A Failing Grade: Women's Health Issues

It was a few months after the birth of my second son when I noticed my state of mind was steadily deteriorating. Things that would normally not concern me became problems, sometimes huge problems. I was losing sleep, becoming upset over nothing, and having trouble controlling my anxiety. 

Women's Health Issues

I made an appointment with my doctor after having some recurrent, pervasive thoughts about my son drowning or being hit by a car. Sort of normal fears I guess, except I was worried I would drown him by accident, or that I wouldn't put him in the car seat and that I'd run him over. Less 'normal' fears, by my estimate. It was a difficult conversation to have, like 'hey I can't control my own brain, what can we do about it?'. 

My doctor was thoughtful and empathetic, and we decided that medication and more frequent exercise would be a good course of action. A place to start. Months later I'm fortunate enough to say that I've overcome my postpartum anxiety and have been weaned off medication. I'm happy to be past that time, but man I'm glad I got help when I needed it. 

Since experiencing my own postpartum issues I've spoken to various other women about their post-baby struggles, and I began to notice an overall theme.

No one is talking about it. Openly at least. Sure behind closed doors or with family, but publicly? Hell no. And it isn't just postpartum anxiety and depression that we aren't talking about, there is an entire slough of women's health issues that just aren't discussed. Miscarriage, infertility, menstrual issues. We can't even sit through a goddamn tampon commercial without squirming uncomfortably, so what does that say about our societal concern for the health of women?

It says a lot. And overall it says we're doing a pretty shitty job of supporting women with problems that tend to go unspoken.

I know this might come as a shock to some, but our vaginas don't just show up when someone wants to have sex with them or when we're having a baby. They are part of our physical being and they require care and consideration like any other aspect of our health. The fact that talking about a period still makes most people squeamish is worth noting. It speaks volumes. A grown ass woman feels the need to carry a purse to the bathroom to hide the fact that's she's menstruating, but no one cares when guys talk about their penises because it's funny and acceptable and normal. Start talking about vaginas however and everyone is grossed the fuck out. Funny how no one is grossed out when they're in bed together. 

When I got the news that my second pregnancy had ended in a missed miscarriage, do you know what the doctor told me? Go home and make an appointment with your family doctor.

That's it.

She looked at me with the 'oh you poor thing' pity face on and sent me home to figure it out on my own. There wasn't a resource for information or a pamphlet on what to expect. So I went home and talked to my friends that had also experienced miscarriage and prepared myself for the physical aftermath (because let me tell you it's an AFTERMATH) all by my damn self. And the terrible part is I didn't even KNOW half of my friends that had miscarried until I miscarried, because they weren't talking about it either.

Since we'd announced our pregnancy publicly already I had a lot of feedback in terms of 'oh that must have been hard since everyone knew'. 

What? It was hard because people knew? No. It was hard because I lost a fucking baby. And in fact people knowing about it and my ability to be open through the process is probably what saved me from rocking slowly in my closet with a bottle of Grey Goose (I grieve expensively, apparently). 

We don't talk about pregnancy before twelve weeks because something 'might' happen. We don't talk about miscarriage and pregnancy loss because there's a tiny part of us that's ashamed, and society is doing a fucking terrible job of alleviating that shame by telling us we shouldn't talk about what we're going through. Saying we need to keep quiet is validating that we SHOULD be ashamed; that postpartum issues and pregnancy loss needs to be swept under the carpet and whispered about because it isn't 'appropriate' to discuss.

Well fuck your appropriate. As women we deal with an incredible array of health issues due to the fact that we literally create other people. Our bodies are designed to manufacture human life (and sometimes they can't, which is another issue worthy of discussion) and that comes with a whole host of complications, and it's our job culturally to support women if they're dealing with those complications. And yeah, they're scary and uncomfortable and graphic and emotional but the ONLY THING worse than going though them yourself is going through them alone.

Women's health issues aren't shameful or disgusting or 'best kept in private'. This shroud of secrecy can be isolating and debilitating for new mothers and non mothers alike. No one should have to suffer serious mental illness or loss on their own; it isn't about 'handling' it. It's about providing support to one of our most important resources, and that's our mothers and our daughters. We are so often caregivers and supporters ourselves, I think it's time that our community returned the favour. 

Family Meal Prep - Real Life Edition

Family Meal Prep

I hate meal prepping. Almost as much as I hate Smith machines. (Google it). 

