What the F****: Our FPIES Journey

A lot can happen in a couple months time. Last time I checked in, I was diving into "April Accountability" (which went great, by the way!) By simply stating my intention of moving my body more, I accomplished it. Having my intentions out in the open was helpful in keeping me accountable, which was the whole point, but things kind of derailed at the end of April.

June had a significant vomiting episode and we weren't sure what was going on, but in my gut I knew something wasn't right and we ended up at the ER. We thought we had a game plan and went on our way. Then it happened again at the beginning of May. After some back and fourth, we're 99% certain she had an FPIES reaction to being fed oats + avocado. A diagnosis like this is enough to make a Mama's head spin. We're grateful that so far, her FPIES reactions have only included profuse vomiting and haven't gone all the way to extreme dehydration/shock, but that's the path it can take, and for that reason, it's my biggest fear. 

There are a lot of things to be said about getting a diagnosis that remains to be somewhat of a mystery to the medical community. Most medical professionals I know have never even heard of FPIES. We are grateful to have a physician that is willing to look at and learn about what's happening with June, and has committed to staying as involved as we need her to be as we move forward in introducing new foods to our sweet little girl. We have a plan, we feel as informed as we can be at this time, and we have no choice except to move forward.

If I'm being totally honest and transparent, this diagnosis shook me up - big time. I was not, and sometimes still, am not doing well with it. Both severe vomiting episodes were in response to foods she had eaten several times in the past successfully (common of FPIES), so I was left with 100 questions - will the next 'safe' food she eats trigger her? Will it be only vomiting again, or worse? I feel like I went through the 5 stages grief. At first, I had a hard time wrapping my head around it, thinking "if it's so rare, how can it be happening to us?", and believed on and off that it's not FPIES, just fluke symptoms that are seemingly very similar.  That passed, and I just felt angry. Really, really mad and frustrated and anxious - it's not fair that everything about the way we planned to introduce foods to June has to change. I can't tell you how many times I have gotten mad at myself for introducing solids to her the way that we did - feeling like it's my fault, that I could have done something to prevent this, or all the ice cream I ate during my pregnancy is the reason for this happening (newsflash: it's not.) Then, the sadness and, I admit, jealousy. Seeing videos and photos of all of my friends babies happily devouring everything their parents are having for dinner - knowing we are so far from doing that with June. For example: if I make enchiladas and would like to share bits of it with June, I would have to first trial each single ingredient for 10 days - do you know how many things go into enchiladas? A lot. It will take me over two months to trial a dish that has 6 'new to June' ingredients to make sure she doesn't have a reaction to each ingredient before I can combine them into a meal. 

I'm working on acceptance. It's a process, and some days are better than others. We are so grateful that June seemingly has a handful of safe foods, both fruits and veggies and we're making sure they're for sure safe before moving on and introducing new things to her. It's going to take a long time. I keep telling myself, "it could be worse" - because it's true, it could be. She's not having FPIES reactions through my breastmilk, she's growing, healthy, and SO happy - all the time. You would never know we were dealing with this unless we talked about it - all good things. Despite all the things I'm grateful for, I'm reminded often by my best friend and sounding board that just because our reality isn't the 'worst reality possible', doesn't mean it still isn't stressful and impacting our lives. It's okay for me to feel feelings about this. It's okay to be worried, scared, hopeful, and confused - all at once. 

There are still a ton of unknowns we're dealing with and feeding her is, in a word, stressful. The reaction, if it happens, occurs 2-3 hours after ingesting the trigger food - so you can bet that in this time frame after I feed her, I'm a wreck inside. We don't leave the house 2-3 hours after she eats because I'm terrified she's going to start throwing up in her carseat and I won't be able pull over and help her. So we time everything around her meals, and wait, and hope for no signs of a reaction. I can't even describe the sweet feelings of relief - like I can breathe again - when we're past that 2-3 hour window. But, it's a cycle - and it's our every day reality. 

