Wednesday, January 31, 2018

(12.31.17) A New Year's Eve Birth with LOTS of walking.

Today, our second child is one month old.  WOAH.  In honor of all that has happened in our lives this past month, I wanted to take time to record and share the story of her birth.

This pregnancy was overall night-and-day-different than our first pregnancy.  If you read the birth story of our first daughter, you might remember how wonderful all 40 weeks were for me the first time.  This time, however, I experienced pretty intense morning sickness from the week I found out I was pregnant, until around week 17.  Last time my allergies went away, this time they stuck around.  Last time I had almost no other unpleasant physical symptoms, but this time I had horrible heartburn in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters and lots of back/hip discomfort. My environment and conditions were pretty different, too:  during my first pregnancy I was working part time, coaching and maintaining a very active lifestyle.  During this pregnancy, I was a stay-at-home-mom, babysitting, chasing around a toddler, and in the middle of our first move.  It was a different sort of "active" but it was exhausting, nonetheless. Since our first pregnancy was a girl, it led me (and most others) to believe this child would be a boy...but either way, we decided to wait to find out for sure until the baby was born.

Because our pregnancy immediately prior to this one had ended in a miscarriage around week 7, we were seen by our OB very early on when we took our first positive pregnancy test in April of 2017.  It was a very emotional first trimester as we relived the early weeks of the pregnancy we never got to celebrate.  Plus, my sister's recent pregnancy had ended abruptly in August when my niece died during childbirth.  It was hard to be excited without also being paranoid that something would go wrong.  As we tried to decide when to tell our families, my sister called me and told me they were pregnant, due roughly a week or two after us.  PRAISE GOD IN HEAVEN.  And, let the emotional roller coaster of the "twousin" (twin/cousin...get it?!) pregnancies begin!

We began our pregnancy at the OB practice that we had begun our first pregnancy with.  They kindly prescribed me some medicine to help with my morning sickness and I began to feel somewhat human again (while still continuing to get sick  Every ultrasound, every check up, every indication showed a healthy baby and a normal pregnancy with no sign of complications.  Praise God.  They originally set my due date at January 2, but at our next appointment moved it to December 30.  I should go on record confessing that the entire time I thought they were wrong:  I was convinced I wasn't due until the end of the first week of January.

Around week 15 (July) my husband's job moved to Nashville for 2 months.  So we joined him!  It was fun exploring a new city, but IT WAS SO HOT and I also had our almost 3 year old with me during the days as he worked very long hours.  My morning sickness was almost gone, but I have a distinct memory of eating a small bowl of fruit only to immediately throw up all over our balcony, living room and bathroom.  You almost just had to laugh, it was so horrible.

15 weeks along in Nashville

At the end of October we finally moved into our new house in our new town and began a whole new season of our lives.  Around this time (week 32ish) we transferred our care to a different OB/midwife practice that would still be about 1 hour away from our home.  I should note that we "interviewed" a different practice in a closer city and my husband and I both left that appointment unimpressed.  Follow your instincts about these important decisions!  We are both so glad that we chose the hospital and midwife that we did instead of settling for one we had reservations about.  At our first appointment with our new midwife my husband and I were both so relieved and at peace:  she was relaxed, understanding, extremely personable and had a quirky sense of humor.  We felt immediately comfortable trusting her with this huge responsibility.

As our appointments progressed, we always commented on how many times an ultrasound tech/midwife/OB/nurse would mention our baby with a hand/arm by its head or sucking on its fist/knuckles.  It's so fun to hear about these habits while your little one is in the womb and then see them continue that after they're born!  I purchased an exercise ball and spent every evening straddling it, leaning on it, doing side lunges with it, etc. (I remember stating I thought I would birth on my hands and knees this time because it was the most comfortable position for me to stretch and relax in all throughout my pregnancy).  I drank more water than I ever have in my life.  I religiously took an afternoon nap when our daughter did.  I tried to prepare myself mentally and physically as the pregnancy progressed. My sister and I text constantly:  asking questions, sending pictures, commiserating, dreaming and encouraging.  We even got a few maternity pictures together!

My sister (left) at 27 weeks along, me(right) at 29 weeks along.

When our appointments shifted to every week, we were told by an OB (our midwife's partner) and our midwife that we would likely deliver early.  They predicted before Christmas, and we started to get our hopes up.  We packed our bags early, made plans for our daughter to go with my parents and stocked the car with everything we would need.  I experienced pretty regular Braxton Hicks contractions very early on, and especially in the 3 weeks before delivery.  I began to think I would never know when real labor began because of how many "false starts" I felt.  We celebrated Christmas with family close by and even braved our first "snow storm" of the season to drive to see family an hour and a half away...don't worry, everyone, the baby was NOT born in the car on these drives, contrary to popular concerns.

Christmas' Eve 2017:  39 weeks, 1 day
 Ever since finding out I was pregnant the first time, I have had a passion for reading/listening to as much information about childbirth and pregnancy as I can get my hands on.  (For example, I highly recommend Your Best Birth to read about the various options during childbirth and give a good overview about the 'natural' birth mindset, The Birth Hour podcasts and the birth stories found on Birth Without Fear's blog.)  Specifically, I am fascinated by childbirth that is handled without intervention or pain medication.  God answered many of my prayers with the birth of our first child in that I was able to deliver vaginally and without medication.  I thought that would give me unlimited confidence about future deliveries, but I surprised myself with the level of anxiety and self-doubt I experienced this time as my due date approached.  Naya was an easy birth.  She came quick and you were clueless.  What are you going to do if this labor lasts for hours?!  You were in such good shape with your first pregnancy...this time you have been doing NOTHING.  Do you really think your body can handle this again? I would tell myself over and over again.  I wanted to trust the way God had designed my body, but man oh man was I scared that I wouldn't be able to manage it this time.

