Joseph’s Birth Story

First of all, I want to start by saying every birth is beautiful. I know some women have difficult ones, traumatic ones, short labors, long labors, Cesareans and more, but bringing a life into the world is incredible. For doing that, you are strong and brave. It is a great blessing to co-create life with God, house that life in your body and then nurture him or her outside of the womb as well.

I was so nervous about the birth of my first, James, and what it would be like. See here. I had planned an un-medicated delivery and ended up being in a lot of pain for weeks and weeks that followed because of some side effects of interventions I had not planned (ie. episiotomy and epidural). While I made peace with how his coming into the world went, I still hoped for something a little different with my second.

My hope and ideal was an unmedicated birth, without my water breaking first. My water breaking means unbearable back labor for me, and immediately having to go to the hospital because I was Strep B positive and needed one dose of antibiotics. I preferred to be able to labor at home for a while and wished for anything shorter than a 24+ hour labor. I was also hoping I didn’t have to go to the hospital in the middle of the night and not be able to say bye to James or go into labor before my mother in law was there to help.

This second birth for me was redeeming. I prayed and prayed for these certain things above to come to fruition and particular fears to be alleviated. And while God doesn’t always answer prayer how we want it answered, God answered each one of these birth prayers very specifically! I was nervous once again about the birth itself but also adding a second child to our family and how I could ever love the next child as much as James.

My mother in-law arrived on Monday, April 1st and had two days of “training” on how to do nap time and bedtime routine, which are pretty extensive (first child problems). On Tuesday evening, I noticed my Braxton Hicks were coming maybe every 20-30 minutes. They didn’t hurt at all so it wasn’t thinking too much of them other than it was different than the random ones throughout the day. I must’ve been in early labor during the night because I woke up Wednesday morning April 3rd with an upset stomach. As Ryan ran out the door for class that morning, I told him I felt weird and it was probably just all the chocolate I ate the day before. I texted my doula my symptoms and she said she had a feeling it was baby day! At 8am was around when I realized the tightening of my belly was coming with heavy cramping at the same time, and they were already 4 minutes apart.

In between hanging with James and my MIL and working through the contractions on the stability ball, I was keeping Ryan updated via text.

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In birth class you usually learn to head in to the hospital when your contractions are roughly 5 minutes apart, 1 minute each for 1 hour (5-1-1). By 10am, mine were already at 3 minutes apart, but I felt like I was managing the pain pretty well and I was trying not to over think it! I didn’t want to have a baby in the car, but I also didn’t want to get turned away from the hospital for not being far enough along…When would be the sweet spot?!

I decided to call Ryan home from school after only an hour and a half of being gone. He got the car packed while I was eating a snack and the pain was getting worse. I said goodbye to my precious James before his lunch and we got to the hospital by 11:30am.

When checked at triage, I was 6cm, 90% effaced. Whoohoo! Let’s GOOOO! Our nurse walked in and introduced herself. She was one of Ryan’s classmates’ wives! She was super sweet, made us feel very comfortable, and it was just another confirmation that God was watching over us!

We settled into the room around Noon… got my labor playlist going, got back on the bouncy ball, and was chatting it up with my midwife and nurse between contractions. They hurt really bad, but I was in a good head space. My doula was massaging my back and Ryan was speaking scriptures over me.

The midwife checked me around 2pm, while I was standing up (SO COOL I didn’t have to climb back into the bed on my back while in pain for a check). I was 10cm, fully effaced!

WHAT!!! AMAZING! HOW DID I GET HERE!

2 hours had flown by with singing, breathing deeply, and offering up contractions out loud for prayer intentions. I was calm and supported and God was with us in that room as I battled the pain with love and joy to meet my child. This was when I realized how deeply spiritual labor and delivery can be.

My water was still intact. The midwife said if I wanted, they could break my water and baby Joseph would come very soon after.

After my water broke at 2:20pm, in came the TERRIBLE HORRIBLE NO GOOD VERY BAD stabbing back pain. I distinctly remember this song “Warrior” coming on my playlist. I literally got chills. It was perfect timing for these lyrics.

Take a listen- super motivating!

I started feeling urges to push and climbed up on the bed in between a contraction. My face fell into a pillow while on my hands and knees, and I squeezed it hard as I was hit one after another with intense waves of pain. I stayed on all fours and began to sweat profusely! I had just about finished my one dose of the antibiotics. Yet again, perfect timing.

“Ahh he’s coming!!!” I was glad I had my face down because I didn’t want to focus on how crowded the room was. Ryan was holding my hand. The midwife was holding me up and occasionally pushing on my back. A student, the midwife, a resident, and two nurses were all doing who knows what, touching me and talking to me.

