Sunday, July 24, 2011

Things I learned while on hiatus

Heelllllloooooooooo!  So, the last time I wrote, I was just beginning to get back into the "real" swing of things.  I decided to take a little break from blogging so I could figure out the balance of working again with all the other parts of my life.  Here are a few things I picked up/was reminded of while I was away:

  • The only thing better than puppies greeting you at the door is babies greeting you at the door!
When Mowgli was about a year old, we stopped crating him during the day.  I would usually get home from work before Brian and Mowgli would be waiting at the door, tail wagging, ready to play.  It was irresistable - no matter the weather, we'd run to the backyard and play fetch until he became distracted with a bunny or find a branch to gnaw on.  This being said, for the last few weeks, the grandmas have been watching Cam two days a week, so I could get some work done at the office.  Coming home to a drooly, toothless grin in PRICELESS.  Any negative feelings get washed away in his giggles and baby smell.  LOVE IT!  And I still love Mowgli too :)

  • Your email will still be there - tomorrow, the next day, and long after you die. 
Before Cameron, I'd usually work all day and then come home and work some more before or after dinner.  Brian would sometimes do this too, but he's much better with balance than I am.  There have been a few days where I've balanced my laptop on one knee and Cameron on the other.  Then I realized that I don't particularly want to be that person - that is, I want to devote my energy and attention appropriately.  So when I'm at work, I'll work and when I'm home, I'll do my best to leave the blackberry at the front door.  Not the easiest task, but I have plenty to keep me busy.
  • Drinking wine with friends is good for the heart - and soul.
On three separate occasions, I enjoyed my daily allowance of wine (five heart-healthy ounces) with three good friends who I know I haven't seen enough.  For me, there's absolutely no feeling in the world like sipping a chilled glass of wine on a St. Louis summer day and swapping stories with a girl friend, new or old.  There's also something to be said for "returning the favor" to all those who've listened to my trials and tribulations over the last few months.  Life will always be busy... No matter what the reason, make a little time for this.
  • Tankinis are great for coping with your post-baby figure.
Happily, I've lost all but six pounds of my baby weight.  It appears that those six remaining pounds don't want to be lost and are holding their ground across my belly and backside.  I don't mind having a rounder rump at all, but none of my pants really fit anymore.  It's definitely been a summer of skirts and dresses (though AMEN for the Gap, I found this great pair of cuffed jorts in a size 0 that fit.)  Most of the one-piece bathing suits I've found are either too snug to hide the belly, or include some crazy ruching or an old lady skirt (Sorry to the old ladies who are reading this and may be offended.)  The tankini has saved me from a summer of mumus!  Covers/hides the parts you want, but still has the youth of a bikini.  Don't get me wrong - I am proud that my body carried a baby.  It's just a little frustrating that sometimes it looks like there's STILL a baby in there. 
  • Try to enjoy a date night more often than you think you have time for one.
I think Brian and I do a good job of getting things done- I watch Cam while he mows the lawn.  He watches Cam while I pick up the groceries.  He takes Mowgli for a walk while I bathe Cam.  I make dinner while he puts Cameron down..  By the time we can finally sit down to chat, it's practically time for bed.  All the "stuff" gets done.... except for taking care of each other.  We've both acknowledged this and because we know this way of doing things isn't going to change anytime soon, we've instituted date night.  Every week, we make time to do something we both enjoy.  Sometimes we take Cameron, sometimes we don't.  Either way, we get out of the house and out of the routine and enjoy each other's company immensely. 

Overall, I've been feeling really good.  Between cardiac rehab/regular exercise, taking my meds daily, and sticking to my diet, I feel healthy.   On occasion, I've been able to crack a joke about it.... after all, how completely ridiculous is it for a healthy 28 year old new mom to have a heart attack?!!!  While I have moments of overwhelming emotion when I consider everything that's happened, my heart attack is slowly becoming a normal part of my life too.

I am happy to be back blogging and I hope you'll continue to share this journey with me!

