Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Modern Motherhood - Can You Really "Have it All"?

For decades, many women around the globe have been chasing their dreams to “have it all” – a meaningful home life and a successful career. As a Slavic Christian woman, being a working mom is just scratching the surface.  As a young girl, I always knew the type of women I wanted to grow up to be: Strong but caring mother to her children, loving and supportive wife, a rock-star employee with unequivocal work-ethic, a role-model Christian, an encouraging, reliable and hospitable friend and don’t forget, look effortless and beautiful while doing it! So here’s the question I have been asking myself for the last few years? Where did I go wrong? It seems as if I have one area of my life under control, the others seem to spiral into utter chaos. Is it possible to have it all, or is this an impossible feet put on women and moms these days and we have all been fooled into thinking we can somehow match up to this insurmountable list of to-dos? Why must we always feel like we aren’t doing enough? Or is this just my own internal conflict and everyone else is perfectly content and feeling like they have it all figured out?

I’ve recently re-entered the corporate world and thought I’d have some of these issues sorted out, but I feel like I’m all the more frustrated.

When I was home for a few years with the kids, I thought, now I can relax, I had worked since I was 15 years old and a part of me was itching to take a break from the 9-5 hustle. I foolishly thought, I’ll be a stay-at-home mom now, a land of yoga pants and coffee outings and I won’t have the pressure of juggling work and home life. Boy, was I in for a surprise! After a few shorts months, I was feeling guilty for not accomplishing enough on a daily basis and I often felt like I was lost in a black whole, spinning around the same daily chores every day. Wait, didn’t I fold this load of laundry already? I thought I just swept the floors? Is it already time for another Costco run? How have I not found time to take up baking?  All of this way ok, the hardest two things were:

 1) The fact that you don’t get affirmation or some sort of acknowledgement. Wouldn’t it be great if your kids ended the day with “thank you for doing a wonderful job of parenting me today, I'm feeling healthy and more loved than yesterday!” Or every six months, they reviewed your cooking and said “wow Mom, you’ve really perfected this casserole.”? My husband was great at telling me I’m doing a wonderful job, but let’s face it, they are sort of obliged by their vows to be nice to us. J

 2) I always felt guilty for not contributing to my family financially. My husband never murmured a word, he loved me being home. But internally I was conflicted, I always thought, why did I spend all that money getting a degree and that time investing in my career? I should get my ROI (return on investment) and at least contribute to our family (help pay off debt). I should be able to do it all. I should be able to be a stellar mom and work, which could really help my family out. Other women do this all the time!

Now I’m back at work and have to constantly push off the feeling of guilt that I’m not doing enough at home, or church, or taking care of my health, or … (the list goes on and on).  Now the question still stands, is it truly possible to have it all? Working moms, how do you juggle it all? How did our parents do it? My mom worked and seemed to have it all together? Are we just weaker and less productive than they were? Is social media robbing us of all of our time? Household CEO’s – do you feel the same pressures when staying home, like you could have done more? Cleaned more, spent more quality time on homework, taught my kids a song to sing for the Christmas recital, etc.?
I’ve been praying for clarity in this area of my life and will continue to do so, but thought I’d lay it all out there and find out how you super-women deal with it? Or is the road of constant guilt just a way of life now... When you are home you feel guilty for now working or accomplishing more and when you are at work, you feel guilty for not being at home with your babies?