Partially to ease my mind, and partially because I'm obsessed with information, my husband agreed (at my pleading) to take another childbirth class at the hospital.  The week before the class we had taken a private tour of the hospital.  I highly recommend to anyone who is trying to prepare for childbirth to take a tour and take a childbirth class AT the place you will deliver.  I feel both times it gave us a really accurate picture of how the nurses handle labor/delivery and what the hospital's views and protocols are.

At our 37 week appointment our midwife began talking about stripping my membranes.  I was caught off guard, but it became clear that she was used to women wanting to end their pregnancies before their due date and before the New Year, in my case.   My husband and I both decided we would rather be "hands off" in every way, and allow my body and our baby to work together and in their own timing.

At our 38 week appointment, I felt miserable.  My face and hands and feet were SO swollen. I hadn't been wearing my rings for a while, but at this point I couldn't even zip my boots up!  My blood pressure was a little high, so they took it again, and it was in the normal range but still high for me.  When she checked me she said I was about 2.5cm dilated and 60% effaced. I still didn't want to initiate anything that would begin the cascade of interventions I was so afraid of. So we waited, again.

We had our 39 week appointment with our midwife on December 26 and we found out I was about 3 cm dilated and 70% effaced.  I was just glad I was making progress of any kind.  My swelling had gone way down because I had committed to guzzling enormous amounts of water over the past week and refrained from eating things high in salt.  It worked! My blood pressure was normal again.  I tried not to let our midwife's talk of induction bother me, even when she made it clear she wouldn't let me go past 31 weeks.  Let's just say, I did some squats and camped out on my exercise ball even more than normal.

On Sunday, December 31 I remember feeling a few Braxton Hicks contractions as I got ready for church.  By 9:00am I was pretty sure they were different and that labor might be starting. I loaded an app to my phone called "Full Term" that helped me track and time them.  By 10:00, I was debating if we should go to church or not because I wasn't sure I would be able to sit that long.  However, they weren't powerful and they weren't close together yet, just overall uncomfortable.  We went anyway and I sat through the service trying to keep track of how many I was having.  I gripped the pew in front of me and swayed through the songs, trying to relax and still very unsure if this was "it." Despite my internal doubts and questions, I remember grabbing my husband's hand as we walked through the snowy parking lot and saying, "You know what, hun?  Maybe today IS the day we meet our baby."

When we got home, I laid on the couch, clicked the start/stop button on my contraction app and dozed off intermittently.  My husband made our daughter lunch and checked in on me.  We had agreed to let my parents take her with them to my sister's house for New Year's Eve so we could have an evening alone, and juuust in case labor started while they were gone, we wouldn't have to find a back up for our daughter.  By 1pm when they came to pick her up, I had to hide in the bedroom because I couldn't fake being OK.  We packed up after they left and got ready to head to the hospital, but decided to take a quick (SLOW) walk in the freezing cold first, just to make sure.  After 4 contractions in less than 30 minutes, we decided to begin our hour commute.

The car ride was opposite of our experience last time.  We laughed together as we listened to the playlist I had made for our baby's arrival.  I had listened to it for weeks leading up to this day as I worked in the kitchen or stretched on my exercise ball at night, so I felt like Baby was learning the songs :)  When we got to the hospital, I was thinking the ride was too comfortable.  They are going to send me home.  I might not be in labor at all... so we went to the bathroom and then went and walked the hospital parking lot again. We noted it was about 3:30pm when we began to walk. My husband was better at tracking my contractions than I was, and he assured me they were staying consistent.  We decided to go inside, even though I was still maintaining my composure.  I really hadn't been able to talk by the time we got to the hospital for Naya's birth, so this was a little new.

They got us set up in a triage room and got monitors on me to check our baby and my contractions.  They said I was between 4-5 cm dilated and about 70% effaced...not the kind of progress I was hoping for.  Although I was disappointed, they encouraged us to walk for an hour and see if I made progress.  I immediately asked for a huge jug of ice water and a pack of goldfish and we began around 4:45pm.  As we walked up and down the halls, I held my husband's hand or leaned against the wall as a contraction would come and then we would continue.  I focused on breathing deeply, keeping my hands/eyebrows/jaw relaxed instead of tense, and swaying, bending over or squatting until they would pass.  At this point, my contractions were coming about every 3-5 minutes and last around 1 minute, peaking almost always right at 40 seconds.  It helped me to stay focused knowing that after 40 seconds they started lessening.  At the hour mark, we headed back in and were checked again, only to find out my dilation hadn't' changed at all.  I was now 80% effaced, which they considered a good sign, but I was bummed.  The OB on call came in to consult with us and told us I could either go home and wait it out or walk for another hour.  We decided to walk the same 4 small hallways for yet another hour.  At this point, I can distinctly remember the contractions coming closer together, because I would realize how long we had been in the same hallway after I had to make multiple stops.  I kept refilling my water and stopping at the bathroom just about each lap we made.  The creepy historical photos throughout the hallways gave me some comic relief in the midst of the increasingly painful contractions.  This was the first time I broke down and cried saying "I just don't know if I can keep doing this all night!"  I KNEW the contractions and my body were getting prepped, but it really seemed like our nurse was not convinced, and that was extremely discouraging to me.

