Baby Starks: Week 10

Well, as I’m sure basically everyone knows by now… we’re having a baby!

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After nearly a year of trying (the subject of another post entirely), we will finally be welcoming a new little bundle of joy in early December! We are beyond excited, and thrilled to finally be able to share the news.

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We finally told James just a week or so ago, deciding to wait until after we had our first doctor’s appointment. We all dressed up and went out to Wilder Ranch to take some family photos, and surprised him with the news once we got there.

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He’s been wanting a little brother or sister for a long time now, and, needless to say, he was pretty excited.

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A few years ago, I followed one of my favorite bloggers through her pregnancy, as she posted weekly updates on how she was growing and changing, what symptoms she was experiencing and how she was dealing with them, and how they were preparing to welcome their first baby home. I simply loved reading those posts, so, this being my first (new! exciting!) pregnancy, when it finally happened for me I thought that maybe I might want to do some too! I went back and forth on it – partially because it seems kind of selfish, and I wasn’t sure if anyone would really even care to see them – but then I decided that a) my mother and I live far away from each other, so she might appreciate getting to follow along, and b) who am I kidding, I would love to be able to look back and see how things changed once it has all come and gone. So follow along if you wish, or feel free to ignore if you don’t. But we’re doing this. 🙂

Please forgive my picture. It’s just me, my tripod, and the self-timer on my DSLR here, and there aren’t a lot of good places in my apartment to take a picture that doesn’t have a bunch of clutter in the background. And yes, you get me in yoga pants because, hey, we’re keeping it real here!

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Growth: Let’s be honest, most of that tummy is me right now. (Big surprise, I wasn’t exactly skinny to begin with.) And being only 10 weeks along, baby is still tiny and not really ready to make an appearance yet. But this is why I’ll be doing these photos… because hopefully soon we will start seeing some changes!

I’m only up 0.8 pounds from pre-pregnancy so far, a lot of which has to do with some gnarly nausea and lack of appetite. And before anyone freaks out, let me say that I am not obsessing over baby weight, it’s just another interesting piece of information that I’m keeping track of as we go along, because I like numbers and tangible things, ok?!

One – or should I say two – things that have definitely grown are *ahem* the girls. They’ve always been my biggest asset, if you will, but now they are definitely large and in charge. I think I’m gonna need a new bra before I need new pants.

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How big is the baby? Who doesn’t love getting those updates that say “You baby is as big as _____!” I certainly do. The Ovia app lets me choose a theme – food, funny animals, game-related things – and this week it told me that our little peanut is the size of a little Lego man! I’m sure James will be thrilled to hear this. For food comparisons, baby is also the size of a kumquat. But those are hard to find in May, so we’ll stick with the Lego dude for now. 🙂

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How I’m feeling: The first couple of weeks were a breeze. I felt normal, was able to eat like normal, was still going to the gym… only thing I really noticed was some increased fatigue. Then I started having wicked heartburn in the evenings. Then I’d get about halfway through a meal and decide it didn’t taste good or I didn’t like the texture anymore. And then – right on time – right about week 6 the nausea hit and it has not gone away. It has definitely been worst in the morning for me, but it also comes and goes all day. The key to controlling it, I’m finding, has been to eat very frequently. Keep meals small but regular, and then eat a small snack – a banana, berries, yogurt, mandarin oranges, celery with ranch – every hour or so. By the end of the day, I pretty much do not want to eat anything else ever again – which is something my food-loving self never, ever thought I would say – because nothing sounds good and few things feel good once they go down, but I have to keep forcing them down or the nausea becomes really, really bad if my stomach becomes empty. But baby apparently has healthy taste, because the things that make me feel the best have honestly been fresh fruits and veggies. I did toast, saltines, goldfish, and other varieties of bland, processed carbs for a while, and after a while my tummy just didn’t like them anymore. (Which is good, considering that I have lots of risk factors for gestational diabetes, so it’s best if I lay off the carbs anyway.) Meals recently have been mostly a lot of homemade chicken soup, and rice and beans from the taqueria down the street. But sadly no tacos, and no spicy food for now.

I found that even with frequent snacks and meals, I was waking up at 3am terribly nauseated and sometimes retching with an empty stomach. I received some wise advice to eat something right before bed and then again immediately when I got up, but I’ve found that this was not enough. What I discovered last week is that I have to actually eat in the middle of the night. Like set an alarm for midnight, eat a bowl of granola with milk, and go back to bed. Then do the same thing when I get up for the day. It’s been the only way I don’t wake up overwhelmingly nauseated and behind the 8 ball for the rest of the day. It cuts into my sleep, but it helps me function better during the day, so it’s what I’m doing for now.

