Friday, August 29, 2014

Motherhood is Kicking My Butt

In the short time I've had this blog, I've shared some deeply personal things. I've talked about the birth of my daughter, the trials of my faith, and the truth about my marriage. Most of those posts, while personal, discuss things that have some conclusion. They are in the past or they have in some way been dealt with or handled. I haven't shared much about my current life or feelings on here.

The truth is, I'm having a very hard time right now. I'm having quite possibly one of the most trying times in my life.

 JaiseAnn doesn't sleep. She started sleeping very poorly about six weeks ago and ended up in our bed. That only made things worse. She still wakes every hour, nurses constantly when I'm in bed with her, and often times still can't get comfortable so I find myself taking her out of bed to nurse her to sleep.

I've actually forgotten how to sleep. I don't fall asleep with ease like I used to because I'm waiting for her to wake up.

I miss relaxing with Zach on the couch at night. Now I just wait for her to wake. I miss cuddling with my husband in bed like you wouldn't believe.

So we tried sleep training and it's not for me. I let her cry herself to sleep last night and after falling asleep, she woke up 40 minutes later. I couldn't bring myself to make her cry again.

So Zach and I discussed it and we are going to play it  by ear with her in our bed for a while. He gave me a very good blessing and I really plan to use some of the advice that was in that blessing. But she's in our bed.

She also takes all of her naps in her Ergo on me. It's the only way I can get her to sleep--because here's the main problem--JaiseAnn does not get "drowsy." I have played with sleep schedules for months now and I still have yet to see my daughter get drowsy. She gets cranky and then she wakes right back up. She doesn't get sleepy. She doesn't understand the concept of sleep.

When I read something or here someone say, "After I put _______ down for a nap." I wonder in amazement about how it would be to just put a baby down and have them nap. JaiseAnn would wake up immediately  (and not go back to sleep) or sleep at a maximum of forty minutes.

I am at a loss of what to do. I feel like we can revisit sleep training later if necessary. When she's getting more food during the day. She's on the lower end of the weight scale and I want her to really be eating before I try again, if I try again.

She's not taking solid foods at all right now. She will maybe get one piece of something in her mouth at a session, but she's still showing very little interest. She also refuses a bottle.

On top of that, she doesn't like to be away from me. She doesn't really take to other people which makes me sad. I want her to enjoy everyone. Her blessing on her blessing day stated that she would be "a friend to everyone."

School started last week and I suppose that's been a major reality check for me. I'm not teaching. I'm not going to school. I'm home with JaiseAnn working from a computer. And I'm going to just be very honest here--I'm lonely. I am desperately craving human interaction. 

In order for me to be home with JaiseAnn, Zach works nearly sixty hours a week. It makes for long days (sometimes stressful days) and very little time with my husband. I miss him.

I haven't felt like this the whole time, but the longer this major sleep problem has gone on, the worse I get.

I start to panic and feel trapped. I don't see it ever getting better. I don't see her ever being more independent. I don't see myself ever getting a night of sleep again. I can't even imagine the hell that will be weaning when we decide it's time. The future feels so far away and so impossible at the same time. The present is like a fog.

I have a hard time being away from JaiseAnn. My best friend put it perfectly when she said that it still feels like they are a part of you and being away from them is almost disorienting. I couldn't have said it better.

The fact that JaiseAnn and I spend so much time together makes it hard for us to be apart. If I have a hard time being away from her, she's probably having an even harder time being away from me. How do I deal with that?

How do I deal with any of this?

I would honestly love to hear any of your stories, advice, and I'd most certainly appreciate your prayers.

Monday, August 25, 2014

What is Marriage, Really?

This post originally appeared as a guest post on Life with Amberly and Joe

Two days after my daughter was born, I was readmitted to the hospital. I endured a five day stay while they tried to manage my blood pressure. My husband and daughter joined me. It was in the hospital that we experienced the beginning of our journey as a family of three.

My husband slept (and practically lived) on a very uncomfortable pull out cot. He stayed up far too late watching our daughter for the moments that he could while I attempted to get some rest. I had never been more frightened in my life and he offered me constant comfort.