This picture was in the hallway and resulted in lots of exhausted laughs (note the person to the front/right).

A quick selfie walking the halls! (5:32pm)
The nurses changed shifts at 7pm, so right before then we were due to be checked again.  They decided I was 5cm dilated and closer to 90% effaced at this point.  I should note the cervical checks were at this point the worst part of this experience.  I would have elected to have none at all, but they still weren't sure whether or not they wanted to admit us, so I felt I didn't really have a choice.  I also had to have the awkward monitors on my stomach but I refused to lay in the bed because I thought it was slowing my progress.  I stood next to the computer and swayed, but I always messed up the readings (the wireless monitors weren't working at the time, of course.)  I tried to be agreeable, but these little annoyances kept making me wonder how freeing it would be to birth at home with no one to tell me what to do ;)  The OB suggested we get admitted at this point, but they weren't convinced it was going to happen still.  We debated getting something to eat, but the more I thought about it, I said, "I know the contractions are different every time I'm on my feet.  I think we should just stay."  The nurse continually pushed breaking my waters to help the process along, but I decided to wait and see what my body did on its own, even if that meant a longer process.

Everything becomes pretty blurry at this point.  By the time they had us set up in a room, it was about 7:15pm.  We were introduced to our new nurse, but I could feel myself checking out of reality and sinking into a different place.  My eyes were closed a lot now.  The contractions came close together and I would announce each time "here comes another one" because I still felt like no one was taking me seriously.  A nurse commented "Aw! Maybe you'll have the first baby of the new year!" and I thought to myself, Yeah right!  This baby is making it tonight! My husband ran back out to the car to get all our things and text our families (who knew nothing about this process so far) and I requested our nurse stayed with me in the room until he returned.  I just didn't want to be alone.  I turned up the volume on our playlist, requested a birthing ball, and rested my forearms on the bed as I bent over and swayed my hips.

I remember the nurse not being able to get my picc line in the first time, and having to ask someone else to come and do it.  I remember trying to express to the nurse (who seemed very young) that I had a very quick transition/pushing phase with my first baby.  I remember asking her if she knew if the OB would let me deliver on my hands and knees or a birthing stool (which I had been assured would be fine) and her commenting " I think as long as you are in the bed, she'll be fine with it."  I prepared myself mentally to be in the bed, but I knew beyond any doubt I couldn't lay or sit again at this point.  We got a stack of pillows and they arranged the bed so that I was kneeling, resting my forearms on the pillows which were on top of the head of the bed.  When my husband got back I remember saying as each contraction came "I just need you.  Come here, can you hold my hand?  I just need you here."  The only comfort at this point was a cold wash cloth on my forehead.  I remember beginning to shake and feeling so uncomfortably warm.  My nurse was chatting and calm and suddenly said, "You're not feeling pushy, are you? Let me know if you are."  I said, "I'm feeling pushy!" and she quickly asked the OB to come check on us as she prepared the room.

At this point I took off my hospital gowns because I couldn't deal with any form of restriction whatsoever.  I felt my body beginning to push as each contraction came and I started saying "OK, come on baby! Just come on."  Soon I heard a weird groan and even scream start coming from my mouth that startled even me.  My nurse requested to check me again and I don't even remember agreeing or moving.  She tried to check me from the back because I didn't move, but she couldn't tell, so apparently my husband and another nurse got me to my side.  As she tried to check me and announced "Woah! Definitely an 8. Maybe a 9..." I felt a gush of water and she said "I just broke your water by checking you.  Sorry!" I climbed back to the head of the bed and felt distinctly like I was getting ready to push the baby out.  I said "I feel like the baby is right here! I feel like it's coming."  The OB's voice was suddenly behind me making small talk and then saying, "Do you feel like you can get on your back and push in stirrups now?"  I literally laughed.  "NO.  No I do not feel like I can move from this position" I responded.  The nurses seemed uncomfortable and someone said, "Is that OK?  We can put her on her side..." and the OB said my favorite thing:  "I mean it's really up to her.  I've never delivered hands and knees before but it's really up to her."  That's the last thing I remember before 3 pushes that delivered my daughter.  Before the OB shouted "It's a girl!!! You have another girl!" I could hear my baby wailing as only newborns do.  My husband immediately came and said in my ear "You did it.  She's here.  She's fine.  You did it!"  I cried and buried my face in the pillows out of complete exhaustion and relief.  The worst part of this otherwise incredible moment was I wanted to hold her immediately, but there was some confusion about how to get her to me.  The logistics of birthing on your hands and knees mean the person who catches your baby needs to pass the baby through your legs for you not to get tangled in the umbilical cord.  Instead, they let the cord pulse for 1 minute, let my husband cut it, got me turned around and finally placed my baby on my chest.  She was just about inconsolable as I nuzzled her close and whispered to her "I'm so happy you're here!  We love you so much.  I love you.  Daddy loves you.  Jesus loves you."

