Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Time To Rebuild

About three weeks ago my kids and I got sick. Over the course of about two weeks, I stopped washing my hair to save time and care for my kids.

What resulted was the most EPIC rats and knots in my fine, curly hair full of product that I have EVER experienced.

In trying to remove those rats, I lost at least half the hair on my head. The process took five hours and four different women helping me. One of them was an angel of a friend who sat for four long hours to help me gently get them out. The last hour, done by an impatient salon woman, was when I saw most of my hair float to the ground. It was a painful, long, and tragic experience. And humbling to say the least.

See how much hair I used to have?!?!?

A few days after cleaning up the aftermath of my rats, I had to have my hair cut short again and get it died dark so that my hair appeared to be more full and thick.

Later on that week I started getting a very sore neck. I think all that tugging and pulling on my head created a tight strain and a lot of stress that went to my neck muscles. Sitting to nurse Preston strained my neck (he now weighs 17.5 pounds at 4 months!), and even sitting down or standing up to clean and cook was difficult. I kept thinking it would go away on it's own and I didn't want to do the work or pay the expense to have it fixed.

But then I managed to injure my already sore neck and back, making the situation much worse. How on earth did I manage to do that?

I went to a youth church ice skating activity, and I consider myself a pretty good skater. So I was a little over-confident in myself to say the least.

How I managed to not take into account that my body is seemingly still recovering from the past four months of new baby is beyond me. I managed to fall on the ice just right, hitting my elbow first and then getting some pretty bad whiplash in my neck and shoulders to prevent my head from hitting the ice. As soon as I went down, I knew. I had damaged myself further, and whatever problem I had with a sore neck, I just now exacerbated.

I am still recovering. After visiting a chiropractor, and getting a professional massage, I realized this was a long-term problem that I needed to have patience with. I also realized that I was re-injuring myself every time I picked up my toddler and my four month old baby.

But I couldn't just stop picking up my kids; Paul was out of town. For four days. Megan started getting a very high fever, and somehow....SOMEHOW we were all getting sick for the fourth time in two months. Sheesh!

My kids were sick, my back and neck were injured, and Paul was out of town. I learned to lay down with ice packs underneath me as I nursed Preston, had Meggy lay down with me, and sleep. This was my solution for not carrying Megan and straining my injury. I tried conveying the situation to Paul over the phone and I think I just couldn't.

I am surprised that in all of my therapy, by far the most helpful thing has been my Epsom salt baths. This morning I got up to read my scriptures and I could hardly turn my head or move my shoulders. I made the kids lunches (PB&J with fruit) and after nursing Preston back to sleep and giving Megan a shower, I went straight away to prepare my Epsom salt bath. I pour in three pounds of the stuff, and I can afford to do that because Costco sells 12 pound boxes for seven dollars! I love Costco. Love.

It was amazing! As soon as I lay down in to the hot water the pain melted. It felt as though it was seeping out my neck and arms and shoulders and back and into the water and then far away. I make sure and soak for at least 20 minutes, and as recommended by my Mom, I add two cups of baking soda (huge bag also from Costco) to the water. She says it helps me get my body alkaline, and I feel so super-clean and fresh after soaking in baking soda and salt water. Hey, I sound like a recipe for muffins!

Having babies and four kids altogether is not for wimps, my friends. The biggest lesson I have learned from this is that we can't neglect ourselves long term and expect it to truly pay off. Did I really save time by neglecting myself? How much time have I had to take in healing and recovery because of my original neglect?

Bottom line for all you lovely moms out there: take care of yourself. Every morning. Eat three meals a day. Let yourself take the time for a bath or shower. Pay a small price now so you don't have to pay a HUGE price later. Sleep. Exercise. See a chiropractor when you need to. Get the medical care that you need. (And wear good shoes, cuz you work hard!)

My husband told me, "If you don't take time to be well (take care of yourself) then you will certainly take time to be sick." I find this to be true for myself because with my neck injury, I am forced to take a salt bath every morning. Forced to slow down and care for myself.

It has taught me to be grateful for what I have now. Because things change.

And look at these beautiful babies I have to show for it!

Something else on my mind.

It's really important that I don't wallow in self-pity. Someone always has things worse off than I do.

The thing is. Hair grows back. Sprained muscles heal. Children get better.

But how about not being able to eat? Ever again, because your digestive tract is paralyzed? (Click Here to watch a really awesome movie! I love how she says we should always look outside ourselves for someone else who is hurting or worse off than we are, and we are sure to find them. Serving and loving them helps us be so much happier.)

Or how about being burned on over 80% of your body, (go to minutes 34 to see Stephanie Nielson's presentation) and taking years and years to recover, never fully getting back in your own healthy skin?

I take the loss of my hair, the illness, the back unjury, as God's way of saying that he wants me to rebuild. Start over again. Only this time, make it better.
From a talk by Thomas S. Monson:
Our Heavenly Father, who gives us so much to delight in, also knows that we learn and grow and become stronger as we face and survive the trials through which we must pass. We know that there are times when we will experience heartbreaking sorrow, when we will grieve, and when we may be tested to our limits. However, such difficulties allow us to change for the better, to rebuild our lives in the way our Heavenly Father teaches us, and to become something different from what we were—better than we were, more understanding than we were, more empathetic than we were, with stronger testimonies than we had before....
The poet expressed much the same thought in these words: Good timber does not grow with ease, The stronger wind, the stronger trees. The further sky, the greater length. The more the storm, the more the strength. By sun and cold, by rain and snow, In trees and men good timbers grow.
I am hoping that my kids will learn a little from my experience; that they can overcome, rebuild, and that we can do hard things.