I also cannot stomach my prenatal vitamin right now. I’d been taking the same vitamin for many months prior to getting pregnant with no issues at all, but now it makes me so nauseated that I can’t bring myself to take it right now. The last time I took it I threw it back up 30 minutes later. I had also been taking a fish oil supplement that I also cannot deal with right now, but hopefully I’ll be able to get back to taking both when my stomach is less sensitive.

In addition to the nausea, I’ve also had 2 colds in the last month, and I am always exhausted. It’s been really difficult to get myself off the couch when I’m not working, and there have been many marathons of Band of Brothers and Lord of the Rings. I’m hoping that come week 12 everything will finally get better like everyone keeps saying it will (and that I won’t be one of those unlucky women who feels like crap for her entire pregnancy), and when it does I will hopefully get back to working out and actually doing things again. But for now, I am lazy.

I haven’t had a ton of mood swings yet – except for that one day I watched Saving Private Ryan and bawled through most of it. And stupid California drivers make me extra rage-y lately. Otherwise I think I’ve been pretty level in the mood department.

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One more photo from our shoot for S&Gs. 🙂

And now that I’ve talked your ear off, I think we’ll call that good for now! See you guys back next week for week 11!

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Seasons

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I had a conversation with someone recently about what I missed most about Idaho. The honest answer, aside from my family and friends, was the seasons. I missed the way things were always changing. I missed knowing that the weather and the scenery were never going to be the same for long. I missed knowing that even though 100 degree summer was awful, that crisp, beautiful autumn was not far behind. I realized that I loved anticipating all these things: the snow would melt into happy flowers, the rain would clear to gorgeous hot sunshine, summer would fade to orange leaves and sweaters, and just when everything turned ugly brown the snow would come to bless us with more dazzling white. I loved knowing that there was something different just around the corner. It filled me with hope, and it made me cherish the season we were in, because I knew it would soon be over. And it wasn’t until several quiet, thought-filled plane rides later, that I realized just how much this really paralleled to the rest of my life.

When I graduated from college, I had this, mostly unfounded, idea that “This is my life now. This is how it will always be.” Everything felt so permanent, so final. I knew there would be a season in the future with children, and that would change things a little, but, for the most part, I had this fatalistic feeling that I was simply stuck with what I had. “This is as good as it gets.” I would work the same job until I retired. I would live in the same house until one of us died. This was my life, so I’d better learn how to like it.

Obviously a lot has changed since then.

I have since come to believe that everything we experience is only temporary. Like the raging heat of summer or the dead cold of winter, no matter what season we happen to be in at the moment, it will pass.

I see now that I have already experienced many seasons in my life.

Working at the children’s hospital was a season. One filled with great learning and personal growth… a special time for sure… but it was never meant to be permanent. I see now that my career will pass through many seasons. Last year was a season of eye-opening, of learning what my expectations really were and what I really want out of the rest of my career. It was also a year of mourning over the loss of the job that I did really enjoy so much. It was also a year of pure survival, of learning how to simply get by with what I had, and how to assert myself without arrogance. It was humbling. Full of struggle and growth. But it was not permanent. Now I find myself in a new season. I don’t know yet what this season brings, because it is still too new. But I know I am excited about it. I do know it will be a time of growth and skill-building, as I venture further out of the realm of children’s therapy and into more full-time adult care. And that’s ok. This season has lots of support and wonderful people behind it. I know I will be better for it. And honestly, I know this, too, is ultimately just temporary. I don’t know what lies ahead in the next 5 or 10 years. But I do know that this season, right here, right now, is getting me ready for it, whatever it is.

My adult life in Idaho was a season. Even though I had briefly dreamed of moving elsewhere prior to college, once I had my degree and was all set to get married, it seemed that we would always be in Idaho. Yet here I am, in a new season, in a new state. I have already grown so much here, already learned so many things and gained so much more confidence. Now that I have moved far away from home for the first time, moving somewhere else far away does not seem nearly as daunting, either. That first move was filled with much doubt and fear… “Will I really be able to manage in a place that is brand new to me? Where I know no one, where my job is not guaranteed, where my mom is not just a short drive away to come help me if I can’t do it?” But true courage means feeling the fear and doing it anyway. And now that I’ve done it, I know I could do it again. I know that California is a season for us. I don’t know just where the next one will take us… maybe back to Idaho, maybe somewhere else. But there is comfort in knowing that this is not permanent. In knowing that I must really cherish the time we have here, because it will not always be this way.

