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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!

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Pity Party

First and foremost, I’d like to apologize for my inconsistent and infrequent blog posts. I could make excuses all day long about my not having enough time, being a working mom, juggling the kiddos schedule  and finding time to reconnect with my husband, but I know deep inside those are all just that, excuses… The reality is when I put my thoughts on paper, or in type, they all of a sudden become very real and I’m not always ready to face the reality of my emotions and feelings. I’ve come to the realization that I’ve been scared to share the truth about what’s really going on in this head of mine. You see, when you adopt, people are always telling you how amazing you are, how they think you are practically saints and although that is so kind, I also have become very aware of this false image that people have painted of me, and I’m terrified to let them down.  The truth is we are ordinary people, with tons of flaws and we are just starting to figure out this whole parenting thing. We make mistakes daily and I am always aware of the fact that I need to work on myself, that I am still being molded and mended. Don't ­­­­forget we are all human and nine times out of ten, we face the same struggles in various areas of our lives.

Confession:  I’m breaking my own rules over here. I’m always telling people how the worst thing you can do for yourself is have a pity party. Well guess who’s having a pity party this week and feeling bad about it? I've been comparing my children and my parenting to everyone else’s. No bueno! I know better than that, but I can’t help it. Here are the things I’ve been struggling with:

  •       I’ve been feeling sorry for myself because I haven’t had the opportunity to raise my kiddos from birth, like most moms, which I feel puts my children at a disadvantage. This especially happens when we get bad news at Katya’s doctor’s appointments, which for a while, were weekly visits. If it wasn’t an ulcer, a parasite, staff infection, ear infection, it’s been hip dysplasia and birth defects. Anyhow, every time I hear about another issue I begin to resent others who had perfectly healthy kids and complain about nonsense issues, like the color of their hair and the size of their nose.  I completely understand this is unfair, but once again, not always rational in moments and far from perfect. The good news is despite of all these physical and psychological challenges, Katya is the most optimistic kiddo I’ve ever met.  I wish I could have protected her from all these physical ailments and given her the medical attention she deserved, but I’m also grateful to have medical insurance and access to Shriners Hospital, who can help us bring her into good health.

  •        I’ve quicky realized my kids aren’t going to be like all the other kids we hang out with, or most kids in general. This week was parent teacher conference time at my son’s school. While other parents were beaming with joy over their child’s straight A’s,  honor roll and student of the month, we were relieved our 4th grader has managed to count to 20 and has learned basic addition. Most of the year, our homework sessions have ended in either or both Andrey and I in tears. It’s been tough. Katya has her own struggles as well. The preschoolers at Katya’s school are celebrating how nicely they write and sound out the letters of the alphabet and 7 weeks into school I’m still trying to get my daughter to call the Teacher by name instead of yelling “Hey!”. Just when I think we made progress, I pick her up from school and ask, “Katya, what is your teacher’s name? She says with a huge smile on her face “Miss Doggy!” Oh Vey! I feel like the more I realize how far behind our children are, the more work I realize I have to do to get them to be normal functioning adults one day, and the truth is I’m already getting burned out and overwhelmed from the physical and emotional needs, that I don’t feel l have anything left for their educational needs. I feel like they will always be carrying around the damage that was done to them by their past. It sucks and it’s not fair that they are already at such a disadvantage in life. Also, selfishly, I’ve always been a go getter and have made my parents proud in my accomplishments and I become a bit jealous that others will be proud of their children, showing them off to the world,  while I try to rush out of church, hoping my kids don't dig in people's purses for candy and ask complete stranger if they can please have their Ipod. Like seriously, this is hard work!

