#WBW My Breastfeeding Journey

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Breastfeeding . . .  13 months and going

This journey has been beautiful (and difficult at times) with both children. Both unique experiences, both I wouldn’t regret. When Tali was born, I didn’t have many friends with children. I didn’t know a lot about breastfeeding. I had little support. I wanted to quit. It was awkward. It was lonely at times. I had a hard time getting her to latch. My milk didn’t come in for 5 days. But one mommy was brave, messaged me on FB, told me about the benefits, and told me I can do it! I then committed to a year right then and there. I went back to work when she was 4 weeks old, and I pumped. Pumping was lonely. The stress to keep my supply was sometimes overwhelming. But those moments in the night made it all worth it. Tali was on mostly half formula and half breastmilk for her whole life. Tali weened herself around 6 to 9 months (cause she didn’t want to be held, cuddle, lol). She refused to nurse. So I’d hold a bottle of breastmilk for her to take, while pumping. Her one-year-old birthday was the last time I nursed her (she actually let me that morning.)

With Parker, I was ready for this journey. I knew I wanted to try again. I was armed with a LOT of knowledge, support, and techniques. I know about supply and demand. I knew about all the most recent research and articles that have surfaced about STEM cells, immune support, antibodies, probiotics, and more. For about 9 months I provided fully breastmilk, even after returning to work. And up to 13 months, he’s still mostly breastmilk fed with occasional formula. But, I had weeks where it hurt so bad I cried when he nursed. I had moments I wanted to give up to have more help and freedom. But, it’s been worth it. With Parker’s conditions (kidneys and ears), I’ve provided him to the best of my ability what his body needs to fight off any infections and to grow strong. One year now, and I think I’ll just keep going. ❤

IMG_1861I love snuggling my babies close. I love watching them nurse, watching them study my eyes. I love their little hands on my skin. I love providing for them. I love feeling their chest rise and fall with each breath. I love how I can calm them in seconds at my chest. I’m amazed how the Lord made our bodies – to grow, house, birth, then nurture.

I know this journey isn’t easy for everyone, isn’t beautiful, isn’t encouraging. I know that for some reason or another, mamas have chosen not to. And that’s okay. ❤ Don’t let this post be one to make you question your choices – or make you feel I would. You’re the mama. You know what’s best for you.

And this picture, it’s of a mama feeding her baby. It’s beautiful. There’s nothing here to hide.

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Mama’s Simple and Wise Life Lesson

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

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My wise mama taught me an important life lesson, one that as a kid I would roll my eyes and think “well when I’m an adult, I’m not going to have to do this.” Instead, it’s a lesson I now appreciate, cherish, and will teach my own kids.

Mama would always say:

When you leave somewhere, leave it better than when you arrived. When you borrow something, leave it cleaner than when you brought it home.

And she diligently applied this rule to every aspect of our daily life:

860272_1874362465723_1815623652_o.jpgWhen I’d try on clothes, mom would make me hang every single piece back up, button it, straighten it, fold the jeans, etc. and give them back to the attendant. When I’d leave a restaurant, if I made a mess on the floor, she’d have me tidy it up. If I missed the trash bin, she’d make me go pick it back up. I’d often get frustrated and say something along the lines of “But they hire people to do this! This isn’t my job.

She’d make me do it anyway.

Today I walked into the bathroom at my workplace and saw trash thrown near the trash bins and paper towel scraps near the dispenser. It looked pretty bad. Of course the average person probably pulled out the paper towel, grabbed it wrong, let the scrap fall to the ground, didn’t have a second thought, and moved along. The average person also might walk in, see what I am looking at, and think “this looks awful!” and leave with the same thought, taking no action.

This is my second home. It’s where I work, work I take pride in. It’s where my coworkers spend the majority of their waking hours. It’s a place that’s been good to me. I know my coworkers here, their spouses, and their children. I know our mailman. I know our janitors, and know many of their life stories and have shared with them my own.

