Day 40: 40 days and 40 nights of not interacting with social media

After 40 days and 40 nights of not interacting with social media, I don’t think I’ll be adding it back to my life. I woke up and checked my notifications. There was nothing that I truly missed. There was nothing on any of the apps that required my attention. I added the apps after Easter dinner and deleted them before midnight.

I finished reading book two of the new series I started last week and picked up my phone. Instead of checking to see if I turned my alarms back on. I opened Instagram and Facebook. I didn’t even really interact with the app. I just cleared my notifications. It all just felt like an empty habit. I got no enjoyment from what I was reading, and as I scrolled through my timeline and saw people’s pictures pop up, I felt sick. Everything about it felt voyeuristic and empty.

I discovered a friend of mine had a baby while I was on my detox. I also learned another friend had been pregnant and delivered the daughter she so desperately wanted this Easter morning. Out of the two women, I only knew one was pregnant. I thought it was strange how I felt nothing while looking at their tiny cute babies.

However, I’m not a cold-hearted ice queen. One of my longest friends gave birth to twins a week ago. I knew they were due on a Monday; however, I couldn’t remember what Monday. Time slipped by, and I texted her about the babies on Thursday morning, asking when they were arriving. Instantly bombarded with pictures of two adorable faces and a phone call. My friend apologized for forgetting I gave up social for lent and not letting me know the twins arrived. It baffled me. If anyone should have been apologizing, it was me. She just brought two tiny humans into the world. The least of her concern should have been the weird person breaking away from social norms.

We talked. We caught up. She sounded amazing. It felt real and meaningful. Nothing like I felt when I reconnected with the thing marketed as the best way to communicate.

My time away has been healing. I don’t feel the need to always have my phone on me. I am less anxious when I see my notification light go off. One of the biggest things is I feel my interactions are more human. What I know about my friends is what they want to share with me, not what I stalkers learned about them while silently watching their lives through a screen.

I’m not deactivating my accounts, but apps aren’t going on my phone. I will randomly check things on a web browser, but nothing like I used to. For the short time I had the apps on my phone; they were trying to occupy my time. I turned off notifications. However, whenever I opened an app, it asked if I wanted to turn on notifications. I don’t need that kind of bullying in my life. I already told it no multiple times. It was forcing itself on me.

So here’s to newfound freedom. I hope we all can break away from this false reality someday.


Day 32: Reflecting on Biblical verses: Writing Prompts

I didn’t know what to write for today and was looking through different writing prompts for March. I couldn’t find the original chart that had the prompt about my classroom, so I kept searching. Everything that I was finding felt empty to me. It wasn’t until I found the prompt asking me to reflect on Matthew 6:14 – 15 did I feel compelled to write. This compilation was strange since I usually dislike reflecting on just one verse. Knowing the entire chapter the verse I was reflecting on came from was important to me because a verse on its own can be taken out of context. 

I will not pretend to be a biblical scholar who can recite scripture. I had to look this one up just like I had to do for the other two suggestions of Isaiah 53:9 and Ephesians 2:10–12. Matthew 6:14 – 15 in the NIV (the New International) bible says. “‘ 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  I was curious how the NIV version differed from the Catholic Bible. “* If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

Not much of a difference, just an easier understanding for some readers of what a transgression may be. 

I think the reason Matthew 6:14-15 stood out to me over the verses from Isaiah and Ephesians has a lot to do with where I am in my life. The older I get, the harder it is to have the energy to hold grudges. I see no point in wasting my energy and time thinking about those who have negatively affected me in life. The perfect way to rub it in their face is that they have power over me, and my decision is to live the best life possible.

It was difficult to get to this point. There are plenty of ex-friends and boyfriends that I have wished ill on. If people would mention their names, I’m sure I’d spit just at the thought. However, I gained nothing from this besides a sour mood. It wasn’t until I got divorced from my first husband that I put this thought into action. If people would bring him up sometimes, I would discuss things, and other times I found myself saying, “I wish him nothing but to find happiness.” It was an odd way to think. My marriage had fallen apart, and I vocalized that my ex would find health and happiness. It was a much different way of thinking from wanting some of my ex-boyfriends to get run over by a truck. You would think that I would want the same for someone I thought I’d commit my life to. But how could I ever heal if I held onto hateful and negative thoughts? 

“14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

I remember the first time I went to confession and the lightness I felt after admitting my sins. Even though the sin was something I committed, I had never forgiven myself for what I had done. I held on to that pain for nearly a decade, and it did me no good. It just filled me with pain. 

After understanding how freeing it was to truly forgive myself, I never wanted to live with that toxic pain in my soul again. 

Until reading that verse today, I never gave it much thought. However, it makes sense and still makes sense for those who don’t believe in God. How can you let go of that animosity and pain if you never forgive the person who inflicted the pain upon you? You can’t because it will always linger in the back of your mind. 

Another reason this verse stood out to me over the one from Isaiah and the Ephesians had a lot to do with how digestible it was. I could read the verse and understand what it meant without reading the entire chapter.

The NKJV of Isaiah 53:9 reads, “And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth.” Since it was only the verse, I looked up the Catholic Bible chapter to see the differences and try to understand what was happening before and after the verse. “He was given a grave among the wicked, a burial place with evildoers, Though he had done no wrong, nor was deceit found in his mouth.” This verse varied more than Matthew’s did, depending on which bible you read it in. I also found the King James version harder to understand without reading the entire chapter. In my opinion, the verse from Isaiah is a lot harder to reflect on as a standalone verse. The book of Isaiah is from the old testament, and because of that, it has a Christian and Jewish interpretation. Isaiah was a prophet, and while Chapter 53 never identifies the suffering servant, many believe the chapter is prophesying Jesus. I am not really sure how anyone could just reflect on the verse without reading the entire chapter. 