  •             I feel like I’m too hard on my kids, but I don’t know how to change. First of all, I wish I was a more graceful parent. I’m not the calm and collected mom I envisioned I would be. I struggle between making sure they know the rules and I'm consistent with follow through and feeling like they really may not know better. In my defense though, I don’t think I was fully aware of how difficult it would be to parent an older child. We knew to some extent it would be difficult to parent an 11 year old who has been institutionalized the majority of his life, I still feel the books should have said in bold and underlined… WARNING, THIS WILL TEST YOUR LAST BIT OF PATIENCE… PROCEED WITH CAUTION! Don’t get me wrong, if we knew how difficult it would be, it still would not have changed our decision, but I think I would have had set different expectations. The truth is Andrey is doing amazing for the short period of time he’s been in a family environment, I think I’m the one who is failing. I always say I feel like we've hit the jackpot as far as international adoption go, but I can’t let go of my standards and my expectations. Roman constantly reminds me that we need to set different bench marks for our kiddos, but I guess the over-achiever in me doesn't want to accept that. I’m working through this and hope God guides me through this process.

Comparison is a road that leads to know where but resentment, jealousy, anger, etc. A friend of mine recently shared a quote with me, “comparison is the thief of contentment.” This is so true! I’m not entirely sure how I’ll work through these issues, but I think God will come through and change me through this process. I’ve realized I don’t have much grace for mistakes but I have to constantly remind myself of how much grace God has shown me in my life. I’m definitely far from deserving of the magnitude of blessings that surround me each day, yet God still pours out his love and compassion. Too bad I haven’t made a lot of time for devotionals or reading God’s word, or I bet I’d be doing much better #workinprogress. Have you ever struggled with comparing yourselves to others? How'd you work through it?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Infertility After Adoption

The last few weeks have been very eventful, my sister-in-law and one of my best friends had babies, both beautiful and healthy little princesses. As my kids have observed these gals going from a forty-one week belly, to a newborn in their hands, it has sparked their curiosity. Andrey asked me some very difficult questions about how children are made (I think it’s time for the birds and the bees talk) and Katya has become obsessed with babies and has asked for a new lyalya (baby doll) of our own. I love that my kids are getting to experience and observe the beauty of God bringing a new little miracle into the world, well knowing this may be as close to the experience as they’ll get. Although I’ve mostly celebrated the many pregnancies and babies around the last few months, every once in a while, a bit of baby fever will come over me.

As I’ve thought about my infertility after adoption, I’ve been able to recognize why it still hurts at times. In addition to preventing you from conceiving and bearing a child “like everyone else,” infertility can lower your self-esteem. No matter how accomplished you may be in other areas, once you begin to battle the specter of infertility, it is easy to see yourself as a failure. And even after you “move on” with your life, the fact that you are infertile can weigh you down.

When the doctors told me I would probably never conceive a child, I felt like such a failure as a woman, I mean, I worked hard all my life to accomplish what I wanted. In the past, if I saw something I wanted, I went for it and if I worked hard enough, 99% of the time, I was able to achieve it. But the one thing that I wasn’t supposed to have to work at [conceiving and bearing a child] is impossible for me. Coming to grips with that was very hard. It’s still a sore spot for me at times, but the big difference is now I know God writes our story and we don’t always know what’s best. Of course as I’ve grown in my faith, it became more clear to me that God allowed me to be successful in other areas of my life, it wasn’t through my effort or determination, but only through his grace and blessings that I was able to accomplish anything at all.

As I write this post, I am also grateful for my infertility. As I look back on the last 7 years of my life, I know if it weren’t for the trials God allowed in my life, I probably wouldn’t experience the joy and blessing of parenting two sweet (and unique) children through the gift of adoption. As a matter of fact, if it weren’t for God’s intervention, Andrey and Katya may not even be alive today. Shortly after our adoption, both of their Donetsk orphanages were seized by terrorists and the children were disbursed all over the place, some were transferred to Russia and others just fell off the grid. So although infertility still stings a bit, I know God has everything under control. Luckily, when I do sense baby fever coming over my, I’m able to get my dose of babies these days and there’s nothing I love more than holding baby Chloe and Alexandra. There’s something about holding a precious little one that restores your faith in humanity and leaves you in awe of God’s pure and innocent creation.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Confessions of a New (Adoptive) Mom

These days, I am in awe of how these wonder moms seem to have it all together. I don’t know if it’s just an image they put out there on social media, but I sure can’t seem to keep up with cleaning, cooking, bathing, grooming, working and up keeping my social life very well. Instead of acting like I have it all figured out, I’m going to confess a few things, that I’m ashamed and surprised of as a new mom who is still learning to adjust to her new role. I know you may judge me, but I promised I’d be honest, so here it goes…

     1)   I knew parenting would be hard. I knew adoption would make parenting harder. I didn't know the hardest part would be the whirlwind of emotions and utter exhaustion that comes with parenting two, very different and determined kids.