I started to push… and SCREAM. Yep, I was a screamer. I couldn’t help it. I didn’t care if people were judging me at that point! It was honestly the worst possible pain I could ever imagine. I tensed up. I started joking (sort of serious!) about really wanting the epidural NOW. Of course it was too late. Another contraction, another push, and another scream. I tensed again and made no progress.

Everyone was telling me I could do it, and all I could do was yell, “Jesus, Jesus help me!” The midwife then said, “Hold on Rosemary, he’s right here.” I replied, “Joseph??”, and she said, “No. Jesus.” HA!

I knew that Joseph had to come to us one way or another, and if I could just focus on getting him out instead of resisting, the pain would stop. One big final push and he was born at 2:53pm.

21 inches. 9lbs of chunky goodness.

We did it! He was here! And the pain was over!

Joseph, Ryan, and I enjoyed an hour of uninterrupted time with skin to skin, breastfeeding, chatting, and basking in the whirlwind that just happened. We looked at our SECOND little boy and we were in awe of the result of our self-giving, life-giving love.

I literally just took a lunch break and had a baby. SO FAST. SO INTENSE. And now, so peaceful.

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There is probably some extra dose of assurance with mothering a second kid because hey, it’s your second time around. But, I really feel like the empowering birth experience gave me such a positive spirit and confidence with each step after that, staring with his birth, his first latch, and moving into how to get to know and calm this new little babe.

My physical recovery was yet another blessing and answered prayer. I was up walking around pretty easily an hour afterwards and other than normal uterine cramping, felt great. I guess God knew I’d need to be able to have the strength to hold my needy toddler AND my baby at the same time when we got home. This was so different from the first birth’s feeling of overwhelm and defeat.

Honestly, the biggest struggle going from one to two kids hasn’t been things like how to get two kids out the door, how to manage their schedules (yet), or how to get anything else done- this is close to impossible, but doable… It’s been my heart figuring out how to love both kids in the ways they need to be loved at the same time. People told me my heart would naturally just expand, and it didn’t come that easily to me. I felt my heart tearing in two separate directions with two different very loved kids who had very big needs. The first two months were a painful stretching period and we ALL had to learn more patience. While the adjustment was really hard on James, it has gotten noticeably better now that we are nearly 3 months in. It is the sweetest thing to hear James tell us how much he loves his brother and say, “shhh shh, it’s okay Jo-fuf!” when he’s fussing.

Joseph is proving to be a generally calm and silly little one. His smiles light up our life. We love him so much! Thank you for all of the support as we grew to a family of 4!

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Self-Care 101

“Self-Care.”

This is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot these days and it used to make me cringe. It just seemed like a lot of people used it to justify expensive shopping trips, spur of the moment tropical vacations, nightly chocolate cake and bubble baths, weekly manicures, monthly massages and mud baths, and ALL captured with a beautiful filter for their snapchat/instagram. I guess I wrongly associated it with being selfish or high-maintenance.

As you may have read my perspective of the first 3 months of motherhood, I am 100% for giving yourself to serve others, and that can means seasons of not getting to enjoy life in the same way you used to. However, I have learned the hard way in this wonderful, yet very difficult first year of motherhood, that pouring yourself out for your family cannot happen without plugging yourself in for a charge occasionally. And though God’s love wishes to perfect us and grow us sometimes through bearing hardships, that still means finding time to be alone to pray, be still, and slow down.

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.   //Luke 5:16

The reality is, no one can pour from an empty cup. 

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I had figured out how to take care of myself when it was just me planning life around me, but it was harder to figure out what I needed when my focus and time were so attentive to my son, my husband, and our home.

During the first year with an infant who fed around the clock and doesn’t sleep much, it was especially difficult to figure out what I needed to stay sane or how I could even make those things happen. Heck, I was just trying to figure out how to keep a tiny human alive.

But as time went on, I realized more and more that many of the times I was anxious or upset over little things was when I hadn’t been praying, hadn’t had an adult conversation (besides my husband) for several days, hadn’t been listening to or reading anything positive, or hadn’t taken a break to do anything that brought me joy. I realized, especially in stressful seasons, my mental health is something I actually needed to work on.

Self-care isn’t necessarily about indulging yourself, it’s more about nourishing yourself so you can blossom in your vocation.

And sometimes “self-care” is doing things you don’t really want to do in order to create a more balanced life, like exercising regularly, finally scheduling that doctor appointment after 3 years, forcing yourself to go to bed earlier, getting organized and purging old clothes from high school, spending less time scrolling on social media or with toxic friends, doing the dishes right after dinner each night so that you have time with your spouse instead of stressing that they pile up and you can’t handle it all.