Thursday, February 9, 2017

What No One Tells You About Adoption - Love is NOT Always Enough

Three years ago when we dove head-first into adopting our children, doe-eyed and full of optimism,   I whole-heartedly believed love would be enough to solve all their problems and heal all their hurts. I knew there would be issues, we had done the research, we had spent countless hours in classes on trauma-informed parenting, RAD (attachment disorder) and PTSD.  I knew it would be difficult, it would take time to work through the issues but wasn't too worried, after all, love was on our side and love could fix their issues. Fast forward a year post-adoption and I found myself facing a very different reality. The happy-go-lucky family people were seeing on social media was not always as happy as we wanted them to believe and the harsh post-trauma reality set in. No one understood and could relate to the pain, hurt, anger and blow-ups we were experiencing behind closed doors.  I was failing and my hope was dwindling. I was scared (still am) if I talk about the difficulties, people would shy away from adopting. I didn't want people to think we regretted it or discourage them from pursuing adoption. If you are considering it, or experiencing this, please know you are not alone.  As a mom, I should have all the answers. I should be able to make my kid feel better, work through his issues and help him solve his problems. I hit a dark whole when I realized I could not solve his problems. In fact,  I seemed to be the cause of his problems half of the time. I often felt I was trapped in my home as a prisoner. My sons trauma were the bars that kept me entrapped in guilt, shame and frustration. Why had God not healed Andrey and made things a bit easier on us after all the craziness we had already gone through? But the hardest pill to swallow, after all my efforts and energy, I could not make him love me back.

No one warned me (or maybe they did but I was too optimistic to listen) that'd I'd  poor all my efforts, time, energy, prayers, money, love and patience into parenting a 11-year old boy who then turns around and repays me in anger, frustration and hatred.  There was a period where it felt like I was his arch-enemy.  In hindsight, I was throwing a teenage-like emotional tantrum of my own.  How dare he be ungrateful, selfish, hurtful and angry after all we'd done for him? Didn't he realize he should be grateful to have a family? Why couldn't he see how good he had it? At least once weekly people would say something along these lines " they must be so grateful to have a family, a room and his own toys. He is so incredibly lucky. He must love you to the moon and back." It was so far from the truth that I was often speechless. I didn't want to admit it then, but I felt so defeated. We had risked so much, energy, time, money and finally made it home from the hellish weeks we spent in Ukraine. When I entered my home I should have felt joy and warmth from finally getting my wish of bringing home the children I desperately fell in love with.  God had placed this unexplainable love and drive to help these children and call them my own, I had no doubt about that. What I could not understand, is why had it gotten harder and harder to parent Andrey with each passing day? I had never stopped loving him, but I did not always like him and his actions were often appalling to me. Well a few years later, I can sum it up quietly simply:
                                                             Hurt people hurt people.
They don't know love. It's a foreign idea to them. They don't recognize it and they don't know how to respond to it. You have to find a different approach and be very patient.

When Jonah was born, people often asked us if we felt a difference between him and our adopted children. Honestly, yes, but not for the reasons they think. We love them the same, but the love that is reciprocated is different. Jonah is a newborn who has spent every day with me. I know his different cries, his preferences, health history and biological make up. When Jonah cries, a whole slew of people come running to sooth and comfort him. With our older ones, we are peeling them apart like an onion, learning about their past, their likes, dislikes, preferences, fears and insecurities, one layer at a time. The baby knows laughter, comfort, gentle carress, goo-goos and ga-gas, and love. Andrey and Katya, they know hurt. They didn't know love, it was as foreign to them as abuse and neglect is to me. Katya was fortunate enough to be placed in an orphanage with young children and her biggest enemy of growing up was neglect. When she cried because of a wet diaper, no one came running. When she fell and injured herself, no one rushed her to the emergency room and kissed away her boo-boos. Andrey had not grown up with a family who encouraged and praised him, reaffirmed their love on a daily-basis or even provided for his basic needs of air, sleep, food and warmth. Andrey had a family that consisted of 100+ children from the age of 7-15. He was abused, neglected and traumatized by this family of children and care-takers. The only family he knew was a harsh and bitter reality that no person, let alone a child, should have to live through. The difference is when I go to hug my baby, he hugs me back and greets me with a warm smile, because he feels safe. For a long time, when I would try to hug Andrey  he would flinch, or fight me off, saying something like "you are so annoying, what do you want?"

The truth is parenting a child with post-traumas is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I don't regret it for one moment, but often I feel I'm not cut-out for it. Then I'm reminded that God makes families and he must see something in me that my children need. The problem is I often feel like a horrible parent. Why isn't my love enough to help him? The truth is the things my son has experienced in his lifetime must be so painful and difficult, that this is how much it has impacted him. I know MY love may not be enough, but I know God is more than enough!