2) I have moments when I am filled with bitter anger towards my children's birthmom and her crappy decisions. I'm mostly upset at the fact that her decisions have complicated my children's lives and they have to deal with the repercussions of her decisions. Katya and Andrey both have physical and emotional ailments that are clearly side effects of substance abuse.  Praise God Almighty they are extremely determined and don't let these things define or hinder them.

3) I have moments when I'm so grateful that Andrey and Katya's birth-mom decided to give them life and didn't go for the much too popular decision of aborting. As hectic as our lives are now, I can't imagine it any other way or without them in our lives.

4) I thought I would be more appreciated. Do Andrey and Katya appreciate us? Yes, of course. But somehow that doesn’t always translate into being obedient and grateful children. In turn, when they are making bad decisions, I feel like they aren’t appreciative. I'm sure this is partly because they did not have the childhood they should’ve had. Or maybe it’s just because Andrey is a preteen going through a whole lot of change and talking back is a must. (This seems to be common in kids of all ages, and quite frankly, in some adults.)

5) This is a big one... and I can’t believe I’m writing this, but here goes full disclosure…I dread going to church now. Before mommy hood, Sunday was my favorite  day of the week. I now feel anxious on the Sunday drive, hoping Andrey doesn't get too excited and bite someone (playfully, not out of anger) and Katya doesn't have an accident and ruin her carefully ironed outfit. Andrey and Katya seem to both be on their worst behavior during church and I feel like I only catch 10% of the message. This is certainly getting better, but it's a work in progress.

6) There are times I feel like I'm failing. I can't seem to get around to vacuuming the house for the 4th time in one day, let alone try to teach my kids their letters or numbers. I feel like I had these expectations of the mother I wanted to be, the one who only feeds her children the best organic food, teaches them a few Bible verses a week, etc. I feel like for every five steps we take forward, we end up taking many steps back. I just pray God gives me the wisdom to get through this season gracefully.

7) Both of our kiddos have some side effects from being institutionalized for the majority of their lives. The truth of the matter is, it can get really ugly and emotional when seeing your child deal with the trauma of their pasts. When they are having an outburst, I go through a wide spectrum of emotions. Sometimes I have to hold myself back from yelling at them and demanding they stop over-reacting, and other times I feel so much pain and sorrow for them I just cry beside them while they are falling apart. We are working through these things as a family and we know God has the power to heal their wounds.

8) Somedays, after waking up at the crack of dawn, I find myself very tempted to give Andrey the Ipad for a few hours while Katya naps, so I can catch some zzzs. Fortunately, I still resist the urge most of the time, but boy does that nap sound great!

9) There are times I cry like a baby from pure joy, despite of all the struggles. Sometimes Andrey and Katya will say or do something so sweet, I will hold back tears of joy, because I can’t believe I'm a mom. I dreamed of these moments since being a young teen and once lost hope I'd ever have the honor of being someone's mom. I sometimes baby Katya and rock her to bed, and while she sleeps I just weep. How is it that I’m lucky enough to be her mom? Why does God think I’m strong enough to be a mom to these precious human beings who have so much to learn still? I am often overwhelmed with the fact that God loves us more than I love these children, regardless of our faults. He adopted me into and is my father. How amazing is that?

10) I confess that most of the time, I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing. Everyone thinks I have it all together -- good wife, good mom -- but I really don't. I'm ready to stop trying to be perfect and just be real. Can anyone relate?