I knew I did need to change several things to find a little pep in my step again! My word of 2018 came quite easily to me: RENEWAL. Life is always going to be busy so I needed to find some small steps to take care of myself, and renew my mind and soul. (The same thing I preached to other people pre-motherhood, I now needed to practice!)

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So January 1st, I left the babe (now toddler) at home with dad and drove to Starbucks to start brainstorming.

I broke the categories up into MIND, BODY, & SOUL. I made a few other goals for the year, but most of them revolve around this practice of making my interior life a priority.

Then, I made my list under each category of the most important things I needed to do to take care of myself.

These are simple things… perhaps just the minimum things I need, but nonetheless things that will go a long way for my well-being when done frequently.

I can tell you after working toward implementing these this first month of the year, I may not be accomplishing all of them, but I feel hopeful and motivated for the months to come because I’m breaking out of the rut. There is a great satisfaction in using my time wisely, seeing myself as a daughter of God that deserves to grow intentionally and is important enough that my needs are worth the effort. That is not selfish. Loving my mind, body, and soul in a small way each day is extremely valuable.

Whether you’re a mom or not, I’d venture to say most people are too busy, too scheduled, and too stressed. Maybe if you’re struggling to get started, this list below of mine will give you some ideas! Ask yourself, what is the MINIMUM I need to do each week to feel healthy, happy, and whole? I’m not talking about training for a marathon, having a spotless house, or doing perfectly on every single work project… just the little things to really look out for your long-term self.

MIND

  • Listen to a podcast, read an article or a few pages in a book
  • Have an encouraging conversation with a friend (on the phone or in person)
  • Write in my “One Line a Day” book each night
  • Plan meals for the week on Sundays (even if it says Pizza)
  • Journal once a month

BODY

  • Wash face & brush teeth twice a day (this sounds so sad, but it is an example of how the minute my son woke me up for the day, it was off to the races. He could wait for a couple of minutes while I started every morning with some basic hygiene.)
  • Move everyday (Stroller Strides 2-3x’s a week, reaching 10k steps, 10 minutes of stretching, going to the park etc.)
  • Take vitamins. Sit down for all meals, not snacking with processed food during day. Focus on veggies & limit sweets.
  • HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE

SOUL

  • Take deep, meditative breaths while rocking James to sleep. Once asleep, pray for him, my marriage, my family and friends
  • Read scripture and devotional each week (sometimes this is daily, but I’m working in baby steps)
  • Play music and sing while cooking or playing throughout the day
  • Go pray in the church adoration chapel alone once a month
  • Fill in my “I am grateful for:” section in my planner each day. (It’s harder to be frazzled when you come from a place of gratefulness and when you have moments in the day to just stop and force yourself to slow down.)

 

How am I doing all of this when I already didn’t feel like I had the time or energy to before? Well, I’m not doing all of it yet…but the short answer is that I’m trying to improve the way I use my time to use it more efficiently.

  1. I have been trying to make a habit out of sitting down for breakfast with my son, getting out my planner, and first thing, writing down my 3 most important tasks or hopes of the day. I find that this helps me get my head on straight before I just start reacting to my day. I also look and see I have scheduled to go to workout class today, so my morning needs to prepare for and work around that goal.
  2. Finding a friend to do a babysitting exchange 🙂 I watch your kid, you watch mine, gives me pockets of time I know I can take a long shower, journal, or just be in silence to think.
  3. Grocery Delivery occasionally
  4. Delegating/getting better at communicating my needs (This one is HUGE) ie. I do bath time while my husband does the dishes; I literally text my husband at work and say “I need to shower tonight”, so he knows we need to work our evening around giving me the time to do that and he’ll remind me if I forget.
  5. Making appointments and putting it on the calendar (my time away in prayer, my workouts, my Bible Study… all ‘obligations’ that I don’t want to miss!)
  6. Alexa play my favorite music” while we are eating lunch, or “Alexa, order more paper towels.”
  7. Podcasts while making dinner or driving

Any other ways you work in your “self-care”? What are your typical go-to activities to fill your cup? 

 

James’ Birth Story

As the final weeks of my pregnancy were approaching, I began to get a non-stop nervous feeling in my stomach that wouldn’t go away. The time that my life would change forever was almost here. Earlier on, I had plenty of worries about whether I would miscarry again, but that those worries had switched to my labor and delivery. I would lie in bed pondering what it would be like and when it would happen. That last week is the wait of all waits! I read and watched around 50 birth stories, and marveled at how this miracle of birthing a baby could be so incredibly unique; no two stories were alike.