We will eventually enter a new season with babies, too. I have no idea what that will hold. What I know for certain is that it will be hard. It will be exhausting and trying and, in all honesty, probably very depressing. This is not to say at all that I am not excited about having babies. But I know myself. I know that I will spend much of that time feeling sad and burnt out and doubting myself. But I know that the baby-toddler phase is a season. It too shall pass. I will come out the other side with my sanity intact, and I will, somehow, find a way to continue being myself. The childhood-teenage years are also temporary. There will be a season after those, too.

My point, if I have one, is that there is both great hope and responsibility in knowing that each season is only temporary. There is hope in knowing that whatever we are struggling with, it will be over eventually. We must not be defeated by our circumstances, because, as long as we keep moving forward, they are not permanent. If you feel, like I did, that you “don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, but this isn’t it,” fear not. Keep looking, keep trying. The right opportunity will present itself at the right moment. We cannot lose ourselves to hopelessness.

But because these seasons are only temporary, we have a great responsibility to find a way to enjoy them. Find a way to cherish each time period, because it will not be this way forever. I wish I had realized that my time in Idaho was only temporary. I would have gone camping with my family more. I would have made more time for my friends. I would have worried less about things that didn’t really matter. Make memories. Do the things you want to do. Because you may not get the opportunity to do them again.

We also have a responsibility to learn from each season, too. We experience everything for a reason, and sometimes that reason is simply to get us ready for what’s next. So, even though it sounds totally cliche, we really should be asking ourselves all the time, “What I am learning? How I am growing? How is this making me better?” Especially when times are hard. Because those tough times are often what teach us the most.

I realize now that I need seasons. It is never enough for me to be stagnant, to be standing still. I need something to look forward to. Every once in a while I need to turn over a new leaf. And knowing that I can… knowing that I will… that makes me free.

~Jess

A grateful prayer.

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It is late. I write this on the floor of my bedroom, next to the bed where the love of my life is softly snoring. There was a time in my life that such a phrase (“love of my life”) seemed so trite. But I use it now because it seems the most true thing I can say about it. No matter what happens in a year or 20 or 60 from now, he will have been the great love of my life.

I write this, because it is something I say almost every night as we’re both drifting off to sleep. My arm around him, tucked into his chest, I say this quiet prayer, because it is what fills my heart. And perhaps it’s the sleep-aid lowering my inhibitions, but it felt right to share my little prayer with you, finally. And here it is.

  • I am so grateful for this man.
  • For this beautiful, wonderful man.
  • For this kind, compassionate, patient man.
  • For this man who loves me so tenderly in my own language, that of affection and touch.
  • For this man who wraps me in love every day, even if our days are brief.
  • For this man who treats me as his partner in every aspect of this lovely complicated life we’ve built. Who puts my intelligence and opinion on the same pedestal as his own.
  • For this man who so willingly sacrifices his own desires for my happiness.
  • For this man who smiles simply at seeing me smile. For this man whose happiness is my own.
  • For this man who truly sees my strength and my ability to survive – the foundations of who I am -, and yet is not content to allow me to simply endure. For this man takes my burdens as his own, so that I may know peace.
  • For this man who truly cherishes me, who watches me putter about the house in my sloppy clothes and my hair a mess and yet looks at me as though I am the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. Who knows every little nuance of me, down to the way I shuffle when I am happy.
  • For this man who is strong without aggression, and proud without boasting.
  • For this man who is calm yet fierce.
  • For this man, in whose eyes I see the world – the pain of each transgression he’s endured yet also the spirit of tenacity that drives him forward. In those eyes I see love and hope and the promise of a life that is already rich in its own way yet will only get better with time.
  • For this man who has known love and loss, and who knows the ways of making it on one’s own. For in this, we are kindred… together in our brokenness.
  • For this man who is gentle with my broken parts, yet does not treat me as an item to be fixed.
  • For this man, for whom there have already been a few before me. For the lessons he’s learned from them, and for the ways he strives now to not repeat his mistakes.
  • For this man who strives every day to be the best he can be, for me, for his son, for himself.
  • For this man who regards me as perfect, yet inspires me to be my best.
  • For this man who makes me feel. Love, lust, tenderness, passion… at once both at home and alive.
  • In all things, I love this man. In his best moments and in his worst, I love this man.
  • And I’m so grateful, Lord, that you gave him to me. Thank you.

