Friday, November 30, 2018

Self-Care November

 


Can you believe it's almost December?? I know I can't! If you follow me along on Instagram, you know that during the month of November I made it a goal to practice self-care every day of this month. Some days it was as small as just doing a 10 minute meditation or a face mask before bed, and other days it was spending a few hours alone in Starbucks or getting a pedicure. I made an effort to try some brand new things, as well as include a wide variety of things for myself - in both time and cost! (PLEASE check out my original post on IG for a little more of my thoughts back at the beginning of the month!) As someone who is an extrovert 90% of the time, I enjoy and feel filled by social events and connecting with friends - I NEED that! But only occasionally do I actually consider that "self-care". Sometimes it can be.

As I am searching for my "new identity" as a mom and a human (and have started to include therapy again in that journey) my therapist encouraged me during a session to really try to make self-care a priority. Following the session, I made an effort to keep self-care at the front of my mind as much as I could. After waking up one day and realizing that I had made it 9 WHOLE days in a row (starting Nov. 1) doing ONE thing for myself each day - I felt super motivated to continue and made it an actual goal to take it a step further and practice self care every single day during the entire month of November.

Here's my takeaway: IT. WAS. AWESOME. 

So there's the obvious: doing something for yourself clearly sounds good. Buh-duh. But the consistency I believe is what made it so awesome. Doing something (anything!) consistently removed the pressure for perfection. In the past, self-care happened for me so rarely that I would build the experience up in my head SO much. There was too much weight placed on ONE certain experience or that ONE pedicure or that ONE splurge or whatever it was. When it's not happening regularly, and when you don't know when you'll get another chance for yourself again, it actually makes it really hard to enjoy those times when you DO have an opportunity for self-care.

(I also want to add that I never felt like it was a burden or a chore trying to come up with something to do each day, but that part was actually really fun! Even my husband got into it and was super supportive. He would ask me what I wanted to do or encourage me to do something like take a bath or do a v-steam or go out of the house alone for a bit.)

I don't think you have to practice self-care every single day for an extended period of time to reap the benefits of it. (Do I think it's an awesome idea and everyone SHOULD try it? Absolutely!) And there IS something to be said for"forcing" yourself to practice self-care THAT frequently, as it opens up a lot of opportunities to try new things and get creative! BUT what I have learned is that consistency trumps frequency. I personally believe that when it comes to self-care it should be something that is practiced regularly. Whether it's every single day or just every Tuesday - when you know what to expect or know when time for yourself is coming again (and it's already on the horizon) it's okay if the experience/pedicure/coffee/meal is not 110% perfect. There is so much to be said for the stability and peace that I felt when I was making it happen regularly.

I feel happier. I feel like I matter more. My mental well-being IS a priority! Even if other people feel this way or tell you these things, it's difficult. to convince yourself of this. That's the hardest thing. I HOPE my little project has INSPIRED you to make yourself a priority. Not in a selfish way but in a "living a full life"kind of way. And if you're a mom (or a friend or sister or partner or whoever!) you can't pour into others if you yourself are empty. I can't fill my children if I have nothing to give. Wouldn't it be nice to actually FEEL that fulfillment? I still have a ways to go but this month of self-care has been a huge stepping stone for my personal journey to...wherever I'm going.



Here's a little list of what I did each day. (If you want MORE or want some visuals refer back to my Instagram and click on my "self-care" highlight! It's way more fun that way!!)

November 1: Went to a yoga class
November 2: Listened to a meditation on my phone before getting out of bed for the day
November 3: Took a bath (including candles, music and a book)
November 4: Vaginal steam with candles and calming music playing
November 5: Picked up some coffee, took the kids to the playground and listened to a podcast while I pushed Cami in the stroller and walked back and forth next to the jungle gym
November 6: Went to Starbucks alone after hubby got home from work to read/listen to a podcast/journal/write a blog post
November 7: Ate dinner on the couch with headphones in while hubby took care of feeding the kids at the table
November 8: Had a coffee date with a church friend/mentor
November 9: Laid in bed while the kids napped and played on my phone/checked social media/enjoyed the silence :)
November 10: Went to bed early and got 8 hours of sleep!
November 11: V-steam followed by a quiet bath
November 12: Woke up, put on a meditation and went back to sleep for 30 minutes
November 13: Spent the evening alone at Starbucks after therapy was cancelled
November 14: Laid in bed and read a book while Heidi was at school, Cami was napping and Wells got some iPad time
November 15: Mani/pedi followed by boxed brownie mix with some Andes mint chips thrown in
November 16: Rubbed my Eden's Garden "Anxiety Ease" essential oil on my wrist and laid down in bed while the kids napped. I put on a meditation and listened while I fell asleep.
November 17: Ran a half marathon (self-care was just making sure basic needs were met!)
November 18: Got my very first facial ever at a place I've been meaning to try for a while
November 19: Bought myself some new clothes while spending the day out of town with my sister! (Lots of alone time listening to music and podcasts in the car during the 2.5 hour drive to and from!)
November 20: Extra long mid-day v-steam with meditation while the kids napped
November 21: Put a few drops of essential oil on my wrists and laid down to rest. Not quite enough time to nap but still used the time to enjoy the quiet
November 22: 
November 23: Face mask before bed
November 24: Tried an "Aqua Massage" for the first time!
November 25: My birthday!
November 26: Quick 10 minute meditation
November 27: Therapy session (plus listened to a podcast in the car to and from the session)
November 28: Hair mask
November 29: Coffee and alone time at Starbucks while hubby handles bathtime/bedtime at home
November 30: V-steam followed by Mom's Night Out with friends



Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Who Am I? My Identity Crisis

This is officially the longest I have ever gone without being pregnant or breastfeeding since I conceived my first baby back in 2013. It's so nuts to think about! My last "body break" before that was in 2015 and that was 9 weeks long. So that's 5 years total of pregnancy/breastfeeding with a single 9 week break in there. That's a looooot of years of growing or feeding another human with my body (and sometimes at the same time)! It's pretty strange having my body all to myself right now after these last 5 years!

I've always heard/read things that talk about women losing their identities when they become mothers. I feel like for the first time in my motherhood journey I'm experiencing this "identity crisis" I've heard so much about. (It also doesn't help that our family has been in SUCH an extreme transitional phase for quite some time now and I'm not sure when that will end.) It's just crazy that it took THREE babies for me to feel this way.

I don't really feel like this "losing my identity" was something that I faced after the births of my first and second. My transition into becoming a mother and figuring out "who I was" was relatively easy overall. I hadn't worked since very early in my first pregnancy so I think that helped a lot too, as I was already used to being at home most of the time. Of course there were SOME things that were hard and I did have to re-learn how to be a person and do normal day-to-day things like go to the grocery store, but overall my IDENTITY was not that different I just added the title of  "mom" to the pot. Then along came Wells. Roughly 5 days after he was born I felt like I had always had 2 children. Life marched on. Our routines didn't really change that much. Everything happening in my life was essentially unchanged so there was hardly any adjustment period at all, going from 1 to 2 kids. I was still me. (Not to mention, my supernatural birth experience with Wells only strengthened an already deep and fierce connection I felt with pregnancy, birth and motherhood. In many ways, I felt even MORE "me" than before I gave birth to Wells.)