Would I be able to handle it?

Would we get to the hospital in time? What if it snowed and we got stuck?

Had I done enough squats, pelvic tilts, and inversions to get him in the best position? (Maybe I’m the only one who had this thought… haha)

How in the world could a human being possibly come out of my body?

What if I had complications and had to go from my choice of unmediated to a C-section? Would we have breastfeeding problems?

Question after question flooded my mind, until about a week before my due date; I heard in my heart, “do you trust me to be Lord over your labor?”

“Yes, Lord,” I responded. “Walk with me through this. Please guide me. However he comes, please bring this baby to us safely.”

I started walking up and down the stairs in our apartment complex the few days before my calculated due date based on the sympto-thermal method, January 6th. (The doctors told me January 2nd based on a typical 28-day cycle, but my stubborn self kept telling them that was wrong :P) I was listening to my workout playlist to pump me up. Every step up and down I would pray for our little one to come. Peace washed over my concerns and somehow by the first week in January, I felt really ready, strengthened, and excited. I had to finally accept all of the unknowns that I could not control and trust God in this area of my life too.

On January 5th, I ate my couple of dates, finished off the rest of the pineapple, and did my normal stair routine (all of these things are somehow supposed to bring on labor). I reflected on the arrival of baby Jesus and how awesome the process was of His coming into the world. I felt calm thinking of how much we had prayed for and wanted this baby, and trying to relate to the myriad of emotions that Mary must have felt. The angel reassured her “Fear not,” and I prayed for the same humility she had on the news that she would be a mother. I also thought of the baby we lost in 2015 and how grateful I was to hopefully be bringing this baby into our arms.

My husband’s co-worker had joked with him earlier in the week that his mother AND his wife’s last meals before labor were Pizza Hut. If we got desperate we should try it. Well, that night, January 5th, we had nothing in the fridge, and decided it would be funny to order Pizza Hut (we usually get Dominos).

After we both downed a full deep dish greasy medium pizza each, we both weren’t feeling too great. My husband joked that he might have been having contractions. I went to bed with an upset stomach—maybe it was the grease, or maybe it was the start of something?

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At 11pm I awakened to a pop and my water breaking– classic movie style. I remembered from our birth class that if this happens in the middle of the night, to try to go back to sleep and get all the rest you can before you’re in active labor. I texted my doula to let her know, and laid back down, but of course could not sleep. I felt what I knew was a REAL contraction. I remembered that I wasn’t in control of how my body would work through this. I tried to get out of my head and once again, let go.

At this point I was feeling contractions maybe every 5-15 minutes. An hour later, they were every 6, then another hour they were every 5 minutes, and by 3am, they were 4 minutes apart. I was on the phone with my doula on and off, who was such a calming source of support and was listening to me on the phone to see how I was managing and breathing through each one. (I highly recommend a doula no matter what kind of birth you’re hoping for!)

I was mostly lying on the bathroom floor on and off the toilet, and Ryan was packing his bag—yes he hadn’t packed yet!– loading the car with my bag, and checking on me occasionally. He kept offering unappetizing food to me that he found in the fridge, like sausage and yogurt. Oh, husbands…He started to fuel up with this early breakfast because I would need him a lot physically and emotionally!

okay. THIS WAS IT. IT WAS HAPPENING.

At 3:30am, once my contractions were at 3-4 minutes apart, we called the doctor and headed in to the hospital, where we checked in to triage and met up with our doula.

(SIDE NOTE: When I first got pregnant and saw my due date would be beginning of January, I decided to move practices to one that would deliver closer to our home so we didn’t have to drive an hour to the hospital in the snow. I HATE snow and I just KNEW there would be snow when our little guy decided to come. Lo and behold, that was the ONE day in January that we got snow, but it hadn’t started coming down much yet thank goodness, but the trek to the car in the freezing cold was brutal.)

My husband left our car down by the front door of the hospital with the flashers on and intended to go back down to move the car once we got settled in; but almost immediately I needed his support and the car had to wait. I was 5cm and 100% effaced when we arrived.

Several hours went by, eyes closed tightly, breathing deeply, hanging on for dear life with my arms around my husbands neck while my doula pushed deeply on my lower back. I’m pretty sure someone snuck knives in and was stabbing me back there. I alternated from squats, to stability ball hip circles, to swaying, to sitting on the toilet.