 Can I ask a favor? Can you please pray for our family and Andrey specifically? We know that God is doing his work with him and he's made so much progress, but we need help and wisdom in parenting. Only God knows how to heal his heart and to mend his wounds. I pray for wisdom as a mother to parent three very different children from different backgrounds. Most of all, I pray that Andrey accepts God's goodness and finds healing in our home, church and community.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Do You Believe in Miracles? - My Pregnancy Story

I am so excited to share my pregnancy story. I get giddy just thinking about it, because I love surprises and this was the best surprise of all. To recap a bit, I was diagnosed with severe PCOS and Endometreosis over eight years ago and after seeing several gyno and fertility specialists, they told me I had less than 5% chance of conceiving with fertility assistance and less than 1% if I did nothing at all and just let things happen naturally. After years of actively trying for a baby (ovulation sticks, temperature tracking, chlomid cycles) and trying every random holistic and ridiculous suggestion that came across my path we decided to accept our fate and came to the conclusion that God didn't see it in our plans to have bio kids. To be completely honest, I stopped praying about it. We switched gears and made our new mission in life to focus on the things we could do in life, not the one thing we could not. 

At one point four years ago, my doctor had a serious talk with me about if I should just take the safest route and avoid any potential cancer risk by getting a complete hysterectomy and oophorectomy, which is removal of the uterus and ovaries. This would mean I could live pain-free and stress-free. This actually sounded like a reasonable option at that point and after consulting with my family, my mom turned on turbo problem-solving mode (which she often does), made a ton of calls, researched and begged me to come to Ukraine with her for three weeks to give this holistic clinic a shot before I made any life-altering decisions. At the time, every morsel of my body was against traveling to Ukraine in the middle of the coldest winter in 20 years and seeing some doctor who would probably want to take all my money, comment on my weight and gawk at how horrible my ovaries looked. After MUCH hesitation, I agreed to go with my mom, more to appease my mom than with any hope that anything would change. The truth is, after a complete health diagnostic, numerous tests and labs, I had discovered my issues were more serious than we thought and the doctor compared my health to one of a 45 year old. That really stung, but it motivated me to do what I could on my end to preserve my health. With a whole suitcase of hollistic medicines, essential oils, powders and the like, I headed home. Although my period had never returned as they hoped,  I was able to manage my pain naturally (IB Profen and vicodine was my previous go-to). This had made my life WAY more pleasant and I had not seen any urgent reason to move forward with any surgical procedures and was happy to keep my lady parts in tact.

 Fast forward two years, still no sign of a regular menstrual cycle or ovulation. I had put all my attention into Andrey and Katya and the various challenges that came with that (this is a blog post in itself). After having the kiddos home for a few months, I was so incredibly stressed out. I was juggling a lot with the kids appointments, therapy, extra-curriculars and meltdowns in between. As my health was not getting any better, I decided I would make the best of PCOS and all the issues that came with it. I realized my kids needed me and my healthiest and I needed to give them the best version of myself, they deserved that much. I would take back control of my body and start eating a very clean diet and exercise 5-6 days a week. The dual benefit of exercising was my body was looking better and the endorphins gave me more patience when dealing with parenting. My kids needed me, they deserved a healthy and active mom who could keep up with them at the park, have the energy to swim laps with them in the pool and not take out my anger on them from the chronic pain I was previously in. It felt so good to take control of my health and my body! With much support and encouragement,  I was able to lose a significant amount of weight and had a whole new level of energy. I was feeling great, until one week in September, I started feeling a lot of pain in my left lower abdomen, similar to the pain of a cyst. The pain would come and go but made it really difficult to make it through my workouts. I decided to secretly go to the doctor and get checked out to make sure it wasn't a ruptured cysts or anything crazy. As I sat there with my gyno of nine years, he did a standard internal ultrasound and then proceeded to tell me he had some good news and some bad news. I thought for sure I'd need another surgery and was hoping the good news is that it wasn't too serious. He then proceeded with the bad news: I probably wouldn't be losing anymore weight. The good news: I was 6-7 weeks pregnant!!! I right about jumped out of my exam chair. What??!!! Are you kidding me, how is that possible? I made him check and recheck and show me the screen about four times after that, which of course all I saw was a bean-like-looking-thing. I walked out of the exam room, walked straight to my car and sobbed for about 20 minutes before leaving for my house. I arrived home to an empty house, immediately went upstairs, peed on about 11 pregnancy tests (I always had a stack of amazon pregnancy tests on hand) and fell on my knees after seeing each positive and simply praised God for his goodness. I waited over 12 hours before I could tell anyone the exciting news since my husband was out of town and I wanted him to be the first to know, but I did not want to tell him the news over the phone.