Don’t Let Me Get Me

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It’s time for a little honesty, people. I’ve been doing lots of things here in California. I’ve gone to a lot of fun places and posted lots of cool pictures, and made some of you jealous, just like I’d hoped. But I’ve been faking it. Well, maybe not all of it, but some of it. I guess I’ve been trying to convince myself as much as you. But let’s face it, the sunshine state is pretty gloomy in my neck of the redwoods sometimes.

I don’t know why I thought that moving to California would make everything just magically better. I honestly don’t know if I even realized that I did. But here I am, three months post-move, disappointed and depressed.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with California. Santa Cruz and the surrounding area are absolutely beautiful and there are lots of fun and interesting things to do. There are stunning beaches and magnificent redwood trees and wonderful farmers markets. There is paddleboarding and major league baseball games and redwood canopy tours. But I’m beginning to realize that I didn’t move here for any of that.

I moved because I was running. I was running from a mistake I didn’t think I could recover from in Idaho. I was running from an entire life of introvertedness and honest depression. I ran, because I felt like it was the only real, tangible thing I could do.

And I wanted to come here, no doubt about it. It’s not as though anyone forced me against my will. When Robbie presented his options and asked what I wanted us to do, it was I who said we should go. He would have stayed. He did not drag me here. But I wanted to try something radically different in the hopes of changing my life for the better. So to California we went.

But it’s not been the giant fix-all that I apparently thought it would be. And why should it be? Moving to a new place for the first time, 800 miles from your family and friends and the only home you’ve ever known is going to be hard at first. Duh. That’s like having a baby to try to fix a bad relationship. It makes things worse, not better, stupid. So it’s no wonder that all of the same demons followed me here, and are screaming louder than ever.

Depression is no stranger to me. I have been chronically sad for as long as I can remember. It’s as though everything in my world is just one shade darker. Like my soundtrack is written in a minor key. My inner voice is very negative, and has very little grace. And it’s always, always been that way. Why would I expect that moving my stuff to a different state would change any of that?

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I have my good days and my bad days, just like everyone else. I just seem to be having longer strings of bad days over the last few months.

For one, my job is often very frustrating. And, with spending 3 entire days and nights a week devoted to it, dissatisfaction on that front seems pretty significant. I don’t want to post a lot of details about it here, for obvious reasons, but let’s just say that it’s very different from what I am used to and not what I expected. I used to derive a lot of satisfaction and pride, and honestly, a bit of my identity from my work. So it’s taken some significant attitude adjustment to accept that this is my job now, and to realize that I have to define myself outside of the hospital. But, as my mom reminds me, my job is not my life. It pays the bills, and that’s what’s important. So focus on what’s good, get through the rest. And find something else to make myself feel important.

Two, I am lonely. As a complete and total introvert who greatly appreciates her alone time, this is hard to admit. I’ve never really been lonely before. But seeing as I haven’t really made any friends of my own yet, Robbie is all I have here. Not that I was particularly social back home. But at least I knew my family was only a short drive away if I ever needed to be around someone. At least I knew I could take Megan to lunch and a movie if I was bored on a random afternoon. Now I find myself watching the clock waiting for Robbie to get home so I can have some company that isn’t a 7-year old with an occasional attitude problem or the voice in my head that tells me I’ll never be happy, no matter what I have or do. Yet another thing I hate to admit. I’m stronger than that, right? At least I thought I was.

I realize now that moving, alone, is not going to fix anything. It’s what I choose to do now that I’m here that’s going to determine my happiness. And I’m beginning to understand that this is going to have to be a deliberate choice. I don’t make friends easily, so I need to decide to make some and actually step outside my damn comfort zone and invite someone, anyone to do something. I need to find hobbies that don’t involve me making and eating baked goods alone in my kitchen. I need to find a goal to work toward, and something to contribute to that’s going to make me feel like I am worth something. I need to do something. If I have any hope of not losing my mind here, I’m going to have to push myself.

And really, all of things I just said, are things I should have done back in Idaho, too. None of this has been caused by the fact that I moved, only exacerbated. But maybe this was exactly the kick in the butt I needed to actually make me do it. I was too comfortable in Idaho to change my life for the better. Maybe now that I have to, I actually will.