I couldn't shower. For over 24 hours I had an IV and after that time period I was far too weak to take a shower. My face was broken out, my hair was greasy, I lived in a hospital gown, and I cried for 23 of the 24 hours of my day.

I was angry that I didn't have my picture perfect "after baby" scene going on. I wasn't curled up on the couch smiling down at my little girl with my husband by my side. I wasn't getting the chance to be pampered by my husband on his days off (wishful thinking). We weren't laughing at our beautiful daughter, taking too many pictures, and boring our families with them. And most of all, I wasn't able to cuddle with him at night while talking about the beautiful new life we created. I felt like I was missing out on my marriage.

Where was our cuddle time? Where were our prayers over a home-cooked meal while holding hands? Where was our Netflix routine? Where were the conversations about normal day-to-day things that we talked about before falling asleep. WHERE WAS MY MARRIAGE?!?

One day my mom came up to see me. I was so upset and started explaining my fears, worries, and more to her.  In expressing my anger and frustration I said, "People can't be married in a hospital forever!"

She just laughed and assured me that, first and foremost, I wouldn't be in the hospital forever. She then assured me that my marriage would be fine and that Zach and I would establish a new normal.

My marriage didn't "go" anywhere. It just looked different. It had changed because it needed to.

Until then, my marriage had been this awesome perk in my life. It had been a sleepover every night. Zach and I faced every trial head on, side by side. We would use our individual gifts and talents to tackle whatever life threw our way--each pulling our fair share. And when things were good, we enjoyed those times side by side as well. We traveled, went on dates, and planned for the future with smiles on our faces.

 I hadn't thought about what things would be like when one of us couldn't pull. When one of us had nothing to give. When one of us had to solely rely on the other.

I had to rely on my husband to take care of our daughter. Zach had to change every diaper, take care of all her needs-- except for feeding and holding her-- (but even when I was doing those things he had to watch because the medications I was on made me weak). Zach had to take her to her first doctor's appointment when she was six days old by himself. He kept me on speaker phone the whole time while I choked on tears. He dressed her and cuddled  her and talked to her.

I had to rely on my husband to take care of me. He helped me out of bed every time I had to use the restroom. He brought me the things that I needed and wiped tears away from my face. He took trips to our home to bring me back some comforts. He held my hand and listened to my worries.

I had to rely on my husband's faith. I literally had none. I was so scared and I was too afraid to pray. When I did pray, I was too afraid to believe or to hope. Zach did it for me. He did it for both of us.  He prayed with me and offered me several blessings. He recited scriptures and pulled up spiritual videos for me. I borrowed his faith with all that I had.

I was doing all I could, but it was my husband pulling the weight.

It felt weird to fully rely on someone else. There are not words to describe the fear that I felt during that time and the tremendous need I had to rely on him in every possible way.

But that's what marriage really is.

Before I got married I thought marriage was sharing a home, making out, and having babies together. That you would have a family that looked like the family in the picture frame. Your house would smell good, you'd have music playing, and dinnertime would be a shared effort--always ending with a romantic kiss or slow dance in the kitchen, of course.

After I met my husband I learned that marriage definitely included sharing a home, making out, and having babies together. It also included becoming the best of friends, enjoying each other, and working together on the tough stuff--the unexpected car repairs, the hurt feelings, and the big decisions. 

Now I know that marriage is even more than that. 

Marriage is strength. 

When you can both carry your own weight, there is strength in that partnership. Great strength comes from pairing the greatest strengths you each have together and overcoming anything.

When one of you is unable to carry the weight, marriage offers you the strength anyway. What a beautiful blessing to have. When you can't offer everything you've got, you can do what you can and your partner does the rest. 

Marriage is hope.

Together you get to hope, and dream, and plan. You get to look ahead to the future. When the future is uncertain or scary, you always know you have your marriage to rely on and a hand to hold. That simple promise brings great hope as you face the unknown. 

Marriage is love.