But finding out you're pregnant when your (second) baby is still very much a baby...whew! In MOST ways I really feel like I went from having 1 child to very suddenly having 3. By the time Wells wasn't actually a tiny baby anymore I already had another one. (18 months still mostly qualifies as "baby" in my book!) I had barely adjusted to having two toddlers/kids by the time the third showed up. And really, if we're being honest going from 0 to 1 to 2 to 3 kids in less than 3.5 years... that's kind of already a lot! It's hard for me to put into words just how much more change has occurred, and just how little I have in my life to define "who I am" right now. I essentially went from having 1 baby with a solid group of mom friends that I was deeply connected to, a church community, a bible study I was apart of specifically for mothers of littles, lots of friends, a social life and still having time to focus on myself... to suddenly having 3 babies and none of the things I just listed. We currently have no physical community, no church, no Bible studies, no other activities or things that we are involved in... that's insane. Who the heck am I??

Additionally, SO much of my identity and who I AM is wrapped up in pregnancy and birth and postpartum and breastfeeding. There's a big part of me that wants to run back to all of those things right now because that's literally all I know (see first paragraph). I feel MOST myself when I'm pregnant. (Is that crazy? Perhaps it is but not to me.) I want to feel like ME again, but I also know that this time of figuring out who I am is so needed (not to mention giving my body a chance to chill out for a bit is also necessary). I don't really feel like a "me" exists outside of pregnancy/birth/breastfeeding/postpartum. I need to be none of those things for a while (or at least longer than just a few weeks/months anyway...) so I can figure out who "me" is away from that. Or perhaps "in addition to", because those parts of my life will always be apart of me.

Now that my baby is 1 year old (and the postpartum depression fog has lifted) I'm left to try to figure out what the heck I'm doing here. There is a BIG "pause button" that's been pressed on what feels like everything in our lives right now. My whole life is one big pause. We're waiting on a new house, a new community, a new church... all of these things can't/probably won't happen for at least another 6 months. I feel stuck. My identity as a Christian has also been a struggle lately, as I question so much of my faith and God through this season. The only thing I really know at this point is that I know I'm supposed to be a mom and I know I'm supposed to be here at home raising my babies. Both of these are extremely big-picture thoughts and not quite so helpful during the day-to-day chaos, making it easy to lose sight even of those roles.

After taking a while off from therapy, I've started back with regular sessions to get some help with figuring out who I am/who I am supposed to be (and also to start laying the groundwork for preparing for another baby however near or far off in the future that might be). I am also focusing a LOT on taking care of myself and figuring out what self-care REALLY looks like. During the month of November, I'm making it my goal to practice self-care every day. Sometimes it's as simple as 20 minutes of meditation or a 30 minute bath alone and other days its going to a yoga class of spending the evening alone at Starbucks. Of the many benefits of self-care, I hope that by spending some time doing this for myself I can start to feel more of a sense of self

Since I am by nature a Type-A "do-er", there is a huge part of me that is hoping I can just read a book or join a group or club or something and just magically feel like I am myself again. But I know a lot of this is just about allowing this process to play out by giving it a lot of time and even more patience. Easier said than done.

Thank you for sharing this space with me :).





Monday, November 5, 2018

A Little Update

Hi there!

It's been a long time. Things have been very quiet over here this year (at least as far as this blog goes)! I just haven't been in a season where blogging was a priority. And I'm okay with that. I have in fact been very at peace with it happening that way and was really happy to just take some time off, indefinitely. I've continued sharing about my life (not that it's particularly riveting) on my personal Instagram, but blogging just sounded like too much effort (/time/energy/thought/etc.). Something that I'm learning about my life as a mom of a thousand kids (okay jk it's currently "only" 3) is that sometimes things just get put on the back burner. Sometimes it's intentional and sometimes it's not. BUT that doesn't actually mean I'm quitting them forever. Or even quitting them “until my kids are older”. "Not today" doesn't mean "never again". I've temporarily stopped selling burp cloths on my Etsy shop. I just felt like in this season that wasn't something I wanted on my plate. However, I'm not saying I'm done with that forever, or even a long time. It's weird but also insanely peaceful feeling released from so many of those things. I'm just in a place now where I can say "I'll do that when I feel like it".

Anyway, blogging is something that I love to do. Mostly as more of a journal for myself. But also because I think being open and honest (yes even in online/social media world) can really help us feel less alone in this world. I truly believe that social media gets a really bad rap, unnecessarily. Sure there are things about it that can be unhealthy, but I have really enjoyed the connections and community that I have found through Instagram and blogging. I really think it is what you make it. You have the ability to choose that for yourself. (And shout out to those women out there who make my social media feeds super authentic!)

SO. All of that being said. I think I'm coming back to a place where I would like to start documenting a little more, sharing a little more. I've also been struggling with my identity and I hope maybe this will give me a little direction. It's also an amazing excuse to get away for a bit and just be in my own head - something you don't really get to do much of when you are at home with lots of littles.

It seriously took me a year and a half of HELL (see here and here if you'd like a little taste) before I realized "Ooooooh this is a SEASON. THIS is what people mean when they say they went through a 'hard season'". It was really strange, that moment. I can't believe it took me that long to come to that realization! In a way, that brought me some comfort, because it gave me hope that life won't always feel this "off" or hard/weird/isolating. But becoming aware of this season we are in... didn't change the fact that we are still in it and we don't really know for how long. I'm still hopeful that greener pastures are ahead, however far off they may be.

We've made some big changes in our lives. We've come a long way but still have a long way to go. After these last 2 years, I needed a change. A BIG change. (At one point, we were actually looking at potentially moving our family to Montreal. So insane.) We were looking to do something drastic, clearly. We ended up not going THAT extreme, but we decided to build a new home in a new community. We sold our house, put our stuff into a POD, and moved into a 2 bedroom apartment. What a HUGE weight off of our shoulders that was - leaving that house forever. To say I needed a change of scenery after what we've been through would be an understatement. There was just so much baggage associated with that house and it hadn’t been what I wanted it to be for a long time. I like our new little temporary home. I like where it is and what it is. I'm using this time to focus on myself and find peace. I've been training for some half marathons, focusing on self-care and exploring what that means, making new friends, and dreaming about what the future holds for our family. There's still some hard parts, and I have to figure out just who it is that I am now but I'll get into that another time.

I want to keep this little update semi-short and sweet, so I'll cut myself off here for now. I'm really looking forward to sharing some more little thoughts and updates from this season that we are in and also a few things (pregnancy-birth related) that I've learned from my experiences in this season so far. (And maybe I'll even get to some of these drafts that I've had sitting here for years and years.)

Thank you for sharing this space with me. I am grateful for you :).


Our new (temporary) home. This blue front door is especially meaningful to us :).



Thursday, June 28, 2018

My Postpartum Depression

***PSI HelpLine: 1-800-944-4773(4PPD)***

(A few disclaimers: This might be difficult for some to read. Just so you know what you're getting into I will be sharing some dark moments/thoughts. I also want you to know throughout my pregnancy and postpartum period I had already sought out counseling. So if you're thinking "Man, this girl needs professional help!!" I most definitely DID need that and already had that in place. Also, this is my longest blog post yet and that's saying a lot! It was obviously important to me to go into great detail about all of this. Sorry it's so long! You've been warned!)


What does postpartum depression mean? What does it look like? I hope that you know that I feel SO called to share as many intimate details as I can about what MY journey looks like. For me, before experiencing it myself, there was a lot of mystery surrounding what PPD actually looked like. What is it? Is it just feeling sad? Feeling like you will never feel "normal" again? Is it feeling paranoid about your baby dying in their sleep? Is it thinking about hurting your baby? Hurting yourself? Is it "just" feeling like you can't handle getting out of bed? Like getting through the day is too much work? For some, it's all of the above. Or maybe just one of these. It's different for everyone. (And full disclosure: I'm currently sitting in a Starbucks, sobbing, on a Tuesday, after drinking my fair share of wine...since PPD is mostly a story of my past I knew I would need a little bit of "assistance" going back there.) But please know that I am actively praying over this WHOLE post and these words more than I have EVER before. I want you to know, as I'm sharing... I'm also praying. That my openness and vulnerability and words might mean something to you in some way. That you might feel that you are joining me on this journey for a (very specific) reason...whatever that reason might be. You're reading this for a reason.