It seems silly now, but I so badly wanted to tell the whole world about the exciting news, but wanted Roman to be the first to know. I stopped by a store before the kids got home, all puffy-eyed and giddy to buy a few onesies for when I told Roman, the kids and parents. When I stepped up to check out, I poured my heart out to the clerk and told her all about my morning, my miracle pregnancy and my plans to to surprise my husband, all while choking away tears of joy. In hindsight, I may have over-shared a bit, but I've been known to do that.

My favorite thing about my pregnancy was I was able to surprise my husband, our children and all of my close family with this unexpected miracle. I can truly say I absolutely loved being pregnant and tried to soak in every moment, every flutter, kick and turn. I felt like I was truly given a rare gift and know how many things could go wrong before a child even enters this world. The fact that I had a mostly healthy pregnancy (minus the kidney stones) and beautiful healthy, almost 9 pound chunskter is just the cherry on top. Below, I've shared some videos and photos.

I often think back to the day I found out I was pregnant and praise and worship fill my heart. I know many people can explain away how and why I got pregnant, because the holistic medicine helped, or I lost weight or that we had finally relaxed (although that was one of the most difficult months of my life). Well the truth is, I think God aligned all those things in my life to prepare my mind and body for pregnancy and motivated me to get healthy through my kids, forced me to try holistic approaches by giving me the ultimatum of the hysterectomy and so forth. At the end of the day, God guided me through all of those decisions and steps. One last thing I'll leave you with, is Roman shared something with me a few weeks before I delivered that I had not previously known. In August of 2015 Chris Tomlin had a Worship Night in America concert. Pastor Louie Giglio finished off the evening with a powerful prayer. He said take that heavy weight that has been pushing you down, that prayer request or hardship that's been burdening you, get down on your knees, put your arms together and lift it up to God. Just give this request to God and forget about it. Let him take that request and burden from you. That night in an arena full of thousands of people, I raised my arms up and bitterly wept as I asked God to help heal Andrey and the after-math of his trauma.  After the concert, I asked Roman what he prayed for and he said it was between him and God. I assumed it was for Andrey as well. Come to find out, 40 weeks later we welcome Jonah into the world. Roman now always jokes and takes credit for our little miracle, but we know that God had truly heard the humble prayer of a husband who so-badly held on to the hope that his wife would experience pregnancy and child-birth, even when she gave up all hope and God answered. Boy did he answer! He came through and even sent him a son that looks like him.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Welcome Back

Well hello there! First of all, if you are reading this post, thank you! It has been a while. A long while. I started this blog six years ago to openly share my struggles with infertility and some insight into our adoption story. A year and a half after our kids Andrey and Katya joined our family, we found out we were pregnant.  After nine years of struggling with infertility, this was truly a miracle and I'm excited to dedicate a separate post to share about my pregnancy and how I found out I was pregnant in the near future. Once I was pregnant, I felt like I no longer had authority or the right to speak about infertility or share about my parenting struggles, adoption difficulties or any of the treacherous run ends I had with my faith over the last few years. In other words, a lot of changes around here, yet an equal amount of blessings and I did not know how to make sense of it. I felt as though I had no right to complain or vent about any of the difficulties, because God had sent this miracle into our lives. After some much-needed reflection,  I've decided to start blogging again. I've truly missed writing and mostly miss the therapeutic relief that came from sharing my thoughts, experiences, prayer requests, etc. I realize now that putting my thoughts on paper is affordable therapy and it keeps me accountable for my feelings in some odd way.

