On Feeling Happy Again, Postpartum

I was "ready" for postpartum issues. I was prepared. I had my placenta encapsulated. I told myself I would ask for help (and I did). I was determined to breastfeed, even if it was hard. Since I have had anxiety issues since I was 23 years old, I knew it was a possibility that I could have them while my body sorted through the muck of my hormonal roller coaster after birth.

And despite the steps I took at preventing a postpartum anxiety issue, it came anyway, right on schedule at the six week mark. All the readiness in the world didn't truly make me ready. But I took a page from Winston Churchill and kept on going through the hell that is postpartum anxiety.

I smiled politely when people assumed and vocalized how happy I must have been, and cried later, knowing that deep down, even thought I WAS happy, my anxiety was preventing me from feeling it fully. I felt robbed. I felt scared that it might never end.

Only now is it truly hitting me how bad things were in those early days of motherhood. People kept telling me that the way I was feeling was normal...but I knew in my heart that it wasn't. Now that I am feeling better, and actually feeling my version of normal, I KNOW that what happened after my daughter was born was not your run of the mill adjustment period to parenthood. Now, nine months postpartum, I am feeling so happy; the kind of happy that I assume some mommies feel right from the start. Thank god those dark feelings did end and I found light in their wake.

The thing is that even as prepared as I was, or how many times I reached out for help in the first several months, it didn't make my feelings or anxieties go away. The best way I can describe it looking back is that there was a fog around everything I did. Around the six month mark, that fog began to lift, but before it did, I wondered almost daily if I would ever, ever get the hang of parenting. I worried that my worry might rob my daughter of anything...luckily it didn't.

I was lucky that I went straight to therapy the second I had a panic attack. I was luckier still to have a great support system who helped me to weather those very difficult first six months. But there was a moment in the last month where I realized how happy I was, and it made me realize how unhappy (riddled with anxiety) I had been before. To be honest, that kind of scared me.

It scared me because I don't know if I can do it again (i.e., having more children.) It scared me because I know that there are other women out there who are being told that what they feel is normal postpartum stuff when, in fact, it's not normal. I was scared because I realized how in my own head I had become in those months...wrecked with worry about dying, or my daughter being hurt, etc.

The good news is that it does get better. If you are having postpartum issues, know that the fog will lift, you will feel happy again and you can weather this emotional shit storm that is descending upon you. It sucks to be "the mom" with the postpartum issues. I built up a resentment in many ways, toward the people that kept telling me it was "the best time of life" or that I looked happy, toward my husband who was having fun, toward other mothers who didn't have this issue. They didn't know. Heck, there were times even I didn't know!

What I can say now is that around the six month mark, things became fun again. Life became more vivid. And here, at about nine months, I truly am having the best time of my life. I feel happy again, and it's amazing. Part of letting go of the frustration of PPD or postpartum anxiety (or both, god forbid) is being able to acknowledge it. At least I've gotten there and I'm moving beyond. These days, I am having the type of fun I had hoped I would have in the beginning, and for me, that's enough to make each day special and wonderful.

Have you had experience with postpartum depression, anxiety, or OCD? Feel free to share in the comments section below. Please keep in mind that you never know who you might be helping by sharing your story. 

Stuff I Use: Bragg Vinegar [With The Mother]

I like to keep things as simple as I can. When it comes to taking medicine, I am definitely a less is more type of gal, which is why I like easy home remedies. Some people might consider taking vinegar every day to be homeopathic, and in some ways, I guess it is. But for me, it's more of a routine than anything else...sort of like oil pulling.

Yes, I take a shot of vinegar daily. And so should you. Fermented foods are good for you and your gut. {CLICK HERE to purchase Bragg Vinegar for cheap on Amazon!}

Now of course, I am not a doctor. I am no where near qualified to give any type of medical advice, so if you feel that you need medical advice, you should see a doctor. But I am a human person with the power of observation. So there's that. I have noticed that taking a shot of vinegar daily really helps me in a lot of ways.

It keeps the yeast at bay
Yea, I know, it's a bit of a personal subject. But I've birthed a baby, so my dignity remains unaffected by talking about yeast. I get nasty sugar cravings these days, which I know doesn't help matters. But I am also just plain sensitive and prone to yeast infections. A shot a day keeps the yeast at bay. Plain and simple. It has to do with the probiotics in the fermented vinegar. Can yogurt do the same thing? Maybe...if you want to ingest dairy and all the sugar that comes along with it (no thanks!)

Keeps my gut in check
I firmly believe it helps keep my digestion in a healthy balance. When I've got an upset tummy from eating dairy, or for any reason, I take a shot of vinegar and it sets me straight.