As the OB worked to get the placenta delivered, my husband and I finalized her name.  The OB noted that I hadn't torn at all and announced her time of birth as 8:29pm, about an hour and fifteen minutes after being admitted.  The nurse looked at me and said, "I think your body was just made to have babies!"  I laughed and treasured that sentence as I stared at our daughter in absolute disbelief.  They later weighed her at 8lbs 6oz, and we believe she was probably 20 in long, although they measure her at 18.  (9 days later at her first appointment she would be measured at 21 in long while perfectly still and asleep.)

We text our families.  My parents were making a 3 hour drive to get to us so that Naya could see her baby sister.  We watched the ball drop from our postpartum room as our newborn wailed in my arms and we laughed together thinking of how different our lives would now be.

We didn't tell anyone she was a girl until Big Sister came and met her.  My husband got Naya from the waiting room and she came in to see Vienna Grace in her pink hat.  Naya shouted in excitement, "It's a gull?!  It's a gull!!!!! It's my baby sister!!" and we taught her to say Baby's name.  My parents then came in and visited, followed in later days by lots of other family members.

First picture together as a family of 4!
We stayed in the hospital the full 48 hours this time and soaked up the ability to order food whenever we wanted.  I also took advantage of asking the Lactation consultants to come watch 3 different feedings and help me re-learn and better learn the art of breastfeeding.  I had a lot of pain on my left side when she fed in the hospital and I suspected it wasn't a good latch.  They helped correct us and provided us with lots of encouragement and support I was so thankful to have.

Looking back now, I am very thankful for how things happened and I know God's hand was evident each step of the way.  However, I recognize that I would have preferred to birth in a hospital, birthing center or other location that examined me less and trusted me more.  I felt safe and secure the whole time and I'm so thankful for the care we received, but when it was all said and done I remember thinking, "This birth taught me to TRUST my body and my instincts.  I knew I was in labor at 9am!  I knew we should go to the hospital and I knew we needed to stay.  My body felt different and I realized it, I just second guessed myself too many times."  We are continuing to transition, slowly but surely, to normal life as a family of four and we love our newest little member, Miss Vienna Grace <3

Saturday, October 15, 2016

October 15

When the tears won't stop flowing,
And your mind won't stop reeling,
And no words will ever be sufficient...
When your own emotional state feels unfamiliar,
And depression settles in nearly undetected,
And you want to scream and rant and never talk again all in the same minute... blog.

You go back to the blog you started for exactly these reasons.  To get out the thoughts that won't come out unless you pull them out painful word after painful word.  To make it real, even though you wish it weren't.  To reach out to friends and strangers and hope that you can make their trauma somehow less lonely.  It's like agonizing therapy:  it feels like you are slowly ringing the air out of your own lungs, and yet it feels like you are breathing deeply for the first time in months.

So, here we go.  Here is the nightmare of how we lost our second baby.

Let's start happy, shall we?  Because typing the word "lost" already wrenched me to sobs.  *Takes deep breath.*

On May 14, 2016 Naya barged into the bathroom as I peeked at the test a little early:  We're pregnant!
We suspected for about a week that we might be pregnant, and I committed to hold out taking a test until my birthday (May 15).  But I caved.  And we were right!  Baby #2 would be coming sometime late in January and would make Naya a big sister! She even learned how to say "Beebee" as I cried and giggled and took a quick video to remember the craziness of these emotions.

I wanted to come up with a creative way to tell Hubs, but that afternoon he randomly picked Naya up and said, "You are my favorite-est baby in the whole wide world!" and I just couldn't contain it.
I hollered from the next room, "Naya, tell Daddy he can't say that anymore."
Hubs replied with confusion, "Hun, I won't say that when we have another baby..."
I casually said, "Well, we do. So..."
" WE DO?!?!"

*Commence celebration*

My parents came to town the following day and we celebrated my birthday.  We decided to keep our other source of celebration (BABYYYY) to ourselves at this point, partially because of how new the concept was to us, and partially because my family already had big news coming the next day:  the gender reveal of my sister's baby due in October!  I thought it best to give their news time for a proper celebration of its own, first.  So, we secretly winked at each other across the room and squeezed each other's hands in church and kept our mouths shut. I thought I might explode.

Quickly our bean-spilling plans, and our entire lives, were derailed with the news my sweet sister received at her doctor's appointment on May 16.  We were stunned.  We were shaken.  We waited to hear about a second opinion for Naya's tiny cousin early the next week.  The news did not get better. And the entire focus of our lives for the past weekend changed dramatically.  I drove to be with my sister and called my other sister on the drive.  We cried together and tried to process what we learned.  And then, I exploded.  I spilled the beans. On the phone.  Baby #2 was no longer a secret.  Oopsie.

The following weeks were a whirlwind of secret keeping, hesitant joy, deep grief, confusion and planning.  My sister and her husband looked into experimental treatment for their child and found out they weren't good candidates. I bought a journal and started writing notes to Baby, the same way I had written (and continue to write) to Naya. We started thinking that our house hunt would need to speed up (or stop altogether).  My 4-week-long newfound fitness routine came into question.  Prenatal vitamins:  re-stalked. OBGYN appointment:  confirmed.  Clothes:  getting tight?!  Necessary looser clothes:  purchased.