Let me tell you friends, parenting is not what I thought it would be, some things have pleasantly surprised  me, and others have horrified me and have brought out sides of my personality that I didn't know existed. Adoption is SO different than I thought it would be. Being a stay at home mom is SO much more exhausting than I anticipated. This faith thing is more challenging than I expected. Moving forward, I'd love to share how are family is doing, our pregnancy and birth story, my health journey before and after pregnancy, some unsolicited parenting advice and reflection, raw venting from someone who has been thrown into the trenches of parenting three kids in a matter of two years and hopefully some encouraging words. So stay tuned and let me know if there is anything specific you'd like me to write about. For now, I hope you are having a great start to your new year.

Thank you all for stopping in. I am humbled by those that have written or emailed me asking me to update my blog. Thank you for your encouragement.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

PCOS - The Struggle is Real

CAUTION: This post is about women’s health, PCOS and infertility issues. If you don’t want to read about periods, body-image and so on, stop right here! If you continue to read on, please remember you were fairly warned.

I've been doing a lot of soul searching lately. After becoming a mother, I've tried to look at the areas of my life I can improve and I've realized that although I've had a good grasp on most things, the one thing I could never seem to get a handle on has been my health. I have avoided facing this issue head on because any time I ask additional questions, go to doctor’s appointments, or decide to research new information online, I hit a wall of frustrations and it reminds me of a deep dark place I had been a few years after being diagnosed with PCOS, Endometriosis and infertility. This is a place where I feel I have no control and very little understanding. I've managed to have a positive attitude about most things in life, but I've fooled myself into believing if I don’t focus on my health, my issues will somehow eventually go away. When I think about my declining health over the years, it makes me feel like a failure. I hate the fact that my body doesn't do what God intended it to do. I've avoided sharing this post for many months because I’m embarrassed and scared of exposing my true insecurities. The truth is once I truly face my prognosis, I feel defeated. Hopeless. Angry. I’m trying to take a different approach for once. I want to be proactive and face my condition head on.  The first step of this is acceptance. In hopes of helping someone else who may be struggling with medical issues, I've decided to recap a bit of my history and how I was diagnosed.

  Before getting married, I had never struggled with any major health concerns, other than the occasional cramps and headaches.  Although I had never had exactly 28 days between cycles, I  had a cycle every 4-5 weeks. After about 9 months of marriage, my periods became less frequent and we had been convinced we must have been pregnant. I had felt drowsy, tired, bloated and was gaining weight rapidly.  After about 6 months of hit-or-miss cycles, 30 extra pounds of weight and stomach cramps, it was time to see the doctor. Eventually after numerous appointments, an additional 15 pounds and severe pelvic pain, I was diagnosed with PCOS and endometriosis. My OBGYN had said I had a small chance of ever getting pregnant naturally, because of how severe my symptoms were. I had never heard of Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome but I learned it was a condition in which levels of the hormones are out of balance. Not only would I be faced with infertility, but the additional symptoms that I had been warned about were cysts on ovaries, heart disease, diabetes, high-cholesterol, unwanted hair growth, acne, obesity and endometrial cancer.  That was a bitter pill to swallow. I quickly learned there was no known cause of PCOS and no cure and my case was quickly severe. Since being diagnosed over 6 years ago, I've been pre-diabetic and have had surgery to remove the 30+ cysts and endometriosis I had on my ovaries. After surgery, I was able to find natural remedies for managing pain and preventing cysts growth but the few times in the last years I’ve gotten a period are worth celebrating. #PCOSProblems #DreamingofPMS
A few weeks after our wedding

This may sound shallow, but I think the most difficult part of dealing with PCOS in the first few years was dealing with my body-image after I had gained 45 pounds in a matter of 9 months. I was #stillAM terrified of being perceived as a couch potato and someone who lacks self-control. I have to admit that I may have had one too many pizzas and lattes in the last few years to contribute to my weight gain, but it all spiraled out of control with my hormone issues. I learned my appearance was extremely important to me and I hated the person I had become. Thankfully God has shown me he loves me despite of my weight and has sent people in my life who feel the same way.  Later in my journey, it hit that infertility was truly going to be a problem and coping  with infertility has been a process of its own (I spoke about this in my previous posts).  At this point, I've accepted the side effects, although unpleasant, but I’m fed up with feeling helpless. I don’t want to go down this slippery slope and I've decided it’s time I take control and responsibility and fight this condition. I want to be the healthiest person I can be, even if that looks or feels different than others. I need to embrace that I can change the statistics. I can prove the doctors wrong.  PCOS, infertility or insulin resistance don’t have to define me. I have three people in my life who think the world of me and they are worth fighting for. I want to be proactive about my health, and take back control, once and for all. I’ll follow up with additional posts explaining how I’m going to do that and write about my progress in the future.