I stooped over and began picking up all the trash, and tidying the bathroom. It took me about 20 seconds to do.

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When we care for these smaller things, when we take time to notice the impact of one person, we start to understand the world differently. We can suddenly see the impact of 10 people who stopped caring, and realize the impact of an entire culture who, out of habit, thought “someone else will do it.” We start to see how little decisions “pile” up – and these small teachable moments translate to every aspect of our life, our home, our family, our workplace, our lifestyle, our culture, our world.

A little of your time, mommy

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Tali broke my heart last night. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

One of the most difficult jobs a mommy has is balance: balancing career, mommyhood, cleaning, cooking, time with your husband, self care, quiet time, and everything else.

Different days have different sacrifices; sometimes our family is put on hold for work crises. And other times work is put aside for quality time with the people that matter most. Other times, we assume what our child wants most only to be reminded that the simplicity of their wish comes down to desiring our love, attention, and affirmation.

Yesterday morning, I left the house while Tali was still asleep and went to work, the usual. Work was busy, satisfying, and fulfilling. After work, I met Tali (daughter), Tucker (my husband), and Parker (son) at community group, an event we have every Tuesday night with our closest friends. We share a meal, the adults talk pleasantries, and the kids play; they play HARD. These kids have known each other their whole life.

After we got home, after what I would consider a long, satisfying day, I told Tali we need to get ready for bed. (It was about 9:00 PM).

Tali then suddenly cried, “Mommy, why haven’t you played with me today?” I opened my mouth to explain how we’d talked in the car on the way home and how she played with her friends tonight and had fun and how it’s late, but the words just felt empty to her emotional plea. “Mommy, I want to play with YOU, don’t you want to play with me?”

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Even after playing with her friends, spending time with daddy and Parker all day, what she really needed to feel satisfied was a little bit of my time, a little memory and token of my affection to carry her off to sleep that night.

In that moment, I didn’t know what to do. We’d been up really late the night before. I was exhausted and still needed to get her baby brother down for bed. If I gave her “10 more minutes” to play then it would turn into “ . . . but last night you played with me!”

Instead I hugged her, told her “Mommy is so sorry. I love playing with you. Tonight though we played with our friends and now it’s bedtime. How about mommy reading you a book?”

That moment really stuck in my mind, and has all morning. I think I’ll even ponder on its meaning for a few years, while Tali probably woke up without even a glimmer of it.

Our babies need us. They need our time. They need us to put down our email. Put down our phone. Place the world aside to show them that they are worth our undivided attention. Keeping them “happy” and “busy” with playdates and activities and other things aren’t enough. They need US. They simply need us.

And honestly, we need them too. We need them to remind us what’s most important in life. It’s the people in front of us. It’s the simple things in life.

Miscarriage: My Story, No Details Spared

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October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. This month I remember my sweet angel baby Jordyn that we lost so suddenly in March of 2016.

It’s taken me over a year to publish this story that I wrote shortly after we miscarried. The details were too graphic, and the pain was still fresh. I knew when I wrote it that I had the intention to make it public, but couldn’t bring myself to do it yet. I share with you something that is so deeply personal and vulnerable because I want those who haven’t walked through miscarriage to understand what miscarriage entails, and I want those who have walked through it to know you aren’t alone in the details. 

Here is my story, raw and unpolished:


The last beat of his heart sounded while my body cradled his; at one point two heartbeats from within the chambers of my body, and then one; when his last one faded, mine continued, rocking him into heavenly slumber. Perhaps I was sitting laughing with my husband unaware of this event when it occurred. Perhaps I lay dreaming of holding him. It still haunts me that such an event occurred without notice, without pause. Life continued as another one passed.

IMG_6699Three weeks ago, I heard his heartbeat for the first time in an ultrasound. It was beautiful and strong. I was given “Congratulations! A healthy baby!” and sent home. Life continued. We dreamed. We prepared. We hung my pregnancy clothes.