I don't like it because it's time consuming, it requires a big chunk of time, and primarily most meal prep plans involve eating the same thing all week and they only feed one person. Well that's great if you're single and you REALLY like chicken and asparagus, but for the rest of us with busy schedules and small kids it doesn't make any sense. Sure you can eek out a block of time to fill all your Tupperware, but that doesn't help much with cook time if you're still running a round the clock restaurant for demanding small people (and big people that can't cook *AHEM husbands AHEM*). 

My solution is a hybrid plan of cooking somewhat regularly, but getting the biggest bang for your buck when you do whip out the pots and pans. It's also a program that feeds the rest of your family and not just you. Pro tip: if your meal plan is so complicated or low calorie or expensive that no one else can eat it, your meal plan sucks. 

So here are my cardinal rules for eating well with a family:

  1. When you do cook, double or triple what you think you'll need. If you're going through the trouble to grill three chicken breasts, grill six.
  2. Keep frozen vegetables on hand. Nutritious and even your husband can make them. Plus they never go bad, so you can keep a variety without worrying about expiration.
  3. Eggs are your friend. Don't just eat them for breakfast. 

Here's what a weeks worth of meals would look like in our house:

Monday

  • Breakfast - Sautéed veggies with scrambled eggs (I like mushrooms). I will also grate some cheese on there occasionally. Time: 10 mins.
  • Lunch - Tuna wraps with sugar snap peas. I add hot sauce to mine to cut down on the mayo and add a bit more flavour. Alfalfa sprouts are also a tasty addition that adds volume without calories. Time: 10 mins. 
  • Dinner - Grilled or baked chicken breast with rice and frozen veggies. Here's where the meal prep happens, so double the chicken you'll need for that meal, and double the rice. Pro tip: cook the rice in chicken or vegetable stock to amp up flavour without adding calories. Time: 20 mins. 

Tuesday

  • Breakfast - Quick oats with dried cranberries. I add extra brown sugar for the kids. Time: 5 mins.
  • Lunch - Leftover chicken breast with sliced cucumbers, hummus, and crackers. Time: 5 mins.
  • Dinner - Sliced leftover chicken breast with leftover rice stir fry. I add fresh sugar snap peas and bean sprouts with a little soy sauce. Time: 10 mins. 

Wednesday

  • Breakfast - Fried eggs and toast. Time: 10 mins.
  • Lunch - Leftover stir fry. Time: 5 mins.
  • Dinner - Turkey bolognese spaghetti. Cook ground turkey, add pasta sauce and a few frozen veggies. Serve over preferred pasta. If I'm watching carbs I eat more meat sauce and very little pasta. Egg noodles would also work. Time: 10 mins.

Thursday

  • Breakfast - Chocolate protein pancakes. I double up so we can eat them two mornings in a row. Time: 10 mins.
  • Lunch - Leftover turkey spaghetti. Time: 5 mins.
  • Dinner - Bacon and eggs. Time: 10 mins.

Friday

  • Breakfast - Leftover chocolate protein pancakes. Time: 5 mins.
  • Lunch - Beef jerky, cut up veggies, sliced cheese, and cashews. Time: 5 mins.
  • Dinner - Beef fajitas. Cook double the steak you'll need and slice into strips. Time: 20 mins.

Saturday

  • Breakfast - Leftover steak and eggs. Time: 10 mins.
  • Lunch - Rolled up tortillas with peanut butter, washed bag salad. Time: 5 mins.
  • Dinner - Frozen thin crust pizza. Because pizza. Time: 10 mins.

Sunday

  • Breakfast - Scrambled eggs and hashbrowns. Make extra hashbrowns. Time: 10 mins.
  • Lunch - Bag salad with chopped hardboiled eggs and sunflower seeds. I add cheese and crackers for the kids. And eat some. Time: 10 mins.
  • Dinner - Bison burgers with leftover hashbrowns and frozen veggies. Double up on the bison burgers. - Time: 20 mins.

See how easy it can be? No complicated recipes or sauces or million dollar grocery bills. Consider all proteins exchangeable (eg. swap chicken for beef or pork). Snacks are usually whatever's in the pantry, I keep a decent stock of granola bars, beef jerky, nuts, popcorn, and cheese strings in the fridge.

Meal prep can work for you and your whole family, even while you're trying to eat well. Keep it simple and succeed! 