And then came Thursday, June 2.  The details aren't clear to me anymore, but I know the bleeding started that evening on the couch.  It's an unmistakable feeling for any woman, but it truly confused me.  I got up, put on a pad, and tried to come up with every reason why this could be normal.  My pregnant sister had called me early in her pregnancy with something similar, and it had been nothing, right?  A fellow blogging mom had a scare worse than this and her baby was healthy.  I rationalized.  I told Hubs what was going on.  I tried not to think about it.  I failed.

But, as only my precious toddler could, Naya took my mind off of myself and Baby by waking up in the middle of the night...sick.  She was inconsolable all morning.  She barely ate breakfast.  And then she puked it up.  Twice. With a fever.  You know, the works.

I called mom trying to cancel our weekend plans with our extended family because "Naya is sick (AND I'M FREAKING OUT)" but mom encouraged me to give her Tylenol and see how she was later.  And of course she was fine.  I called my OBGYN to see if I could be seen right away, but a dismissive nurse said "If you aren't experiencing cramping, it might not be what you think it is.  This can be normal.  Plus, if you are miscarrying, there is really nothing we can do.  So, just see how you feel this weekend and call in Monday."  Thanks for nothing. I lost it.

And then I temporarily found "it," regathered "it," got "it" back together and we packed our bags and headed out Friday for a little getaway in Shipshewana for my Grandpa's birthday.  It was fun:  a petting zoo (like way cooler than any other petting zoo. More like a petting safari?), antique shopping, delicious food, beautiful accommodations.

Naya feeding a deer.

On the wagon ride you saw/fed camels, zebras, cows, donkeys, ostriches, etc.
 But the cramping did start. And I knew what was happening. And just like we had celebrated in secret, Hubs and I were coming unglued in secret.  The bleeding increased. Heavily.  I was chatting with my cousins, keeping an eye on my toddler, walking around Amish country, and trying not to double over from the menstrual-like pains all throughout my stomach and back.  I was miserable and I was trying not to be.  We would learn later that I pretty much fooled NOBODY.

We were supposed to leave early Saturday morning to head to a wedding in southern Indiana.  By late Friday night we were pretty sure I wasn't going to be able to handle the car ride.  Laying down in the dark and crying uninhibited were about the only things that felt "right" and I couldn't do that while riding shot-gun for 4 hours, nor while surrounded by my entire family.  I didn't sleep all night from the pain and the worry.  And neither did sweet Naya.  She uncharacteristically called out for me in the night and would only sleep on my chest, like when she was a newborn.  It was like a slow-motion scene from a movie with quiet, sad string music playing in the background as I felt my toddler kicking and poking my stomach from the outside and my body churning and cramping from the inside. I thought so much of these two siblings and how this should not be the only time they snuggled together.  I sobbed all night.  On second thought, maybe that's why none of us slept.

So we got up early, left my family, and went back to our apartment.  The car ride was painful in every way possible.  I text two dear friends that had previously been open about their miscarriages.  I was TERRIFIED.  I had no idea what to expect.  I asked them what they did, what they recommended, how long it took, etc.  They were empathetic, kind, and honest.  Based on what they said, I figured I would agonize over this a few more days.

But the second we walked in the door I knew I needed to use the bathroom and change my pad.  And immediately when I sat down on the toilet I heard something hit the water.  The cramping had been intense just minutes before, but it subsided as soon as I sat on the toilet.  I sat there for what seemed like minutes contemplating if I should just get up, flush and walk away or if I should see what just happened.  And in a way I can only describe as some weird, strong, maternal instinct, I knew I had to look.

So, I did.
And I yelled for Hubs to come into the bathroom.  As he opened the door, I stammered, "I think...I think I just had the baby..." and then the most gut-wrenching, foreign sounds started to come from deep inside me.  I absolutely fell apart.  I didn't even recognize my own cries as I sat hysterically at the foot of the toilet with my husband embracing me and our startled toddler trying to see what was going on.

Little did I know what would continue to happen in the next 3-4 days.  The worst was not over, not by a long shot. Turns out, the body takes a while to actually miscarry.  And, if you are anything like me, that process makes the grieving take a while, too.

I decided that I wanted to bury our child as a way to honor his or her precious life.  I was only 7 weeks along, so this might not seem entirely necessary, but to me, then, it was.  So I called Mom (because we rent and I had NO clue where said burial should take place).  And she was gracious, and understanding, and perfectly what I needed her to be in that moment (even though she hadn't even known we were pregnant and she was already grieving with my sister).

So the following day, we placed our sweet Baby and all the notes I had written him or her in a small jewelry-type box.  I wrote on the top "Every good and perfect gift is from above..." -James 1:17.  Dad dug a small whole near a tree that we planted in my late aunt's memory and then Hubs and I had a moment together outside on Sunday, while Naya napped inside with my parents.  We laid the only thing we had of our second child in the ground and we prayed and cried.  Truthfully, it put horrid finality on something that felt so ongoing.  It gave me a tiny bit of closure, as many people say.  I will never forget the words of my father that day: "I don't want to just ignore this and pretend like it didn't happen. We want to talk about it if you want to talk about it.  The way I see it, I'm a Grandpa three times now."