Sunday night while I slept, I dreamt that I was forced to move into a new home. This new home was anything but welcoming; it was dark and cold. A murder had been committed there, and left. I was faced with the task to clean it up by myself before I could move in, and tell no one of what happened. The feeling of heaviness, of darkness, of fear, of suffering was full upon me faced with this morbid task. I would be forced to live in that house with the memory of what I saw. Trembling, with a cleaning pail and rubber gloves, I entered the cold, dark, quiet house anticipating what I was about to see. Entering, I gasped and fell to my knees weeping, body parts illuminated in pale light.

I then awoke to intense pain in my lower body, and headed to the bathroom. I sat down, and found blood in my underwear. Just a spot. Being 11 weeks pregnant, I immediately began weeping uncontrollably, although unaware of what it fully could mean. Blood isn’t good. Gathering myself, I stumbled into our room where Tucker was asleep. He awoke hearing my sobs and asked if everything was okay and when I didn’t respond, he got up and followed me into the bathroom where I showed him — he embraced me while I wept. Tucker reminded me that we didn’t know anything yet – and there was so little blood. In that moment, I felt so helpless. I couldn’t check on my baby. I couldn’t comfort him. And if it was miscarriage, I was powerless to stop it. I ended up staying up most of the night in tears. Tucker and I went to the living room around 3am and tried to watch a movie to distract us – and wait. Wait to see if more blood came.

That morning, no new blood came. We called the doctor and I described what I had experienced and she told me that it was nothing to be concerned about – that a small amount a blood was normal and to rest and drink plenty of fluids. Suddenly the dark gloom lifted, lingering, but lifted. I excitedly told Tucker that everything would be okay and I rubbed my belly, smiling, cradling my baby. We couldn’t have been more happy to hear our little child was still there and okay, although I was still having some painful cramping. I told work that I was “sick” and stayed home tending to Tali and going about a semi-normal day.

Things took a turn for the worst around 9pm that evening (my daughter was already in bed asleep) – it was sudden and unexpected. I had invited my mother over to watch The Bachelorette, and shipped Tucker off to be with my dad to watch the game. The evening was beautiful and uplifting until that telling moment I’ll never forget: I laughed and felt a rush of fluid come — and continue to, every time I moved, every time I talked, with every step. I immediately knew – and my heart sank deeper than I’ve ever felt before. All hope drained from me, all the light was gone. I knew our baby was no longer alive. A heart no longer beating – that seconds ago I took for granted that it was. And my body still held onto his lifeless one.

Tucker wasn’t home and I texted him to come home, and told my mom I was tired and needed to rest. I stayed strong until she left because I wanted to first process the emotion with my husband. I was already wearing a pad just in case from the previous incident, and now found myself paralyzed with fear and sadness. I couldn’t look, couldn’t check – I didn’t want to face what was happening. I went to our bed and curled up in the fetal position, and absolutely fell apart. I wept uncontrollably as more blood continued to come – it never let up. Tucker came home about ten minutes later and found me in the bed. He immediately curled up behind me and wrapped his arms around me, comforting me, holding me, a moment of knowing silence hung in the air. I told him between sobs that I didn’t want to look. I didn’t want to see. I didn’t want to look. I didn’t want to look. While sobbing I continued to repeat it. But, I knew I had to or I would get blood on my pants and bed. He helped me to the bathroom as my body continued to painfully contract. I felt the same anxiety as I did in my dream Sunday night, and I wasn’t prepared to face it. To see blood. I wasn’t prepared to see the proof of what I feared. A nightmare that I couldn’t wake from. I sat on the toilet and saw that the pad was full of bright red blood – new blood — a sign of miscarriage. My whole body began shaking as I now faced what was happening. It was real. My baby was gone. My womb held no life, but just a body. I continued weeping, sobbing. And I sat… as blood continued to pour out along with tissue with each sob.

