Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Two Months Postpartum

Autumn is almost two months old. So far, it has been much easier than I was expecting. She's such a happy, content baby. Until a week or two ago, she was sleeping close to 23 hours a day, and its only in the last few days that she's had periods where she is awake more and fussy. I'm still learning what she needs when she cries and haven't yet learned to tell the difference between when she is bored, overstimulated, or tired. 

I imagined myself sleep-deprived and frazzled, with barely enough time to return texts or emails, let alone shower. Instead, I have had a lot of time on my hands, which I'm not used to. Nathan took two weeks of paternity leave and then went back to work for two weeks until his summer break started at the end of June. While he was working I felt a little lonely and...dare I say, bored. 

Now that he's off for summer it's better because I have company, but still an adjustment. We have been watching her in shifts. He stays up with her until 5 am, and I go to bed around midnight. This allows me almost 7 hours of sleep. Plus, then I go back to sleep after I feed her, and finally get out of bed around 10am. Now, before you start feeling bad for Nathan, I will say that it is less of a sacrifice than it sounds. He loves staying up late during summer anyway, and is able to play his PS4 while she sleeps for 3-4 hours at a stretch. He plays Call of Duty while on baby duty. Of course I'm grateful nonetheless, six or seven hours of uninterrupted sleep is something most new Moms only dream of.

Still, my pace of life has slowed considerably. I've gone from working, socializing and trying to find time to work out to just staying home almost all the time. Not being allowed to work out those first six weeks was incredibly tough. When you keep yourself really busy, there's a lot you don't have time for. Mainly, thinking too much. 

In these quiet moments of reflection as a new Mom, I'm missing my Mom more than ever. This is something I didn't really deal with during all the build up and excitement that comes with pregnancy. There's so much I wish I could ask her. So much that I wish I could share with her. Although I'm thankful for this parenting interview I did with her after my first failed IVF embryo transfer, I've thought of a thousand questions since then. Why didn't I make it longer and ask her more? 

And then there's the guilt. I know we did a lot to make the most of the 14 months she lived after her diagnosis, but every day, some type of guilt creeps in. It usually strikes when I'm trying to fall asleep at night, or when I'm feeding Autumn. Learning that the cancer was likely growing for a decade prior to her diagnosis, I ask myself why I didn't have her get a scan back then and wonder if it would have helped. Yes, it would have. They always say catching it early is key. 

I know guilt is something a lot of people go through, yet knowing that doesn't change how I feel. I have a master's in counseling, but it's different when you try to apply things to yourself. I've been trying to counter it and re-frame it and still, it remains.

Thinking about Mom has also caused me to think about my own mortality more than usual, and leaving Autumn like Mom left me. How will she cope? A little silly to think about since it seems so far off, yet I do. And this naturally leads into spending a lot of time thinking about my faith, or lack thereof. I want to believe, I really do, but it does not come easy to me. Never has...I've always been a skeptic. Now, more than ever, I am motivated to believe in God and heaven so that I know Mom is somewhere and that I'll be reunited with her. 

But I still struggle to believe in something I can't see, hear or feel in a concrete way. I go to mass every week, pray, and read to try and cultivate my faith. Nathan and I have discussions, which help me because while he may not agree with all the teachings of the Catholic church, he does believe in intelligent design. It helps me to think that while an older white man sitting up in a throne judging us may not seem plausible to me right now, neither does the idea that all this beauty and life is completely random and just happened. Intelligent design really does seem to be at work. The complexity of life, even just the formation of Autumn, is pretty incredible. How can all that be just put into existence by chance? Plus, there do seem to be things that are inherently right or wrong. Moral laws that just seem to exist, not just because our society says so. How to account for this? These are concepts I've never believed before and can now buy into. I guess I have made progress, even if I'm not where I want to be.

Autumn and I leave for our first flight Thursday to spend three weeks in Oregon at his parent's home on a small lake. Nathan left today, to make the 14 hour drive with our two dogs, suitcases and baby accouterments and I already miss him. I'm thankful to have the change of scenery and company; it couldn't come at a better time. It's going to be a full house. I'm excited that his brother from DC and new wife will meet Autumn for the first time, as well as his uncle Don who is 83 years young and flying in from Pennsylvania. His twin sister, husband, and Autumn's two cousins will also be there, JP who is 2 1/2 and MK who will turn one in September. Oregon is a place we plan to return to twice a year for the rest of our lives, and I can't wait to get pictures of her around the property which someday, she will own part of.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Emails to Baby A

I am ten years older than when my Mom had me. While Mom's life was cut too short and I hope to live longer, there's a chance Autumn could loose me when she's around my age, even if I do live a decade longer than Mom did. Right now, anything that has Mom's writing on it is at a premium to me. I treasure my baby book, a paper (below) describing what I could say and do as a 1 year old, and any birthday and Christmas cards I saved with her writing. But that's all I have. What will Autumn have? I've been filling out her baby book and a first year calendar and of course taking a ton of pictures. While we are being really good about backing everything up since we finally have cloud storage, a babybook or journal could get lost or destroyed in a fire. It's also something that only I contribute to.


So when a friend in Canada (hi Lindi!) told me they created an email for their newborn as a way of preserving memories, it was right up my alley. This way, family and close friends can send emails to her over the years with their thoughts, pictures or memories. I would love to have something like that right now from my Mom because I wonder almost daily what being a new Mom was like for her. What was it like for her on my first day of kindergarten? My 16th birthday?

While I have not read any of Autumn's emails, I was happy to find two emails to her, one from Andrea with the subject line Happy First 4th of July and one from my friend Sandy The First Day I Met You.  She has one from me too. Below is my first email to her.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Megan Swanek <megan26.2@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, Jun 28, 2015 at 2:17 PM
Subject: Today is Nana Paula's Birthday
To: ASwanek@gmail.com


My Dear A,
I'm sitting here at the computer wearing you in a baby wrap. You're snuggled tightly to my chest, and fast asleep. I can hear you softly breathing. Daddy is still asleep; it's just the two of us. 

This is the first year that my Mom hasn't been here for her birthday and it's a tough one. She was my very best friend, just like you and I will be one day. She loved you so, even before you were born. You see, it was always a given that I would have children and I would talk about it with my Mom. We would talk about you, imagine what you would be like and I always thought she would be a part of raising you. She loves you still, from Heaven, and through me...because every part of me that is nurturing and good and kind comes from her. So even though she won't be babysitting you as you get older, she is still very much a part of raising you, because she raised me. She was the very best Mom and I hope you will say that about me someday.

Although this first year without her is a sad one, it won't always be that way. That's not how she would want it. You see, she was the happiest person I have ever known. Your grandma Paula was never in a bad mood, even when circumstances may have warranted it. She never complained. She loved to laugh and be silly. She was very hardworking, but you would never know it, because she made everything she did look easy. Many sacrifices were made by her, for her family and she was happy to do it because to her, family was the most important thing in the world. She was the best listener and never put people down or made fun of them; she saw the good in every person and in every situation. She was a selfless optimist.

This June 28th, we are starting a tradition of honoring her on her birthday by doing what she would love. Soon, Dad and I are taking you to The Olde Ship, a British pub that I went to with her. Together, over the years, we will always remember and honor her on this day. We will go for tea, explore thrift shops, get a pedicure, have fish and chips, do some gardening, attend a play, learn to crochet or cook together or maybe even go to the casino. When you're older, I hope to take you to London and where she grew up, in Reading. Celebrating her birthday is a tradition that I hope you will keep after I'm gone with your children. She would love that, and so would I.


Paula Mary DeWitt (Mangan)
June 28, 1951 ~ October 8, 2014

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