  1. Goodness gracious Ashley! I'm glad you're on the mend - mom's should never have physical ailments, in my opinion ;) Take it easy. And thanks for letting me learn from your experience as well!

  2. OH Ashlee!!! I soooooooooo feel for you!!! Must be genetic-if there is tremendous stress in my life theeeerrrrrre goes my neck! Major kinked neck, can't turn my head kind of kink! LOOOOVVVE epsom salt baths-do you like to mix with your favorite essential oil? =heavenly! Some cheap candles from Hobby Lobby while listening to my fave meditative/classical music-then I feel like a person again. Not some burp cloth. Or kleenex. or washcloth. I open my window above my bath letting fresh air in while in soaking in my hot water and love to watch the steam rise-oooh so nice! I started to do some yoga for kids on youtube with my girls & daycare girls-that was actually very helpful like you said. Soooo know about the hair. I was sooooo happy to color my hair yesterday and paint my nails! I was starting to look grandma-ish. I'm 37 soon and that gray is becoming my new look if I don't color every month. :-( Both my moms start buying clothes for me-a true sign that they never see me get dressed in regular people clothes-only mommy clothes. I used to do hot oil treatments-I think that would really help you! You just warm the oil and soak it in your hair for 30-60 min. I swear it helps the scalp & strengthens my hair (it has always been so fine). Order some Millenia Mudd on Amazon too!! (I actually also started to use product samples of African American hair products-this also seems to help). I had to go to my doctor after months of lifting Amalee's wheelchair twice a day (I think it weighs more than a 100 pds) and carrying Amalee up the stairs. He gave me a muscle relaxant. This so helps me!!! I take this and some ibuprofen when I start to feel the stress of lifting building in my muscles over the week. I then can get some good sleep (even if my girls wake me in the night). (also not sure what you can take while nursing) Of course I also do these back stretches and neck exercises twice a day. This is the ONLY way I can get my body to heal. Otherwise my back starts to seize up midway lifting Amalee & I am soooo scared that I will drop her & permanently injure my back and require surgery. This is actually quite common with mothers of special needs children. The whole week I have to focus on ways to heal my back. And then the next week I finally start to feel better. I also have to refuse lifting Amalee as much and have her walk up the stairs while only holding her under the shoulders and find other ways to encourage her to walk on her own. Our next highest priority for the next couple of years will be to buy a house with no split entry!!! We will instead need a garage with a wheelchair ramp that leads to the main level of the house. Crazy how your life's priorities can change! Have you tried a beach ball under your neck? My physical therapist said to do this to lift your head off of your spine therefore relieving your neck & back of the weight of your head on your spine. So often in the bath I will take my hands around the back of my neck and lift my head up until my back & neck feels more weightless. Last but not least he gave me a cane massager. You hold the nub end on the knots of your back or neck for 30 seconds each & it releases the lactic acid build up. Maybe all this is stuff you already know???? Ah Ashlee I have been there I feel and there have been times where I just wanted someone to come for an hour-to be dedicated of taking care of only me after the day is over. My personal nurse slash massage therapist beautician hair & nail tech health wellness expert. Do you think that even exists? Maybe for the extremely wealthy?? Maybe at those spa retreat resorts....

  3. I also have a confession to make. I look for stories either on blogs(usually LDS) or in Ensigns that are worse than my life currently. I feel these women have great immense knowledge & strength and they usually share a message that touches my soul. Sort of like a healing, grieving process for me I guess even though I haven't had a death in my family. Maybe it is an evil habit---hehehe (cackle). I say to myself, "It could be worse" when I am feeling sorry for myself. Last night I found "The Moments we stand" blog and she has had an incredible message to share. She shared how Heavenly Father (she is LDS) answered her pleading prayers with "I know that you are suffering but right now I need you to STAND!". "stand up and take care of your children. stand up and be strong." You can just tell how much strength she has. She also has had twins and now has six children and recently remarried. She has been through infidelity, murder of her husband and public humiliation. I bawled when I started to really read her blog. It felt good. Crazy huh?

    you can get a Thera cane massager on Amazon for $35.

  4. I also really enjoy Meg Johnson's story & blog! She was a dancer and at 24? she was paralyzed from the waist down when she fell off a cliff in St. George. She started Ms. Wheelchair Utah a couple of years ago and so now Amalee can get sponsored to go to the Utah event which I plan on doing for her this year.
    She has several books and I really enjoyed reading two of them so far. She did get married and just had a baby this last October even though she is in a wheelchair!

  5. Oh no! That's really terrible. I can't believe all that stress led you to that point. You had a chock-full of hair, Ashlee. I hope you don't overwork yourself to that point again. Congratulations on having a beautiful baby boy, by the way! I'm glad going to the chiropractor is helping you recover. It's a great practice, isn't it? Thanks for sharing that with us! All the best to you and your family! :)

    Hannah Holland @ BCA