Choosing Strength and Joy

Between October and December of 2019, a few things happened that made it necessary that I be put on prednisone to manage my arthritis. And between October and December, I gained all the weight back that I had lost after having Madeleine as a result of being on that medication. I was devastated.

At the beginning of February 2020, I joined a gym. I saw a nutritionist. I was ready to commit to losing this all over again. And then, I found out I was pregnant.

It took nearly two years of infertility before finding out I was pregnant with Madeleine. I was shocked. I had thought I had more time. That I would be able to lose the weight again, get stronger, and then by that point, I might be pregnant again.

I hate to admit this, but I did not feel ready. It took me a few days to accept the news. I felt shame. Shame that I would ever be anything less than happy at finding out we were having another baby. And guilt. Guilt at not being as healthy as I wanted to be. Guilt in knowing that I had had bitter jealousy and anger whenever a woman shared that she didn’t feel ready for another baby. Guilt in knowing that there are still so many that wish they could have just one baby.

Through prayer and throwing myself into making a baby registry to remind myself just how adorable babies are, I came to accept it. I came to be excited. And I was determined to exercise throughout my whole pregnancy and to make sure I gained as little weight as possible.

And then, my arthritis flared. I was in crippling pain. I struggled to walk again. I found myself needing to take prednisone again while pregnant, and having to clear that with my doctor. I read the potential side effects during pregnancy (cleft palette, pre-term birth). I worried about them. I felt so much guilt about needing to take this medication. I kept myself on the lowest dose possible, and each time I tried to stop taking it, I found that my arthritis was still acting up.

I could not work out. I was not able to get off the prednisone until week 15 of my pregnancy. By that point, restrictions due to Covid-19 were in full force, gyms were closed, and only I was permitted into my prenatal appointments and ultrasounds.

It would have been easy to just give up and beat myself up for it.

I wanted to beat myself up for it. There were times when I did. When I’d see the number on the scale at my prenatal appointments and call myself names. When I’d think of myself as a failure.

Teaching from home was incredibly stressful, but it gave me the gift of time with my toddler. As the weather improved, we started going on walks together. It was during this time that I began praying the rosary again. I would pray, hear the birds, feel the wind, and my heart would become calm again.

Somehow, between the craziness of teaching online with a toddler at home while my husband worked at home as well, I decided to focus on what I could do instead of the number on a scale. I have to think that it was returning to the rosary that helped to transform this mindset.

At the same time, at around 15 weeks into my pregnancy, I suddenly found that I could stretch the time between my weekly injections. First it was a week and a half, then two weeks, then two and a half weeks, and most recently three and a half weeks between what is supposed to be a weekly injection.

I found that walking helped to alleviate whatever mild symptoms I might have. I was overjoyed when the playgrounds reopened and we now try to go multiple times a week. I get a walk and sunshine, and Madeleine gets valuable playtime and practice with gross motor skills.

I started using at home prenatal strength training workouts. I began focusing on eating well to nourish myself and my baby. I kept up the walks with Madeleine to the park and praying the rosary while doing so. And I noticed two things: I was stronger and I had greater joy and peace.

When I began the strength workouts, I was wiped out at the end. There were some things that I could barely do. As I kept working out, these things got easier. I became stronger.

Eventually there came a time when I could not continue the strength workouts due to a flare in my arthritis in my hip. I had to stop my medication for my RA at 28 weeks. My RA came back with a vengeance. And instead of fighting it, I accepted. I allowed myself to be put on prednisone in the final three weeks of my pregnancy. I let go of control, difficult as it was to do so.

Mariana came into this world fast and furious. Yet, she is anything but fast and furious herself! Despite now struggling with my weight, postpartum anxiety, and postpartum depression, her quiet personality reminds me to continue to choose joy. She encourages me to find the strength to do what I did not know I could do. Her quiet calm leads me into prayer and helps me to find strength, joy, and peace there. And when I am struggling, Madeleine’s exuberant joy and playfulness never fails to make me smile.

In Christ, in my husband, and in my two little girls, I find strength and joy. I will continue striving to choose to live out my days with the strength of Christ and the joy of Our Blessed Mother, and I hope you are able to find the same.

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