Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas 2015

This year, after getting the idea from some friends, B and I decided to make an advent calendar for December filled with things we wanted to do with the children. Activities included: Setting up the Christmas tree, putting lights on the house, getting a holiday ice cream treat (Cookie butter shake from AC is pretty amazing.), watching a Christmas movie, driving around the neighborhood to see the lights, getting out the Nativity set and talking about the birth of our Savior, building a gingerbread train, and some fun, festive activities with Grandparents...whatever they decided that would be. The children even got to meet Santa before he came to our house!

It was magical. 

After setting up the Nativity and having a simple discussion on why we celebrate Christmas and talking about the Savior's birth, we asked the boys "Can you tell mommy and daddy why we celebrate Christmas?" Liam piped up "Jesus gets on His race car and drives to Costco for us. He does that for us. He is so good!" There you go.

Grammy set aside a whole afternoon and evening to do Christmas crafts, make Christmas cookies, and read Christmas stories with the children. She was even prepared with the proper accessories for each kid- Kate included.

B's mom had a work Christmas party and we were invited to attend. Highlight of the night? Santa came to visit! He had a gift in his bag for each of us. Finn was a little hesitant at first, but when he saw that jolly man give Liam a gift, he had no problem going right up and sitting on Santa's lap. It's all about getting the present, folks.

The Monday before Christmas, we had the Shaw Family Christmas party. My aunt and uncle hosted this year and the boys were in heaven the minute Auntie Amy opened her box of cars, trucks, and motorcycles she had kept from when her kiddies were little. She made it clear her house was made for running, laughing, and playing- music to any mama's ears, am I right? We came. We ate. We played. And there were sleeping babies in the back seat all the way home from Ogden to Saratoga Springs. :)

Other highlights? Marcus and Mia recipients of Shaw Perpetual Education Fund and grandkids trying to "teach" Grandma how to use her new iPhone.

Christmas Eve, we headed to the Johnson's and ate Cafe Rio, read Luke 2 and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, wrote down our "gift" to the Savior for the coming year, opened presents, and had some yummy treats to end the night!

Christmas morning, we opened our gifts from Santa and ate some cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Afterwards, we got ready and headed to my parents for some Christmas brunch and presents. The day ended with Papa helping us put up some big boy beds for Liam and Finn. We were all so exhausted, it was lights out pretty soon after!

Are you tired yet? 

What a wonderful Christmas season we had!
Bring on 2016...

Wishing all our loved ones a 
Happy New Year!

Friday, September 18, 2015

This thing called postpartum depression: One mother's experience

I have debated for almost 2+ months about posting something so intimate, real, and raw as postpartum depression has been for me.  I have no interest in airing my grievances and this is not an attempt for attention or sympathy. Let's be clear- this is NOT me throwing myself a pity party. This is being real, honest, and hopeful about something that I believe many mothers struggle with at some point along this journey of bringing babies into the world and the trial (yes, trial) of raising them to become well-rounded, useful, happy adults.

I am very sensitive to the fact that no one is the same. Every person deals with their struggles, such as postpartum depression, in their own way. What may work for one, may not be ideal for another. I also want to point out that I FIRMLY believe in doing what's best for your family and your situation. This is not a cookie-cutter issue, so we shouldn't expect cookie-cutter answers and results for relief in suffering. I will say, though, I have a strong faith in a loving Heavenly Father and Savior who understand us PERFECTLY and know EXACTLY what we need to find peace in our trials. I will always advise prayer and/or communication with God as a requirement for enduring or overcoming a struggle, such as postpartum depression, successfully.

It will be 3 months next week from the day I held my sweet baby Kate for the first time. I remember how tiny and soft she felt against my skin. She immediately latched on to my breast to nurse for the first time and I was ecstatic, to say the least. With pre-mature twins, I wasn't able to have a successful breastfeeding experience and I was determined this time around would be different. We were off to a good start!