"The joy of life is variety; the tenderest love requires to be renewed by intervals of absence." - Samuel Johnson
"If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves." -Thomas Edison

Monday, July 4, 2011

Getting back to "real" life

First, must brag about my baby:

Cameron is three months (argh, where do the days go?!)!  He is increasingly aware of his surroundings and has the most curious facial expressions.  He stays busy staring at his reflection, the ceiling fan,  light shining in a window and sometimes even notices my laptop.  He LOVES getting a bath and giggles a bit when he pees in the water.  About a week ago, he started sleeping through the night.  I remember waking up to silence in the house.  As the sleepiness lifted, I immediately began to freak out - if the baby isn't awake, he MUST HAVE STOPPED BREATHING.  I rushed down the hall into his room and held my blackberry up to his face. Sigh of relief... still breathing.  He'd slept for about 9 hours.  And then a strange feeling - THIS is what it feels like to be well rested.  Not since early in my second trimester did I remember sleeping like that!  Now, if Cam wakes up before Brian and I, we know to deposit him in his swing and right back to sleep he goes until breakfast time.  On a separate note, he also loves bearing weight on his legs and I'm beginning to think he'll walk before he rolls over, crawls or sits up.  Finally, he loves blowing spit bubbles (razzing).  This perplexes Mowgli, our Westie, who is not used to the slurping sound and cocks his head at Cameron every time he razzes.  He promptly attempts to lick the slobber off Cameron's face, to my dismay! 

Cam and my friend Katy, visiting from Iowa

We had been snuggling while listening to the rain fall...someone decided to sleep in!

Moving on:

I have been slowly easing my way back into the "real" world.  I stopped at a cafe near my office for a cup of coffee one morning last week. I was eager to catch up with the baristas and show off pictures of Cam.  While I was waiting in line, I noticed their breakfast display - piles of sugary croissants, muffins, donuts and assorted pastries, some of which appeared to be deep fried (really? for breakfast?!).  For some time now, I've missed all the foods I'm not supposed to eat while practicing a heart healthy diet.  Staring with horror at the pastries, I realized that I couldn't fathom taking a bite of any of them, let alone consuming a whole one on my own.  Old Rachel wouldn't have eaten them either, but while I was pregnant, I did celebrate "Donut Fridays".  You get the idea.  However, it appears the "heart healthy" diet is becoming less of a diet and more of a lifestyle. 

I'm about a month in to the Cardiac Rehab program and have been cleared to workout on my own once a week.  Today I went to my old gym for the first time in months.  I stopped working out in my third trimester, not because it was uncomfortable, but because there was SO much ice outside that I really didn't want to slip and hurt myself or Cam. I set the heart rate monitor on the elliptical machine and got to it.  I was desperately hoping that nothing bad would happen while I was there (no monitors, no blood pressure checks, no nurses!) and nothing did.  Happily :).  On my way out, I ran into one of my favorite trainers and of course, had to fill her in everything.  I'm beginning to realize the awkwardness to come as I get back to normal life - that is, of having to explain to random people, acquaintances, and passerbys the whole "had a baby, had a heart attack thing."  It's sort of hard not to talk about one without the other, even though I could blather on for hours about my sweet son.  At a friend's birthday party this weekend, I tried desperately to avoid discussing the heart attack (and eating the pizza rolls and sucking down the sugary jello shots.  Unlike the pastries, both of those looked REAL good).  Instead, I called it a complication.  OY, big mistake.  When people hear "complication", they think something's wrong with the baby.  When I explain that he's fine, I get a curious look of "well, what happened?!" and there's no casual way to say "Oh, I had a heart attack."  In fact, there's been two times where, in preparation for meetings, I've referred people to my blog, so they can get the story and know I'm fine.  One of them clearly read it and one of them clearly didn't.  That meeting was a little strange:

Acquaintance: OMG, your blog is great. 
Me: Oh, thanks.  Did you like a particular post?
Acquaintance: Oh, they're all great. Sounds like motherhood has been easy-breezy.
Me: Well, it has been a little crazy.
Acquaintance: Oh really?  What makes you say that?

And you can imagine how the rest of that appointment went....

I should say that I contemplated not talking about it, but then it sort of feels like I'm hiding something or like I'm guilty of something.  Talking about my experience and being honest with friends and family continues to help me accept what's happened.  And, if my experience makes anyone think twice about the life they want to live vs. the life they are living, then I should continue to share my journey. 