It's real and true love. It's not an "I love spending time with you" or an "I love how you look" love. Marriage offers love in every circumstance and through every emotion. It offers love through every stage of life.

  Marriage is knowledge.

With all that marriage offers us, it is our best teacher. It teaches us how to give of ourselves and how to love unconditionally. It helps us strengthen our weak areas and our strengths--it's not so scary with a partner at your side, there to pick up the pieces if you don't succeed.  It teaches us how our Heavenly Father and Savior feel about us and teaches us to love like them.

Marriage is the greatest blessing. 

Have you ever experienced a time where you needed to rely on your spouse? How did it make you feel? 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Childbirth and Choices Part 3--Why Doulas are Worth It

Part 1~Part 2

What exactly is a doula? 
A doula is a trained and professional labor supporter. Doulas are not medical professionals. They are trained to support women in labor emotionally, physically, and educationally.

Why doulas are worth it

An Advocate for the Mother  

No matter which model of care you use for pregnancy/childbirth, the medical professionals will have someone to answer to. They all have their own requirements and laws--they must all dot their "i"'s and cross their "t"'s. If we're being honest, they have your best interest at heart to a point. There comes a point when the best interest is in that of the birthing center, hospital, or any legal requirements. Many times those requirements are in your best interest, but there comes a time when they are not.

A doula is yours. She does not belong to a hospital or birthing center. She doesn't have fine print to adhere to. She is simply there to support the mother and father throughout labor (and usually pregnancy/and the postpartum period as well). A doula will listen to your wants and needs. She will help you find/use your voice throughout the process and she will give you support when you need it. A doula is there just for you.

 A Better Birthing Experience
A doula never leaves the mother's side during the labor process. She is there for constant support. She offers the support the mother and father want/need. If the mother desires an unmedicated birth, the doula will support her--offering comfort measures and more throughout the process. If the mother's labor stalls, the doula can offer support through different laboring positions to get the labor to progress more naturally.

Studies show that labors that included the support of the doula were:
  • had fewer cesarean sections by 50%
  • fewer interventions--a 40% reduction in forcepts or vacuum useage and a 40% reduction in use of synthetic medications to induce labor
  • fewer requests for pain medication research suggests between 30%-60% fewer requests
  • length of labors reduced by 25%
  • higher success rate of breastfeeding past six weeks
My Experience
We decided on a doula at the last minute. An unmedicated birth was very important to me and I wanted to stack the odds in my favor of accomplishing it, I read those statistics and knew that I had to give myself the best chance possible. Doulas can be pricey and we certainly weren't in a position to afford one. Luckily, you can find doulas that are non-certified that are willing to work with you at a much lower rate (sometimes even for free). Hopefully your health care provider or childbirth educator can help you find a good one. Since doulas aren't medical professionals and do not assist in the actual delivery of the baby, I didn't care whether or not my doula was certified. In our situation, both our child birth educator and one of our midwives helped us find our way to our doula--she came highly recommended and I couldn't have been more grateful.

I found that in labor, I could manage the pain with the techniques that I'd learned and practiced. Zach was a great support for that and I did just fine managing the pain until I became exhausted. It was too late for drugs by the time I started entertaining the idea. When my midwife asked why I was asking about them I said, "I'm just so tired. I just need to rest for a minute so that I can continue to do this." As wonderful and supportive as Zach was, I needed that extra support from a doula. I hadn't really given much thought to dealing with contractions while being exhausted and that's a whole different ballgame. I am a huge supporter and believer in doulas. For more information see my sources below.

Sources for this post: 1~2~3~4~5

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Old Lines: The Battle With Body Image--How Do I Fight It?

This post was originally a guest post on Lauren's old blog. I had been wanting to post something on body image, but I'm in such a different place with this struggle now that I'm a mom that I feel like I have to learn how to fight this battle all over again. Right now I am actually overweight and I do need to change my body, but this was a good reminder for me and I'm so glad I pulled it out.  Read my thoughts below and I would love if you would weigh in with your thoughts in the comments!