At this point, Ryan went down to move our car from in front of the hospital to the parking garage. But unbeknownst to me, it wouldn’t start. He wrote a sign saying, “Car won’t start. Wife in labor. Be back later.” He got back to the hospital room acting as if everything was fine, but inside was worried that we wouldn’t have a vehicle to take our baby home in.

One of the sweetest moments was having my labor playlist playing and singing along a little bit with “It is Well with My Soul” with Ryan… I even managed to squeak out a little harmony. I don’t remember what I was really thinking about the entire time, mostly just praying silently for strength, and when I did talk, thanking Ryan and our doula profusely for their help.

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By 11am I was 8cm, fully effaced. My doula remarked that we would have this baby by lunchtime! Things were progressing really well and fairly quickly! I knew I must’ve been in “transition” as they say, when I told my husband to “shhh” and his singing became annoying. I was in the ZONE… I was going to get to meet our boy soon!

When the nurse came for a check around Noon, I was 10cm. However, I couldn’t start pushing yet because James was having trouble descending past a little ridge on the cervix.

Fast forward to about 3pm. I was getting tired and felt ready to push so I asked for another check to get the clear to see if he was making his way.

He was still stuck.

My doula suggested some squats and getting up off the ball to see if we could encourage him to make progress. My husband was holding me, helping me squat up and down through the horrible pain. My contractions picked up quite a bit doing this, but I got tired very easily. Still, our boy wasn’t quite ready to be pushed out.

Fast forward to around 7pm. I was mentally TOAST. I decided to take a break and lay on my side with the peanut ball between my legs for an hour or so and was dozing in and out of sleep in the short time between contractions. It was at this point that I realized that I did not have the energy left to let my body relax to get him past the ridge, and push him out unmedicated.

Although I was a total zombie, I was thinking clearly and not out of pain. I had a flash back to our birth class when we did an activity ranking our priorities in our birth plan. My number one preference was to have a vaginal birth, over all of the other interventions that I did not want. I had now been at 10cm for around 7 hours and James was still chillin’ in the canal. My contractions had started to slow and stall out. I had a horrible feeling that if he stayed squashed in there too long, that his heart rate would start to fluctuate and they would try to convince me to have a C-section. At that point, I didn’t feel like I could get my body to relax enough to release James past the ridge, nor did I feel like I had the energy to push.

To make a long story short, I finally decided to get a dose of an epidural around 9pm and soon after, pushing started! The nurse (who actually attends our church), instructed Ryan to hold a leg! Ryan stepped into his coaching role, giving me feedback on my breathing and pushing techniques haha! I chose not to be annoyed and it actually really helped! We met our baby boy at 12:58am on January 7th.

8lbs, 6oz of pure love! A 95th percentile head could’ve been part of the reason he was having some trouble moving down…

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We looked at our little boy and were in awe of the result of our self-giving, life-giving love. He was beautiful! He let out a wail, and was calm immediately after being laid on my chest. James was so alert and already studying our faces. My husband and I sang a little song to him “We love you so much, we love you so much, we can’t even tell you how much we love you.”

Once we got settled into our recovery room around 4am the next day from when this all started, Ryan told me about the car and went down to find a security guard to jump it. Thank goodness we did not get towed!

I know there are many people who feel so strongly about their plan and the ideal birth for them personally, that if it doesn’t happen that way, they struggle with all kinds of regret and resentment. My main goal going into my birth was simply that I would feel comfortable with how it unfolded, and that I would gave consent to any decisions made. I did just that. I proved to myself that I could handle the pain, I could offer it up in prayer, remain flexible, and the birthing process could be beautiful, not scary.

Did it go exactly according to my plan? No. Do I wish I had gotten the epidural earlier and not had to go through the entire struggle? No. It unfolded how it was meant to and I have many memories of the beauty in the process. I do think getting the epidural earlier would’ve restricted my movement too soon and it would’ve taken even longer, or he wouldn’t have budged.

Our little James is still stubborn and still very alert, but just as sweet as the day he was born. We love him so much and can’t believe one year has passed since this 26-hour crazy birthing marathon!

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The Struggle is Real… for Everyone. 

The A/C has been out for 3 days and it’s 85 degrees in our apartment. James and I are both sweating, sitting on the floor in front of the box fan we bought from Target last night. There are puffs and toys all over.