*Cue grateful tears*

For the record, I do want to talk about my Baby.  I still, 4 months later, don't know 100% how to process what has happened and honor the life that we knew for such a short time without being consumed by our loss. About a month and a half after we miscarried, my sister had my precious niece, Charlotte, and the pain of loss was magnified in a whole new, yet similar, way.  My 2-year-old is still obsessed with babies, well-meaning friends continue to ask when we will have another child (and yes, two people have even asked me if I AM pregnant so that's fun and not emotionally undoing at all) and everything just feels OFF.  I still struggle with the guilt of having felt like we weren't ready for a second child and the endless mental questioning of every exercise I tried or thing I ate that could have caused this.  I have faltered in my understanding of "basic Christian theology" (for the record, this article  and its sequel brought me back to sweet, gracious, reality).  And I have had this (and two more) posts written since early August and have deleted and re-started and re-thought and freaked out multiple times. I'm a mess, guys. Let's be real.

But. GOD. has not changed.  But. GOD. is still answering my prayers.  But. GOD. is drawing my heart back to His Truth.  But. GOD. has recently reminded me that true encouragement comes when you let people into your life mid-messy-process, instead of waiting until you've got it all organized and worded perfectly.

So, this enormous post is here to say that October 15 (Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day) is a big deal to me.  And to my family.  And to my God. I hope that if you have gone through the loss of a child during pregnancy or birth or at any point thereafter, you know that I am here and willing to listen to what you have gone through and answer any questions you would ever want to ask me about my experience. Because all life is precious. And all loss is loss.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Ladies' Retreat 2016: Anchored

Every year my church dedicates a weekend in September to our annual Ladies' Retreat.  I have gone twice and had to skip once when my daughter was due to make her arrival.  This fall, I had already committed to going to Cry Out, so I was considering passing up this opportunity.  But my husband looked at me and said, "You should go. Seriously."  But, money. But, time.  But...

Sometimes you just gotta kick your own "buts" out, ya know?

And in the first mixer activity (aaahhh) when I stammered out "I ate a brownie...?" to the question "What have you done for yourself this week?" I knew two retreats in the same month was JUST what the doctor ordered God ordained.  Hallelujah.

This year celebrates 20 consecutive Ladies' Retreats.  So we couldn't NOT go big.  We stayed at the most quiet, beautiful marina right on the coast of Lake Michigan surrounded by cute shops, yummy restaurants and everything a girl's weekend needs. The rain even halted for a little bit and the breeze and sun and quiet splashing of the water on all the docked boats was serenity itself.  *Deep sigh*

We arrived Friday evening, checked in, and had our first session complete with snacks, games, songs and...more games.  I always appreciate getting to know women I have never talked one-on-one with before.  Retreat bonds women.

Saturday morning we enjoyed a light breakfast and gathered back together for our second session.  This time we heard a moving testimony from one woman and then had a second woman share thoughts from Proverbs 2 about being anchored to God in our decision making.  Having women boldly share from their own lives, not to strangers, but to women they see every week... is powerful.  Encouraging.  Next, we enjoyed nearly 6 hours of glorious free time:  we ate at the Stray Dog (um, delicious) walked around to lovely local home decor shops and then I soaked up every minute of time on our balcony overlooking the docks.  We later took a walk down towards the coast, climbed up the dune walk (a boardwalk like path all along the coast with an incredible view), and even got to bike around the town on the hotel's free bikes!

Around 6 we came back together for an Italian buffet catered in by the hotel.  SO. YUMMY. And an hour later we settled in for our second Saturday session.  A young lady from my table stood up and shared what God had been teaching her this summer, and then a youth leader from our church shared with us how we can be anchored in our identity in Christ.  There probably was not a dry eye in the room as she shared the struggles and pains of her own childhood and journey.  She even shared some of the biggest blessings in her life.  And her summary lumped the junk and the joy in the same category:  it doesn't define her.  Christ Jesus defines her. Nothing else.  Even if many ladies couldn't relate to the hard times she had gone through, we were ALL touched by those truths.

Perhaps the most moving time of all came Sunday morning as we gathered for our last group session.  We pushed all the tables out of the way and then gathered the chairs in one huge circle.  We had two ladies from our Body share their testimonies:  one of losing her husband and how God has brought her through the toughest time in her life, and the other of how God led her to forgive her abusive and neglecting parents and her unfaithful ex-husband.  They beautifully set the stage for bold, transparent, real talk.  Then, we were each handed a note card and asked to write our deepest fear on it.  After some time, many ladies stood up, shared their fear with the group and then symbolically walked to the center of the room and tossed, crumbled, shredded, stomped on their note card as they turned it over to God.  The things shared in that room were deep.  Personal.  Raw.  But more than any of those things, they were obedient.  The women in that room listened attentively to the Holy Spirit and shared what He was asking them to share.  And it united our group.  Isn't that what Christ has always wanted for His Church?

As we dismissed, women who had shared (and cried, let's be real) were surrounded by other women who thanked them, embraced them, (cried with them, let's be real) and bathed them in prayer.  We felt connected.  We empathized.  And then we each got our belongings, went to our cars and headed back to our normal lives.

But, by the grace of God alone, our lives will never be the normal we knew before this retreat.  Because, thanks to the time and effort of our wonderful committee and thanks to the faithfulness of our Heavenly Father, we have been changed.  We have been taught.  We have been broken.  And we have been re-anchored to our True Hope.

What is your anchor?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Children in Church

Over the past few months, I have personally read and thought a lot about this topic:  Why do some churches expect children to be part of the worship service and other churches have a wide variety of other places children should be during that time?