I could have reflected on the other two verses from the new testament, just like Matthew.  Ephesians 2:10–12 from the NKJV reads, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” VS Ephesians 2:10–12 from the Catholic Bible: “For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them. Therefore, remember that at one time you, Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by those called the circumcision, which is done in the flesh by human hands, were at that time without Christ, alienated from the community of Israel* and strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world.”

To me, the verses from Ephesians are lacking as standalone verses. You could read them and say, “yes, I understand the meaning of these words.” However, out of context, these verses are only a gentle reminder from Paul about our life before Christ. It doesn’t really stress the love of God and what the darkness was before salvation, which was the meaning of the chapter and the letter Paull had written. 

I guess I ended up reflecting on all three verses, though only truly relating one to my life. It’s not just the verses that I relate to but all of chapter six from the book of Matthew. It has always been one of my favorites, especially when we get around the time of lent. Matthew Chapter 6: 1 – 8 

1 “[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. 

2 When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites* do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. 

3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,

 4 so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. 

5 “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. 

6 But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. 

7 * In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.* 

8 Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

After the verses, it leads into the lord’s prayer. 

While I share my faith here on my blog, I speak little about my faith in person. I don’t need to share it with everyone I meet. Everyone has their own relationship with God, and in south Florida, there are a lot of different churches with their take on Christianity. If the conversation comes up naturally, I will have no problem discussing my faith and how it has affected my life, but I will not scream it from the rooftops. I will not shove it down others’ throats because I don’t find it to be effective. I find living my life naturally and letting my actions show beliefs to be a lot louder than forcefully demanding those to listen to me and my journey in Christ. 


Day 18: Insomnia Writes

I can’t sleep. I’m fighting insomnia, back pain, and exhaustion. You’d think I’d fall asleep when my head hit the pillow, but instead, I’m wide awake. Mind racing with a thousand things that can’t be handled until sunrises.

I’ve been working on blog posts Day 11 & 12 for nearly a week. I can’t seem to get them right, probably because of how personal they are to me. Sometimes the emotions they evoke make me feel sheepish and silly, and at the same time, I’m scared I’ll hold back and miss parts of the stories. 11 is about how my husband and I met in high school. It’s hard digging up twenty-year-old emotions. It makes me feel ridiculous sometimes because I know I’ll write things I’m sure I’ve never told him out of fear that butterflies will escape from my belly and spew from my throat. 

12 is about my kids’ journey with sports. It may not seem like something that would evoke emotions; however, with how much time, energy, and money we are investing in our kids to have fun and be healthy and athletic, there’s a lot of dedication and sacrifice to reflect on. 

This writing journey throughout lent has been challenging, forcing me to write daily. I hoped to have produced some chapters for my book, but I found myself digging deeper into my soul. I want to tell my stories now instead of living in a fantasy land. It’s been a long time since I have been happy with reality. I think the last time I didn’t feel the need to escape was when I still lived with my parents before leaving for college. I guess I feel that same safety in my life that I’m okay with being here again. I’m not saying my life is perfect by any means. However, it’s a happy, fulfilling one now. 

Hopefully, all this word vomit will calm my thoughts so I can sleep and write more when the sun finally rises. 

Lent, Mommy Blogs

Day 3: From delivery to postpartum preeclampsia: Sometimes a headache is more than just a headache.

I started writing this post when I was in the hospital and hopped up on magnesium. It’s taken much longer than expected to finish editing and publishing this post because of how raw and vulnerable this experience has left me. But here it goes. 

~ * ~

At the beginning of November, we welcomed my son into the world. Thankfully, his delivery was less traumatizing than his sister’s; however, I’m truly glad we’re done having kids. I don’t handle delivery very well, and c-sections are a major surgery I never want to go through again. 

Leading up to my due date, I had made it clear to anyone who would listen that the epidural I received for Adelyn’s delivery did not work. This had nothing to do with the anesthesiologist and everything to do with my lower back scoliosis and the absorption issue of having Celiac disease. Another problem with the epidural was that it was intended for a vaginal delivery, not a c-section. From what I was told and experienced, drugs given for a c-section are a whole other beast. 

So when speaking to the anesthesiologist for Bennett’s delivery, I made it abundantly clear how complicated of a medical patient I am. Aside from epidural issues, anesthesia and I don’t get along. There tends to be a lot of vomiting after I wake up or finish whatever procedure the anesthesia involves. The anesthesiologist was friendly and usually responded with a bit of dry humor I appreciated. After listening to my worries, he said, “Well, good thing this is my first time.” I laughed and responded, “Well, sir, I will put you through the wringer today.”  The nurse who worked with him promised me he was the spinal whisperer. He smiled and nodded, assuring me the spinal blockers work way better than the epidural I received five years ago. And since this is the scheduled C-section, we’d have everything squared away, and I wouldn’t feel a thing. 

Usually, one would think you would want to hear that you’d feel nothing when you’re about to have six layers of skin cut open. I certainly thought it was what I wanted to hear after Adelyn’s delivery, where I told the surgeons everything they were cutting. 