Image04I sobbed for so many things: for the loss of hope. For the loss of opportunity. For the loss of memories I expected to make. For the pain. The pain of labor. For the graphic nature of this moment. For the unknown: the image of my child’s body floating somewhere, unknown, unseen, in human waste, in a cold dark sewer system, forgotten, abandoned, rejected by the body. Dear Lord, I just wanted to hold him. I just wanted to hold her once.

I fixated on this idea. Where is my baby? Where is my child?

Tucker ended up calling my doctor and we ended up at the hospital because the pain became unbearable. When I arrived, there were happy faces. There were people awaiting news in the waiting room of a blessed new life. The nurses tried to reassure me that my symptoms didn’t necessarily mean miscarriage. But, I knew. I knew before they knew.

Once we were admitted, they asked about the clots I passed. They asked if there was evidence still left in the toilet that I used. They asked about my pain. They hooked me up to machines. They used an ultrasound machine. They entered my body and used an internal ultrasound. The privacy of that moment, the vulnerability of that moment felt invaded by machines and strangers and objects. The loss of life corresponded with a loss of privacy — and the peaceful, familiar space to pause and process and reflect and pray was gone.

They turned the monitor away out of my sight, and walked out to discuss. They confirmed no heartbeat, and with that, the last bit of unrealistic hope I had was crushed. They told me that “stuff” was still passing and that they needed to ask my doctor if I needed to stay overnight, have a surgery, or wait it out.

Instead they offered me a pill and had us go home. We drove slowly. We cried. We stopped for food to delay return. We walked into the house, and I didn’t want to say anything to my parents that waited with my daughter. I had no more words.

We arrived home that night around 2am, and a few hours later, Tucker had to get ready and go to work – life, responsibilities, and time continuing forward, unforgiving of human life or suffering, leaving no room for rest or processing.

Having no experience with miscarriage, and not having spoken to a mom that went through miscarriage, I didn’t understand that my body was in labor. I didn’t understand what “surgery” entailed. I didn’t know what my little pill was. I didn’t know that the “stuff” spoken of was my child. To me, my child was never just “stuff” — nor was his remains. When I went to the hospital, no one educated me. No one spoke about options. No one asked me what I wanted. No one explained what would happen next.

Three days later, my child arrived into the world. That morning I had thought about going to work because processing the pain alone at home was worse than continuing in routine tasks. Luckily, I decided to stay home one more day. I didn’t know that that “stuff” that would pass on its own was code for my child’s body. And, I had no idea that when you miscarry, you labor and pass your child — depending how far along — whole and recognizable. That afternoon my body started painfully contracting and I left for the bathroom. Something larger passed, and all the pain I had been feeling suddenly and immediately lifted and was gone. In fact, I felt peace. I immediately recognized the meaning of this moment. I knew what had happened and what I passed. I was so unprepared. No one told me this would happen. No one told me what to do next.

I couldn’t bring myself to flush the toilet. I couldn’t bring myself to not look upon my child’s face. But I sat, frozen. Am I crazy? Am I crazy to want to hold him? Is that not what I wanted? I had fixated on not knowing where my baby was, and sobbed over the idea of him each night. Isn’t this a redeeming moment?

IMG_0154I retrieved his sweet little body, and kept him. I held him. And for a moment, all life paused. My angel. I told Tucker the news, and we decided to buy a Japanese Maple Tree and burry our beloved under the tree. We named our child Jordyn Eden, and said our final goodbye that weekend — peace came over us. Closure came. And closure came as I spoke to other mothers to find out that this experience, and how we sought closure, was common. Other mothers, in utter shock, flushed the remains and then felt guilt and shame, never feeling that they had the chance to say goodbye. For these parents, some sought closure by writing a letter to their loved one and burying it instead, or perhaps placing rose petals into the water that the baby was born into, and sending it away the same way their child left them. Either way, there is no wrong way to say goodbye. There is no closure that comes close to ending our pain or mourning. There is only acceptance, and reflection, and prayer, and community, and faith, and moving forward when everything in us wants to go back, go back to that beating heartbeat, to the double lines on a pregnancy test.