I will get straight to the heart of the matter: I struggle with body image.   I am not overweight. I am not super thin. I am pretty much average. There are days where I feel sexy and beautiful (oh how I love those days) and there are days when I feel so ungrateful for the wonderful gift of my body. I have come a long way on a journey to love myself, but it is truly a daily struggle that I have to stay on top of.

I know I'm not the only one that has this struggle. I decided that if I want to see a change in women's attitudes about their bodies, it had to start with me. I had to make the first move. Today I share with you the NUMBER ONE thing that I finally figured out that made it all make sense.

 Find Your Personal Word of Wisdom

In the LDS faith we often refer to the Word of Wisdom. This Word of Wisdom is basically a health law that teaches us to take care of our bodies. What most people think of when they think of this is: Mormons don't drink, do drugs, or drink coffee or tea. The Word of Wisdom actually goes far beyond that. It covers everything from eating in moderation to getting enough rest. We are promised great blessings if we keep this Word of Wisdom.

A while back in a discussion at church on the Word of Wisdom this particular line was brought to my attention "Given for a principle with a promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints."

The weakest of all saints.

The Word of Wisdom was written for the weakest of the Saints.  I am certainly not weak when it comes to the Word of Wisdom. Following this law of health that has been revealed has never been difficult for me. Don't drink? No problem. Not even a desire. Eat in moderation? Sometimes challenging when Girl Scout orders are placed, but other than that, got it!

This made me think that maybe more is expected of me. Maybe I need more--my soul needs more. This discussion in church happened at the same time that I had made some healthy decisions that made me feel so much better both physically and emotionally. I wondered if there was a connection. The decisions I made went beyond the Word of Wisdom and brought me great peace at how I felt about my body.

It was then that I realized that  yes, I probably did need more. I needed something tailored to me. I did a lot of pondering and praying and I have learned that I need to live a little higher law of health for my personal peace and progress. If I make those choices then I am much more free in my own body.

I used to believe that the blessings we are promised for living a healthy life and taking care of our bodies had to do with physical health. I had not realized that there are infinite ways in which we can be blessed and when we live a health code that works for us, we are blessed with mental health as well. We are blessed with confidence, peace.

I no longer desire to change my body. My body is at a healthy weight but it is not a bikini body, yet I am completely at peace with it. I exercise and eat right to take care of it as it is, not to change it. For a girl who has literally sat in front of the mirror and brought herself to tears, this is truly a blessing. But I have to stay on top of it. I struggle when I get comfortable and slack on those healthy practices.

This suggestion of finding your own Word of Wisdom may sound "Mormon" or exclusive, it's not.  I encourage you to find your own Word of Wisdom. Find the health practices that you need to put into place to be happy in your body and to find that peace. You will find it if you pray about it, of that I promise you. {One of my favorite posts on this topic can be found here. It's a great reminder that God KNOWS us and has a plan for us and our bodies, He will tell us what we need.}

How do you feel about this topic? Are there any lifestyle changes that you've made that were personal and brought you peace? Do you agree/disagree with my approach to dealing with body image? Why or why not?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Keeping the Gender a Surprise--Would I Do It Again?

Our nursery is painted with a green wall. The decorations? Peter Pan. Before our baby arrived the closet was filled with onesies and nightgowns in yellow, some green, white, and gray. All of our toys are gender neutral. Why? We chose to wait until the birth of our baby to find out the gender.

Would I do it again?

We didn't keep the gender of our baby a surprise for any reason out of passion or strong objection to buying blue or pink clothing. We did it because we had decided that long before we ever even married. It was something I always felt I would do and, when I shared that with Zach, he felt the same way. There was never even any discussion when we got pregnant about whether or not we'd find out the gender. We always knew it would be a surprise.

Before I answer my own question, I thought I would list out the pros and cons of our decision for those of you who may be trying to decide whether or not you'll find out the gender.