When the time came to make my way to the operating room, the nurses gave me the option to walk into the O.R. or be wheeled in. I chose to walk, knowing it would be a while before I would walk without pain. Upon entering the room, a nurse turned to me and said, “don’t touch anything blue.” Suddenly, I wanted to touch everything blue. 

As they lowered the table for me, one nurse commented on how tiny I am; I swear if this were a movie, it would be taken as foreshadowing. Every time someone brings up my littleness, something goes wrong, nothing haywire, just slightly skewed enough to cause me discomfort. 

While the anesthesiologist worked, he explained every step he was about to complete. He was keeping the promise he made while we were in my room. His reasoning behind the over-explanation was to avoid surprises, me jumping, or becoming overly anxious. 

But let me tell you. It doesn’t matter what the verbal cues and warnings you revive, because when somebody sticks a needle into your spine, it fucking hurts. There was a weird pulling sensation as the medication was injected. When he removed the needle, it hurt less, maybe because the foreign body was no longer present because it wasn’t from the drug. Getting the medication to spread throughout my lower half was certainly not what I expected. 

With a nurse at my side, he helped me rotate from sitting to lying on the table. Another nurse joked, “get ready for the ride.” and started tilting the table left and right, trying to get the medication to move throughout my body. 

Seriously, this was the worst Disney ride ever. 

With the table tilted, the medication flowed along my legs down to my toes. But the process seemed to take forever. The anesthesiologist was performing a poke test. He started with my side stating, “this is normal,” and then he would move to my legs and ask, “can you feel this?” If I answered, “yes, I still feel it,” I believe the table would move. I’m not entirely sure what happened anymore because those memories have blurred. I remember a lot of mechanical whirling sounds. 

While waiting for the lower half of my body to become numb, a different set of nurses and doctors ask me to move my legs into a specific position. This is where things get weird. After they asked me to bend my legs, I could no longer feel them. I could hear that they strapped my legs, and I felt these odd tingles, like when your legs fall asleep after sitting on them for too long, and in my numbed-up state, this was not okay. They strapped my legs down, probably to prevent me from moving them. No one needs to be kicked in the face while cutting out a baby. I kept trying to bring my hands down and move the curtain so I could see, but I kept repeating to myself, don’t touch anything blue, and wouldn’t you know it, the curtain was blue. 

Once my legs were numb, they brought in my husband. Waiting for him felt like an eternity. I understand why it took so long. They had to ensure that the spinal blocker worked. If it didn’t, I’m not sure what they would have done, but whatever the option, I don’t believe he would have been allowed to be present.  

The nurses had my husband stand on the left side of my head. They kept reminding me he was on my left and that I should go to my right if I had to throw up. Thankfully, I didn’t vomit. 

I thought I would relax when he entered the room, but I began vocalizing my feelings. He was there for moral and hand-crushing support. Although he said I didn’t crush his hand as badly when I delivered Adelyn, I still unknowingly tried to break his fingers. But that didn’t stop him from doing his job. Throughout the procedure, he kept laughing at my ramblings. Not allowing me to dive into my anxiety. Because this go around, instead of telling him where they were cutting, I spent most of it complaining that I couldn’t feel my legs and was NOT okay with it. Whenever I would revert to my legs, he would ask, “would you rather feel everything like the last time?” 

I couldn’t give him a straight answer. I didn’t like how my legs had disappeared and that I couldn’t move them. However, was feeling everything and being able to describe what was going on during the first c-section a pleasant experience… no. But apparently, I’m that much of a control freak. 

When I wasn’t rambling, I would watch my husband look through the window in the curtain. At one point, his eyes got huge. Looking back at me, he said, “Well, that was unexpected.” “What did you see?” I asked. “I’ll tell you later.” He said, shaking his head and muttering, “I never expected that.” 

Whatever that was only left me more curious because my husband has been to war twice. During his deployments, he’s seen dead bodies and people blown up and cleaned up said bodies and blown up pieces, but what was going on the other side of my curtain was what he thought was strange and unsettling. 

Not long after, a tiny, wiggling, screaming baby boy was moving past my husband. The nurse asked my husband if he wanted to cut the umbilical, and although he said no, I’m pretty sure it had more to do with the death grip on his hand than anything else. I know they laid the baby beside me, but I can’t remember much. I’m not entirely sure when they left the room, but I know it happened before they sewed me up. 

Being semi-conscious while surgeons sew you up is the strangest experience. 

I could listen and process the conversation, but my brain was too foggy to participate. Not like anyone was trying to talk to me, but they were talking about recusing Belgian Malinois and the difference between them and German Shepherds. It slightly irritated me that I couldn’t take part. I wanted to talk about the fur missiles. By the time I could figure out how to use my words again, they removed the curtain, and they moved me from the operating table to the bed they would use to wheel me into my room. It was insane that I did not feel a single tug when they sewed me up.  For that, I was truly grateful.

Looking back at those three days in the hospital is kind of a blur. I wish I could remember more because this time, my husband and I chose to splurge and get the Lilly Pulitzer hospital room. When I walked in, the bright colors of the room welcomed me. The total opposite feeling I’ve ever gotten when walking into any hospital room. As we settled, all I could think was, this is how every maternity ward should look like. Birth is a traumatic experience, even if everything goes right. Women should feel comfortable and relaxed. Even though we’re in the hospital, it doesn’t mean we should have to feel like we’re in the hospital. Believe me, the machines we are hooked up to do that enough. 