Have you ever struggled with health concerns that made you feel helpless or overwhelmed? How did you tackle them? 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

272 Days Later

It’s been 272 days since we landed on American soil as a new family of four. 2014 is behind us and to say 2014 was a whirlwind for our family would be a gross understatement. When reflecting on the year, it was the most traumatic, unnerving, costly, stressful, exhausting yet GLORIOUS year yet, and I have some unwanted grey hairs to prove it #thankfulforhaircolor. 2014 was truly epic! For the first time in seven years, I was able to cross off my “Become a Mom” New Year’s Resolution. Hallelujah!!!

I’ve been horrible about writing lately, partly because I’ve been busy with my jobs, mommy job and accounting job but also because we were in stage three of adoption bonding, commonly known in the adoption community as the spaz out/meltdown phase #soexhausting. Well I’m thrilled to announce stage three, the triage phase, is mostly behind us. We’ve stopped the bleeding and the vitals are looking good.  Stage three was so exhausting. Oops, I already said that.  I felt like I was a failure as a parent and there were times I wondered if our son would ever see past his anger and grief.  Now we are joyfully entering stage four – rehab.  God has been good to us and we are seeing the sun light shine through the clouds and boy, do I love sunshine! We have a ton of work ahead of us, as we teach them to cope, manage their frustrations, feel secure, find self-worth and tackle their education, but we feel incredibly blessed to have made so much progress in the last few months.

Even more exciting, is for the first time in the last 272 days, I feel content. I don’t feel frustrated or guilty for not meeting my own made-up fascinations of what type of mom I need to be. For the first time, Andrey has went off to school with a large smile on his face and gave me a hug and kiss before leaving. For the first time, I’m not comparing my children to anyone else, adopted or bio.  I can also admit for the first time, I am extremely proud to parent two creative, witty, strong-willed, loving, outgoing, determined, brave, caring and joyful children. I have made a lot of mistakes in the last 272 days, but as I look at the wide-eyed smiles on my kiddos, I feel content that I must be doing something right. With God’s help, I have the family I have always dreamed of.  I have three people in this world that adore me more than I deserve, my children’s health has seen phenomenal improvement, I have my dream job of being a mom and  I live in a country that is safe from warfare. Moments of pure bliss are common in my home and I have God to thank for that.  God has been with us every step of the way. Taking that first leap of faith over three years ago has proven to be extremely rewarding. I’m looking forward to see what God has in store for our family in the coming year and hope we can make it as memorable as the last.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Life Changing Moments - Our Adoption Journey

Okay friends, the pity party is over! It's time to prepare for the many, way more enjoyable, parties that await us in the holiday seasons. As thanksgiving approaches, I find myself thinking of all God has provided for us in the last year and how His protective hand has been over us in the last year. This year could be summed up by so many life changing moments that showed me how miraculous and powerful God really is in my own life. Some of those moments are when we got the call to pack our bags and leave for Ukraine to pick up our children, when we arrived in Kiev and saw the devastating aftermath of the Maidan revolution, when we met our daughter for the first time, when the judge officially pronounced me to be the mom of Andrey and Katya and most of all, the moment we landed on American soil, complete as a family. We had made it out of Donetsk unharmed and our family had doubled in size. The overwhelming amount of emotions I felt in that moment will be engraved in my mind forever. God had provided a victory! The moment that had kept me going through the crippling fear, anxiety and stress came to fruition. We were all finally safe and ready to walk into the loving arms of our family and friends. I'm so grateful our friend was able to capture this moment to share with our children. This isn't a professional video, but it's by far my favorite video of all time, because it's a symbol of what we have to be grateful for, not only this Thanksgiving, but many more to come!