Sometimes it feels like life isn’t just throwing a few lemons at you but instead is dropping a new basket full at your door step every. single. day and now you are drowning in 2 tons of lemons. Those are the seasons I call survival-mode. It feels as if for weeks or even months you are hanging on to life by your fingertips just waiting to either fall or miraculously be saved.
Not too long ago I was in the longest survival-mode season of my life. It lasted almost 2 years, yes you read that right, 2 years. It was a long, long, long 2 years. When I think back on all the life that happened just in those two years I’m surprised I made it through without prescription meds and I’m totally not joking.
So, lets rewind 2 years. In March of 2016 we got the joyful news that I was pregnant with our second child and we couldn’t have been happier. Not only were we adding a member to our family but in just 2 days’ time we were leaving California and moving to Oregon. It was a fun adventurous time for us and we couldn’t wait to see what laid ahead. Little did we know there were some huge pot holes in the road ahead and boy, were we in for a surprise.
It all started the day I turned 6 weeks pregnant. Morning sickness hit me like a freight train and I was the lucky one that got morning sickness ALL. DAY. LONG. It was miserable and I was keeping nothing down. I finally went to the ER one night and got a prescription for some anti-nausea medicine. I went home that evening and finally got some sleep. Unfortunately, I woke up to a world of more symptoms. Surprise! I had the flu for the first time in probably 10 years and it just so happened to be at the same time I got morning sickness. The combination was as pleasurable as a massage with sand paper. Eventually the flu went away but morning sickness stuck around till I was about 33 weeks pregnant and even after that I was still throwing up about 3 mornings each week.
Not only did I have the longest bout of morning sickness, but I was also in the ER 3 different times and was diagnosed with placenta previa at 22weeks. That is where your placenta attaches directly over your cervix, meaning if you go into labor you will bleed and a side effect of that can be death. No biggie right. Luckily, it can move with the growing of your womb, but you have to have multiple ultrasounds to monitor and make sure it moves out of the way enough to have a vaginal birth or it’s an automatic C-section.
So, after two visits to the ER, conflicting opinions by my midwife and the OB, 2 more ultrasounds with little improvement, and the overwhelming anxiety attacks I decided to break up with my midwife and have a hospital birth.
By the grace of God my placenta moved just enough, and I was able to have a vaginal birth with absolutely no complications. Unfortunately, at the beginning of October, less than 2 months before baby was due, my husband was let go from his job. Not sure why, but both times I was pregnant my husband was let go from his current position. Didn’t help that we have moved so much that most of the time he is one of the first to be let go when work slows down. Just a price we have had to pay for our lifestyle.
After a few interviews my husband was offered a position at a local state park, but there was a catch. Part of his position required us to live on site in a travel trailer. We spent some time praying about it and decided why not. It was free rent and utilities on top of an hourly wage, so we just couldn’t pass it up. Our kids were young, and these are the times to take a chance and go on an adventure, so we did.
There were aspects of it that were really good, and it was defiantly an adventure, but in all honesty, if I had the choice I would never do it again. It’s just not for me. A couple months after we moved into the trailer I would go stand in our storage unit and look at all our stuff and I would just start crying. I missed my stuff, bad and it didn’t help that I was 8 months pregnant at the time.
Well a few days before Thanksgiving our sweet baby girl was born. Her birth experience was the easiest part of those two years. My whole labor and delivery was half the amount of time as my first and this time around I got an epidural. It was MAGICAL! Truly and completely magical!
Well, after she was born we noticed she nursed a little different than our first, not too bad so we ignored it. Then at three weeks old we found a very large lump, the size of a quarter, on the side of her neck. That may seem like it’s not that large but remember she was only 3 weeks old and only 8lbs at the time. So, even though it was only the size of a quarter it looked ginormous on her tiny little body.
The next morning, we took her to the doctor and he was baffled. Now let me paint a better picture for you. She was only 3 weeks old meaning I was only 3 weeks post-partum. If you have had kids you understand how difficult this season is already, not including the addition of medical issues, so my emotions were already on the brink of exploding.
As we sit in the doctor’s office watching him examine her neck with a complete baffled look on his face and uttering confused umms over and over again, I lost it. I’m holding her with tears streaming down my face fighting to breath. My sweet newborn baby girl has a large lump on her neck and my one and only thought is cancer and the doctor (not our normal doctor) looks over at me, tilts his head and asks, “Are you struggling with postpartum depression?” I can’t even answer him I’m crying so hard. Luckily, I was holding our daughter, or I would have slapped the man. My sweet husband looks at the doctor like he is stupid and says, “No. She is freaking out because our newborn baby girl has a lump on her neck and you have no answers for us.” He turned back to his computer and ordered blood work, x-rays, and an ultrasound and we were sent over to the local hospital.