As we settled into the room, my husband saw a menu on the coffee table. Expecting to find maybe a list of meal times and telephone numbers, we were stunned at what was inside. It was a full custom-order menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I knew the room had a food upgrade, but I didn’t expect it to be lamb, lobster, or steak. 

After changing into a hospital gown, I sat on the bed and waited. From my bed, I could see the Intracoastal. It was lovely. We paid extra for the view, and it was worth every cent. I think seeing the water every morning kept me sane. However, there were times when the sunrise made my head throb. Or at least that’s what I blamed for my migraines. 

Before I went in for the delivery, we had picked out what we wanted for breakfast and lunch. I was pleasantly surprised to find out they had gluten-free bread. I think that’s what I lived on for those three days, because I had little an appetite. When I returned with my baby, I slept, missing breakfast, but I had lunch. A yummy turkey club sandwich and a baked potato. That I ate, but dinner was a different story. I was craving lamb. However, I was exhausted when the food got to our room. I remember eating veggies and passing out with the baby cooing beside me. The best part was eating what I was craving and not feeling overstuffed, like I wanted to explode.

Eventually, the nurses came in and took the baby. This is something I learned after having my daughter. Let the nurses take the baby so that you can sleep. 

The staff at my hospital was amazing. A nurse stayed in my room for the first hour, checking my vitals and ensuring I was stable.  They had a set nurse for my room throughout their shift, unlike when I had my daughter and never saw the same nurse twice. Because of this, the nurses noticed my blood pressure was getting a little high, nothing to worry about, but it wasn’t where it should have been. I chalked it up to the fact that I had just had major surgery and was in pain. Another thing that the nurses noticed was my left foot was still swelling. That happened randomly throughout the pregnancy, but my doctors would check me out, and everything was normal. 

By Sunday morning, it was time to go home. I packed all my belongings and was ready to take my littlest nugget home to his brother and sister. 

Being home again with a newborn was like riding a bike that kept crashing. Even though I had gone through this five years before, everything was similar, but so different. I knew what to do. I knew to change him before feeding and to go to the bathroom myself as well because you never know how long a feeding could last or if he would fall asleep during it, which he did. He was the sleepiest baby. He slept through changes and feedings and cooed at everything. 

While everything was amazing with the baby, things were not with me. My incision hurt and my head throbbed. I figured it was from getting up way more and not sleeping. Also, chalking it up to my amazing little five-year-old chatterbox wouldn’t let me rest as much as I did in the hospital. 

Tuesday afternoon, I received a call from my doctor’s office. They wanted to check on me and how I was doing. I told them everything was fine except I had a migraine for the last 24 hours. The nurse then asked if I could take my blood pressure, and I did. She stayed on the phone while I wrapped the cuff on my left bicep and waited for the machine to do its job. When it finally released the pressure, the numbers on the screen read something over 100. Until then, I’ve never paid attention to my blood pressure. I’ve always had low blood pressure, so I wasn’t sure what the numbers meant. However, the nurse was extremely concerned. 

“We can see you in the gardens office around,” she paused. “You know, just come in as soon as possible.”

I laughed and said, “I’ll be in as soon as possible.”

What made me laugh about that situation had nothing to do with my health and everything to do with the fact that I could not get to the doctor right away. My husband had just left to pick up our son from school, my dad was also picking up my daughter from school, and I wasn’t supposed to drive. So, as my daughter walked in, my dad looked at me and said, “What’s wrong?”

I told him I needed another favor. Not only to take me to the doctor’s, but to watch my daughter until my husband could meet me at the office. 

After we installed the car seat base in his car, we drove to the doctor’s office. I thought nothing was wrong. I knew my blood pressure was kind of high, but not really a big deal. I was in pain from a migraine that I was prone to get, and I had just had major surgery. I kept telling my dad they were overreacting. When I walked into the office, they immediately pulled me back and checked my blood pressure. It was still a big number, over 100. 

The doctor looked at me and gave me the worst news yet. “You need to go back to the hospital. They have to run more tests.”

“Why?” I asked. I was not arguing about going but wanted to know what was happening.

“I don’t want to speculate, and I hope I’m going overly cautious,” she said. “But I believe you may have postpartum preeclampsia.”

I just stared at her. “Excuse me, what?”

“The headaches, the high blood pressure, and you had a swollen foot during your pregnancy and recovery. These are all signs of preeclampsia.”

I didn’t know how to respond. I knew nothing about preeclampsia except what I saw on an episode of Downton Abbey. You know, the episode that Sybil dies in. 

“Okay, if I do have it, what should I expect? Like what could go wrong?” I asked.

She started listing a few things, but the two that stuck out to me were seizures and death.

By the time my husband arrived, we had planned to drop off my stepson at my mom’s while we took the baby to the hospital. I wasn’t thrilled. All I kept thinking was I have a headache. It’s not that big of a deal. When we arrived, I headed back up to the maternity ward, but this time I wasn’t in the fancy room like I had been when I delivered the baby. There weren’t any bright colors to evoke happiness. Everything was tan, with gray machines everywhere. 

The nurses took me back to the pre-op area, where they retook my blood pressure. It was still high. Another nurse came in with a few vials and took my blood. She also asked my husband if he could step out because she had to insert a catheter. They needed to check the levels in my urine, but I couldn’t pee in a cup because it would contain postpartum blood, which would contaminate the sample. 