If you are someone who has experienced PPD before, you know firsthand what this looks like. And I love you and I'm so proud of you mama. If you've experienced "baby blues" (like I did after my first baby) you have had a little taste of what PPD looks like. You know. If you're there right now know this: this is not forever. You.are.not.alone. It is okay. (It's not. I know.) But it is. Because this is a thing. A physical, biological, physiological, hormonal, chemical thing. A thing that's not your fault. And it's not about something that you did or didn't do. And you can get help. And you do not and will not have to live like this forever. I promise.

Okay. So when I last updated the blog (about postpartum stuff) it was mid-November. We were roughly 6 weeks into our postpartum journey. At that point, things were about half and half. 50% manageable and 50% not manageable. Which is pretty normal for just having had a baby y'all. BUT. After we hit the 6 week mark, shit hit the fan. Things went really downhill real quick. I started to feel as if everything in my life was piling on top of me. Life got really really REALLY hard. On top of not feeling like "myself" (physically or mentally/emotionally), I felt like everywhere I looked my inadequacy was staring me right in the face. Piles of laundry, dirty floors, unmade beds, stacks of papers, clutter, a Christmas tree with no presents underneath, empty stockings waiting to be filled... all of these things reminding me of my long to-do lists and my inability to even check basic chores off of my list (let alone take care of Christmas gifts and such). Even just things that required more than 60 seconds of thought (which, btw with 3 kids you don't have 60 seconds straight to think about anything for that long ever anyway) were impossible. But I felt like I was completely and totally drowning in all of the things. I was suffocating.

And it's not as easy as just waking up and saying "Okay, I'm going to just power through and get as much done as I can today"...because the second my eyes open there's someone crying and/or needing something from me. I would wake up in the morning and just lay there and cry before getting out of bed (usually while Cami was also crying in her bed bc she needed me to nurse her...) Thinking about feeding everyone breakfast was enough to make me feel like I just couldn't do it. It was too much. I was too tired. I felt like my body weighed 1,000 lbs. and I couldn't move. I felt very alone and I just needed Ryan to be home. But obviously he couldn't be home every day. I would nurse Cami, eyes only halfway open, and I literally felt like what little life of me that was left was being sucked out of my body through my boobs. Feeding another person entirely WITH your body can sometimes just feel so draining - physically and mentally. I wasn't able to focus my thoughts or attention on anything. I felt like I was drowning and couldn't ever come up for air.

On December 18th, I had a therapy session. (Cami was about 11 weeks old at this point.) I remember that session very vividly. Saying to my therapist, through tears, "I feel like I'm slipping." I felt like.... things were suddenly not getting any better or even staying the same, but about to get way worse. Christmas was coming up... which meant lots of expectations, lots of obligations...Right before my session, I jotted down a few notes on my phone, about where I was at and what I was feeling. Here are those notes, unedited:

"12/18 - I feel like I'm slipping. I'm drowning. Everything is on top of me. And I'm trying to claw my way to the top but it just gets steeper. I can't even focus right now though. I'm not even capable of doing anything. I feel like my life is passing by and I can't even see it. I desperately want to love this. I want to cherish my little baby but I can't. I hate this phase of life that I'm in right now. It's too transitional. I'm just waiting. Waiting for a new...community, group of friends, body, rest...waiting for everything and I'm trying to be patient but [that] gets old. I'm starting to get too anxious and impatient. Not giving my body the respect and grace it deserves. Some days I just feel sad. And sorry for myself maybe? Other days I just feel like I'm slipping. Like, mid-slip. Where you know you're slipping but you don't know yet if you're going to recover or if you're going down. Or as if I'm running on a treadmill. Trying to get enough momentum where I can hop on the sides and pause. But someone keeps increasing the incline and increasing the speed."

I left that therapy session not really feeling like there was a plan or that I was prepared or anything. I mean, I felt better just having had someone to talk to. But there was still a lot of uncertainty. The next 7-10 days were so awful, and proved to be possibly the worst and darkest days of my life.

Something else I was struggling with at this time was my ability to exercise. Every time I would go for a run, something would shift hormonally/chemically in my body and it would trigger menstruation (/major hormone crashes) to start 24 hours after my workout. Every time. 24 hours later guaranteed. After bleeding for 7+ weeks following birth, then having several full-blown-week-long periods (sometimes only 10-14 days apart from start to start, depending on when I ran)... I was so sick of bleeding y'all. Bleeding was just one more thing to make me feel like I couldn't just be normal. I was afraid to run or exercise. I wanted to run. I like running. I need to run. It keeps me sane. I also struggled with my postpartum body image for the first time ever (which I will address later) but not running just made me feel worse about myself. I am someone who is usually very in tune with my body and my cycles, yet I felt so disconnected and out of touch with my body because I really just didn't know what was going on. Because I became afraid to run, the muscles in my legs started to break down and it was quite sore and painful for me. I got to the point where I couldn't stand it anymore and decided to just suck it up and go run and pray that I wouldn't start my period. I guess I wasn't really thinking because I made the decision to do so on December 23rd.

The next morning was Christmas Eve. I felt semi-stable most of the morning because I didn't wake up bleeding! Well... a few hours later (right when we were supposed to start getting ready for Christmas Eve church service) I started bleeding. There was usually a lot of anxiety that arose on days whenever we needed to leave the house and I had to wear something other than pajamas... and Christmas Eve was no different. Worse than usual actually. I needed to find something in my closet that not only fit me (which was not much), but was also nursing friendly AND nice enough for church... but the bleeding was the straw that broke the camel's back. The rest of Christmas Eve was a mess. I won't go into every detail and everything that went "wrong" but there were a lot of things that didn't go according to plan, as I had expected them to, or were just a disappointment in general. Christmas Eve church service didn't pan out for several frustrating reasons, but during our attempt I ended up just driving away from the church, crying. I had Cami in the car and left Ryan at church with the two big kids. Once he realized things weren't going well he left the service and called me. I turned around and came back to pick everyone up. (Ryan did question whether I should be driving or not but home was only a few miles away so I felt okay to get us there.) Once we got home, I jumped into the shower and lost it. I couldn't get a grip. I was laying on the shower floor, sobbing uncontrollably, (bleeding everywhere), with my mind and thoughts all over the place. I felt almost every emotion you can imagine (including but not limited to): sadness, disappointment, loneliness, depression, like I couldn't just be normal, live normal, do normal things with my husband and family... there is so much pressure to take advantage of the holiday season too. (I was also struggling with processing Cami's birth, my pregnancy being over, extreme sleep deprivation, body image issues...SO many things...not to mention "just" adjusting to adding another tiny person to our family!) Ryan and I were looking at each other wondering if maybe we should go somewhere or call someone or... something. I think he was afraid that I might hurt myself. And while those thoughts were there in my mind, I also knew I probably wasn't capable of that... At one point I asked him to bring Cami to me so that I could hold her (she was most likely also crying wherever she was too). It felt good to just sit there, both Cami and I totally naked and just be close to her. Holding her, I still felt an unbearable amount of guilt though. I apologized to her for not being a better mom to her. And that all she had really known me for for her entire 12 months of existence was a sobbing, hormonal, depressed, unavailable mess of a mom. (Ryan made sure to keep a close eye on both of us at this point to make sure nothing crazy happened. Which felt and still feels very weird that that's where I was. Not to be fully trusted to be alone with myself or alone with my baby.)

Somehow, Ryan managed to peel me off the shower floor and into bed.