One more thing - if you have a sweet tooth, try my foolproof summer treat:  Sprinkle 1/2 a cup of lowfat vanilla ice cream with cinnamon and honey.  If you feel moved to, throw in some slivered almonds and chopped seasonal fruit (berries, bananas, etc).  Pretty much guilt free, heart healthy and delicious!!!

"Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit.  A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all's right with the world."  ~Ada Louise Huxtable

Friday, July 1, 2011

Is the Cosmic Joker at work? (Some thoughts on mortality)

When I was a little girl, my parents used to tell me that before I was born, I was just a twinkle in their eyes.  I remember wondering to myself, "well where was I before I was born?  And where do you go when you die?"  While I was raised Catholic and received my education from Catholic institutions prior to graduate school, I am not currently practicing any religion. So while I've learned about heaven and hell and purgatory, I'm not exactly sure if I believe in/have faith in their existence.

During my stay in the cardiac ICU, a man across the hall passed away.  He had undergone open heart surgery and was in recovery when the alarms outside of his room started to sound.  Brian and my mom peeked out as nurses and doctors charged in to save him.  They worked on him for an hour - even going so far as to open up his chest.  We heard them call his time of death and the next few hours were stinging with loss.  There were nurses crying in the hallway and his relatives came to retrieve his items, folded up nicely in the hospital's standard issue drawstring plastic bags.  Obviously his situation was so different from mine, but I recall thinking to myself "How did I survive this? Why did I survive this?  And how come he didn't?"  I wonder if he went into surgery thinking that this could be his last day alive or if he had the chance to say good-bye to his loved ones.  As the cardiac staff researched my SCAD, it became more and more clear how much of a "miracle" my surviving really was.  70% of the people who have a SCAD die relatively soon after the artery dissection.  I was in the ER for four and a half hours before my heart attack was identified & I had 100% blockage in my Left Anterior Descending artery (nicknamed the "Widowmaker" by cardiologists) by the time I made it to surgery.  I struggle to understand why I survived and why the man across the hallway died. 

The nurses in the CICU said I gave them chills and that I must have stuck around so my son could have a mother.  I do agree with this very much.  Early on after the heart attack, we would go on family walks. I was moving slowly, partially because of the heart attack and partially because my c-section incision wasn't healed.  I would lag behind a little and watch Brian push Cameron's stroller (to which we hook Mowgli's leash).  Then I would get totally creeped out thinking "this is what their life looks like without me."  That's so morbid, I know.  I've tried not to do that anymore because it gives me a little anxiety.  But as lucky as I am, it's really hard not to think about what could've happened.  That I wouldn't be here.... Brian would be a single dad and Cam would be without a mama.  I'm sure I would have worried like this as a mother, without the whole heart attack incident, but I'm sure that doesn't help the fear of not being there for your child.  Although, I suppose, at any time, we are all "dying" and that you never really know when your time will come. 

This week, a beloved volunteer at Habitat passed away.  He had been put on hospice, so we all knew it was coming.  That doesn't change the fact that a relatively young (66) person, with a kind heart, was taken from us way too soon.  When I was struggling along as the ReStore Manager, this volunteer came out of nowhere and devoted his time to rebuilding a program that had been struggling along.  His dedication and efforts will not be forgotten.  I struggle to understand why bad things happen to good people... and if there's a higher power, why these circumstances happen at all.  Furthermore, it makes me sad to think that some people believe in and pray to such a power that would allow these things to happen.  While I was in college, my dad became quite ill with a rare disease.  As she was making dinner one night, I remember my mom wondering aloud: " We've had a good life...we've been so lucky.  I wonder why God had this in store for us...."  I have a hard time with the saying "Everything happens for a reason."  Do they??  Or does life just happen until we die?

Of course, I'll never really have any answers to these questions.  I do think it's completely ridiculous that I started thinking so much about living when I had a near death experience. Still, I want my life to be purposeful and I want to make sure that the choices I make are "right"- whatever that means.  There's this commercial I've noticed where some woman exclaims "I've got too much to do to die!"  I always laugh out loud because it reminds me of some funny conversation I had with Jim, where he said "Well, I'm glad you didn't wake up dead.  Let's be thankful for that!"  I hope that when I arrive at the end of my life, whenever that may be, that I'm proud of the existence I did have and at peace that it's my time.   However, in the meantime, I'll continue to be happy I didn't wake up dead, because SERIOUSLY - I have too much to do to die :)