When he came back in, he looked concerned. 

“What’s wrong?” I asked, knowing that none of my results were in yet. 

He looked at me and then at the baby. “The nurse said if you’re admitted to the hospital, the baby can’t stay with you. They said it would be too dangerous.” 

I wanted to cry. I’m unsure if it was out of frustration, fear, or pain, but I wanted to cry. He explained that even if we hadn’t left, they probably would have sent the baby home with him because the treatment I’d need to go through wouldn’t allow me to pick up and hold the baby safely. 

A nurse came in after we spoke and confirmed everything he said. I remember laying back in bed, just being done with the entire ordeal. She gave me blood pressure medication and a painkiller and explained what we were waiting on. None of it registered with me. All I could think about was I had no breast milk pumped and frozen for the baby. My husband would be home with a newborn and two other elementary-age kids that go to two different schools fifteen minutes apart. 

As the machines kept beeping, I stared at the numbers. They weren’t going down, and all I could do was repeat the word fuck repeatedly in my head. 

The nurse came in with my blood results. My liver and kidney levels were elevated enough to cause concern for my doctor, and the nurse told me I would be checking back in. This was not what I wanted to hear. I was not prepared in any way, shape, or form to be separated from my baby for a few hours, let alone for at least three days. I looked at the small bag that I had brought with me. I thought I was being overly prepared with my breast pump, cozy socks, and laptop, expecting to only be there for a few hours. Suddenly, I wished I had packed more. 

After they moved me to my new room, I kissed my husband and baby goodbye. I changed into the gown they gave me and sat on the bed, waiting for the nurses to hook me back up to the machines. I hate machines. I hate hospitals. And I was left alone with my thoughts. This whole pregnancy, I had an irrational fear that I would lose the baby or he would die after being delivered. Never once did I think my life was at risk.

The nurse who was in charge of me was really nice. She explained I couldn’t get out of bed once the magnesium drip started. She wrapped my legs into the pressure cuffs and gave me an extra blanket. The pressure behind my eyes had increased, and my brain felt like it was throbbing. I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the bed. Now that I had a moment to breathe and listen to my body, it was obvious something was wrong. 

The magnesium drip flowed through me, and I felt drunk. When the nurse would ask me questions, my words were slurred. They were right when they told me I couldn’t get out of bed. The room was spinning, causing my head to hurt more. Finally, I fell asleep. Sleep postpartum is dangerous, especially when you don’t have a baby nearby to wake you. The nurse woke me at three in the morning to take my blood pressure medication. But as she administered the medication, she noticed how engorged my chest had become. I was so exhausted that I forgot to pump. 

I didn’t think the night could get worse, but it had. Not only did I feel drunk, without the fun part beforehand, but now my breast felt like they wanted to pop. 

The nurse asked if I had a breast pump, and I said yes, of course, but I had nothing to store the milk in. She laughed and said, “Don’t worry, we have plenty of things for that.”

I hooked myself up to another machine and waited for relief, but there was none. My ducts were clogged. I wanted to cry because everything hurt so much. I didn’t know what to do. Before when this happened with my daughter, I could take a hot shower and massage out the milk. But I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t even leave my bed.  Finally, I pressed the call button on the remote. I needed help and was in the right place to get it. 

The nurse who woke me up returned. She was fairly chipper for 4 in the morning. I was never that happy when I worked the overnight hours. Nearly in tears, I told her I needed help. I couldn’t express the milk. She told me not to worry and left the room. She returned with a different breast pump in what felt like a blink. She told me it was the hulk of breast pumps. After showing me how to use it, I thought she would leave. However, she stayed by my side. Not only did she make sure that everything was working correctly, she helped me massage out the milk. I didn’t have the brainpower to fully process what was happening. 

The following two days were a blur. I lay in bed with machines beeping next to my head. My husband would bring the kids by after school. He brought me food and would bring home the milk I had pumped. My daughter was filled with an insane energy. I think her emotions were manifesting as a tiny ball of chaos. She did not like seeing me in the hospital, which I understand completely. It was hard enough on my husband, who understood why I was there. I can not imagine what a five-year-old was experiencing. 

My doctors and nurses would check on me throughout the day to see how I was progressing. My blood pressure was getting lower, and my kidney and liver levels were stabilizing. At three in the morning on the second night, the nurse told me I could go home if my blood pressure stayed in the 80s. I texted my husband and told him to get ready to pick me up because even though I had no control over my blood pressure; I was leaving this place. 

The phlebotomist came in and drew my blood. I asked her how long it would take to get the results because I wanted to leave. She looked at me like I grew two heads. She said no one would release me at four in the morning.

I went back to sleep only to be woken up two hours later as the morning nurse came in and started unhooking me. “Am I going home?” I asked.

“If your 8 am read comes back, yes, you are!” She beamed. 

My doctor came in at 7. She had a c-section scheduled at eight and wanted to check on me before I left. She explained how I needed to take blood pressure medication for the next month and to call if I got any more headaches. I told her I would contact her immediately if I felt the slightest bit off. She hugged me and left as the morning nurse came in to discharge me. I told her how much I appreciated the care I had received at the hospital, but I hoped never to see them again, and she said she hoped the same. 


Day 2: Losing my religion to find my faith

Yesterday I found myself constantly picking up my phone and automatically going to where my social media apps used to live. I don’t like how addicted I am to mindlessly scrolling through the nonsense. It’s probably why I give up social media every year for Lent. I do kind of cheat since my website automatically sends out messages when I post a new blog, but I cannot see what people post in response. 