For 4 days (recovery from a C-section requires a longer hospital stay), we loved on our new baby and welcomed visitors to do the same. The day I was scheduled to leave the hospital, my milk still hadn't come in and our pediatrician was worried about Kate losing more than 10% of her birth weight and recommended we try supplementing with formula. I was very hesitant, but B and I decided it was probably the best thing. I cried as I fed her the little bottle and watched her guzzle it down in a matter of minutes and that's when the anxiety entered my body.

I remember it so vividly, because it was like a 2x4 hitting me in the face and I felt completely crippled. I struggled to keep it together the next few hours up until the moment the nurse shut my car door and waved goodbye to us as B drove us out of the parking lot. I felt like I couldn't breathe. Things became heavy, dark, and discouraging. The entire drive home, I tried to shake it. I tried to speak positively to myself. I prayed. I focused on the joy I felt with my new baby. I prayed again. I thought about how excited I was to see my boys again. And I prayed again. But, the minute I entered the house, intense fear filled my body and I struggled to fight back a full-blown anxiety attack.

Anxiety is nothing new for me. I've struggled with it for many years. I had it when the twins were born, but I assumed it was because of how stressful that whole situation was. 6 weeks before my due date, my water broke. I was transported to a hospital I was not familiar with so my babies could spend a few weeks in the NICU, and I had postpartum preeclampsia, requiring me to be on magnesium, which, to put it nicely, makes you feel like death. B and I spent our days downtown at LDS hospital, stuck in a little room down the hall from the Special Care Nursery. It was hard. It was really hard. But, we survived.

Fast-forward almost 3 years later and I have a full-term, healthy, beautiful baby girl without any major struggles and I'm feeling debilitated again. What is wrong with me? I think many new moms would agree that hormones are all over the place after giving birth and emotions are like a roller coaster...along with your life! A new baby means a new family member, a new routine,  and a new list of responsibilities that require less sleep and personal time. Not to mention your other littles that are experiencing a huge change and are trying to adjust. It's stressful. Period.

But those of you who have experienced PPD (postpartum depression) may agree that it's more than just stress. It's more than just a week of bouts of crying and exhaustion, which is rough enough! It's much more. And it's terrible.

For me, my PPD was extremely painful- physically and emotionally. My anxiety plagued my body so badly, I couldn't eat. I was down 25 pounds after almost a week and a half of giving birth. Don't get me wrong, it's always nice to see those numbers go down on the scale, but I knew the way it was happening wasn't healthy. B would constantly ask me what "sounded good" and I could never give him an answer. When something sounded ok, he would rush out and bring it back. But I was usually only able to take a few bites before putting it in the fridge. Sleep also evaded me. Not only was I getting up to nurse and supplement Kate with a bottle a couple times during the night, my anxiety would peak around 4:00 am and insomnia would set in. After sitting in my bed for an hour, trying to ignore the pain, I would get in the shower and start my day. I remember looking in the mirror one early morning and my eyes were dark and sunken. I looked sickly pale and empty inside. It was someone I didn't recognize.

So how does not eating and not sleeping affect your breastmilk production? Not well. Kate was getting hardly anything from me and I was becoming more and more frustrated. I tried to nurse her as long as I could to get everything I had and stimulate production, but that was taking almost an hour and then I was supplementing after that for another 20-30 min. I tried pumping, but again, I would still produce hardly anything. Women talk about engorgement when their milk finally comes in. I have no idea what that feels like. Nursing was increasing my stress and anxiety, which would affect my milk production, which would increase my stress and was a bad cycle. Eventually, after a lot of thought, discussion, prayers, and tears, I decided I was done nursing. For me, I needed something to give and that was what I chose.