This change in our lives has forced me to look at all of my own shit, which I've done before, but the difference is that now, when looking at my own shortcomings, I have to actually deal with them. I can't ignore or push it away unwanted thoughts or anxieties because it's not about me anymore. This is all about June. She needs all of me, and she needs a Mama that can be present with her incase she gets sick - not a Mama that escapes mentally into a nervous, panic-stricken oblivion. She needs me to be present with her in moments when she's not well, but even more - she needs me to be silly, playful and fun during that dreaded 2-3 hour window instead of watching the clock and living in my own anxious thoughts. 

So, aside from the plan we made with our doctor, I've got my own self-care plan. You may notice I'm not on the schedule anymore at TuliVesi Yoga. I had to make the call to step back from teaching regular classes. I have expectations of myself when I step into the room to lead a class, and I'm not in a place right now where I can deliver regular classes that I feel satisfied with. My focus isn't there - instead of delivering a class I'm not proud of, I made the choice to step away. In doing this, I'm making more time for myself on my own yoga mat. I need to slow the F down. I need slow flows, restorative yoga, and meditation. I've also started acupuncture at Acupuncture of Marquette - after two sessions, I'm already noticing major benefits. I practically floated out of the office this week. 

Before our FPIES diagnosis, I was already struggling a bit with finding time for self-care. For all the reasons I've mentioned, it's time for me to care for myself so that I can be the best Mama for my June. I'll still be hosting Yoga & Hops once a month, an event I sooooo look forward to every month. 

Thanks for hearing me out. Part of my healing is owning our story and sharing it so that I can create connections with my community and can feel less often like I'm on an island on my own. XOXO. 

I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.
— Brene Brown

Ebb & Flow: April Accountability

I know I've admitted it in the last few months, at least a few times. I'm not ashamed to admit that I've lost touch with my yoga practice. I have struggled since having a baby six months ago to find time, energy and motivation to get up and find time to spend on my mat. Since June was born, I've 'started' my practice again more times than I care to admit. Practiced a few days in a row, felt amazing, said "I've got this!". Then something would come up, a break in routine, a sleepless night, a social event - and I'd skip one day, and then two, and then three...

You get it. 

This last 'break' in my practice is the longest I've gone since I started practicing yoga - seriously. I practiced more yoga in my first trimester of pregnancy when I was exhausted than I have in the last few months. 

Recently, in a few ways, I feel like I've hit the new-Mama jackpot. I somehow accomplished the elusive "sleeping through the night" phenomenon. I'm experiencing what sleeping 6-8 hours straight feels like for the first time since sometime last summer. I've got more energy, and with that I'm better able to participate in adult conversations and check things off my to-do list. In getting June to sleep through the night, I've (maybe) created some bad habits - like letting her nap on me, for every nap she takes. She sleeps longer, meaning she's more well-rested, meaning she sleeps great at night. I'm not complaining - I get to snuggle my baby a few hours a day, hear her little breaths, and see her huge gummy smile when she wakes up and sees me right away - it's all delicious and amazing. 

But there's a downside, and I know it's brief, but it's impacting my relationship with myself. I'm never really 'by myself', which makes practicing yoga somewhat difficult. Instead of sitting back and thinking about what I "need" to change about June's nap habits, I'm focusing on how I can change my awake time to help me feel better about me. I need minutes on my mat. 

And it's a new month, a new week. It's Monday. Today is the day I focus on what I can change and I'm here to hold myself totally accountable. I'm committing to practicing yoga or pilates, even for a short while, every day this month. 

Today I got on my mat for 15 minutes. Tomorrow I intend to do the same. I'm going to post about it on my Instagram account for the entire month of April. Follow along for the little realizations or big revelations, as I hold myself to making time for the self-care that I need. There's a natural ebb & flow to being a new Mama, and while I'm making a pretty solid effort not to be on my phone as much, especially when June is awake, I think the accountability I need is to share my journey back into a consistent movement practice. The Effort & Ease Instagram page is the perfect place to do just that. 

So, join along - and thanks for letting me share my set-backs, progress, and everything in-between. 