We enter into a community of motherhood we never expected to or wished to, but in it we found love, and peace, and hope, and remembrance. Although to so many people this little life never was, to us they were, and they are, and they continue, even if only in our heart.


 

 

Three Years Ago Today: A Birth Story

10669108_2448876388212_6300732187177903828_oTucker and I arrived at the hospital promptly by 5:30am to be induced, as our little miss was estimating at 10lbs and was already almost 2 weeks late! Little did I know, it wouldn’t be until the next day that we met our sweet little girl.

The labor was anything but what I expected. I didn’t respond to being induced; the pitocin was cranked up high after 6 hours of labor not starting. Then, all at once, my water broke and STRONG irregular contractions started, peaking without fully coming off of them. I labored for a hour before begging for an epidural with these medicine-induced contractions and no doula or education for pain management. The epidural wore off after an hour, and I was given a booster. Once that didn’t work, they took the epidural out and restuck me (still didn’t completely work). My temperature spiked and baby’s activity slowed. Then the oxygen mask. Then the anxiety meds. Hours and hours went by . . .

My sweet nurse took me by the face and told me “I’m here. I’m here. We’re gonna make it.”

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THREE years ago today, Tali arrived early in the morning after 4am. After the labor hadn’t gone as planned, and no progress had been made after four hours, after my body had gone through 23 hours of medicine-induced-contractions, an epidural removed and redone, anxiety medicine, and oxygen, the doctor said the words “Failure to Progress” and the word “C-Section” was spoken. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt like I had failed. I felt like my body failed. I felt like something was wrong with me. In that moment I felt like the most miraculous moment of life was stolen from me: watching an innocent babe come into the world, your child. It was like sand through a fist: the tighter I tried to hold on to it, the faster it slipped through my fingers.

Tucker was exhausted both emotionally and physically watching me fight through labor. I was exhausted mentally and physically as well. I couldn’t bring myself to say “Okay,” so Tucker did for me. Tucker was rushed off to get dressed and I was sent into a sterile, white-walled room, with obtrusive bright lights: anything but the serenity in which I wanted. I couldn’t see the doctors’ faces, as they were covered with a mask. I was told to lay my arms out flat. Tucker came in and stood over me, his eyes the only recognizable part of him that was visible.

I was so scared. Behind the curtain they’d be cutting into my body, pushing internal parts to the side to bring my daughter into the world. This isn’t the way it was supposed to be…Then, before I could think about much more, Tali was born into the world crying. I saw tears in Tucker’s eyes as he said “She’s beautiful.” In that moment, I “saw” her for the first time through his eyes – a shared emotion. I told Tucker to go to her, that I’d be okay. And, that’s my last memory.

Although I was “awake” during these pictures – I don’t remember them. I don’t remember holding my daughter for the first time. I don’t remember breastfeeding her. I don’t remember the first time I looked into her eyes. I don’t remember how she moved. I don’t remember how her skin felt or how she smelled. My first memory is looking across the room and seeing someone holding her. I remember a room full of people.

But yet, despite all the circumstances, when I saw her, all I could think about was her. That perfect moment hung in the air. She’s mine. She’s my daughter. She’s so perfect. She’s so beautiful. I brought her into the world. I’ll do anything for her. I love her.

Happy Birthday, Tali.

 

 

Community and Service: How Middle Class Millennials are Missing the Mark

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When it comes to community, our middle class millennial age has given us unprecedented privilege in which we are unaware: our finances allow us to hire a babysitter, drive far distances, buy dinner, and eat with a friend a town away. Our technology allows us to meet someone on vacation, and then keep up with her through social media indefinitely.