I just spent the last 30 minutes taking all the dirty dishes out and unscrewing the filter from our dishwasher (dishwashers have a filter??) to see if that’s why it wasn’t working, while trying to distract the little one climbing on everything next to me. 
Well, turns out it’s not the filter. We left the cool of the fan to feed baby James dinner-time purees when I get a phone call. It’s my landlord, probably calling to get an update on the window sill we just had fixed, or the broken A/C or the broken dishwasher.
I decide I can’t answer it right now because I’m about to start preparing dinner for my husband and I to eat when he gets home. But then I remember how desperately hot my child is and how he’s been struggling more than usual to sleep, so I decide to call the landlord back. James starts screaming to get out of his high chair, and to quiet him down, I move him to his exersaucer. As I’m on the phone with my landlord who has me on speaker phone with the lady at Home Depot asking questions about my dishwasher, I calmly try to explain to them what’s wrong. In that amount of time, baby James takes the food pouch out of my hand and squeezes it out everywhere. All over me, and him, the exersaucer, and the floor.

[Don’t panic Rosemary]

As I’m still talking, I take him out, strip him of his clothes, and he makes a dive into the same chair that he previously pulled on top himself.  See here.  Luckily this time it was just a little bump on his head, but the screaming followed. Mid sentence, I hung up the phone and focused on calming him back down. Home Depot called me back and James grabbed the phone and hung up on them again…

This saga went on and on, playing phone tag with different contractors, scheduling time to get things fixed, cleaning up the ongoing mess, trying to figure out why our internet has been out all week, and finally deciding to just wait to fix dinner until after James went to sleep…which he did for all of 30 minutes before waking up and crying again…

Oh, and the next day our car battery randomly died for no apparent reason. 

The day above comes not too long in the lineup after James and I had an epic car ride home from visiting my in-laws, where the little boy cousins 11 weeks apart got to play! James hates his car seat, always has since he was a newborn. Of course the minute we got on the road, screaming commenced and escalated to gagging and full on hysteria. I ended up pulling over every 5-10 minutes…an hour had passed and we had gone maybe 5 miles. I’ll spare you the exhausting details but it involves going through some sketchy areas of town, getting visited by the police while pulled over, and peeing in a water bottle…

These funny stories are just my average days. Lots of fun, lots of laughs, lots of tears, lots of frustrations, the ups and downs of fussy days or weeks… balancing sleep schedules, teething, nursing, figuring out solids, walking, crawling, dinner, cleaning, errands, bath time, laundry, cleaning up blow outs, prepping to lead bible study, prepping to teach workout class, fighting sciatica pain and carrying James, the diaper bag, and 4 grocery bags up the stairs to our 3rd floor apartment etc. etc.

Some days this all seems like the most complicated thing in the world (especially those of you out there with multiple littles!), but most days it feels like the BEST job in the world. It’s easy to look at the craziness and want to just tap out… but all of this matters. I remind myself often: What you do matters and WHO you raise matters.  It is a beautiful mess. As much as I occasionally get frustrated, I do LOVE these days with all my heart. And just because they’re hard days, doesn’t mean they can’t also still be very good days. And I’m learning, as many moms have advised me, to just let go of some things — the most important thing is that my son knows and feels he is loved and cherished.

I share this craziness because in our overshared, “liked” and commented social media lives, we often don’t see it. 

You know those models on instagram that post the beautifully edited, posed photos holding their babies in the cutest outfits and you feel like their life is perfect?

It’s a lie. 

Well, some of it. That moment when their child was snuggling was calm and sweet. But don’t be deceived by what seems to be picture-perfect…I bet that same kid decided to color the couch with sharpies right after that… Or maybe that mama is struggling because her husband is deployed or she’s just lost a parent or she’s self conscious about her post-partum body… Everyone is going through SOMETHING. And if they’ve had a good day or good week, maybe they’ll be going through something next week or next month.

It’s easy to see how we can look through the highlight reel and the smiling photos on someone’s profile and think, “Their life is perfect. I’m the only one struggling.” But the truth is, you’re not.  I tell you these funny little snapshots because I don’t want you to look at anything I post and think “they must have it together!” When I look at this picture below I see extreme exhaustion and the anxiety I battled trying to leave the house, but I also see so much love and joy and wonderful memories with family. Sharing joyous moments isn’t “bad” by any means—it’s encouraging! We just sometimes need to step back and realize maybe that person went through valleys before they got to that mountain top. 

My sweet boy! A highlight from our week!

On the floor, sweaty, and tired. Not picture ready 😛

 

Everyone has “hard”, you just might not see it unless you’re “doing life” with him or her in person. Don’t forget, to every picture there is a much deeper story. To every person there is a soul that’s weary, trying to find their balance and their purpose. To every life there are highs and lows, ebbs and flows. We all carry burdens, whether they are big or small. Look beyond the cute photos and ask someone how they are really doing. This is your friendly reminder that the struggle is real… for everyone. You are not alone. 