On the drive over my heart is pounding, I can’t stop praying, and the tears just keep coming. After an hour at the hospital we went in for the final test, the ultrasound. After the initial examiner did the ultrasound she called in the doctor because the hospital’s policy is to have the doctor to do a live ultrasound themselves when it has to do with any kind of lump or bump.
After only a minute or two he turned around and his first words were, “Good news, its benign.” Instantly I knew it was a tumor and lost it once again. My child, my perfect, sweet, innocent newborn baby has a tumor. WHY? The doctor started to reassure me that everything was ok and that he was 100% confident that it was benign, meaning non-cancerous. He said he had only ever seen this one other time in his 40+ years as a doctor. She had what is called Fibromotisiscoli.
It’s normally caused by a dramatic birth or the way the baby is positioned in the womb. Since her birth was so smooth and textbook we are assuming it was because of her position in the womb. We were told it caused strain on her neck and resulted in some damage to a muscle. Shortly after birth a tumor formed on top of the damaged muscle. In these cases, with proper physical therapy the body will, most of the time, reabsorb the tumor by the time the child turns 1.
So, we started her immediately in physical therapy 2 times a week. Remember at this time we are living in a trailer at a state park so going to physical therapy was 45minutes away and I had to do it 2x a week. These appointments were horrible. Tawni hated them, and when I say hated I’m not being dramatic. She cried hysterically the entire time. It took 2 months of twice weekly appointments for her to get just 10minutes of physical therapy in and even that was hard to get most of the time. I started taking her to a craniosacral therapist myself and that is where she started to make large strides but now it was a third appointment I was going to each week.
In the midst of these twice weekly appointments Tawni completely changed. At 6 weeks old she started crying ALL. THE. TIME. We tried everything, and nothing was working. We were truly baffled. I was getting little sleep at night and I had begun to notice my milk supply was a little low. During her 3 month check up we found out she was under weight and the doctor was concerned so he sent us to see a lactation specialist.
(Tawni 2 Weeks Old)
Just a few minutes into my appointment, the lactation specialist looked at Tawni and said, “She is defiantly tongue tied.” After watching her nurse, weighing her, examining her mouth, and doing some calculations I found out she was tongue tied, lip tied, and 5 lbs underweight and that was a low estimate.
I felt like a failure. How could I as her mom not realize what was going on. No wonder she was crying all the time, she was starving. I’d be screaming my head off too. She was already struggling to nurse because of the tumor but little did I know she was fighting with so much more. The following week we got her into a specialist and got both the tongue and lip tie released. The first time she latched after the release was a world of difference. Now the only thing she had to fight against was her tumor. I was on a strict pumping schedule to try and get my milk supply back up. If you have ever been a pumping mom you understand how much of a struggle it is. Now I was taking care of two kids, nursing every 2 hours, pumping after every nursing session and again in-between each session, going to lactation group 1-2 times a week to track her weight gain, and going to 3 different therapy appointments a week. Needless to say, I was stretched very thin.
Just one week to the day after Tawni’s tongue and lip tie were released I was on my way to town with both girls in tow to take my oldest to her first ever gymnastics class. At the time I hit a patch of snow going downhill and around a corner in my husband’s, brand new to us, pickup and slid off the road into a steep ditch and ended up rolling the truck completely upside down.
(Our truck after the accident.)
Since the truck had a ladder rack installed it took most of the beating and allowed me to still open my doors. In the middle of winter, in a foot of snow, I had to crawl out of the truck and then get both my babies out of the vehicle. They were both in 5 point harness car seats so they were perfectly safe. I got them under a tree out of the snow and then went back to the truck to get my phone.
Digging through the jumbled mess of an overturned vehicle can be chaotic. I finally manage to find my pone and unfortunately its says, “No Service.” The little knowledge I gained from watching every survival show on TV kicked in and I knew the safest thing to do was to stay put and wait for someone to drive by.
After a little while I decided to walk back towards to truck to get some water for the kids and on the way there I found 1 spot where I got only 1 bar of service, and I mean I spot. I couldn’t take a step in any direction or I lost it. I quickly call my husband. He answers the phone and I immediately say, “I got in an accident.” He asked where I was, and I was able to tell him I was still in the park before the call dropped. It was truly a devein miracle that I was able to find service because another person didn’t drive by for a full hour and I never found service again.
We get to the hospital to get checked out and I find out Tawni has thrush, no wonder my nipples had been hurting for a few days. This thrush was straight from hell because it literally took 2 prescriptions, 12 million tubes of antifungal cream, and over 4 months for it to fully clear up. I was losing my ever-loving mind and OMG my nipples hurt.
