Life · Motherhood lately

Motherhood lately

Chapter 1.

I’ll be honest. The past 4 months have been hard. Dealing with rheumatoid arthritis is hard enough. Mothering a newborn AND dealing with rheumatoid arthritis? It’s just punishing.

I haven’t been on my meds since before I got pregnant. At first what was remaining of the medication in my system kept me afloat until I got pregnant, and then as predicted by my rheumatologist, the pregnancy itself helped my symptoms ease up. My doctor reminded me though that after I give birth and once I start breastfeeding, the flare ups would return and will be worse than ever. And man have they returned, with a vengeance too, it seems. 

It’s as if my joints are disintegrating by the day (well they literally ARE deteriorating). The stiffness is bad. The pain has been overwhelming. A month ago I dislocated my right shoulder and tore the labrum from just throwing a piece of fruit across the room. Now I need surgery to have it repaired. If you remember, my left shoulder also went through surgery in 2014 because of recurrent dislocation that started with a basketball injury. Talk about damaged joints. There hasn’t been a single day without pain ever since I stopped my meds.

And why, one might ask, am I not back on my medications? As simple as it may seem, the decision I made was not. I chose to breastfeed our baby. And for me, it was and still is worth the sacrifice. 

Breastfeeding didn’t even come easy. In fact we all worked hard for it. And when i say “we,” I mean all three of us- Sam, the baby and I. First off, I only have one functional breast to nurse her with. The other one’s milk ducts have been scarred and subsequently blocked by a previous surgery. It took us a lot of trips to the lactation consultant, a lot of crying in pain, a lot of breast pumping, a lot of sleepless nights, and a lot of frustration, which was just one of the many other emotions overwhelming me at that point. It didn’t even help when other moms made it look so easy! (Don’t get me wrong, I know it must have not been easy for them too when they started, but you get what I mean 😉 )

At around 2.5 months things actually finally eased up a bit and I felt that baby and I were finally getting the hang of it. I was beginning to see the brighter side of breastfeeding. Or so I thought. Along with the ease of breastfeeding came the increasing RA flares. All I could take was Ibuprofen and that didn’t help either. At a little past 3 months, I dislocated my right shoulder and tore the labrum with an arm movement that wouldn’t normally cause dislocations in people with normal joint integrity. Miserable couldn’t even describe how I felt in the few weeks after that incident. Nowadays, I just try and make sure I don’t drop the baby whenever I lift her out of her crib or the bouncer. Sam is scared I might drop her at some point because certain positions just give me severe sharp pain. But you know what, even if it’s deathly painful for me to lift her, I don’t think I would ever drop her. It’s a mom thing, I guess.

Anyway, I have been contemplating about shifting to formula because of the needed surgery and the need for me to retake my medication. Sam has been convincing me to, for my own good, and subsequently the baby’s too. And it’s not that there’s anything wrong with formula, it’s just that I’m scared and a bit anxious to let go of the breastfeeding (which is selfish of me, I know, or is it? This whole obsession on breastfeeding deserves another blogpost). I may have become attached to the act of breastfeeding itself. And besides, shifting to formula would be a whole new stressful stage for both of us. My baby is highly allergic too (thanks to both of her parents) and she’s started to manifest her atopy in dermatitis. Just when we’ve started to get comfortable with breastfeeding, these circumstances get thrown our way. But Sam has repeated time and time again, that the best way to take care of the baby right now is to take care of myself first- stop breastfeeding, shift to formula, restart my medications, have the surgery. Because for  him, how will I even be able to take care of her when I myself am debilitated? Logically, he’s right. But my heart tells me otherwise.

I know I need to listen to Sam’s advice and put my heart in the backseat. And so we have reached a compromise and are aiming for her 6th month. I am dreading the day we start weaning her off the breast. In the meantime, I am hanging on to God’s promise of healing and His strength as I press on and take care of our baby every single day, in the best way I could.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.                                                                                                                    ~ Psalm 73:26

 