My Heart Got Hit in the Face 

When we first brought James home from the hospital, my awesome husband left to get ice cream for me around the corner at 7-11. What else would I want after staying up for 3 nights in a row after giving birth?!

He came back to me standing in our living room, sobbing, holding our newborn. He thought something seriously wrong had happened, but instead I was told him I was crying because I was worried that something could one day happen to our baby James. I felt so vulnerable that I loved this tiny life with my entire life. My hormones might have been going crazy, but so were my newfound emotions to love and protect this bundle with all that I was.

Well, people say to become a mother is to know what it’s like to have your heart walking around outside of your body for the rest of your life. I one hundred percent agree.

And two days ago, my “heart” got hit in the face with a chair.

This day was like any other. He was sitting on the floor playing, my husband was sitting at our kitchen table, and I was putting things away in the kitchen, watching James and talking to him. Unfortunately, this 8-month-old crazy man is obsessed with trying to pull himself up on everything.

I looked away for maybe 10 seconds… in that short time, James had scooted on his bum to the nearest chair – he can’t crawl yet – , pulled on one leg and brought the chair toppling down.

I will never get that image out of my mind of seeing my baby on his back with the chair completely on top of him. He was screaming. I ran over, threw the chair off, scooped him up, and the blood began to flow out of his mouth.

The back of the chair had hit his face and busted his gums. His two front bottom teeth that were only beginning to peak through the top of his gums were now fully exposed to the front.

I rocked him and nursed him to calm him down, and thank goodness my husband was there to calm me down too. I was focused initially on making sure James was okay, until all of the questions and the guilt started coming…

Would his teeth fall out?

Did he have gum damage?

What if he needed surgery to support his now exposed teeth?

How could I have let this happen? I shouldn’t have let him sit that close to anything he could grab…
Panic set in and I just HAD to get that baby to the ER. Someone needed to evaluate his injury! My husband smartly recommended we check with our pediatrician on call and see what they suggested. Since the teeth had not broken and were still attached, it turns out we could wait to be seen until the next day. Despite my desperation, it was true, James would be okay.

(To cut to the chase, the next day we ended up seeing his pediatrician and a pediatric dentist, who assured this worried mama that his roots were still holding the tooth in securely, and that baby’s mouths heal very quickly at this age, so everything should go back to “normal” on it’s own soon.)

After things had calmed down a bit, I sat in the dark bedroom rocking James down for his nap, and in the stillness, the tears started flowing from me. (If it’s not obvious, I’ve totally turned into a mega-crier).

I was living the fear that I had when I first brought him home from the hospital…I won’t be able to protect my child from every hurt.

I realized this is only the beginning. We survived this “first incident.” I know with this active child there will be other incidences, whatever they are. Maybe it’ll be a bump on the head when he’s learning to walk, or a crash when he’s riding his bike. Maybe he will experience a broken heart,  a sports-related injury, or something else that I don’t even want to imagine.

There’s no denying that when you’re open to love, you’re also open to pain.

I thought to call my mom. I wondered how she felt when she saw me get hit in the eye with a baseball as a little kid. Or when the brass lamp fell on my brother’s head. She totally got it. It’s hard, but it’s part of being a parent.

A lot of times it’s no ones fault. It’s just a lessen learned, and a chance to comfort them, maybe a chance to watch them grow and learn. It’s another chance to help your child navigate the situation, until one day they are the adults helping their own kids navigate them.

I am grateful this was just a very minor hurt in comparison to the many other things children can suffer from. I can’t get off my mind the moms and dads who’s heartbreak for their children’s pain is daily, and I most surely have compassion for the extent of their hurt. Anytime your child is in pain, or potentially could be in pain, you feel the pain right along with them.

I’m definitely not looking forward to the second, or third, or hundredth incident, and hopefully they don’t get worse as we age. The first injury will one day just be a memory, a story we tell as part of a joke about how strong of a baby he was or how he was always getting into trouble. I don’t think it will ever get easier on my heart to see him stumble through life, but hopefully I’ll get better at knowing how to handle it. But if I don’t, I won’t feel bad… no one loves him and will feel his pain quite like I do ❤️

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The Soul Strong Life Update

My page was originally called Soul Strong Fitness…. Why the change?

Soul Strong Fitness was born in January 2015 out of the desire for me to help people see their health and exercise as a change that started with, and was rooted in, their spiritual lives. I saw in my own life, in my personal training clients’ lives, and in my online support groups, that the only way to make lasting change was to work past the superficial reasons and excuses, and get to the core of what we really should be living for. Behavior-change starts from the inside out.