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I have always been goal-driven… I am a Capricorn, afterall. So I’m going to start with setting myself a goal, and giving myself something tangible to work toward. First up: a 5k. Something to get me on my feet and out in nature. I signed up for the Oktoberfest Fun Run in Campbell this October. I’ve got the Couch-to-5K app on my phone, and I’ve already logged 2 good workouts. And even though I kind of hate to run, and those one-minute jogging intervals definitely kill right now, here’s what’s getting me through them: I’m not doing it to lose weight this time. I’m not even focused on the health benefits. This time I’m running for my sanity. And so far that’s a lot more motivating. (And I found someone who might be willing to run it with me, too, so bonus points for friend-making potential.)

Other things? I’ve been writing more again. I logged several entries in my paper journal before I decided to post here. Writing helps. I also go to yoga when I can, and there’s a really nice studio less than a mile from my house. I’m also looking into volunteering opportunities as a way to find meaningful hobbies and to meet people. Robbie and I get out and do a lot of stuff on my free weekends, too, so I don’t always feel like I’m bored and stuck at home. He’s been really great through all of this, and he deserves a medal for putting up with my craziness without complaint.

So I’m moving forward, slowly, but surely. Faking it ’til I make it. One step at a time. And other cliche things. I hope to be back soon with an update on how I’m magically all better now and this depressed business is all a thing of the past… but we’ll see. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

❤ Jess

Crossroads

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Do you believe in destiny? I do. But not in the way that many of you will think of it. I believe that, rather than having one great, predetermined destiny which will transcend all events, that there are crossroads at key places in our lives and that each path has a destiny all its own depending on which one you choose to take. I believe there are many possible destinies for each of us, many alternate endings.

I can think of many such crossroads in my rather short adult life. The first that comes to mind is the choice of which college to go to. I had basically two options at the time. Option A was Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. It was a beautiful campus, had a great nursing program, and had a marching band that seemed like a lot of fun. My mom and I toured it, and I even had a small scholarship lined up if I chose to go there. But it was far from home and far from my boyfriend at the time (although things were essentially wrapping up with him then, and, looking back, it shouldn’t have even really been a consideration). I had no guarantee of a job if I went there, and I didn’t even know if my beat up little VW Jetta could make the trip. It was a risk on all accounts. Option B was Boise State University. It was close to home. It had a band program I knew and loved. And they offered me more money. At the time it made the most sense to go to BSU. But looking back now I know I chose it because it was safe. It was easy. It required no risk, no leap of faith. And heaven help me if I haven’t spent the last 7 years wondering what might have been if I hadn’t gone there.

I think of the different people I might have met. The different hobbies I might have chosen. The time I might have spent by the cold beach or the cooky little job I might have found. I wonder if I’d have still chosen to go into healthcare. I wonder who I might have fallen in love with. I wonder, I wonder, I wonder.

But even on this particular path that I chose, there were other forks in the road, other paths that I wonder about. I wonder, for instance, what might have happened if I’d broken things off with D after that first semester, when I had really wanted to. I felt the pull of something different – maybe something better – waiting for me, but I chose the safe, familiar path instead. I wonder what might have happened if I had chosen to try out for drum major at BSU like I had always dreamed. I might not have even been picked, but I chose to not even try. I wonder what might have happened if I’d said no that day that he knelt in front of me, with that pleading look on his face and that dreadful feeling in my heart. Each time I chose the safe, the familiar, the easy. And each time is now one I look back on with questions and regret.

I realize that I have willfully chosen each of these paths. I have been an active participant in making my life what it is today. But I have also realized that I am capable of forging a new path if I am not happy with the one I’m on.

Last year I chose to make a scary decision. I chose to leave the familiar, the easy, and to try something new. I chose to change my path. And today my life is drastically different. Many, many things have changed, mostly for the better. I chose the path that was more difficult and more exciting, and I can honestly say that I do not regret it.

And here I stand at yet another crossroads. I am faced with a decision that could change my life again if I choose to let it. I could stay here in Idaho; to do what I’ve always done and to get what I’ve always gotten. Or I can choose to move to a new state; to start a new life with a new man, to try a new job, to live in a totally unfamiliar place for the very first time in my life. I can choose the safe, the familiar, the easy. Or I can choose the different, the risky, the exciting. And after all these years of always choosing the well-beaten path, of wondering and regretting, I have no doubt about which choice I should make.

There is a good possibility that I may get to California and decide it’s not for me. I may get down there and wonder what the hell I did to myself, why I left my family and a good job. But I can say with absolute certainty that if I do not go, I will always look back on this decision and wonder. I will always ask, “What if?” And at this point I would rather risk regretting the leap than regretting that I didn’t try.

So here I go.