Christmas morning came. I felt a lot of guilt. Guilt for not being able to be present with my family. If it wasn't for Ryan, the kids would have had NO Christmas presents. Planning and shopping for gifts was so far beyond what I was mentally and physically capable of. And I felt bad for that but even that guilt just added to the weight. I remember just sitting on the couch watching as Ryan took a few pictures of Heidi holding Cami on the floor in front of our Christmas tree, all of the presents that he had bought and wrapped for them laying in the background. Crying because I wasn't "there" and I knew it and I didn't know how to change that. It just felt like I was watching a movie or something. I was in the audience and my life was just playing on the screen, passing me by. And that this was forever.



The rest of the day was filled with more obligations, expectations, exhaustion, loneliness and isolating thoughts (and disappointment and some hurt feelings on top of all of that)... we walked through the door after our scheduled activities for the day and I could hardly even make it to the shower. I think I was walking but on the inside it felt more like I was crawling. All the way from our garage into the shower. Spilling from the tile, over the ledge and onto the shower floor. Like I was in liquid form ("Secret World of Alex Mac" anyone?)

More hysterical and uncontrollable sobbing. Running around in circles in my head. Unable to come up with a solution. Or convince myself that there was even a reason to stop crying. Or get up off the shower floor. How can I stop feeling like this? Is this my every day now? Is this just because I can't "handle" 3 kids? Can't handle the work and responsibility that comes with that? Maybe that's what it is. But I didn't even ask for this. I didn't WANT another baby right now. This isn't even my fault. I love her and I don't wish her away but I just wasn't ready. Why would God think this timing is okay?? Why the EFF would He chose then and now for all of this? I feel so alone. Like I just want to jump out of my own skin but I can't. Almost like, I'm covered in something gross but I can't get it off. Like I'm icky and want to leave my body on the floor of the bathroom like I leave my dirty clothes after a long day. I remember looking Ryan in the eyes...we both didn't know what do to. Do we go to the hospital?? We asked each other. We didn't know. I didn't even know where we would go. In those moments, to me, all I could think about was how to stop feeling like this. How could I never feel like this again? Ending my life was a thought, but I honestly didn't feel like I was TRULY capable of that. And even though that "fantasy" was present, the thoughts of actual suicide didn't bring me any feelings of relief (which, if they did I would have expressed that to Ryan out loud. I'm grateful that through all of this our communication abilities with each other remained strong.) Though I wanted nothing more than to just crawl into a hole and disappear forever. To stop existing. To stop the pain. I had thoughts of escaping (which is common with PPD). Maybe I could run away. Get in my car. Go alone. Drive away forever. But wait. No. I would probably miss my baby too much. Maybe I could bring her with me?? Ugh no that also sounds like too much...I think I'm stuck feeling this way. It's Christmas... New Years... everyone is busy... therapist is out of town, doctor's office is closed...and my last appointment there sucked anyway... is there an answer to all of this? Anyone on this planet who can even help me right now? Help me ever? No... no I don't think there is anyone... I'm stuck here... I just want to crawl in a hole and never come out ever again... I never want to feel I just want to disappear...

Again, somehow Ryan managed to get me off of the shower floor and into bed. At some point prior to this episode, I had googled hospitals/psych wards/postpartum relief methods. I even had this website opened in a tab on my phone, but sadly it had slipped my mind that this even existed because if there was ever a time that I needed immediate help it was in those moments on the floor of the shower. Bleeding and sobbing. I wish I had remembered or been more aware that calling a hotline was an option because we definitely would have and should have taken advantage of that.

The next day I wrote down a few more thoughts...

"12/26 - 

I have so many feelings of just not being able to be normal. Do normal things. Live a normal functional life let alone feel joy. Find happiness in motherhood, my kids. Just want to crawl into a hole and never come out. I want to leave my body.

I've been waiting for relief. Waiting and waiting. For a year. When will relief come?

desperately wanted(/want) to find true joy and happiness and contentment in motherhood, in my children... I felt like I had been waiting and waiting and WAITING. Because 2017 was just SO hard, I was waiting then and I was still waiting now. WHEN will I feel relief? Joy? When will this season end already??

Either that day or the next day (12/26 or 12/27) I called my OB to schedule an appointment about the bleeding but also mentioned the postpartum stuff as well. The office wasn't able to see me until about 10 days later, but they went ahead and called in a prescription for Zoloft. I didn't really want to start taking it until I had explored other potential paths/issues (ex. like getting my thyroid tested) and I had actually had a chance to have that conversation with my OB and also my therapist. I definitely don't want to jump the gun with taking medication, but went ahead and filled the prescription just so we already had it on hand. (I was trying really hard to be open to the idea of taking meds. My two biggest hesitations with starting Zoloft were: 1.) It doesn't start "working" right away and takes a little bit of time to take effect. 2.) I don't like the idea of meds that I can't just stop whenever I feel like. I don't want to rely on something to the point of having to wean myself off of it, whenever that time came.) Anyway, I wanted to be open to meds but told myself that I wouldn't start taking Zoloft until I had talked to my therapist and OB and exhausted other paths/("natural") options. For me personally, daily medication will always be a last resort, after exploring other options, and not the first thing I just automatically jump to. (Also, I wanted to make sure something else weird wasn't going on - like, a thyroid issue, severe hypoglycemia, an anatomical issue...etc.) However, I didn't want to put myself at any further risk though, so we did decide that if another major breakdown happened that I would start taking it right away. So we waited.

In the mean time, I sent my therapist (who was out of state at the time) a message to keep her in the loop.

Luckily, all of these MAJOR breakdowns happened while Ryan was off work for the holidays. He maybe had to go in once or twice between Christmas and New Years. We had some really good friends of ours come into town and stay with us just for a fun visit for the last few days of December which I am SO grateful for. It was a really great distraction and felt so good to spend time with them. Once the new year had clicked over I noticed that I was starting to feel a tad bit better but I was still fearful that it wouldn't last and things would come crashing down again. I was SO glad to kick 2017 to the curb and welcome in a new year, but I also know that just because there is a different number at the end of the date doesn't automatically change the season of life that you are in. I didn't want to put a lot of weight or hope in that, but it still made me feel a little better I think.

On January 2nd, we started a round Whole30. (We've done it once before shortly after I had Wells and Ryan and I both benefited really positively from the results.) I personally believe that eating lots of processed, unnatural, chemical-filled and sugar-loaded foods can affect how we feel physically and mentally in a very negative way. Even though I'm sure it looked terrible on paper (PPD + Whole30??) we decided to give it a go because I knew it would help me feel a little bit better and also balance out my hormones a little bit. As tough as Whole30 can be, I knew it would pay off. But we also went into it knowing that if things got TOO hard emotionally that I would need to stop.

On January 5th I had an appointment with my OB. She did bloodwork and an ultrasound (during which time she said "You have very pretty anatomy!" - some affirmation I don't think she realized how desperately I needed even if it was just referring to the way my uterus is laid out haha.) Even though I still felt like our conversations were very black and white, I at least felt like I was heard and that my "issues" weren't swept under the rug or minimized (which PPD should NEVER EVER be but continues to be). Upon leaving the appointment, I think it was "expected" that I start taking meds and my OB prescribed me a littler higher dose than what had originally been prescribed over the phone. However, I still wanted to give my body ONE more chance to work itself out and also I wanted to meet with my therapist as well. I told myself - ONE more episode. One more major breakdown. And that's it. Then I would know that my body couldn't sort this out on it's own. One more chance.