Reasons to keep the gender of baby a surprise

Gender Neutral
Zach and I assumed that by keeping some clothing and all baby gear/equipment gender neutral, we'd save money in the long run. We also assumed that people would buy us more "necessary" items instead of cutesy clothes based on gender. We were actually wrong. We still received mainly clothes and blankets as gifts and they were all gender neutral. We love that we can use them down the road should we have a boy, but our plan to "save money" by staying gender neutral didn't exactly pan out. 

No Disappointment 
I always said I would be fine having all boys and no girls. I didn't think I wanted a girl and I really wanted a boy. I loved the name Zach and I had for our boy. We always referred to the room that would someday be our baby's as "his room." I didn't want to experience any disappointment if we were to find out the gender of our baby and I knew that I wouldn't be able to be disappointed once s/he was actually here. In all reality, though, I remember that 20 week ultrasound like it was yesterday, though it was almost a year ago. I remember feeling totally and completely enamoured with our baby. I fell in love and I fell in love hard. I saw a baby with a beating heart and legs kicking around and I realized I did not care if I was having a boy or a girl. I was head over heels in love.

The Best Surprise
There are very few good surprises in life. The birth of a baby is full of them. Zach and I wanted to experience that surprise for what it was. I thought it might even be motivation during labor. Everyone around us was eagerly waiting to find out what we were having. Our midwives were so excited that we didn't find out. They couldn't wait to find out either and said that very few people keep it a surprise anymore. I will say this...It was the best surprise. It did not disappoint. 


No "Fun" Outfits or Toys
We purchased one adorable going home outfit for a boy and one for a girl. Aside from that everything we had to dress our baby in was yellow, green, or gray. All of our blankets, outfits, and baby gear were gender neutral as well. This didn't really bother me, it made it more fun to shop for our baby girl with her right there. She had a personality and a spirit and shopping for her after her arrival was every bit as fun (if not more) than before her arrival would have been. We got loads of outfits as gifts for her. I still have a desire to "girl up" her nursery a tad, though. I have been a bit surprised at how in love with girl clothing and toys I have been. I didn't expect that.

A lot of people want to find out the gender ahead of time for the sake of names. They want, if nothing else, a list of top names to choose from. Choosing a name is hard for a lot of couples and narrowing down both boy and girl names might be difficult. For us it wasn't difficult at all. We had a boy and girl name picked out before we even married. Those have been our kids' names forever. We went to the hospital knowing that we were walking away with one or the other. 

Knowing whether you are carrying a boy or a girl really helps some moms mentally prepare and connect with the baby. They are better able to imagine the birth, the first few months, and even farther down the road. I did struggle with feeling connected throughout my pregnancy. I often wonder if knowing the gender would have made a difference. Then I go back to that moment with my ultrasound and my feelings of complete and utter love and I think that it must have been something else. I think I had a major fear that something was going to go wrong and I was too afraid to love too much. I am not entirely sure.

Would I do it again?

The moment I gave birth to my baby and my husband said, "It's a little girl!" was one of the moments from her birth that I relive over and over. The joy in his voice is unlike anything I've ever heard from him. He was so in love with her instantly. I can't explain why that was such a special moment for me, but it was. I wouldn't trade that moment for all of the gender reveal parties (which would be SO much fun, I won't lie), pink outfits, and baby dolls in the world.

All along I had been thinking gender. I had been listing the things about having a boy or a girl in my mind. When JaiseAnn was born, I suddenly realized I didn't have a girl, I had a daughter.  Associating the idea of my daughter with her the very moment she was placed on my chest is a priceless moment. For me that moment alone made it all worth it.

Zach and I see no reason to find out the gender the next time. It was the best surprise, after all.

Would you/did you find out the gender of your baby in advance?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Childbirth and Choices Part 2: Educating Yourself

This post contains affiliate links--should you purchase any of the books through the links in this post, this blog would receive a small commission. 

In part 1, we discussed the different maternity models of care. While it is wise to carefully choose a health care provider and listen to his/her advice,it's also very important to do your own learning outside of the office. Being well-informed on your own will allow you to take a more assertive role in your health care and will help you know which questions to ask and which steps you feel you need to take for the health of you and your baby.