I'm being completely honest when I say it was a very painful decision for me and I still feel pangs of sadness and regret every now and then. Every time I walk into the mothers lounge at church to change Kate and greet my mama friends nursing their sweet babes, I feel a little guilty and heartbroken. I believe breastfeeding is such a beautiful and important thing and I highly recommend it. But I also recognize everyone's circumstance is different. My experience is an example of that. There have been many times I've cried to B "Maybe if I tried a little harder...Or maybe if I did this...Or maybe if I was stronger..." and he always comes back to "It was the right choice for our family. It was the right choice for you. Kate is not suffering." And she isn't. For our family, the health of the mother was placed ahead of any extra benefits breastfeeding offered. It was more important my family had a functioning mom and wife. That doesn't mean it was easy. Nor does it mean it's the right choice for everyone dealing with PPD or otherwise.

Even after the stress of breastfeeding was eliminated, the anxiety didn't go away. I still suffered daily, especially when B went back to work. Every time Kate would cry, fear would race into my heart. It got to the point, every time B would leave the room when he was home, I would start to worry and follow him. I knew there wasn't a quick fix for what I was dealing with, but I knew I needed to do everything I could to help myself. I incorporated certain things into my daily schedule that helped alleviate some of that pain and allow healing to take place. I wanted to share these things, understanding, again, that not everyone is the same and what helped me may not be the answer for you.

1) First, I had a schedule! I am someone who thrives on routine. That's just part of my personality. I'm a stickler on sleeping and eating schedules with my kids and it's served us well so far. Sticking to a schedule helped me know what was coming and when. It alleviated some of that anxiety that came from feeling out of control. It also has helped Kate sleep longer through the night, which leads me to...

2) Sleep. I went to bed early and woke up early. When my PPD was really severe, I was dealing with insomnia. But at the end of the day, my anxiety lessened and I would get a few hours of good sleep before I needed to feed Kate or 4:00 am would hit and I would be up for good.  I also had B feed Kate her last awake feeding at 9:30 or 10:00 pm so I could get to bed earlier. (Another factor that affected my nursing decision.)  Something that also helped me to relax was taking some melatonin before I went to bed. My mom shared with me a spray that I still use to help me relax, fall asleep, and sleep soundly AND it's not addictive. I've also tried gummies with melatonin. There are lots of options that you can find in any grocery or drug store. (NOTE: Make sure to talk with your healthcare provider when considering taking any medications, vitamins, or supplements, especially if you're breastfeeding.)

3) Third, I increased my B vitamins and started taking fish oil. Vitamins B12 and B6 have shown to help with depression and anxiety and my friend recommended the fish oil supplements for the role the omega 3 fatty acids play in brain health and neurocommunication. Of course, eating foods that contain these valuable vitamins and fats is the best way to get the amount you need, but I needed extra supplementing, especially since I wasn't able to eat a whole lot those first couple weeks.

4) Along with eating healthy, exercise is a major for me! I called a couple teenage girls in my neighborhood to come over once a week and stay with my kids for 30 min while I took a morning walk by myself. It was summer vacation, so it worked out. I can't tell you how refreshed and better equipped I was to take on the day emotionally and physically after getting out in the fresh air, by myself, listening to some uplifting music, and moving my body! Exercise. It's a good thing.

5) Support. Support is huge. I know this is one thing that varies from person to person, depending on where you live, you're family situation, etc. But the more support you get, the better. I am so lucky to be married to the most patient, understanding, loving, and gentle man. He is my rock. It was so helpful when he could tell I was having a hard moment to ask "What are you feeling right now? Let's talk about it." It didn't matter if it was the same thing over and over, he let me talk. He didn't disregard my feelings as illogical or nonsense, even if they were. That's the thing with PPD- your thought process doesn't always make sense. You're fears are illogical. You know it, yet it's real. It's super, super frustrating, so it's helpful when a loved one can sit next to you and let you talk out what you're feeling and why you feel that way. I am also incredibly lucky to have family and friends that came over to visit, bring meals, hold the baby, play with the kids, etc. If people offer to help- let them!! It's so hard for me to accept help, let alone ask for it. But when I let myself be okay with that, it made all the difference.