Possible heartburn solution
I don't really get heartburn, but my mom does. Whenever she comes over with heartburn, we take shots of Bragg Vinegar and she thinks it really helps. So, you can give this a try if you have heartburn--it can only help.

Immunity booster
Since I began breastfeeding, I have felt that my immune system has been more vulnerable. Fermented apple cider vinegar helps balance ph levels in the body (a reason is also helps with yeast infections), making the body more alkaline. Bottom line? It means that disease/illness is less likely to thrive. I feel it makes a difference! And when I'm feeling unwell, I add an extra shot to my nightly routine.

So what about you? Do you  take Bragg vinegar as part of your health routine? What benefits do you notice? Leave your experience in the comment section below!


A Review of Pinterest Recipes

Double Berry Puff Pancake
I. Love. Pinterest. It's just the best. Part of my afternoon routine includes laying down with my daughter for her nap. She nurses, falls asleep and wakes up to nurse somewhere in the middle, so laying down with her is just the easiest and most relaxing way for me spend the time. Which means I have time for catching up on television series viewing (I'm currently on Six Feet Under--love it!) and to get on Pinterest.

From my cell phone, I can multitask by looking at Pinterest and menu planning while making my grocery list. Seriously. It saves our family so much money. It also gives me the opportunity to sift through lots and lots of recipes and try new things. And now, I can share them with you!

So here's my review of stuff I made from Pinterest.

Korean Beef Bowl
Now, anywhere that says "beef" I use venison. I don't ever miss beef. And this recipe was right up my alley--I love those Asian flavors! But I didn't serve mine over rice. Instead, I served it as a lettuce wrap, which was sooooo yummy!

Crockpot Curry Chicken 
Let me just start with this: my husband has always maintained that he doesn't like curry. But then I saw this recipe on Pinterest and I wanted it. Like, had to have it. So I lied. I told him it was "Indian chicken." He tasted it and said, "hmm....this tastes like curry, but I like it." HOLY COW! He liked the curry! This, my friends, is no small miracle. So, I would say this recipe can win the hearts and minds of even the most discerning curry tastebuds. Plus, it's easy because it's in a crockpot!

Greek Chicken
I had high hopes for this dish. I was super excited about it. But overall, it was a big letdown. There just wasn't enough flavor. I am sure I could tweak it and add flavor...but seriously, great pictures don't always mean a good recipe.

Honey Soy Chicken
Here on Delmarva, we're always looking for some good chicken recipes. And being dairy free, I am always looking for nondairy recipes. This recipe fires on all cylinders! It's pretty easy, extremely tasty and goes really well with my spicy Asian noodles! You're well on your way to a complete meal with these two dishes. YUM!

The only disclaimer I will make about this chicken? The clean up is a bit of a monkey. You'll have to soak that dish. Maybe twice. But it's worth it. I promise.

Cajun Chicken Alfredo
I love a creamy pasta dish, and I've gotten pretty good at subbing out the dairy on them now. This was no exception! And did I mention, one pot meal? Yea, I love those one pot meals--they are easy and efficient. This says it serves 4, but honestly, I could have eaten the whole pot myself! Hehe.

My advice on this one is to keep the chicken at 1 pound, and double everything else so that you don't have to leave half the box of pasta on the shelf. But hey, that's just me.

Double Berry Puff Pancake
Holy breakfast heaven. This is like a German pancake or a Dutch Baby, neither of which I had ever made before this time. This was an easy recipe and it's one of those things you can make for guests that is just brilliant. Try it. Just do it. You'll be happy as hell.

Coconut Rice Pudding 
Oh rice pudding, how I love thee. And one night last week, I had a hankering. So I had to make this recipe and I was happy. All was right in the world. This easy, nondairy, gluten free (VEGAN) recipe is delicious! My husband thought it needed more sugar, but I thought it was perfect. Difference in taste I guess. He still ate it, though. 

What Does A SAHM Do All Day?

When I became a mother, I didn't really have a lot of expectations. I thought that I would maybe work from home some, but other than that I wasn't really sure. And then she was born. At first I freaked the fuck out about work thinking that I should be working more. Then I panicked because I didn't actually feel this big desire to work (despite myself); I just wanted to hang out with my baby. What did that mean, I wondered? Finally, I moved into acceptance that even though I work from home here and there, I'm basically a stay at home mom (SAHM).

Once I grasped the realization of being a SAHM, I ran with it in my own quiet way. I was excited to find a new routine--one that worked for me and my baby. That in and of itself was a task. Slowly we fell into a morning routine, a napping routine, and even a workout routine (where applicable.) This all, of course, is subject to change at any moment given what is happening developmentally, or just in our daily schedule. 