A little bit of background might be helpful.  I grew up in a Lutheran church where we sat through the service alongside our parents.  My earliest memories are of asking my dad "how much longer do we have?" in a hushed tone as he pulled out the worship bulletin and pointed to where we were in the order of service.  I remember being proud of myself for keeping my eyes closed for the entire prayer time.  Let's be honest, it was pretty long for child's attention span.  But we did it. We moved churches after my 5th grade year, and ended up at a small Baptist church.  It was pretty much opposite in every way.  There was a nursery for young children and then a "children's church" time for older kids.  They would stay for songs, greeting time and announcements and then go to their own, age appropriate sermon message.

Fast forward to today, and I am a member of a Grace Brethren Church that is in between the Lutheran and Baptist church in size.  I never paid much attention to what the children did during the worship service, until my daughter was born.  Now, almost 2, she is dropped off in the nursery from the moment we walk in the building until the completion of the service.  There are classes for students up through 5th grade, in fact.  Very rarely are children brought into special services, sermons, songs, or any time with the rest of the congregation.   And, truthfully, it rubbed me wrong as soon as I had to drop my young baby off in the nursery.  I wanted her with me.  That feeling was magnified when I went back to work.  I thought, I send my daughter to a babysitter five days out of the week, and now I have to send her off again on Sunday?!  Whether it was intentional or not, I felt an unspoken expectation that I maintain the quiet, professional atmosphere in the sanctuary by sending my infant into the nursery.  Everyone was doing it.  Literally, everyone.

So, as I have spent the better part of 2 years thinking through what I believe and prefer in regards to children in the church service, I wanted to share some of the articles I have found to be particularly helpful and challenging.  Many reinforce what I have subconsciously thought for a while:  First, children should have the ability to sit quietly through a church service.  Secondly, it is good for children to see adults worshiping God.  And lastly, children can learn so many things from a worship service.

I welcome any other resources you have found as you are considering how to children can or should be involved in the service.  I, of course, understand that there are conflicting opinions and preferences on this topic and that ultimately, each family has to decide what is best in their case.

1. This quick article, "5 Reasons Children Should be Part of the Main Service Regularly" first sparked my serious consideration about the possible negative affects of removing children from corporate worship.

2. Desiring God posted this article, "Should Children Sit Through 'Big Church'?" that referenced this paper, "The Family:  Together in God's Presence."  They are both my two main pieces of reflection and interest at this point.  I really appreciate the emphasis on parenting, and at the same time it is very sobering for me.

3. This article includes both sides of this debate.  Here is the "Pro Family Worship" side, and here you can find "Real Kids Worship" points as well.  It's worth noting that found that 48% of the people polled agreed with family worship time and 52% preferred age-specific worship.  Clearly, it's a pretty even split.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Old Window, New Statement

Hello, Blog Readers!  I'm back after quite the break.  Why was I gone in the first place, you ask?  Read the many reasons I stayed off social media for a month here.  Now, I'm slowly getting back into my "routine" of checking in while fighting the urge to check out too much.  I'd love to hear how all of you manage that within your families.

But, today I wanted to share a new hobby of mine!  I have always loved crafting and creating, but my funds (and storage) are super limited.  When my mom came across an old church that was getting new windows (and tossing their old ones in the trash) we decided there had to be something we could do to re-purpose them.

And they turned out looking like this:

1. First window for my sister's bridal shower gift:

2. Second window for a friend's wedding gift:

3.  Third window for my sister's house warming gift:

4. Fourth window for a friend's house warming gift:

(Picture coming soon!)

As long as our window supply lasts (I think we have like 10-15 more sitting in the shed!) I will keep trying to come up with different people to give them to/sell them to (more on that later!) and different ways to use them.  They really are very easy to if you ever want to try, here is the process I used:


Chalk Paint (I recommend Dutch Boy brand, found at Menards)
Paint Marker
Wax Finish
Sanding/Stripping Supplies
Cheap, Coarse Paintbrush
Heavy Picture Hanging Kit (I recommend Ook brand, up to 30 lbs)
Old Window
Tarp or Garbage Bags
Painter's Tape or Razor Blades


1. Clean glass on both sides before you start. Old windows can be quite...filthy.

 2. Lightly sand edges of window to remove any loose chunks of old paint and large splinters.  On the first window, I tried to remove the old fixtures of the window, but since then I found it easier to just paint over them and go with it!

3. Lay window on tarp/garbage bag to paint.  Heavily coat one side of window with paint.  Be sure to get all the small cracks, metal fixtures, and even the beveled edge that attaches to the glass. If you choose to use painter's tape, make sure it is laid on the glass and pressed right up against the wood.  I have found that it's easier to messily paint first and use a razor blade to tidy up the glass afterwards.

Sometimes you just gotta catch up on The Voice re-runs as you craft.

4. After that side is dry (usually close to 1 hour of wait time), flip the window and repeat step 3.  It is worth noting that from the opposite side you should again pay careful attention to the deep cracks in the sides of the window.  Even when I thought I painted everything, I would notice bare spots once I flipped the window over.

5. Even though most chalk paints claim a one coat coverage, I always do two.

6. Using a flat razor blade, carefully scrape off all the excess paint that landed on the glass, if you did not use painter's tape.  This also comes in handy when you make multiple mistakes on step 9!

7. Using your sanding materials, distress the places on the window that would naturally wear away:  corners, around fixtures, and edges. I have noticed this sometimes alters the color of the paint you have used to a lighter shade.