Books I Read

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
This book was on my "list" for a very long time. I knew that I wanted a natural childbirth and I liked the message that was supposed to come from Ina May's book. Birth is a natural life process. Ina May is midwife with so much experience and a different approach to living life. I love that this book was broken up into sections. While you get a knowledge-based understanding of what happens to the body during labor and delivery, you also get birth stories. One of Ina May's theories is that there's not enough positive talk about childbirth, there's too much fear. She has many women share their positive, natural birth stories in order to help create a thought process about birth that doesn't revolve around fear. I highly (highly) recommend this book to anyone wanting to try a natural birth approach. 

Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn (4th Edition): The Complete Guide
This book was the perfect combination of everything an expectant mom needs--it covers it all from the time baby is conceived to the time baby is feeding. I used it during every part of my pregnancy. It was a great educational resource as well as a perfect reference when I needed to look something up or had a question. This book was added as optional reading for our childbirth class, so we used it and studied the childbirthing part extensively as part of our "homework." I felt like I truly understood what would happen to my body during childbirth. Lastly, there is a section on newborns. I underestimated the value of a book about the new baby you've brought home. I thought I needed a book during pregnancy? No, I needed a book as a new mom. There are so many questions and concerns that arise. This book helped out with a lot of them, including how many times JaiseAnn should be eating, how often she should be sleeping, and how many dirty/wet diapers she should have.

Books I Wish I'd Read

The Pregnancy Journal: A Day-to-Day Guide to a Healthy and Happy Pregnancy
I love the concept of journaling throughout your pregnancy and I wish I had more, especially now that she's here. I had a hard time sometimes connecting during my pregnancy, I think mostly out of fear. I wish that I had taken a few minutes every day just to reflect on my body, what I was doing, and connecting with my baby more. This book would be an awesome think to look back on and I think it would help create a positive outlook on your body and all of its changes during pregnancy. 

The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be (New Father Series)
I wish I would have given Zach some more research to do. He is extremely research minded and would have gladly read anything I handed to him, but I didn't. This book includes information on the mom, baby, and dad. Dads-to-be experience different emotions throughout the mom's pregnancy. This would have been a great way to start some healthy conversations and give Zach some insight into why I was feeling the way I was feeling.

Take a Childbirth Class
This is one of the best decisions we made in preparation for JaiseAnn's birth. I cannot recommend this enough. I don't recommend just taking any class, but find a class that fits your wants and needs.

Some of my favorite pregnancy memories with Zach happened at our childbirthing class. We had so much fun learning together and preparing for childbirth. We even came up with our own coping skills to use during labor. The time we spent in class, driving to and from class, and doing our "homework" for class will forever be a special memory for me/us.

Things to Consider:

What do you want to learn about/what do you want covered? 
This varies from person to person and couple to couple. Some classes are simply a run down of the hospital, what to expect when you get there, when to go and where to go, etc. Other classes explain the childbirth process and give coping skills. Some classes take a look at the emotional aspects behind pregnancy and childbirth. It's important to know how much you want to know and what you hope to get out of your class.

Who is teaching the class? What are his/her credentials? 

Is this class a one time occurrance, or will there be weekly classes? For how long?

What is the cost of the class? Would it provide us with what we need/are looking for? Is it worth the price?

Confident Birthing Review--Treasure Valley Area:

Zach and I took a seven week birthing class--Confident Birthing--with childbirth educator and doula Kendyl May. I have never met a person like Kendyl. She somehow managed to make the preparation for childbirth a fun and exciting experience--sometimes even a romantic experience while teaching at the same time.

Kendyl is very passionate about helping women prepare themselves for childbirth. She does not subscribe to one way of thinking (only natural births, only hospital births, etc..) Her objective is to educate and empower. She wants women to make informed decisions about their care and to have positive associations with the birth of their babies.

This class is very hands on. We practiced different techniques and coping mechanisms. We learned. We got to know our spouses in a different light. We even delved into the emotional side of things. We spent time practicing different positions while experiencing differing levels of discomfort. We were given so many different things to try to help cope with discomfort during labor. Some worked for me and some didn't. Everyone was able to walk away with a few tools in their toolbox to help cope during labor.