January 7th I went on another run (my first since THE December 23rd run...) I was feeling good enough and felt like IF I started bleeding the next day I was prepared for it and would be okay (thought I wasn't 100% about that part...) I knew another period and mental breakdown the following day were both VERY strong possibilities, so I was bracing myself (however you do that...) I ran 2 miles and then stopped about a half a mile from our house. As I was walking home, I started looking around. I felt my eyes open. I saw the sun setting and I saw the trees around me. It was as if in one single moment, I just snapped out of it. I suddenly felt like I was seeing for the first time in a year. I've never experienced anything like that in my entire life and I certainly wasn't expecting a single moment of clarity like this. I had this sudden feeling of "I'm going to be okay." I wish I was able to verbalize more what this was actually like to feel, but I have no words. It was such an intense and powerful feeling, I can't describe it any other way. "You're going to be okay.... I think I'm going to be okay. I'm okay..." It was one single moment. God told me that I was going to be okay. It didn't even matter if I started bleeding the next day or not - I knew I would be okay. (But you know what? I didn't start bleeding the next day. In fact, ever since that day - I have had 6 perfect 28 day cycles. So regular that they come on the same day even within the same HOUR each month. It's nuts. I can't believe what a gift that has been and I feel so much gratitude and so much more connected with my body. I'm proud and respectful of what my body is capable of, and that doesn't stop with my periods/natural cycle.)

A few days later I had a therapy session, which felt good to offload all of this on my therapist. I was also happy that she reciprocated my desire to give things one more chance before I started taking the Zoloft. She also let me know, that there still could be some fluctuations in my hormones/emotions and to not be surprised if I experienced some more "dips". And that even if the "dips" were't "husband-peeling-me-off-the-shower-floor" dips, that if I got SICK of the unpredictability of that or of those fluctuations in general that meds were okay.

The day after my therapy session, we saw a rainbow outside. This was a very real and visible thing that I knew that God was showing me. I knew that He was specifically reminding me that He had not forgotten me, and that He would hold up His promise to take care of me. Even though I had been feeling so forgotten and abandoned, I finally FELT his presence again. This was the moment when I cried. I cried because I knew it was over. I cried because I saw Him. And I felt His promise again. And I knew that I was going to be more than just okay.

It's so crazy to actually put the timeline down on "paper". There were months and months of isolation, loneliness and depression during my pregnancy and postpartum, but it really was "only" about 6-8 weeks of total chaos. That just doesn't LOOK like that long (and honestly, for a lot of people who experience this for months and months, 8 weeks still isn't even the half of it). But to me, those 3-4 months feel like that was almost a year of my life. It felt like an absolute eternity. I didn't feel like I was able to "see" my baby until she was over 3 months old. It felt like a lot of missing out at the time (and still does in a lot of ways). Once that switch flipped for me, I felt a new warmth towards my baby. I heard her crying and I wanted to be there for her. I wanted to comfort her and hold her. (Although, don't get me wrong I still have days where I'm like "Oh. My. GOSH. Please STOP crying!!!" She's a screamer.) But it FELT different inside once I started feeling better.

Since January, I've had good days and bad days, but I feel like usually it's no different than any other human being. Not everything is easy all the time, but that's just part of being a person. I still have off days occasionally, where getting out of bed feels impossible and I'm too depressed to move (usually after several nights of bad sleep) but usually I feel overwhelmed because I have TOO much to do (normal mom/human stuff), not because the things that I do have to do are just too much for me. I wish I could say that there is a specific recipe for "curing" postpartum depression, but there isn't. And even if there was it would still be different for everyone. For me, I think it was a combination of time, exercise/being active, working hard(er) to put better things in my body instead of just garbage, and faith. I can't say that I was especially prayerful during this time, or that I clung to God and still felt so close to Him or anything like that. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The only thing I could really cling to, was just knowing that I believed in Him, and that He existed. To be honest, I wasn't capable of much else. That's often how it goes with PPD.

So I don't really have some sort of big grand conclusion to this post. I'm okay now. Most days. About 2 months ago (7 months postpartum) I came across a midwife in Houston who has experience with postpartum sealing ceremonies. (Also known as "bone closing". This is not who I used, but I really love how postpartum sealing is explained on this website if you're curious.) I can't wait to share more about this experience (if I ever get around to it), but it was so incredibly healing and I really felt like I was able to officially close the chapter on my pregnancy, birth and postpartum experiences. Even though "postpartum" can mean a lot of different things when it comes to the time frame (for some people that means 3 months, for others it can mean a year and maybe for some it can mean even beyond that) I don't feel like I'm "postpartum" anymore. I DO feel like I'm breastfeeding but the side effects I usually experience from those hormones are at least familiar at this point and I know what to expect. There's an end to that as well. We've been in a really hard season as a family for a while now, but we have a lot of hope and are making some big changes that I'm really looking forward to. Things that probably should have happened way before all of this anyway. But we've learned a lot through this and grown even closer in our marriage and as a family. And I am grateful for that.

I feel like I have the knowledge now to be more proactive in the future with regards to preventing/treating postpartum depression (or even just postpartum "distress" if you will). I have plans for how I want to treat future pregnancies and the weeks following birth, as well as how I will treat those times in a more SACRED way - because they are SO so sacred and very much intertwined. And honestly, I am SO excited to (hopefully, God-willing) go through pregnancy and postpartum again soon. I don't really feel any fear when I think about possible "next times". I can't wait to discover new ways to honor those experiences, and show my respect for those times as well as my body and my babies. I feel like our society really and seriously ignores the sacredness of the postpartum period and there is a serious lack of respect for it. This is SO detrimental. I hope that with more and more women being open about their experiences we can start to change that.

So, I guess my message is for those out there who are experiencing this, as well as to just help others to understand what this is like. To those IN it - you're not alone. It's not your fault. It's nothing you did or didn't do. You could not have prepared for this in any way. It's something that's happening inside your body. And it's not forever. Seek help. Find friends and people that you trust. Write down what you can. Re-read old journal entries or prayers from previous seasons of your life if you have them. Don't be afraid if the paths seem to be leading you towards medication. Do NOT be ashamed and talk about it as MUCH as you can possibly stand even if you're in the middle of it. Because that in itself will open so many doors of conversation and help you to feel not so alone. I am here for you and happy to help in any way that I can. I am not a therapist but can offer advice for little things that you can do for yourself that helped me on harder days.



A few thank yous.

Thank you to those that I know - many friends and acquaintances and also MANY strangers. Thank you for reaching out to me. Thank you for your many messages, comments, texts, emails... Thank you for your openness. Thank you for sharing and for listening. Thank you.

Thank you to my babies, who have given me SO much love and even more grace over these last 9 months (although more like 18 months if you also count my pregnancy).

And thank you to my husband. As if 9 months of carrying me (and our family) wasn't enough...his endurance is astounding to me. His ability to be an unconditionally supportive, grace-filled spouse AND loving and present father (not to mention chef, housekeeper, taxi driver, scheduler, shopper, counselor, friend... among many other roles)... His unconditional love has been more than I could have ever imagined when I said yes to marrying him. If it wasn't for WHO my husband is as a person I would not have survived this.

Thank you for coming on this journey with me and for reading my whole story. I am so grateful. Thank you.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Adios 2017

2017 has brought me to my knees. (Actually, laying on the floor curled up in the fetal position sobbing uncontrollably is probably more like it.) At one point, I thought I was going to write a long extensive blog post about everything that has made 2017 feel like an impossible year for us, list out all of the things that haven't gone our way and everything that has contributed to wiping us out and bringing me down to ground zero. But honestly, I don't feel like a whole long list of complaints and negativity would really do anyone any good (even though I'm already starting to forget just exactly what all of the things were that made life so hard! Funny how that happens...) so I'm going to just kind of summarize the hard parts. I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, but I do believe in being as transparent and as honest as possible and still want to share more about our journey through this past year and pregnancy - especially since it has looked much different than my past experiences.