I think it’s ironic that I have ended up a Catholic who celebrates and follows Lent because I distinctly remember being a child sitting in church and getting upset about the idea of giving up something that I love. It’s taken years to process this memory. For the longest time, I could not remember why I was so upset during the service that morning, but now, as a convert, I do. The pastor had asked us to give up something we loved, and I remember being shocked. I did not understand his request. I thought he wanted me to give away my stuffed animals and toys, things I cherished, and I couldn’t understand why God would ask that of a child. I’m not sure if it was because we were a part of the Presbyterian church or that my mom didn’t explain the idea of Lent to us as children, but this moment set forth a journey in discovering my faith. I wanted to understand why I was being told to sacrifice what I loved. 

In elementary school, I went to Mass a few times with friends. Until that moment, I didn’t know there were different elements of faith. I had always thought there were Christians and Jewish people, those who believed in other Gods or nothing. But to understand that there were people who worshiped Christianity differently was a foreign idea. I thought we all were in the same boat. I remember coming home and asking my mom why the service I went to felt like an exercise, and she explained how some people worship differently and that if I had any more questions, I could ask my dad since he was Catholic. 

Finding out that my dad was Catholic surprised me because, in my young brain, I had rationalized him not joining us at church since he worked on Sundays. As I got older, this became more of a joke when my friends and I would discuss religion. A German Protestant and a non-practicing Irish Catholic raised me. This usually sparked fun conversations with my protestant friends, wondering how we celebrated things since they believed my dad wasn’t Christian. This would always confuse me because my dad was Christian. His faith just had a different name. 

In middle school, things got weird.

You know those pre-teenage years when kids are discovering themselves? Middle school was where I discovered the occult. The movie The Craft had just come out, and I think every girl who saw it thought they might actually be a witch. To make things even stranger, one day during gym class, we went out to the soccer fields, and scattered all over the grass were tiny tarot cards and burnt candles. I bent down and picked up a card, death. All my friends started whispering that I would die soon, and the rest of the school was stressful. When I got home, I logged online and tried to find out what the card meant. Let me tell you how relieved I was to find out that the death card didn’t mean I would die. In fact, it represented a major change in a person’s life. 

Not long after discovering the tarot cards in the field, my pastor gave a sermon about how people should avoid magic and the occult and never see a psychic or get a tarot card reading. It was strange and oddly timed to hear that message in church. He claimed he knew a person who had gone to get a psychic reading, and everything that the psychic said would happen happened. He claimed that no matter what the woman did; she was cursed and couldn’t prevent the events from happening. 

Around this time, my mom started looking for a different church. I don’t know if the two events were related, but I’d like to think my mom wouldn’t want us to be a part of a church that was going in that direction. 

At the end of eighth grade, we moved from our small Presbyterian church to a larger one where we knew no one in the congregation, and I felt lost. I grew up in our small church. I knew all the kids my age and was comfortable being around them. But moving to this bigger church, where we were just faces in the crowd, I was surprised to find a few kids I went to school with were a part of the youth service. I started to enjoy going to the youth service. The teens were excited to learn and were asking all sorts of questions. 

The summer between eighth grade and my freshman year of high school, I became fascinated with Queen Elizabeth the first and everything Tudor. The more I read about their family, the more I started understanding the divisions between the Protestant and Catholic faith. Learning that the Church of England was essentially created so a man could get divorced made me wonder what the driving points behind the Protestant faiths were. 

While walking through the halls of my high school, I ran into a friend I had swam with for the last five years. He noticed I was wearing a Celtic cross. 

“I thought you were Presbyterian?” he asked, pointing at my necklace. 

I looked down and said I am. 

He looked confused. “Then why are you wearing a Catholic cross?” 

“It’s not Catholic,” I told him, unsure if I was right. “It’s just Irish.”

This started a debate between us as we walked to class. We were both pretty steadfast that we were right in our own ways. It’s not like we could pull out a cell phone and check to see who was more right than the other. 

I forgot about the conversation until I went to church that Sunday. When I was about to ask the youth pastor about the cross, a discussion came up that I wasn’t prepared for. For some reason, the youth pastor started talking about those who are Catholic and Jewish and saying how we should be careful befriending them. Suddenly my question about the cross was no longer important, and I was listening intently why this person told me I shouldn’t be friends with people I had been friends with my entire life. I let him speak, and then I raised my hand. When he called on me, I asked him isn’t that the opposite of what Christ asks us to do? I asked him why he would tell us not to be friends with these people. And he said the reason was that the Catholics and the Jewish people would try to convert us away from our faith. I felt my face go hot. None of my friends or their parents have ever tried to convert me to their faith. But I had heard this man suggest multiple times that we should bring our friends in, try to bring them into our group, and have them see the way to Jesus. I asked him what was wrong with learning about other people’s religions. He responded we don’t want to be driven away from God. I sat on it for a moment and finally said if your faith in Christ is so weak that a conversation can make you convert to another religion; you didn’t have a strong enough faith to begin with. This started an issue with some kids in the youth service. They also started questioning what he was saying. Anecdote after anecdote came from the teenagers about how they were friends with Jewish, Catholic, and Muslim people, and nobody had ever asked them to join their faith. At the end of the youth service, the youth pastor pulled me aside and asked me if I would start such a commotion again and not return. 