My favorite class was one that I had planned to skip. We were supposed to talk about different interventions that might take place and how to prepare for them and respond to them. 'I won't be needing any interventions." I thought and I almost didn't go. It turned out being a very important night for me. It forced me to think about the "what ifs" and to prioritize what things were most important to me. In the long run, I think it was a tender mercy that I attended class that night. I was more prepared for my unplanned induction due to that class.

I enjoyed my childbirth class, more than most people can say. My mom repeatedly remarks that I really used the things I learned while I was in labor. She was impressed that those things weren't forgotten when the going got tough. I had practiced them in class over the course of several weeks and I knew what to do and I knew how to assert myself. Zach says he would recommend this class to any soon-to-be dad. He was able to be truly involved--the nurses even commented on his level of involvement. He was with me every step of the way and the birth of our daughter was really a united effort. If you live in the Treasure Valley area, I highly recommend taking a look at Kendyl's website and giving some thought to attending her class. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Girl Talk--Getting an Education

There's a lot to be considered in getting a higher education. Where do you go? Why do you go there? What do you study? How to you apply it afterward. College life was hands-down one of my favorite times--for the socialization aspect as well as for the educational aspect. Some parts of college, though, kicked my butt. I wasn't prepared for some of it. What's more, I didn't really put a lot of thought into life after college--specifically life after college married with kids. I wonder how different my choices would have been if I had. Today I've got two awesome ladies handing out some great advice. If you are looking at getting a college education or know someone who is, please share this post. If you're in school or have finished school, I'd love to hear your thoughts as well. Join us now for some Girl Talk!

Meet Aubrey

What was the emphasis on education like for you growing up?

 I was always a good student. There was never pressure to go to college, but at the same time I never thought about not going. I always planned to graduate from high school and go straight to college. My parents are very supportive and wanted all of us to decide for ourselves what we wanted to do with our lives,

How did you decide where to further your education? What factors did you consider?

I definitely planned to go to college, but I never knew for sure where I wanted to go. When it came time to apply, I made plans to attend a local university in North Carolina with one of my best friends. I also applied to BYU because my dad went there. I didn't have any plans to go but figured I should at least apply. My family ended up moving to Utah right after my high school graduation. I still had the option to attend the local university, but with my family leaving I changed my plans and went to BYU.

 How did you decide what field to go into? How did you know it was the right field for you?

I had a really hard time deciding what to do. I went to college planning to study medicine. I changed my mind but took a while to decided what to do. After a study abroad in the Dominican Republic, I decided to study Spanish with a minor in Marriage, Family, and Human Development. My Spanish classes were really hard and not very enjoyable, and I really liked my other classes. I was close to graduation and decided to switch my major and minor. I was determined to graduate the next year so I made the choice based a lot on timing. I was really stressed about the decision but also didn't want to spend more time and money trying to figure it out. I made the decision in part to still graduate on time, but I also felt like it was the right decision, too.
Did you have any setbacks, challenges, etc..while getting your post high school education?

 My biggest setback or challenge was deciding what to study and what I wanted to do with my education once I was done. I worked really hard in high school and did very well. Once I got to college, I was so surprised how smart everyone was. I had to work so much harder and didn't always see the same results. That was also challenging.

 Do you have any advice/additional comments regarding obtaining a college education?

I loved a lot of my classes, and I really like my degree. I came out of college with a degree not a career. Even though it wasn't required, I did an internship my last semester. My advice is to get as much experience during school as possible.

Posts on this topic by Aubrey:

Random Rambling, Inspired, The Key to Discipline

Connect with Aubrey: Bloglovin~Facebook~Google +~Instagram~Pinterest~Twitter

What was the emphasis on education like for you growing up?

 One of the most important aspects of growing up for me was education. Both of my parents emphasized the importance of earning an education to be successful in life's many journeys. Though successful neither of my parents were told by their parents about higher education and that was a very strong motivator in their decision to guide me along the path of earning a college degree. I was often told how important it was to do well in school so I could earn scholarships and be admitted into a university. My school career always came before childhood leisure and eventually paid off.