Let me first start off by saying that this ("unplanned" if you will) pregnancy itself was never a source of the stress and turmoil that our family experienced. The final 4 weeks of this pregnancy were certainly MUCH harder (physically and emotionally) than with my previous 2, so that was something new for us to cope with - but the previous 8 months were hard for other reasons. It's strange... because it's not like anything super MAJOR went down - it's not like Ryan lost his job or we had a death/major illness in the family or anything like that - we still had a roof over our heads, cars to drive, food on the table, etc. etc. We had everything we needed. The pregnancy was not hard. LIFE was hard.

2017 started off with LOTS of sickness in our family (as I have mentioned before). Just a few day into my pregnancy I had a crazy high fever and tested positive for the flu. From January through the month of May, we had 10 sick visits to the dr/urgent care between myself and both kids - and it didn't even end there. Even before we really got deep into the summer I was already struggling with hormones and mood swings and just feeling isolated - which I expanded on here. Then July hit. July was filled with stressful events, a TON of sleep deprivation and I was completely over-committed and overwhelmed (especially with the kids out of preschool for the summer). I had no time to even think to myself.) I already felt like I had nothing left to give. To anyone - including myself.

July was very hard and stressful, and at the end of the month (immediately following a full weekend coordinating a wedding - when I thought we were FINALLY in the clear and done with stressful schedules and all of these illnesses) Ryan and Wells both caught a stomach bug. I can remember sitting down in our shower and sobbing uncontrollably for 30 minutes because I felt so alone. Hubby was sleeping in bed and I had just finished doing the dishes after feeding and bathing the kids and putting them down by myself (which at 5 months pregnant all of these things were physically very painful processes). I felt like no one in the world knew or understood what my life looked like at that time, and just how hard my day (life) had been. (And all of these things were literally just the tip of the iceberg...) I wasn't able to be a good mom or wife or friend. I was emotionally and physically unavailable. Focusing on my pregnancy was the LAST thing on my mind even though I so desperately wanted to embrace every single moment. I love LOVE growing babies but wasn't able to hardly think about it - which that in itself caused me a lot of grief and sadness. I was having a hard time just surviving each day and had ZERO sense of normalcy.

So I started seeing a therapist weekly (at a practice specifically centered around postpartum family health thanks to the recommendation of a friends therapist mom!) I was super nervous but also really excited to start this journey. It was weird though... because I didn't start seeing someone because I felt like I had this long list of issues I needed help working through, or like, I had some sort of traumatic event happen that I just couldn't cope with. Really, I just needed a friend more than anything. I needed some extra support and mostly, I just needed someone to listen to all of the crap I was dealing with. I just didn't have that strong support group that I had had with my second pregnancy. Some weeks have been more helpful than others. Sometimes I leave feeling SO much better and some weeks I feel leaving the same (or even more confused sometimes). But overall it has been a very positive experience. Also, based on my past two breastfeeding experiences, I know that breastfeeding hormones start bringing me down emotionally to a place where I just start feeling really blah and "flat" emotionally somewhere around the 6-9 months mark or so. I wanted to be proactive with that this time around so that was another reason I sought out therapy. My goal was(/is?) to continue with therapy, until I wean Cameron around 1 year (God willing).

Through therapy, I was able to begin connecting with my pregnancy, my baby and my body. Even though I feel like it never reached the levels that I was used to based on previous pregnancies, it felt good to at least have someone to talk to. She also helped me to carve out a little time for myself and discover some new self-care methods.

Following Cami's birth, there has been a LOT for me to process. Even though nothing truly traumatic happened, I feel like in a lot of ways I have had to process things as if there was some birth trauma there. I'm still trying to work through my feelings about the whole experience...(as well as some issues I have with the OB/healthcare system in general and what that's going to look like for me in the future).

We are ending the year with the most severe postpartum depression that I personally have ever experienced. I promise to expand on this very soon, because I feel so INSANELY called to share what I am going through. PPD is probably one of the most isolating things in the world and I would like to shed maybe a little tiny flicker of light onto it. We aren't out of the woods yet, but I hope we are at least on the upswing. I am so grateful that I already had a therapist in place and I am also SO so grateful for my husband - the true unsung hero through all of this. He has carried our entire family on his back this year, because I haven't had the strength to walk. Oh how I love him so.

2017 BROKE me. And I still have NO clue what God was/is trying to show me through this impossible year. Will I ever know? I'm not sure. Certainly all of this wasn't for nothing. I still really struggle with questioning God's timing and have a lot of "why now?/why then?" moments when looking back on everything. I can say that I have never been so happy to close the books on one single calendar year...but I just wish I could erase this past year. Or re-do it maybe. I'm not sure. I know He is doing something with this, right? Perhaps He is just trying to draw us closer to Him. Proving to me just how much I need Him.



Thursday, December 21, 2017

Birth Photos - Cameron Heather

I am so excited to finally share some of the photos from Cami's birth! (Thank you to our birth photographer Sarah McKenzie Photography!!) 

When it comes to sharing and WHY I am open to publicizing such personal moments with the world...A few years ago, I came across a birth video on instagram. I have shared these words previously, but wanted to include them again here as well because the mama's caption spoke so deeply to me. She said it better than I ever could:

"Giving birth is such a special and personal moment and I know that unlike my obsession with watching birth videos, they are not everyone's cup of tea. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I had to share it if I wanted to continue my mission to spread the positive birth message to the world.
Unfortunately these days, women are inundated with negative stories of other women's birth experiences. Everyone from their mothers, family, friends and even strangers, are quick to tell them the horrors of giving birth. They have been conditioned to believe that birth is associated with excruciating pain and because of this, women today hold an unprecedented fear of giving birth. This unfortunately then leads to exactly the thing they fear the most - a long, painful and disappointing birth.
Birth should not be feared. When a healthy woman, carrying a healthy baby, trusts birth, is free of fear and is appropriately relaxed - her body will function normally, gently and calmly - just like nature intended.
To me, birth is addictive. I have had three amazing experiences and I could honestly do it over and over again. I am sharing Mabel's birth video here today because I want to spread the news that birth can be beautiful, it can be empowering and it can be the best thing you have ever done in your life. It certainly was for me." -@amyoloves and @earthboundbabies

(If you haven't had a chance to check out Cami's full birth story click here!)

Thank you for taking time to share a little piece of this incredible journey with us. 





Praying.



















Ryan clamping, Dr. holding and me cutting!


Much love and respect for this amazing organ that my body grew! Love that I can honor and thank my 
placenta at the very least with a photo this time. I know most people 
probably think this is gross but I think it is so beautiful. What a total miracle!

Bloody vernix-y hands - my favorite!!!





First latch.

Ryan's first time holding her.


We are a family of FIVE!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Cameron's Birth Story - Part 2

Continued from Cameron's Birth Story Part 1

10:20ish - We arrived at hospital, grabbed the labor bag and headed inside. Walking through the waiting room, I remember feeling super overwhelmed (in a good way) and SO happy we were finally there to meet our baby. I was kind of hyperventilating just because of all of the emotions and adrenaline. We were directed to a small triage room, where I calmed down a bit, changed into a hospital gown and got hooked up to monitors and all of that.

10:45 a.m. - The hospital OB came in and checked me. I was 6cm, completely effaced and baby was at 0 station. (If those measurements don't make sense to you check this out for an explanation.) After he had checked me, he asked how big my last baby was. (8lbs. 6 oz.) He then said "Oh I think this one's going to be a lot smaller!" I TOTALLY didn't believe him at all - but got a kick out of his prediction. First of all, how on earth can you tell by shoving your hand up there and feeling the top of my baby's head? Second of all, I KNEW this baby was significantly larger than my other two because the end of this pregnancy just FELT. So. Different. I chuckled and knew he was wrong haha. The pain was still semi-manageable although definitely starting to get intense.