After that, I stopped going to the youth services, and eventually, my mom stopped going on Sundays altogether. These two things had nothing to do with each other; they just happened to be around the same time. 

This man’s proclamation of not befriending people of different faiths only drove me to research more about religion. I wanted to know what the ground basis of the Presbyterian faith was. I wanted to see the difference between a Calvinist, a Protestant, and a Catholic and why this man was so afraid of what I could discover by talking to someone with a different belief. 

While my mother had given me the groundwork and the foundation for finding Christ in my life, it was ultimately up to me. I had to discover my relationship with my faith. 

As the internet became more of what we know it to be now, religion became easier to research. I saved bookmarks and tabs for me to go back and forth on. I tracked how Christianity became what we know it to be. 

By the time I graduated high school, I could no longer call myself a Presbyterian. I considered myself to be more agnostic. I was searching past the Judeo-Christian faith and looking at everything offered in our world. I was searching for something that felt like home. I wanted something to speak to my soul, and as of right now, nothing did.

When I went to college, I got extremely excited. They offered so many classes on religion in the secular sense that I nearly got a second degree in religious studies. I filled all my electives with courses that broke down religion in an easily digestible way. It made me more comfortable actually researching my faith on the secular and theological levels. But I also learned while taking these classes is how little people actually know about the core value of their faith. 

Something that I kept coming across as an adult that I came across as a child was people believed that Catholics were not Christians. I remember sitting in one class, and a woman said well, I’m a Christian, unlike these other people over here, and she pointed to a woman who had already shared that she was a Catholic, and the teacher laughed. At the beginning of the course, Christianity until the Reformation. This woman, who was a Baptist, did not know that Catholics believed in Jesus Christ. 

The deeper I dove into the meaning behind each religion, the closer I felt to the Catholic faith. I found comfort in the rituals and traditions. I looked closely at the Lutheran faith, the watered-down Catholics, and decided if I was going to convert, I was going all in. 

So years after college and before my first marriage, I decided to convert. My ex wanted to get married in the church, and I thought, what better time than now to prove I was committed fully to discovering my spiritual self? 

I found comfort in my Rcia classes, surrounded by other adults on the same path. Some were cradle Catholics who never fully understood the faith they grew up in, and others were converting like I was. Sometimes my knowledge from the secular side would cross over into lessons being taught. It felt like I almost had one up or insider’s knowledge. But I never expected the honesty of the father leading the classes. 

He spoke about how there were years when he lost faith. He told us about how he struggled with his spiritual journey and regretted how he was teaching catholic school and some of the smart-ass answers he would give the students. But as he found his way back to God, he would meet with those of other faiths. He would pray with them and discuss theology. One thing he said he was most jealous of was how Protestants prayed. It wasn’t formal like how the Catholics prayed, but more of a personal conversation. 

I had never looked at it the way. I had thought everyone prayed as if they were talking to God. Even though I was learning the different prayers used during mass, I figured it became more informal when people prayed outside of the church. After listening to the father talk, it appeared I was under the wrong assumption. 

As we grew closer to my conversion, I was required to go to confession. As a Presbyterian, I prayed to God, and He forgave me. I didn’t fully understand why I had to go into a room and talk to a human about my sins. But since I converted, I was going to do it entirely, and that meant getting over what made me uncomfortable and going all in. 

What I confessed was between God, the priest, and me. But I can tell you that this sin I cried was one that no matter how much I prayed, I never felt God’s forgiveness. It wasn’t until I went into that room and confessed what I did, did the weight finally leave my soul. Confession was almost like a mini therapy session. I have little to go off of, but the priest at my church has this way of making you feel welcomed, and when you are at your lowest, baring your soul, they make you feel loved and not judged or damned but understood why you deserve God’s forgiveness. 

At that moment, I knew my journey was over, and I was home. 

There are many times that I wish I could go back to that warm feeling. After my ex and I divorced, I returned to my church and picked up an annulment package. I felt such guilt for my marriage failing. It took me a while to feel comfortable sitting in a pew again. What made matters worse is I lost the package and never had the courage to get another one. 

A few years later, I brought my stepson to church. It was after a day where he was being super sassy, and I jokingly told him, “boy, you need Jesus in your life.” He looked confused, so I asked him if he had ever been to church. He said, “No. What is church?” But couldn’t pronounce the word church correctly. 

So I asked my husband if he minded if I took our son to church. He said no, he didn’t, but not to expect him to go. I didn’t. I knew my husband was an atheist, and I figured his ex wouldn’t mind since she was also Catholic. 

Sundays turned into a day of worship again. First, bring my young stepson and eventually my daughter. They did great in church, following along with the prayers and hymns. Parents and grandparents of other children would stop and tell me how much they enjoyed watching my kids worship. 

We went to Mass pretty regularly until COVID hit, and then we stopped. I remember going to ash Wednesday, and then the world shut down. 

I’m sad to admit it, but I didn’t want to go into the church if I had to wear a mask. The joy was gone, as I felt restricted. I would watch services being live-streamed, but it wasn’t the same. As restrictions were lifted, it took a long time before I stepped foot into my church again. 

However, just because I wasn’t spending Sunday mornings on my knees in worship didn’t mean my faith wavered. If anything, during that time, I dove deeper into my self-discovery again. I found myself praying more and talking to God, asking for guidance and signs along the way. 