6) I am a classic "Elephant Eater". What I mean by that is, I tend to want to eat the whole "elephant" at once. It was helpful for me to not think of everything I had to do or the task of getting through the next month, week, or even day. Sometimes, I had to tell myself "Just get through the next 30 minutes. That's it." Breaking things down into smaller, more doable parts is helpful. Things don't seem as overwhelming that way.

7) Because I have dealt with anxiety/depression in the past, I was already taking a daily prescription medication to help. I know there are lots of opinions, research, etc. about medication and it's not for everyone. But for me, I needed it increased for a little while. For a long time, I was apprehensive and even a little embarrassed I required prescription help to ease the symptoms of my anxiety, but I have since learned that, for whatever reason, my body deals with this issue. Just like it wouldn't make sense for someone with cancer to be embarrassed about taking medication to help with their disease, no one suffering with a mental illness should choose not to use medication based solely on feelings of embarrassment, shame, or because it seems taboo.

8) Faith. I really should've put this first, because it's the most important to me. I can't tell you how many times I prayed during the day (and still do!) for relief, comfort, peace, gentleness, calmness, and strength. I also made sure to study my scriptures, church magazines, and/or church conference talks EVERY DAY. I found that the more positive and uplifting things I read, listened to, watched, or surrounded myself with, the better. Life can be really dark when dealing with PPD. Letting as much light in as you can is important. I held on to the hope that God knew I was suffering, that He loved me, and that He would not leave me. That doesn't mean I always felt good or didn't struggle, but I was made stronger than I was. I was given abilities I didn't know I had.

I could do hard things. 

So, how am I doing now? I still struggle, but the severity of my PPD is much less. When Kate was about 6-8 weeks old, I could sense some relief. Things seemed a little easier. A little lighter. For some women, their PPD lasts much longer and is much more severe. And sometimes, PPD may not hit until later. If that is you, please know my heart goes out to you and you are NOT ALONE. It's a daily battle and I know, sometimes, it's hard to even breathe. Keep going. Don't give up. I know I felt so bad that I had this beautiful, perfect baby and I couldn't enjoy her like I wanted. I felt guilty for not feeling the happiness that you think should accompany the birth of your child. Be gentle with yourself and know it does get better. Reach out. Ask for help. Most importantly, remember you are a child of God. And just like your desire to love, comfort, and nourish your little one, He wants nothing less for you. You are His.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Introducing Dr. Rino and Eternal Perfectibility

The Rino's have spent the past month here in Utah. 
It has been a dream having my sister here 
and I'll probably cry my eyes out when they head back home on Tuesday. 
Why is New Hampshire so far away? of the reasons for their trek out West?
Dr. Rino received his doctoral degree from BYU in
Education Inquiry, Measurement, and Evaluation (say what?)

I may have been a bit grumbly getting up at 5:30 am to shower and drive to Provo in order to make it to his 8:00 am graduation on time, but it was worth it to support and cheer on my family and the hard work and sacrifice (Whitney included) they've made to get to this point.

I also didn't expect the strong spiritual impression that hit me in the face as I sat through that graduation program and learned about the concept of 
eternal perfectibility.

Since I was a child, I've believed that Heavenly Father loves me and wants me to become like Him and enjoy all He has to offer as I follow Him and keep His commandments. Yet, as a 30 year old wife and stay-at-home mom of 3, currently lacking a bit in sleep, patience, and confidence in myself to accomplish the tasks before me, listening to an undergraduate speak about "changing the world" by giving a struggling 5th grade student a hug or a professor reminding students, parents, and everyone else in attendance that the education, training, and/or experiences we receive in this life aren't just for our own edification, but for us to go forth and serve God's children, brought things back into eternal perspective. That learning, growing, and improving is a lifetime pursuit and that as God's children and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we have the capability to become as He is, even perfect. 

I don't know about you, but I mess up every day. I constantly battle with myself over the mistakes and weaknesses I deal with and usually end up on my knees asking the Lord to help me understand, encourage me to keep going, 
and teach me how to be a little better tomorrow.