Sometime shortly after 11:00 a.m. - We went to our l&d room, which was just next door to our triage room. By this point I was in a pretty fair amount of pain and discomfort. I vaguely remember hesitating when they told me it was time to move rooms, but once the nurse said it was just next door I was okay with it.

Once we moved over to our labor and delivery room, my OB came in (yay!!). I was SO excited to see her because with my other babies it had been other doctors from the practice that delivered. I really wanted her to be the one this time! Yay! I have ALWAYS felt strongly that I want my water to break naturally and have been pretty against the idea of having someone intentionally rupture it, but as soon as my OB asked me if I wanted her to break it I said "YES PLEASE!" I was ready for things to move along and it was so relieving to finally feel that gush! We then asked my OB how she felt about letting Ryan "catch" to which she said "Sure!" After that, she left (and I assume she went back across the street to her office to continue seeing her other patients for regular appointments). We called our birth photographer back and Ryan's mom also brought Heidi into the room as well.

At this point, I was standing up with the hospital gown on and standing over what I call the "puppy pad" (whatever those mats are they have at the hospital that they make you sit on or stand on to catch all the amniotic fluid and junk). The nurse turned to me and said "oh there's some more fluid! That's good!" I said "Nope, that's just pee!" Haha.

I knew that having my water broken would intensify things, but I think there was a part of me that thought it would make me feel better or make laboring at that point easier or something. I had never known JUST labor without a broken water, so it felt very unnatural to have it intact during labor - like I didn't know what I was doing. I couldn't fully release my pelvic floor as I was used to doing in the past and also felt like (whether true or not) she couldn't fully engage. Even though I was in pain, I was still glad to just be able to open up and let stuff come out.

11:30 a.m. - Things by now were very painful. I was holding the hospital gown up above my belly (mostly to keep it from getting crap on it). Pretty quickly though I got sick of holding it so I just took it off. It felt SO good to ditch that thing. I was wearing a bralette that I had bought for labor but had nothing on aside from that. I don't know why I've never labored naked before but it was awesome. I was still laboring standing up and the nurse didn't really want to check me since my water had been broken.

By this time, I was actually pretty over labor. I was in a lot of pain and felt like things weren't very manageable. I was surprised I wasn't progressing faster and wanted to just push her out and be done with it. At one point, the room was full of people, ready and waiting and assuming that baby girl would be here any minute ("last time she delivered within 30 minutes of getting here!") but then once they realized it was going to be a while longer everyone left.

I asked Ryan to pray with me and to pray that baby girl would be here by noon. I wanted to pray very specifically that this would end soon. After we prayed, I didn't look back at the clock once. At one point, I think I knew it was after noon, but I knew I would be disappointed knowing for sure so I just avoided that all together. I think I STARTED to get a little pushy at this point.

So here's the thing. I've done this before. I know all of the signs, all of the sounds to make and all of that that indicates to the nurses that it's time to push baby out. BUT. My body wasn't really telling me to push yet. I didn't feel the overwhelming URGE. That PRIMAL instinct that I LOVE when your body just takes over. But this hurt. I wanted to convince everyone that it was time so that it would be over. (Also, I think our nurse was super inexperienced. She seemed really young and nervous and not very sure of herself at all.) So I gave her all the signs. Grunting. Pushing against the contractions. Being vocal. But it wasn't involuntary. It was just the opposite. I was SO present between contractions I could have played on my phone or texted my friends (though I didn't) despite being in a lot of pain. This also felt very unnatural to me. I am used to going into labor land. Zoning out. Finding my own planet and existing there for a while. So because of this I felt like something was wrong. Labor felt wrong to me. (For the record, if this happens to me again in the future, I'll know that that's perfectly okay to not be in the zone between contractions and I will embrace it and enjoy it! But this was new to me and I didn't know how to handle it.)

11:40 a.m. - By this time I think the nurse had started to get nervous (because of me semi-faking it and all). She told me to lie down so she could check me. (I think I was still a 6?) Having her check me was AWFUL. I've literally never had anyone check me so aggressively ever before. She would almost jiggle her entire arm around in there and it was always super painful and terrible to have her doing that.

After the nurse checked me, Heidi came back in briefly then left again. I stayed laying down and with each contraction I would raise my hand in the air, and pray that God would take the pain away. I would tell myself during the contraction "THIS is as bad is it's going to get right now and after this second it will get better", which seemed to help some. Just declaring when the pain would peak and being aware of it's decline. However, I knew that I was too "comfortable" on my back though and felt like I was stalling (still being at a 6 was discouraging). I could tell I wasn't progressing much in this position, even though I was in a ton of pain. It basically felt like with each contraction someone was slicing my belly open horizontally with a knife - exactly in the location where c-section scars are. It was pretty searing.

**Side note - I really hesitate to share that description of what the contraction pain felt like only because I don't want to instill fear in anyone about birth. BUT I also feel like it's so important for me to be honest. Yes it might hurt like Hell but it's for a (good) reason - not because something is wrong. I don't want to pretend that this birth was painless (even though my last one was!) and I think it can and will be beneficial for others as well as myself to have a little bit better of an understanding for what I'm in for next time. I don't want to forget that feeling - because Wells' birth really spoiled me ;). I think by going into birth preparing for pain appropriately is crucial, though if you are prepared it's not something to fear necessarily. I will say that even though contractions were very painful it wasn't at the point where I just wanted to die, I felt like I couldn't do it or that I wanted to be numbed - even though I WAS ready for it to be over I still knew my body was made to do this.**

Anyway, I really wanted to stand back up and asked the nurse to put another "puppy pad" down on the floor so I could do so. She basically told me no, that she didn't want me to stand back up because she was worried I would have the baby on the floor. (What?? Looking back, I wish I had fought this more. Being confined to a bed during labor is AWFUL and it's so essential during unmedicated birth that you have the freedom to move around as you wish. Also - this baby isn't just going to FALL out - which I think the nurse thought was going to happen.)

I should have just said screw it and stood up anyway because that's what my body was telling me to do. I know better. I did say out loud that I didn't want to stay laying down though, so she suggested we raise the back of the bed up and I kneel backwards over it.

Around 12:15ish - After a lot more (intentional and conscious) grunting and pushing and moaning on my part, the nurse decided to recheck me. She called my OB over. While I was laying on my back waiting for my doctor to come back over to the hospital, I could FEEL my baby entering the birth canal. THIS was a very cool feeling even though it burned. I at least knew this was a good sign and definitely recall "enjoying" that feeling and embracing it! Ah the feeling of your baby descending is such a good one and I'm glad I was aware of when it was happening. Once my OB arrived, she checked me as well and appeared to get kind of frustrated with the nurse because I wasn't completely dilated yet. (I assume she was blowing off her regularly scheduled appointments so I think she was a little ticked off the nurse called her over too early.) So they decided to give me some more time.

12:20 p.m. - I continued to labor on my back for a bit, moaning loudly and feeling a lot of pain. This is kind of when I felt like everyone was waiting on me. I was really worried that if I took too long my OB was going to leave and someone else would end up delivering. I eventually got back into kneeling position and at one point when I had my head down, out of the corner of my eye I could see my OB's shoes in the doorway for a few minutes. I knew she was observing me to see where I was at, so I continued to grunt and push and be vocal even though it still felt like a choice. (Doing those things during contractions certainly wasn't necessary at this point, but at the very least it was something to do during contractions instead of just letting the pain rip my stomach apart). I kind of felt like everyone was standing around looking at their watches and at some point more people started coming into the room to get stuff ready because things sounded like they were getting close I guess.