When I finally did return to church, it felt as if I had gone away to college and come home. Things were the same, but some stuff had changed. I looked around as I walked through the double doors and sat on the far right side of the church. Some people masked others not, but one thing was the same: Everyone was there to worship how they felt comfortable. No one was passing judgment; if they did, they kept it to themselves. 

Ash Wednesday just passed, and I went to church for the first time in almost a year. I want to say I’ll go more frequently, but I don’t want to make false promises. I want my children to grow up with faith, but I don’t want to force them to believe as I do. I want them to have the tools to use as they are growing up to make the same choices I did. That way, they know their journey with God is genuine because that is the only way to have a strong relationship with faith. 


Lent 40 days of no social media and 40 nights of writing

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. This year, I aim to remove social media from my life and to fill the wasted time with writing.

What I originally planned on writing today had to do with my faith and the journey I’ve been on, instead, I’m going to vent about a training that our district is being forced to take. It’s called Youth Mental Health First Aid: A Manual for Adults Assisting Young People by Betty Kitchener. I understand the point of ensuring people have mental health tools, but throwing everyone into the same training is not the best idea. 

They offer the training as an all-day event that people can take online or in person. I chose to take the training virtually. I thought this might be an easier way to digest it; however, I was wrong. There is no way to digest these topics, especially when living with these problems. The only thing that made it easier was vocalizing that this is fucking stupid instead of internalizing it. 

I am already dealing with postpartum depression. Only a few weeks ago, before I started my antidepressants, I was sitting on the edge of the pool watching my daughter swim and wondering how long it would take for anyone to notice that I was no longer there. How could I sink myself to the bottom of the pool, or if I could walk off the pier and into the lake and never breathe again? Thankfully, I didn’t do it. Not sure how I could have done it. I think my body would have gone into auto-drive and brought itself to the surface to breathe. I kept thinking about how I could stop saving myself, and while doing that, my daughter didn’t leave my side. 

It was by far the worst experience to go through. I felt as if I was trapped inside my head, screaming, banging on a glass wall, trying to break through and stop the person who had hijacked my brain. I didn’t understand why I would want to leave her alone to go through life without her mom to help her. She’s an emotional little creature who needs both her parents, and I wanted to wear cement shoes on the bottom of a lake. 

Until today, I thought I had things under control. Who knew that a six-hour training would throw me into a tailspin? The whole thing is supposed to make teachers and other school employees aware of mental health issues with our students, but not once did they think about asking us if we were okay with the topics they were covering? They rushed to throw everything out there. They broke us up into three groups and asked to read little fictional stories and ask how we would handle them. 

My story was about a student who was developing an eating disorder. The only thing is that this topic isn’t fictional for me. I just had to handle this with a student upon returning from maternity leave. Listening to other educators talk about how they would be uncomfortable handling the situation brought me back to high school when I was dealing with my budding eating disorder. No one was aware of what I was going through. It also made me truly grateful for my relationships with my students. 

As I listened to the people in my group present what we discussed, I word-vomited how I handled my situation. How that only in a week or so back from maternity leave, I noticed one of my girls kept putting her head down, how she had transformed from an energetic student to one dragging through the day. When she returned from lunch, she talked about how she didn’t eat again, and I snapped. I responded as if I was out to brunch with girlfriends and asked, “Are you anorexic? Is that why you’re skipping meals?”

She just stared at me. “What’s that?”  she asked.

I explained to her and her other classmates that anorexia is when a person controls, limits, or stops eating because you don’t like the way you look or feel out of control in your life.

My student looked like I had just peeled a cover off her eyes. “Yes, it’s both.”

I told her I would notify the guidance counselor, and she asked why. I explained because I loved her and this was not the path she needed to go down. It only causes pain and more trouble. 

The trainer said I did what the purpose of the class was. Only she missed the part where I said I lived with this and didn’t have the mental bandwidth to handle my students’ issues. Not once did she ask how I felt returning from maternity leave and being inundated with students’ problems. But, you know, why would you want to check on the people asked to be aware of students in crisis? Obviously, we are all fully prepared and qualified to help students and guide them on where to go for help after a few rushed hours glancing over highlights of anxiety, depression, and psychotic disorders.

But we did get a solid hour or so being inundated with the worst guidance on suicide help and prevention. 

As the instructor spoke, I took a Xanax. I felt like I was going to crawl out of my skin. I kept staring at the webcam, not covering my mouth as I talked to my co-worker, who was in the same session. We both could not believe what they were covering as suicide prevention. It was like listening to someone who had never experienced or knew someone close that suffered from suicidal thoughts or depression. I swear, if anyone had approached me and asked, “Are you going to kill yourself?” or “How do you plan on killing yourself?” things would not have gone over well. When I expressed this to the behavioral health specialist, he said it was proven to stop people from killing themselves. I don’t believe this. 

I watched the screens of the other people in the session, and you could see those visibly disturbed and uncomfortable, and not once did the instructors say hey, let’s take a break or check in with us. No, because today isn’t about finding out if the adults are qualified to handle their students in crisis. Today was about the district covering their ass because they lack the proper amount of mental health professionals to help every student. Now, they can claim that everyone on campus, including those who work indirectly with the students, has received training from experts to be aware of mental illness and health problems. 

Oh, the best part, after spending most of my day being triggered and slipping back into a dark space, I have to teach until the end of the workday. 

So thanks, Palm Beach County School District, for thinking this is the best way to handle things.