8. I recommend using Windex/water to re-clean both sides of the window at this point.  It's probably quite dusty again!

9. Using a paint marker, write the word/drawing that you desire to be the focus of the window.  I always sketch my idea first with a pencil on a piece of paper and then look at that to help me draw it on the window.  You could also trace something easily through the glass, if that's easier for you. When I know what I want to write but don't know how to format it, I often look online for different fonts or styles to use.  These pictures show how I go in stages to get the look I want:  Write it quickly for spacing/size, then scrape off any mistakes and slowly bold the letters I want to emphasize.

10. Place a quarter sized piece of wax between the folds of the cheesecloth and rub it everywhere you have used the chalk paint.  You will notice it shows up darker initially but dries quickly. Using a cheesecloth is the only way I have found of making the wax disperse evenly, otherwise it will streak...but sometimes that adds to the vintage distressed look.  Wax will help the chalky finish not to get on people's hands or walls as they handle the window.

11.  Follow the directions for how to install the hanging kit.  The one I use comes with two D-hooks (one on each side of the window).  If you install them lower, you won't see the wire above the window, but the window may hang away from the wall a little more and the wire will show through the glass.  If you install the hooks higher on the window it will hang flesh with the wall but the wire will be visible.

12.  To "gift wrap" this I suggest getting a large gift bow to stick on the corner, or buying large gift tags that you can tie with twine or ribbon diagonally across the top.  I also save the hanging kit original packaging with the wire and instructions and hang it from the back of the window so the recipient can know how to finish the hanging process.

These normally take me one whole afternoon/evening because of painting, waiting an hour, flipping, drying, etc.  Sometimes the following day I go back over the paint marker spots again to make them thicker.

What do you think?  Have you re-purposed old windows before?  Please share any tips or thoughts you have on the process!

Also, if you would like to buy one of these windows from me, I'd love to make one for your home.  If you can pick them up in Warsaw or Huntington, I'd be happy to work with you to come up with a design and color scheme you like.  Depending on what color paint/how much writing you select, the price would vary.  Comment below if you are interested!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Happy Birthday to Me

Two years ago, I took a few months off of Facebook to prepare for the arrival of our first daughter.

This past winter, I stopped my endless streaming of episodes for 6 weeks to make better use of my time during the day.

And, starting tomorrow morning, I will be spending 30 days unplugged.  No more logging in to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  No more mindlessly scrolling through my phone while not entirely engaging with the conversation around me.  No more "multi-tasking" while my daughter finishes lunch or guilting myself into writing a blogpost that is well past due.  From May 4-June 4 I will be offline. I'm deleting apps from my phone and putting my phone in a separate room when I'm at home.  The only exception due to necessity (unfortunately) is my email.  I am going to check it once or twice a day from my laptop.  Other than that, toodles!

Why now?  The weather is getting nicer.  Then worse again. But mainly nicer. I'm starting to become more disciplined in my strength training and cardio.  My daughter is so fun to play with and I hate not giving her the attention she deserves.  We have many upcoming travel plans both within the state and outside of the country.  God has given me a greater hunger for Scripture than ever before in my life.  I even think I want to try to memorize a whole book of the Bible!  I'll let you know how that works out. We have major life decisions coming up as a family.  I want to implement some form of fasting (maybe a version of this plan?) periodically.  I have an ever growing list of prayer requests and seemingly fewer minutes in my day to pray over them.  It's my birthday month.  So, really, why NOT now?  When I write all those goals out, I can't help but feel like 30 days won't even be enough!

As I struggle with how to make these big changes and huge decisions, Romans 12:2 really convicted my heart:

"...let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."

So, I'm going to give God a little more peace and quiet to work in my heart and mind.  To transform me into a new person who can learn His perfect will for my life by changing the way I think.  I'm not saying a break from the internet is the answer to everything, but for me it is necessary from time to time.  And as Romans 14:22-23 reminds us, "Blessed are those who don't feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right. But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it.  For you are not following your convictions.  If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning."

If you like seeing pictures of my daughter, or you enjoy articles that I read or crafts that I have tried, I look forward to seeing you back here in June!

Toodles :)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Easter Bunny Lessons

As I researched more for Easter and how to teach a toddler some of the significance behind this holiday, I came across this post thanks to Focus on the Family.  I especially loved the suggestions for incorporating how the world views Easter (fuzzy, adorable, Easter bunnies!) and using them as an object lesson for how Christ wants to help us act.  So, I came up with some visuals because I like to waste a nap-time and not do dishes...  Feel free to download these, print them off and use them to remind yourself and your children of how to act like "Easter bunnies."

You could attach these to a bag of chocolate bunnies, marshmallow bunnies or place them next to a REAL bunny (!!).  You could also have older children look up and read the Bible verses mentioned or have younger kids look for books and stuffed animals that have bunnies in them to further the illustration.

In looking for cute ways of incorporating God's wisdom into the world's foolishness, I came across THIS BLOG which has dozens of adorable printables.  I'm in love.  I especially liked her cute suggestions for how to redo an entire Easter basket with Scripture references.

I had a little too much fun playing on Canva, as always.  Have you tried to make visuals on here?!

The carrot.

Hope you enjoyed this creative concept from Focus on the Family as much as I did.  Make sure to check out their ideas for more object lessons!