I definitely felt like I hadn't had a chance yet to "do my thing" and I can very clearly remember having the thought "I need to tell everyone to leave the room". We had both of our moms there, birth photographer, OB, my nurse, several nursing students and a few other nurses as well. I'm all for letting people learn and/or watch me give birth - if 500 people want to come see I'm all for it. But at this point in labor I *should have* told everyone to get out and give me more time. BUT. As soon as I had that thought I also realized "If I tell everyone to leave then I will have to keep doing this" and at this point I really really didn't want to keep doing that. So it was go time. Ryan was given a gown and gloves (!!!) and everyone assumed their positions.

12:51 p.m. - I definitely did not feel like my body was telling me to push yet. But I was done. With the next contraction I pushed. I could feel baby descending but could tell she wasn't crowning yet. With the next contraction, I pushed again. I pushed HARDER than I have EVER had to push. I could feel her crowning. It felt like my contraction had passed and I really needed and wanted a break. But as soon as I stopped pushing I knew I did NOT have a choice to stop. I was in so much pain there was no way I could just sit there and do nothing between the contractions. It felt like her head was halfway out so it was physically impossible to simply stop at that point even though it was not instinct telling me to keep going - just that it hurt too bad to pause there. I kept pushing (my OB had also told me to keep pushing). Out came her head... (Ryan said at this point my OB checked to make sure the cord wasn't around her neck) then another big push and...

12:53 p.m. - Baby girl was born!! Straight into her daddy's hands. The first words Cami heard her mama say after she came out were "HOLY F%*$!!" which I screamed multiple times before she was placed in my arms because that hurt SO bad and it was the HARDEST I've ever had to push any baby out ever. (Which, by the way I don't normally curse like that!)  After my dr. cleared baby's nose and mouth she started wiping her off a bit. Ryan told her that I wanted to leave the vernix on (way to go Ryan!) and then she told him to pick Cami up and place her on my belly - which he did!!

Right after she came out!
Right after Ryan put her on my chest.

I knew she was big and my OB also commented on her size - I could tell she was bigger than any of my other babies just by how much MORE work that took! I was honestly preparing myself for a lot of tearing and a much longer and harder recovery than the last time because of how forced pushing her out felt and because I knew she was the biggest yet. (Luckily, I "only" had a 2nd degree tear which is the norm for me and physical recovery has not been much different than after I had Wells. By the way mamas - the first baby is usually the toughest to recover from. After that first one, at least in my experience, physical recovery is never quite that bad again.)

Looking back, sometimes I regret not giving my body more time to take over. I question my decision to literally FORCE her out. Did I make the wrong call? Did I start pushing too early - before my body was ready? (Was I even 10 cm when I started pushing??) Why didn't I give myself more time? Did I disrespect the entire process? Was I too controlling? I have spent a lot of time doubting what I felt like were very voluntary thoughts and actions on my part. But a few realizations I have made... If my body had not been ready, I probably would have had to spend more than 90 seconds pushing. It's not like I was intentionally pushing against my body's will for an hour or anything. I literally pushed for MAYBE a minute and a half. It was basically 2 contractions. The other thing that was brought to my attention (by my therapist actually)... a 9 lb. 3 oz. baby isn't going to just slide out (third baby or not). That's going to take some work no matter HOW many babies you've had! So even though, I still have plenty of moments where I really regret not giving myself more time and my body more time to "get there" I have to remind myself of these things. My body must have been ready "enough" anyway...!

Usually, they pull the end of the bed away so you're basically delivering "into the air", but since Ryan was catching they didn't pull it away and I just delivered onto the bed. You would think that it wouldn't really matter, but it definitely felt different not delivering into the air! Guess they don't want to risk dad dropping that slippery babe!

Once I was stitched up, it was placenta time. I asked my OB if she needed me to push - which I have had to do a little bit of in the past to help get it out but she said that I didn't need to this time and it pretty much just fell out on it's own haha.

1:01 p.m. - We cut the cord! Cutting the cord has always seemed kind of gross to me, so I've never pressed Ryan to be the one to do it. (Up until now, the dr. has always done it.) This time I wanted to do it though! It was very cool because Ryan held the clamp, the dr. held the cord and I cut it. Very symbolic of this birth ;). And actually, the "texture" of cutting the cord wasn't as nasty as I thought haha! It was a pretty clean and easy cut.

As my dr. was about to take the placenta away I stopped her and asked to see it - something I have never been aware of enough in the past to ask for (or care about I suppose). She held up the cord told us it was nice a long, and then held the placenta up and showed us where it connected to my uterus and kind of turned it over and almost inside out so we could see the "inside" of it where it was next to baby. It was so cool to finally get to see one of my placentas!

1:35 p.m. - Cami was weighed but couldn't get a bath. Bigger babies tend to have blood sugar issues so she was tested immediately. Since her blood sugar was off she had to wait for a bath (she didn't end up getting one until almost 24 hours later - Yikes!)



1:45 p.m. - I nursed her for the first time. She's a pro!


Processing

This birth just felt very different. The first 12-24 hours I felt REALLY uncomfortable and pretty upset by the birth. It was just so WEIRD. Weird. Very weird. And painful. I didn't feel the "magic" I have felt before. I didn't feel empowered at all or like it wasn't really a big deal. In some ways I felt like I "did it wrong" and I forced it too much. It has taken me a while to process it (I still am) and to work through how I feel about it. Everything went just fine and about as well as it could have gone really. It really wasn't a BAD experience when it comes down to it, but I was definitely questioning whether I wanted to risk having that sort of experience again - which scared me.

I had been praying for 3 things specifically for this birth - safe and healthy mom and baby, no interventions/drug-free and that it would be painless. (I also secretly was hoping for a daytime baby and really wanted my OB to be the one to deliver.) I really got everything I wanted and more, with the exception of the pain-free part. But part of what I know about pain-free birth is that it's not and can't be an expectation. I have to be and AM okay with God not providing that with every birth. I still had expectations even though I tried really hard not to. I felt a lot of pressure to start pushing - pressure from everyone else but also from myself. It just felt rushed and forced and painful. I think I got into my own head a little bit. Also, just being so drained physically and emotionally already from a few really tough months, I was just so ready for it ALL to be over.

But I just felt like there was something missing this time. There were things I wish I had done differently, wish I could go back in time and change and things I say I want to do differently when/if we are blessed with a "next time". I'm working on trying not to say/think those things because I don't want to have regrets. Though I have those feelings less and less about wishing it had gone differently, sometimes I do still have those thoughts.

Some days I still struggle with not feeling the "magic" that I'm used to feeling about my birth experiences. But I think it will come. And at this point I'm okay with knowing they will come, it's just take a little longer than usual.

God played such an obvious role in my last two births I'm still searching for his role in this one. I know it's there. It has to be. I know HE was there. It's just going to take some time and some digging to really figure out HOW. And maybe this time it's not about ME. Maybe it's supposed to be about Ryan's experience, or something else that I'll never know. Maybe it's about preparation. If/when we are blessed with a "next time" I feel more prepared already. For both pregnancy and birth. Because both of those things this time were very different and tough for a lot of reasons.

The one thing that I do know - this was THE coolest thing that my husband and I have EVER gotten to do together. Ryan "caught" our baby. He was the first to pick her up and the one to give her to her mama. I know he even surprised himself and I'm super proud of him. He loves birth just as much as I do and I love him for that more than I ever thought I would. As hard and weird as this birth was, I would do it over and over again the same way if it meant that he got to have this experience.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD BABY CAMI!!