THE BREASTFEEDING BATTLE
With my first child, Lily, breastfeeding was so easy. My milk supply was great, her latch was perfect, and I never had any type of infection. With my second, Tawni, it was a completely different story. Her latch was off because of the tongue and lip tie, she couldn’t nurse well on one side because of her tumor, and the 4-month long thrush infection took a tole on my milk supply.
(Tawni 2 Weeks Old)
I started supplementing with formula at 4 months old and worked constantly to get my supply up while trying to juggle 3-5 different appointments each and every week. At 7 months old and after battling with a dropping milk supply and the thrush infection from hell, I made the hard decision to switch 100% to formula. If you have ever been in my shoes, I sincerely feel for you because I understand how hard this decision is and how it makes you feel as a mom. I cried many tears over this decision.
In August of 2017 just 2 days after my birthday my husband got up and went to work only to be fired and evicted from our home in one fell swoop. This came as a complete shock to us and the reasons for why he was fired were untrue.
When we asked for documentation we were sent from one person to another until we were finally flat out told no. We filed for unemployment, if you have ever had to file for unemployment I’m sorry because the whole process is a nightmare. The manager was bashing our character with untrue and ridiculous accusations and we decided to stand up for ourselves and get to the bottom of it. In the end, after having to go through an appeal where we actually talked with a judge on the phone, our case was ruled in our favor. This was sweet, sweet justice.
As I stated before, part of his position was that we live on site in a Fifth Wheel. So, when he lost his job we lost our home. Now we had 30 days to find a job, find a home, and somehow actually afford to move into a new place. Talk about your life getting turned upside down all in one day.
Only a few days after the eviction one of our really good friends and her mom offered for us to move in with them until we got back on our feet. This was truly a gift from God. Over the next handful of months my husband was able to land a good job and we moved into our own place in December of 2017. We got a 2 bedroom duplex with a fenced in backyard and a garage. I remember walking into the house and being totally in awe of how much space there was and over joyed that I was getting all my stuff out of storage.
THE DEATH OF A DEAR FRIEND
After we got fired and evicted I started going to a mom group every Thursday. My group’s leader was a wonderful woman, friend, and mom. Ten years before I met her she had been diagnosed with cancer. Her treatments of radiation and chemotherapy put her in remission but unfortunately left her living in chronic pain and destroyed her saliva glands, meaning she was put on a strict liquid diet.
I didn’t know any of this until the end of January 2018. She never lived within her pain she lived well beyond it. She was more active than my 4 year old and I’m not exaggerating, you never once heard her complain, and she loved Jesus and being there for others with all of her heart. During Christmas she got sick and with each passing day she got worse.
On January 1st2018 we found out that she was no longer with us. Not the way someone wants to start off the new year. I only knew her for 4 months, but that’s all it took for her to make a huge impact on my life. She made me want to be a better mom, wife, and friend.
Over the next two months I lived as if I was just waiting for the next thing to go wrong. I hadn’t realized that our season of survival mode was over. I remember the moment it all hit me. I sat there and for the first time since March of 2016 it felt like I could finally breath. It was the end of our season of survival mode and the beginning of a new chapter.
If you have followed along then you know I got in a car accident a few weeks ago. (August 2018) The two weeks following the accident felt like they went by in super speed. Every day I either had a doctor’s appointment, chiropractic adjustment, massage, acupuncture session, was messing with insurance, or car shopping. It was crazy, but I realized that during my almost 2 years of survival mode I had learned a few things and was implementing them without even realizing them.
How to Thrive In Seasons of Survival Mode
- GIVE YOURSELF GRACE | Life happens, and you can’t stop it. Sometimes life hits and it hits hard. You are left trying to put the pieces back together and that’s ok, but give yourself grace to walk this season out. So, your to do list wasn’t done and your goal wasn’t met. BIG DEAL. Give this season the attention it needs and let the other stuff go. It will be there when you come back, I promise!
- LAUGH | I’m being totally serious. Life is going to throw curve balls at you. Things are not always going to go as planned. Laugh at it and see what happens. Most of the time it isn’t as bad as we think.
- MAKE SELF-CARE A PRIORITY | To keep our stress levels low during these seasons its important to do some self-care activities. If you need some help in this area check out two of my other posts.
Everyone has their one seasons of survival mode. Some are short and last only a few weeks while some are long and last years. Some can feel depressing while others can feel as if they are taking you literally to the edge of death. I’m here to tell you that no matter what type of survival mode you are experiencing you can still thrive in it. Remember just give yourself grace, allow yourself to laugh, and practice self-care.
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