Download your FREE grocery list for this meal plan HERE

 

Life After Birth - Now What the F#ck Do I Do?

Parenting and Motherhood Goals

For the better part of our youth the path is clear: go to school, get a job, find a partner, buy a house, get married, have kids. Maybe a few things trade places or you skip one or two, but the gist is 'here's what you do when you grow up'. The next step is usually obviously in focus; it's easier to accomplish goals that are clearly defined. 

So I did all that shit. And I did it with gusto. Found a great career I enjoyed, a husband that was loving beyond compare, we bought the house, we planned the wedding, we got knocked up. It was all so fucking exciting because the milestones were huge and everyone cared about them. People asked you about the wedding venue and the dress and then they asked you about honeymoons and ultrasounds and names and genders and birth plans. You and your spouse are a focal point and soon you have tiny focal points of your own.

So you give birth. The baby arrives. You work together (hopefully) to raise said baby and then you move on to the next familial milestone which is generally a sibling or two. You conceive (if you're lucky). You give birth again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

But now. Now you're married. You have kids. You either had (or still have) a career that's moderately satisfying but certainly isn't new, or exciting. All of a sudden those steps, those socially predetermined goals, have all come and gone. What's next on the list? Retirement? Thirty fucking years from now? What the hell am I supposed to do in between now and the early bird special?

It hit me hard. The realization that all of a sudden I felt an overwhelming lack of direction, a lack of significance. Was my life really only about child rearing? Should we have another baby? Does it make sense to have a baby just for the sake of setting a goal or having a plan? I felt like my steady march forward had become a meandering, circular stumble. I felt lost in the midst of what I can only explain as an existential crisis. 

It occurred to me while rolling all this around in my brain that this is a fairly common time for people to get divorced for the exact reasons I mentioned above. There's an overwhelming desire for newness and I can see how one would try to extrapolate that newness from an alternate partner. However, that wasn't the path for me. I was fully aware of the issue I was facing and also aware that my marriage wasn't part of the problem. Sure we'd been together for what sometimes felt like (sorry babe) a million years, but I'd much rather be staring at his junk every morning than some other dude's. 

So, to placate my desire to do big things with my life I sat down to try and figure out what exactly I WAS doing, even if it was little. What I discovered was life changing for me.

For many of us stay at home (or work at home, or not-the-primary-breadwinning) parents, we feel our role is supportive to our partners. They go to work, we hold down the fort. Right?

Wrong.

Our partners go to work in support of US. In support of our families. In support of giving our children the best possible environment in which to thrive. I'm the one with the most responsibility and arguably the most important role in the family; that of the caretaker of our children. Although my job might involve changing diapers instead of budget meetings it is no less commendable. 

All of a sudden I realized that my job as a stay at home parent was full of potential, not only for the growth of my children, but for my own personal growth as well. Because of my role as a mother I was also able to launch a successful business I could do from home. Because of my role as a mother I could take an hour every day to work out. I could have coffee with a friend. It allowed me flexibility that those in a structured workplace simply didn't have. I might not live the most glamorous life, but I do have freedom. I have freedom and I have my kids. What more could I ask for?

I decided that in order for me to avoid feeling the pitfalls of my perceived lifestyle mediocrity, I would set goals for myself that gave me the opportunity to feel excitement again. Over the years those goals have included bikini competitions, photo shoots, weight lifting goals, writing goals, small business goals, home improvement goals, organizational goals, relationship goals, and financial goals. 

I saw the world in a completely different way when I realized my possibilities were literally endless. I saw my at-home business grow to six figures, we paid off debt, I was stronger than ever, and our family flourished. All of this because I decided to shift focus from what my lifestyle didn't provide to what it did. And what a difference it made.

Now on the weeks that I previously thought were mundane, I find joy. I don't just care for my home, I do it well. I don't just care for my kids, I do it well. I give it the time and attention it deserves and I take pride in it because I'm good at it goddammit, and that's exciting to me. 

There are still days that end in tears and cranky kids and wine and fucking chaos, but there is also drive and focus mixed in there. My job as a caregiver might not be as exciting as peeing on a pregnancy test or planning a wedding, but it is every bit as interesting and even more critical to the success of my family. 

Your kids are the ultimate life test. How they function as adults will be largely in part to how you raised them and the character you instilled. Don't get lost in the longevity and strain of it like I did; see it for what it is. The most important, most exciting, most challenging, most fulfilling job on the planet.