For us, “community” means pages on Facebook, a church that pools people from four surrounding towns, and planning dinner with the old roommates. And serving our community means scheduling a time slot on a certain day, driving distances up to 30 minutes away, and arriving in a part of town we never before stepped foot in. And I’m not necessarily saying that we shouldn’t engage in this type of community, but . . .

. . . This got me thinking:

Isn’t it absurd that we “schedule” time to serve, and only through an event or organization, when there are ever present needs all around us within walking distance?

Isn’t it absurd that we drive a town away to serve dinner when the family next door is forfeiting theirs because finances are tight?

Isn’t it absurd that we go to “serve” those in other communities we consider “unfortunate,” tell them “God Bless” and “it’s going to be okay,” and then travel back home to our fireplace and Netflix never to invest in them again, while they sleep on the floor and listen to the echo of gun shots and police sirens nightly?

Isn’t it absurd that a single mother cries on the phone to her mom back home because she’s desperately tired and has no one nearby to give her even an hour break, while the lady next door has spent the entire day watching Netflix?

What if we shifted our paradigm of community? What if we less viewed community and serving as a definable place and time, and instead felt it as an ever-present reality physically surrounding us that we can choose to engage in or shut out? What if we learned that the terms “community” and “serving” are inseparable concepts? 

pathway-1629027_1280EVERYONE belongs to a community, and yet we are increasingly surrounded by people who feel so alone.

See, this is where we’ve failed. We’ve failed to make community with those next door. We’ve failed to engage people in our daily lives and routine. We’ve paid the utmost attention to someone’s Instagram that we’ve never met, while ignoring the man who sits alone every night on his porch with tears in his eyes.

If we all pursued our neighbors, no one would fall under the radar. If we served those around us, no one would go without assistance and we’d better our world starting with where we live.

Community is within walking distance. Relationships are an eye-shot away. Service is the street on which you live, the places you frequent, and the building in which you work. 

Don’t go looking for community — build community where you are. 

 

VBAC with my Rainbow Baby

 

19366125_1319960171434218_3113168639535279117_n.jpgI’m so thrilled to announce to you all that my son was born on June 21st at 8lbs 8 oz, 21.5 inches long by a SUCCESSFUL VBAC! It couldn’t have been a more beautiful moment, not only my rainbow baby but a beautifully smooth birth. It was everything AND MORE than I imagined that birth could and should be.

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I made the decision to VBAC around a month before my son was born. I was always interested in this procedure but wasn’t well enough educated on the procedure to be comfortable with it. I ended up going to the chiropractor* due to my hip hurting, and this chiropractor was well educated in natural labor and birth and had SO MANY local connections with doulas, birthing centers, midwives, and more. He simply spoke to me about VBACs, telling me it was never too late. Of course I thought this was silly, but suddenly my heart ached for a normal birth after the trauma of my C-Section. I knew birth was meant to be so much more, and so much more beautiful.

Long story short, I hired a doula*, continued seeing the chiropractor* certified in the Webster technique, changed hospitals (to a VBAC friendly one), switched doctors (to one well known in the VBAC community), and began doing acupuncture* weekly to prep my body. At home, I daily did exercises to move baby into optimal position and engage baby in my pelvis to increase my chances of a vaginal birth, and I continued my regular exercise routine that included cardio and weight training.

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All of this was a month before I was due. (But we made it happen!)

All of this was after I was diagnosed with “failure to progress” and told that my body probably couldn’t go into labor on its own. (It did – and did strongly and on time!)

All of this was after I let go of the fear and the unknown. (Fear keeps us from our dreams.)

All of this was while working full time. (My job was so amazing in allowing me all of these appointments!)

 

And now I have this precious, squishy little newborn boy to love on. And a healed memory of birth.


1st Photo: Taken by doula

2nd Photo: Candace Williams Photography

3rd Photo: Haley Kinzie Photography

*If you are a local individual and want the contact information for these photographers, doula, chiropractor, doctor, or acupuncturist, PLEASE let me know! I’d love to recommend them. I’ve excluded their names for my own privacy.