthood was never stressful, and it never made me cry. I received great care and never had to worry about walking out with an empty bank account.
I don’t have much, but I can (and have) donated to Planned Parenthood.
And I have a voice to share my story. It’s one of many.
A story.

On holding on and letting go

 

This fall has knocked me down a few times. Has it been the same for you? I’m trying to do a bit better at taking care of myself, and part of that is listening to Inner Katie. Inner Katie tells Physical World Katie to do things like write, go for a walk in the woods, bake something new, read, and tuck yourself in early for a good night’s sleep. Physical World Katie has a tendency to go out of her way to numb herself to these good, heath-giving tips. So here I am, back at my digital creative corner, trying to reclaim a space I’ve been absent from for some months.

I sat down about a week ago to write something here. Many, many paragraphs into it, I stopped because I became very bored with myself and deleted the whole thing. No one, including me, needed eleventy-three paragraphs of the difficulties of this fall, starting with my bike accident and going up through the horror that is our most recent election.

So, instead, I have made the active choice to let all that shit go. Holding onto all the ways the world has let me down this fall was seriously sending me in to a dark place. Sometimes it’s been difficult, but I’m realizing I can take much better care of myself and be a happier, more productive person if I thoughtfully embrace things that fulfill me.

Here are a few things that have really been helping me the last few weeks:

  1. Being active. Sometimes this means a bike ride (though, admittedly, biking has fallen down a few notches since my bike accident). Other times, this means a simple walk around the neighborhood, to the coffee shop, or to and from work. Many times, it means going to one of my favorite places as of late: the woods. I’ve always loved hikes on trails through the woods, but lately walking through the woods has made me downright joyful, probably due to the combination of getting fresh air, moving my body, being around animals, and spending time quietly observing the world around me.
  2. This one should, technically, fall in line with #1, but I have a few things to say about it, so it gets to stand by itself: yoga. I’ve taken yoga classes before, and have even invested in several punchcards at one of my local studios. However, I was never gung-ho about yoga enough to attend all the classes my punchcard allowed for me before the (very generous) six month time limit expired. Clearly, I’ve always liked the IDEA of yoga more than the actual practice of yoga. A week and a half ago, my yoga studio offered a special deal on a 10 class punchcard, and I quickly purchased one. Since then, I’ve taken 3 classes…and I’ve gotten REAL emotional in all of them. This time around, yoga seems to be helping me tap into a lockbox of negativity and emotions I’ve been carrying around and wasn’t even aware of. While I’m thankful for all the physical benefits of yoga, this time I’m especially grateful to the way yoga is helping me work through some of the dark emotions I’ve been carting around.
  3. Reading. This year has been a really good reading year for me. I’ve just finished my 36th book of the year and have reached my goal of reading more than 30 books in 2016. My reading has been a bit up and down this fall. Reading helps me in a way I can’t really describe. It’s like good therapy for my mind and soul. That’s been such an important thing to remember this fall, as my reading took a little hit. I always feel better when I’m immersed in a book, so it’s always worth it to pick a book up and read it.

Life is full of peaks and valleys. Along with embracing and taking comfort in the meaningful relationships with friends and families, these are the things I’m choosing to embrace right now as I navigate my way out of this little valley.

Happy holidays…here’s a peaceful deer spotted on our wintry hike yesterday.

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On holding on and letting go

Lately

I’ve been letting this little space fall by the wayside, but in typical summer fashion that just means life has been busy and full in (mostly) all the best ways. Since my last post, we’ve enjoyed two back-to-back weekends of camping (first at Wilderness State Park and then at Interlochen State Park), we visited some friends who moved to Ann Arbor, I’ve been reading like a fiend, and bike commuting on the reg. All of that has been great, amazing, and wonderful (if not a bit tiring). This weekend we had nothing scheduled. Zilch. Nada. What a gift to sleep, relax, read, nap, bike, and sip lavender lattes.

Within the last few weeks I’ve read Modern Lovers by Emma Straub and… I just didn’t like it! I follow Emma on instagram and find her to be charming and sweet. Her book left me wondering if I was supposed to connect to her story or her characters in any real, meaningful way. The book itself is very readable. It’s light and fluffy. But there was very little redeeming ANYTHING about the story for me. So…there’s that.