Still, even though I had grasped that I was, in fact, a SAHM on a personal level, I had yet to shout it from the rooftops because a part of me felt ashamed. I know. I shouldn't be ashamed. I should be elated, and I am elated. It's a wonderful thing I can do for myself, my family and my child. But I am also very type A. I can do a million things at once. Currently, I am keeping an eye on my daughter, doing laundry and texting with my sister-in-law. Sometimes I think that I am falling into the feminism catch 22. Our predecessors wanted the right to have any lives they wanted, and now we can do it all.

The thing is, I don't WANT to do all of it. I just want some of it. I have written about this before, but it's never been more true in such a personal way. Sure, I am capable. I am smart. I'm not just going to sit around and sing kids songs for the rest of my days (not that there is anything wrong with that.) But all things at once? Ugh, no thanks. This is now. And now is good.

My days are full and they go by so fast. It's true what they say about babies--they grow up really quickly. And I enjoy it watching it. Even on days when it's crazy. Or messy. Or just plain upsetting. I think we have a need to over analyze. Or at least, I know that I do. I want to think about what I could be doing better, or smarter or more of. Our society breeds this type of thinking on many levels; tells us to do more and have more, be more productive. Some of that is good.

And sometimes you just have to be happy with what you have and not question if there is more. That is sort of what being a SAHM has taught me. I don't have to question or analyze each day, I only have to bask in the now and appreciate this precious time for what it is. It's different than any other experience I have had in my life, and it's wonderful. 

The question of what a SAHM does all day is one that we moms will periodically be confronted with. What we do is take care of our children. It's not relaxing, it's more than full time, and it's fleeting. It's a privilege that should be afforded to more people because I believe that they would relish it. What it's not is something to be ashamed of, or something you should be uncomfortable with. I'm lucky to have come to that quickly because it allows me more time to enjoy myself with daughter.

So how do you feel? Are you a reluctant but happy SAHM like me or was it always your calling? Do you work and feel satisfied with that? Share with me in the comments section below! 

Stuff I Use [Parenting Edition]: The Honest Company

First let me start by saying this is NOT a paid advertisement in any way. I am just honestly a fan of The Honest Company. When my daughter was born, a friend of ours gave me a gift certificate. I sat on it for an abnormally long time because frankly, I had so much stuff for my new baby daughter, I had no idea what I needed. But eventually, I did need diapers.

Let's all say that Luv's does a pretty effective job in marketing to us parents and telling us that we don't need those fancy diapers...and I think that is mostly true. Actually, I hadn't planned on using diapers at all. I had planned on cloth diapering. I didn't do it. Had 'em all, didn't do it. I just didn't. No excuses. And while I love Luv's and all, sometimes they leak. So anything was worth a try.

After ordering The Honest Company's all natural fancy pantsy diapers (with the super cute designs--gasp!), I was totally and utterly sold because they stand up to the bigger brands and do a lot better. All that, and they are cute as hell.

But they have a lot of great products that go way beyond diapers. I am also super happy with their kitchen spray and their laundry detergent. They also have a fabric spray that I really liked as well...it'll probably take me forever to use it all, but I really love it.

The only product I wasn't totally happy with was the shampoo. I enjoyed it for myself, but I don't think it was as tearless as it claimed, so it didn't work for baby. Other than that, everything else made me one happy mama! They also ship pretty quickly and give free shipping over $50, which I think we can all agree is fabulous. Oh, and did I mention that they have some pretty awesome customer service? 'Cause they sure do!

So, if you're thinking of ordering from them, I would definitely give them a whirl. I can't imagine you'd disappointed. With people being into natural products these days, I have found that I can never have enough convenient sources to buy from and this one is at the top of my list these days. You can even have them just send the diapers to your house like clockwork. So that is pretty awesome. They bundle with the wipes, which is great for most people, too.

Anyway, that's my story and I wanted to share. CLICK HERE to shop. Happy shopping! 

Peanut Butter & Jelly Granola Bars

So, about a week or two ago, I showed you a good, basic granola bar recipe (which I hope you really loved.) I also promised a tasty follow up, so here it is! I've been so into these homemade granola bars, but I have also been really into peanut butter and jelly.

The funny thing about me being into peanut butter and jelly is that I was never a fan of it as a child. I know...so weird. But pregnancy changed EVERYTHING. Now I have a sweet tooth and I've got a hankering for all things PB&J. So these bars really hit the spot for me. Oh yeah, and I've got a ton of homemade jam on hand, which works out perfectly for these, too.

You can use virtually any jam to make these--store bought or homemade. I went with blueberry jam.  You can also use this recipe for strawberry jam. Whatever jam you choose to use, you will be happy you made these truly delicious granola bars.