Society has long bombarded us with the message that exercise is to make us skinny and look good in photos. It is a message of push yourself because you’re not good enough. In fact, most “fitness stars” today (the majority of whom are flaunting lots of skin on the reg) are drawing us to worship the body, rather than the One who created it. I wanted to be a opposite voice to remind people to love our bodies as living temples preparing for heaven. It isn’t “sexy” so the message doesn’t sell as well; but still, for those that were looking for something different, something positive and genuine, I felt compelled to offer it.

While I have seemingly always have had some connection to fitness over my life, I also am passionate about many other topics that relate to our whole well-being– staying healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ve expanded some of my blog posts over the years to be more than recipes or workouts for you to try, but to share my personal reflections on related topics like body image, miscarriage, relationships, motherhood, lifestyle balance, natural living tips, and more. Because I enjoy writing on these topics near to my heart, I’ve decided to expand to encompass not only our fitness, but also living the Soul Strong LIFE, and to have the title of my blog reflect that. 

What is the Soul Strong Life? This means that the call to love God is with our physical muscle AND with everything we have available for honoring God — which includes in our relationships, what we eat, how we move, what we love, how we spend our time, what we wear, and what we struggle with…loving The Lord with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Whole-hearted, life-encompassing allegiance to God should be the priority of our life and the desire of our souls. This is our motivation, and the greatest commandment, but the journey is hard. We are all works in progress in this life, and this blog will chronicle mine!

Whether we’re eating or singing, jogging or blogging, texting or drawing, mourning or rejoicing… love for God is to be in action, and seen in everything we do. I hope through this page & my blogs to follow, to encourage you and ME to put the daily focus back on Him while running this race. With a strong soul, the rest of life follows.

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What to Expect from Your Workouts When You’re No Longer Expecting

People give you all kinds of advice on life after you have your baby (ehm-sometimes too much advice), but you honestly won’t really know what you need or how you’ll feel until you find yourself lying at home on the couch with an icepack, a jug of water, snuggling your brand new human.

Will you feel like you can’t walk for weeks? (ME!) Or will you feel ready to get back into your workout routine right when you’re cleared? Having an active pregnancy right up until the end does not always translate to jumping right back in to where you left off!

Whenever you are ready, there are some things you maybe don’t expect when you try to start working out again:

  • Leaking… enough said.

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    Must have.

 

  • Being worried about milk supply, soreness, engorgement etc etc.

 

  • Being interrupted multiple times by crying, pacifying, feeding, holding your baby, and taking your own pee breaks!

 

  • Not being able to hold your pee in when you jump or run

 

  • Not being able to do upper body weights EVER because your arms & shoulders are perpetually sore from carrying baby & the heavy car seat around

 

  • Being so tired from not sleeping that it takes days to muster up the courage to workout, & then several days before the next workout because you’re still sore/tired from the last one

 

  • Your old workout clothes don’t fit the way they used to & you may not feel like yourself

 

  • Starting, then stopping for several weeks, then starting again, then stopping again. It may take many more months to get into a regular routine than it did pre-baby! And just when you get into a routine, your baby may switch it up on you.

 

  • Needing way more pelvic floor work than you think… Taking a break from your old HITT routine & sit ups to focus more on kegel exercises, glute bridges, wall sits, light sumo squat pulses… The “boring” stuff. Your insides need to HEAL!

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  • Feeling guilty because you’re not giving your baby your full attention (or maybe have a sitter while you head to the gym), but hey, mama’s gotta be strong to handle the craziness of motherhood!

 

  • Your body may feel up to it, but your mind may not, especially if struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, or hormonal fluctuations

 

And because everyone has to offer their 2 cents new moms, I’ll offer mine:

You might not bounce back right away, so take your time, be gentle with yourself, and laugh at yourself A LOT.  Your body just went through an amazing and incredibly taxing miracle. Any time you’re active is a victory! Take it one day at a time, and focus on getting some movement in each day–walking with your baby around Target counts 🙂 Speaking as someone that has always LOVED to workout and was running the stairs hours before my water broke, it has taken me 6 months to feel up to a consistent routine again, and really wanting to get back into it.

As with most things worth doing, the path is often not linear, but we keep working at it. Listen to your body, and push yourself–or tell your partner to push you– when you feel up to it and know you need to! And remember, even if you’re not thrilled about how your body looks postpartum, please appreciate it for how it housed your little one and worked hard to bring them into this world ❤

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My first “walk” 1 week post-delivery in January. Walks have been my saving grace to get me out of the house and doing light cardio when I don’t feel up to more.