A New Approach

Preparing to teach a yoga class used to consist of unlimited time to play on my mat, creating sequences and exploring transitions that were fun, challenging but do-able, and most of the time, different every class. I had all the time in the world to make my classes my own, seeking inspiration from books, other teachers, and the internet. Music was always on in the background, Spotify was always on shuffle and I looked forward to Discover Weekly every Monday. Every class I taught had a playlist that was created to match the sequence I'd developed.

And then teaching 'post-baby' happened. I'd be lying if I said being back hasn't come with it's own set of challenges. Our daughter is four months old, and I think I'm *finally* learning to compartmentalize in conversation so I can focus on the person in front of me instead of just acting like I'm there but secretly thinking about my baby. It's almost embarrassing to admit, and I could blame the initial shock of sleep deprivation and total life upheaval, but for the first several weeks of our daughter's life, I had all I could do to be anywhere else but in my head - always knowing when she last ate, slept, and had a diaper change - and planning for when those things all had to happen again, over and over, around the clock. 

Pre-baby, I taught with purpose, intention, and focus, and I had the time to make sure my class experience was consistent. Observing the changes in how my brain works now that I'm a Mama, I was worried about how that would impact my ability to step away from her but also prepare and provide a yoga class that was not just an after-thought. 

It's been about a month now, and I'm teaching once a month at Ore Dock Brewing Co and once a week at TuliVesi Yoga. I'm working out my kinks. Initially I jumped back into it with the expectation that I'd pick up right where I left off. In some ways, I did - on the surface I could deliver a yoga class that worked, but after the first few, something didn't feel right. I kept falling short according to my own expectations of the experience I 'used to' deliver. 

I've thought about it, and have had to go back to my roots and look at what my yoga 'brand' stands for. To remind us all, Effort & Ease is about: 

  • Mindfulness, gratitude and intention.
  • Living your yoga on & off the mat.
  • Whole living and loving. 
  • Flexibility, imperfection and forgiveness.
  • Listening to your body.
  • Finding the right balance even when everything is constantly changing.
  • Always putting in effort, but not without a sense of ease in the process.

With this in mind, I've decided to shift my expectations, embrace imperfection, and allow myself to find balance even though it feels difficult. Moving forward, I'm approaching how I teach a bit differently. 

A New Approach

It's fairly simple. Instead of having the expectation that I can create unique sequences for every class, I'm deciding to switch it up and simplify. If you come to my class, here's what you can expect. 

A Monthly Focus

Each month, I intend to select a specific area of the body, or group of muscles, to focus on in class. This helps me in a few ways. I'll be able to design variations of a similar sequence that will allow me to deliver it with the clarity and purpose you all deserve when you come to class. Instead of delivering a (dare I say) half-assed class of a variety of poses, we'll hone in on a similar set of poses. We'll go deeper, we'll become more familiar, and we'll hopefully learn a thing or two about our bodies and ourselves. January ended up being about the shoulders and chest. Get ready to dive into your hips in February. 

Recycled Jams

This is more than likely only something I'll notice, but I've seriously got about 40 yoga playlists. It's time for me to re-use and re-cycle some old jams. I'm going to set a goal to make one new yoga playlist a month. You might hear it more than once within that month. Have a song you want to hear, or you think I'd like? Let me know. I'm totally open to suggestions. 

A Reoccurring Theme

If you ask me to grade my skills in delivering a yogic theme in my classes, I'd give myself a B at best. I think all teachers bring their own unique style and preferences to a class, and I've always swayed more toward the physical aspect of asanas: which muscles we're working and why. Moving forward, I hope to have the opportunity to better deliver a message for your mind while you're on the mat, I'm aiming for a refreshing but familiar change. 

......

Join me for vinyasa flow. I'll be teaching the last Tuesday of each month at Yoga & Hops at Ore Dock Brewing Co, and on Thursdays at 5:45 at TuliVesi Yoga. Questions, comments, feedback? Email me: natalie@effortandease.com