Now, in terms of the peanut butter, I've been experimenting. Regular peanut butter, it melts pretty well, but it just is so sweet. And I'm trying very hard to get the sugar out of my food wherever possible. So I went with an all natural organic peanut butter with no added sugar.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Granola Bars
Time: 1 1/2 hours | Makes 16 bars | Difficulty: Easy 

You will need:

1 1/4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup oat flour 
1/2 cup applesauce 
1 cup all natural peanut butter 
1/3 cup brown sugar 
1 half pint of jam, your choice 

Method: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line an 8 by 11 baking dish with parchment paper. Set aside. 

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oats and oat flour. Set aside. 

In a microwave safe bowl, combine the peanut butter and brown sugar. Microwave for 2-3 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Add the sugar/ peanut butter and applesauce to the oat mixture and mix well. 

Press 3/4 of the mixture into your prepared pan using a spatula. Spread the jam evenly over the whole thing. Crumble the remainder of the oats over the jam and then, using the spatula, press it down. 

Bake for 35 minutes on 350 degrees. 

When done, cool on a baking rack for two hours. To slice, remove the parchment paper from the pan and slice. Store in the fridge. 

Slippery Dumplings [A Sort of Recipe]

When my grandmother died, my mom and I made her lentil soup because cooking is a wonderful way to bring up good memories, and it's something active you can do. And doing is good. This week a friend of mine said that he had never had slippery dumplings. This was not surprising, but certainly something that I had to fix.

My Poppop (my father's father) passed away a week ago...and slippery dumplings was one of his favorites meals. My Mommom, also deceased, used to make it all the time. Boy did she make it well. I don't know that my Poppop ever cooked, but I do know that he could sure eat a meal, so it seemed a fitting time to make this popular dish and share it with my readers.

The funny thing about this dish is that it's very native to our geographic location. You will only find these slippery dumplings in two places: certain counties in Pennsylvania and the Delmarva Peninsula. True story. This dish is about as local as my Poppop was. He was a Sussex County man; lived his life here and was the Mayor of Georgetown (our county seat) for 27 years. He was well-liked because he was a charismatic and funny man, always ready with a joke. As a grandchild, I mostly saw was his playful side, but he was also a brigadier General, and I have the notion that he was a task master when it came to work.

My Poppop will be missed, not only by his children, grandchildren and extended family, but also by the town of Georgetown because he was, in many ways, a man of the town. This [sort of] recipe is my dedication to him.

I am calling this a sort of recipe because here's the thing about slippery dumplings: there are lots of ways to make them. More chicken, less chicken, veggies, no veggies, etc. So I want to encourage independence of thought when it comes to making your dumplings. The only hard and fast rule is that you'll need the dumplings. I can get mine at the local grocery store... but you may also order them on Amazon because I'm not sure they are available in all places.

I'm going about this a little differently than some of my other recipes, because I want to keep it loose. The basic idea is to end up with a big old pot of YUM!

Here's what I used: 

2-3 boneless skinless thighs
4 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
frozen peas
frozen corn
frozen green beans
Lawry's seasoned salt, to taste
olive oil (for frying the chicken)
1/2 box Anne's dumplings
Water
Chicken bullion (to taste)
Flour (for thickening)
Pepper, to taste

Some thoughts and suggestions: you can use vegetables, or not. I believe my Mommom only used peas in hers. Also, you could totally use rotisserie chicken. Or just white meat chicken. Whatever you fancy is the ticket. Also, I slice up my chicken, but other people cook the chicken, remove it from the pan and then shred it. No rules.

Method (sort of):

Heat oil in a pan and slice your raw chicken. Throw the chicken in the pan with the to oil and cook until done. Add your raw veggies (not the frozen) and sauté them about 5-10 minutes. Add water...now this another place you'll have to go with preference. I like to add 4-6 cups of water and later thicken it to a nice gravy.

Add the frozen veggies, chicken bullion (4 should do it, right?), and bring it all to a boil. Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, you are ready to add the dumplings. Add the dumplings 3 at a time. I do this to keep the pot at a boil as I am adding the dumplings. Once you've added about the half the package, you'll be good. Let it boil for about 10 minutes then reduce heat to simmer and cover for another 30 minutes.

If you are serving them right away, adjust seasonings and then thicken it to your liking. I like to mix a tablespoon or two of flour with water. I bring the whole pot back up to a boil, and I add my flour mixture to thicken it all into a gravy. However, if I am serving it later, I simply remove it from the heat and leave it covered. Once it's cool, you can refrigerate it and it thickens considerably with time--you may even have to add MORE water to thin it!

Now, I know there are a lot of locals out there who make this dish, and I know they have a method different from mine. I am hoping that some people will share their recipes in the comment section below!