Monday, July 7, 2014

8 Weeks Later

I'm sorry I've been a bit MIA lately, juggling my new role as mommy-of-two has had me in a bit of a whirlwind. Looking back now, our entire journey to Ukraine and back seemed like a bad nightmare and we are now finally recuperated and adjusting to our new family. I've been fortunate enough to stay home with our kiddos as they adjust to their new country and new family. I can go on and on about how they are adjusting (the good, the bad and the ugly) but I'll share about those struggles in a later post. For now, let me start with a few highlights of the last few weeks and give you a chance to get to know the two newest members of the Kravchuk clan:

- Andrey and Katya are both obsessed with dogs, literally obsessed! Katya has a fake dog she carries around and calls Milo (in honor of our friend Dana's dog). She takes her role as a toy-dog owner very seriously, she proceeds to feed, walk and put Milo down for naps daily, after singing him a few lullabies of course. Andrey isn't quiet as mesmerized but our toy dog and asks me when we will get a "real" dog a few times weekly. 

-Andrey asks me daily "мама, почему ми такая щасливая семя?" (Mom, why are we such a happy family?) I never know the right way to answer this, but usually try to explain that God loves us and many people have prayed for us over the last year. 

Andrey and Katya's bond is unbelievable, considering they've only known each other for 8 short weeks. Andrey will often wake up, brush her teeth, change her, brush her hair and tell me his sister needs breakfast. He is a wonderful big brother and it melts my heart to see their bond. Katya only refers to Andrey as Andruyshka and is always concerned of his whereabouts, especially on school days. 

- Katya is pretty easy to win over with either candy, a phone, dog , music, something shiny, etc. You get the picture. She is a girly girl, who loves taking pictures, shopping and trying in clothes, but she isn't afraid to get her hands dirty either. This girl will fight for herself if needed. She has a big heart and automatically falls in love with anyone who loves her back and after meeting someone new and spending some time with them, she'll usually tell me the remainder of the day "Мама, Jimmy Катю любить!" (Jimmy loves Katya!) She will smile from ear to ear and tell me how many people love her. I love that she grasps the fact that she is loved by so many.

- Andrey and Katya both share an undeniable love for music! Katya is always air drumming along to the music in the car and both beg to listen to music on my phone. Andrey asked us a few days after his arrival in the US "why does everyone on the radio talk about Caleb so much?" Caleb is Andrey's cousin. Roman and I both chuckled and explained how the radio station is K-love. Needless to say, K-love is his favorite station and he now literally knows every song they play on the station by heart. 

- Andrey went to summer school a few weeks ago and since has a whole new vocabulary of English words that we are now only get accustomed to. The other day our neighbor came over and Andrey totally had a conversation with him. I was dumbfounded! He asked how he was doing, where his dog was (of course) and told him Roman was at work. In Andrey's words "oh my hoodness, what you dooinh?" 

-Katya and her box... One day after a trip to Costco, Katya asked if she could play with one of the remaining cardboard boxes. Of course she could.  At the time I did not realize this would become a valuable piece of real estate to a 4 year old girl with a wild imagination. Katya now believes this simple cardboard box is her home and she spends 75% of her time in this box. She carefully lays out her blankets, arranges her favorite toys and then proceeds to lay in this box (knees almost touching her head) for a few hours daily. She carries this thing around the house all day long. As we were driving home from Los Angleles this weekend, I asked her what she missed most about home, without any hesitation, she said "my box!" I should have known. I made the mistake of replacing this cardboard box for a newer upgraded model, but she would not have it! She walked around the house poking in the closets looking for her old box. 

To conclude, sometimes it's hard not to dwell on the fact that we missed out on a huge portion of our childrens' lives, but we are enjoying getting to know them better each day. It's really exciting discovering a new part of their personality, a new like, dislike, dream or fear of theirs daily. Right now they are like onions and we are peeling their layers one day at a time. It isn't always easy but it sure is a ton of fun and we are constantly overwhelmed by God's goodness.