But I have the capability to improve.
I have eternal perfectibility.
I will not be perfect in this life, but I am a daughter of God 
and I have the opportunity and ability to become like my Father.
And He desires nothing else.

One day, each of us will have our own graduation. 
My hope is that as I walk across that stage to embrace my Heavenly Father, 
I have given Him reason to say 
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord."
Congrats, Joey. You did it!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

You are Blessed.

This past Sunday, Brandon gave Kate a blessing. 
It was sweet and beautiful, 
with wonderful promises of love, kindness, and a forever family. 
I will never forget the joy I felt as I watched the man I love 
hold our sweet baby girl in her little white dress. 

Afterwards, our loved ones gathered in our home to celebrate Kate and enjoy some brunch together. Before we blessed the food, I thanked everyone for supporting us and our little family. We have been on the receiving end of so much kindness and service- even before baby Kate arrived. I especially wanted the women of my family to know how grateful I am for them. If there is one thing I want Kate to understand as she grows up, it is the long legacy of faithful, strong, service-oriented women she comes from, both Shaws and Johnsons, who love their families and teach, by example, that


Along with Brandon, they literally have been the Lord's hands in helping me get through the past 6 weeks. It makes me teary as I think about the many hours of feeding, rocking, changing, playing, cleaning, driving, watching, shopping, praying and encouraging they have selflessly gifted my children and I.

I love the women in my life...and even more, I know they love me. 

I am blessed.
We love you sweet baby Kate.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Welcome, Kate!

As of right now, all THREE children are sleeping and I'm taking advantage. I thought I would share Kate's birth story. As stated previously, we tried getting Kate here on her own, but she was too comfortable! I had been contracting all week leading up to her birth and had other signs that my cervix was progressing. But, when I went in for my 39 week check up, I still had not dilated past a 1. I was discouraged leaving the doctor's office, but B kept reminding me everything would work out. So, we went ahead with the scheduled c-section, which happened to fall right on my 30th birthday! (Hopefully she won't resent me in the future for making her share a birthday with me! We also share our birthday with my Great-Grandma Pete!)

Friday morning, we got up and showered and greeted B's parents at the door. We kissed our boys goodbye and headed to Alta View hospital for the big event. We arrived at 8:00 am and by 9:30 am, they were ready for me back in the OR. Dressed in our fancy attire, we walked in and I sat on the operating table for my spinal block. Pretty soon I was lying on that tiny little table and starting to feel the anesthetic working. Dr. Larson came in, along with another doctor to assist and we were on our way! Kate Nichole Johnson was born at 9:59 am, weighing 8 lbs and measuring 20 1/2 inches! (Unfortunately, during the surgery, before they were able to get the baby out, I started to feel some intense pain and pressure, so the anesthesiologist gave me some more medication and I spent the rest of my time in the OR a bit out of it and unable to participate in skin to skin. It worked out, though, because she was a little too relaxed and needed some oxygen to help with breathing.)

After sitting in the recovery room for a while, they wheeled me into the nursery to hold and breastfeed Kate. She was perfect and she was ready to nurse! I wasn't used to having my baby latch on so quickly. I enjoyed that moment so much.

Still needing to monitor her oxygen, I said goodbye and they wheeled me into my maternity room. My mom and B's parents were there with our boys. The grandparents were able to visit the nursery one by one and greet Kate. The boys weren't officially able to see and hold their baby sister until the following day. But when they did, it was pretty priceless.

We spent the next few days in the hospital, enjoying our little baby girl and greeting visitors. Alta View Women's Center was wonderful and our nurses were awesome. Yet, come Monday, we were ready to go home!

As far as recovery, the physical recovery from the surgery has been AMAZING. That has been a huge blessing, because baby blues hit me pretty hard the day we came home (I feel inspired to post about this later) and it has been a tough couple weeks getting back on track and setting up our new routine. It's been a big adjustment for everyone, but we take it a day at a time.

We absolutely love our baby sister and can't imagine our family without her. 
Welcome to the world, sweet baby Kate!