I also read Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith. This one was…interesting. I think I liked it? At the very least there were some aspects I liked and connected with? Still sort of scratching my head on this one, to be honest. I guess it’s sort of an environmental thriller. The story follows Lucie Bowen as she returns to the island home of her youth. After a devastating earthquake and explosion of the oil refinery, which took her father’s life, she and her mother left the island 20 years earlier. The island is thought to be uninhabitable and dangerous as a result of all the chemicals from the explosion. She finally returns to check out her family home and reconnect with her best friend, Katie. Katie and a community are working to revive the island and land hippie-commune style…but things feel a bit sinister and not on the up-and-up. Lucie, a journalist, follows her curiosity to uncover the truth about the island, Katie, and the group she’s a part of. There were a lot of elements to this book that I liked, but ultimately I was left wanting more. The characters and plot felt a little flat to me.

Next I read The Girls, which seems to be THE BOOK of the summer. Also, the author, Emma Cline is in her mid-twenties. I mean… wow. Anyway, the book follows Evie Boyd, an insecure and lonely 14 year old as she befriends Suzanne, a member of a fictional Manson-like cult. I really, really enjoyed this book. You’d think the focus of this book would be her activity and life within the cult, but I think Cline uses Evie’s role in the cult to flesh out the difficulty and frustration of being a teenage girl. I found myself identifying so much with Evie, as middle school and my early foray into high school was…just so, so hard. I didn’t know who I was or how to be a person and I was desperate for inclusion. Cline gets it. Want proof? Here’s some quotes:

“That was part of being a girl–you were resigned to whatever feedback you’d get. If you got mad, you were crazy, and if you didn’t react, you were a bitch. The only thing you could do was smile from the corner they’d backed you into. Implicate yourself in the joke even if the joke was always on you.”

“All that time I had spent readying myself, the articles that taught me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you—the boys had spent that time becoming themselves. —”

“It was an age when I’d immediately scan and rank other girls, keeping up a constant tally of how I fell short.”

Currently I’m reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I’m really loving it. The book focuses on the decedents of two half sisters, Effia and Esi, born in 18th century Ghana. Effia marries James, a well-to-do Englishman whose business centers on slave trade. Esi, meanwhile, is kidnapped, imprisoned, and sent to America to work on plantations as a slave. Chapter by chapter, I’m reading about a specific member of each sister’s family. It’s full and rich and devastating. Though only halfway through, I think this will be one of the books that really sticks with me long after I finish reading it.

In terms of biking, I’ve been commuting to work 2-3 days each week. Just this simple act of riding my bike 1.5(ish) miles to and from work each day has been so transformative. It’s the perfect, reflective way to start and end each day. I also love how my bike commute has helped me sort of reframe time. Though my ride to and from work isn’t long, it used to feel long, which made me dread riding. Now it just feels normal. It’s made me realize there are so many other areas of my life that feel a certain way, when really all I need to do is focus on reframing the reality — build different, better habits. Things like: Cleaning. And chores in general. Things you’d normally put off until you simply can’t ignore them any longer. Josh and I also went on a mega-ride yesterday to a brewery in Mason, MI. 17 miles there…17 miles back. I’m exhausted and my body just feels out of sorts today. This always happens when I do big rides. It’s a sign that I should do them more and train more! I think it’s also a sign that I might not do the best job of hydrating and eating the proper things before, during, and after my ride. Things to work on for the future!

To end this novel of a post… I can’t talk about all the good without also reflecting on the heaviness of this past week. Of Alton Sterling. Of Philando Castile. Of Dallas. Of Black Lives Matter. I feel like a lot of other white people: Speechless. Lost. Uncertain of what to do. My mantra for just about everything is Just Show Up. Show up feeling uncertain and speechless. Show up feeling lost. Just don’t hide. Don’t shift the focus away to something else. Don’t pretend that what’s happening isn’t happening. Show up. Acknowledge. Advocate. Be a friend. Be collaborative. Be ready to learn. And so that’s where I’m at.

Until next time…

Lately