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#thehikinggalorports

#thehikinggalorports

Now ever since my rheumatologist told me I couldn’t really get back into running or anything that would significantly affect my joints’ capacity to handle mechanical stress, the world of hiking seemed to be more appealing as I felt my leg muscles grow softer and softer each day.  I have gotten concerned that my soft tissues would eventually lose their tone and not be strong enough to support my joints. This was especially encouraged by my physical therapist after she helped me manage my cervical spine problems. So Sam and I started to go on short day hikes with elevation (as advised by my PT), and then we eventually progressed to longer hikes. I have had difficulty in making this a habit because of the cold (yes, I still haven’t gotten used to it), but Sam has helped me bundle up more effectively and of course the scenery is a reward that makes me look forward to it every time. Ever since we moved here, we have hiked a total of around 14 trails, some more often than the others, some didn’t actually have a trail like that time we hiked across the frozen Mendenhall Lake toward the Ice Caves last winter. I’d like to list them all down– makes me feel like I’ve actually accomplished something. 🙂

East Glacier Trail

West Glacier Trail to Mt. Mcginnis

Spaulding Meadows/ Auke Nu Trail

Lena Loop Trail

Herbert Glacier Trail

Airport Dike Trail

Mendenhall River Trail

False Outer Point/ Bluff Trail

Sandy Beach

Peterson Lake Trail

Salmon Creek Trail

Perseverance Trail

Granite Creek Trail

EagleCrest Trail

Ice Caves Hike

Not bad for first-timers, right?

Here’s Sam, calculating how many more miles before we reach the ridge.

Love and Marriage

How God wrote our 2013 story

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For some, 2013 had been a year of joy, marriage, birth, life, reunion. For some it was a year of sorrow, heartache, loss, tragedy, death. For most people active in social networks, it was a year of selfies. For even most, it was just like any other year. For Sam and I, 2013 was a year of change, the kind of change that enabled us to grow and marvel at God’s faithfulness together.

We could never really fathom how much God has been faithful to us ever since we got married. This year had been exceptionally awesome. I still remember us saying goodbye to 2012, both without jobs, praying, waiting, trusting, and hoping for the best. This time, we say goodbye to 2013 with the deepest gratitude, as God had answered our prayers, and specifically at that. And so we document the highlights that have brought color to our 2013, those that have spelled God’s love, faithfulness, and most of all, His majesty.

First, Sam got the job we specifically prayed for. Although I wasn’t particularly excited about living in Alaska because of the cold, it was Sam’s dream and he very much felt led. So where else does the wife go? That’s right, anywhere the husband goes.

Second, I had my third surgery for endometriosis in July, and I recovered pretty well. Insurance covered 98% of the total hospital cost.

Third, I was able to start chemotherapy for my Rheumatoid Arthritis and I’ve been better with less fatigue and more activities, although with almost the same amount and intensity of joint pains. But then again, insurance covers 99% of the total monthly cost. The path to healing has been rough for me, physically especially. Pain has become my friend; it has allowed me to cling onto Him for strength.

Fourth, We’ve been praying for a church where God could use us and whom we could treat as second family here in Juneau, and yes, God has answered our prayers by leading us to Auke Bay Bible Church.

Fifth, we’ve seen the Northern Lights right above our heads! The Aurora borealis reminds us of His majesty and how the heavens declare the glory of God. You could almost see how His hands move as if directing the rhythm of the dancing lights.

Sixth, Sam has learned how to snowboard and is slowly getting better at it. He’s now convincing me to learn how to ski.

Seventh, I started to blog this year. This has allowed me to find something to do besides reading and baking cupcakes. It has also helped me discover new support groups for Rheumatoid Arthritis and Endometriosis. My blogs have become a way for me to increase awareness and advocate support for RA and endometriosis research.

Eighth, we’ve met new people and developed new friendships. I guess this is important for anyone anywhere.

Ninth, we’ve found opportunities to pray for certain people and help them, especially during the Yolanda tragedy. Sam and I have always held on to this particularly important formula in our lives- that we are BLESSED TO BLESS.

Last, we are thankful for our families and how God continues to strengthen and uphold each of their ministries. We miss them a lot but we are confident that God is taking care of them. It is being far from them that moves us to value them even more and appreciate them as they are.

There are more things to thank God and praise Him for but I’ll leave the specific things to memory. God has taught us many things out here- patience, grace, lovingkindness, and more- practically everything we lack, and He still continues to teach us everyday. Yes, 2013 was indeed a year of change for us as we ventured into an entirely different environment and culture with different people. It was hard, but we have trusted in Him and He has made all things beautiful. God has always been and will always be faithful. And so we look forward to 2014 with the same hope that we had a year ago, and the same excitement that He is indeed going to fulfill His promises and unfold another chapter in the story He has written. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

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The Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), the first time we witnessed it.