How did you decide where to further your education? What factors did you consider?

During high school I used to spend hours deciding which college to attend. I had no idea what I wanted to do so that didn't help in the decision process. I had earned a $20,000 scholarship but that was hardly a dent in some university tuitions, which sadly became a large deciding factor. I also didn't want to be too far from my family. I was dating my, now husband, at the time and he was headed to California for school which interested me a lot. He and I tossed around ideas of different universities to attend when we finally found one that was cost efficient, close to home, had programs that piqued our interest, was accredited, and that we would both love to attend

 How did you decide what field to go into? How did you know it was the right field for you?

Veterinarian, medical examiner, teacher, psychiatrist, or forensics? I constantly changed my mind on what I wanted to do in life. One thing was certain though: I wanted my career to be involved with people. The university I attended had a really good psychology program and I knew that could take me into a variety of fields that worked with a range of individuals. So upon being admitted into school I was declared a psychology major and happily graduated as one.

 Did you have any setbacks, challenges, etc..while getting your post high school education?

As far as challenges go my biggest one was working while going to school. My scholarship couldn't cover out or state fees, textbook costs, supplies, and regular tuition so a job was a must along with student loans. I worked at the university in the President’s Office as a student assistant and my work and school scheduled was crammed into an 8am to 7pm time slot. Most breaks between classes were spent working and after 

 Do you have any advice/additional comments regarding obtaining a college education?

The biggest piece of advice that I can offer is that college degrees are becoming a dime a dozen so make sure to enhance your education (and personal experiences) with any extracurricular activities that you can whether it is volunteering, studying abroad, or joining on campus clubs. I ended up graduating with honors in my major, which I would also highly recommend.

Other posts by Mercedes on this topic:
College Graduation Memories

Connect with Mercedes: Bloglovin~Instagram~Pinterest~Twitter

Monday, August 11, 2014

My Faith is Fragile--Part 2--Going Through the Motions

I thought I had a strong foundation of faith. Through the struggles and challenges I've faced, I've always felt like I had my trust in God and that I trusted Him over me. I felt as though I knew He had a plan and that He would help me through any obstacle. He had thus far. I hadn't ever thought that there would be anything I could encounter that would shake that faith. 

Before I progress any further, I guess I should explain a little about myself. In high school, one of my teachers named me the "Eternal Optimist." I believed in everything, God, love, happy endings, all of it. I was enamored with the beauty in life and thought positively to my very core. It wasn't until after I met Zach and fell in love so hard it scared me, that I started to realize that life was fragile. I realized I wasn't promised a long life on earth with him and I started to lose a bit of my optimism. 

As per the mission of this blog, these pictures may not be pretty, but they really do show how I was feeling at the time. So very in love and happy and so not myself. This is real life. 

Fear and logic started to overpower belief. It started out as a thought here and there. Throughout my pregnancy it started to become a bigger problem. My way of thinking became that of constant worry. I always feel too blessed and feel like maybe something has to happen to even the score. I am just bound to experience some kind of tragedy. Usually I can battle these feelings with prayer, a visit to the temple, time at church, or just talking to my husband. The closer and closer I got to the birth of my baby, the more intense this feeling became. 

The birth of my daughter went better than I had ever expected, considering the circumstances of a last minute induction. I remember feeling gratitude throughout my labor and delivery. I openly prayed with gratitude of thanks to Heavenly Father and the baby. I thanked my husband, our doula, and my mom throughout the process. I thanked the doctors and nurses who honored and respected my wishes and helped me bring my baby into this world safely. I remember minutes after JaiseAnn was born, I was just thanking everyone. God, JaiseAnn, a nurse who wiped me down with a warm wash cloth, everyone who was in the room received an expression of gratitude from me. It was the best moment of my life and I was so happy and relieved and grateful.

And then I had a few hours more to fall in love with my little girl. With that love came an intense and crippling fear that I cannot put into words, but can say for certain--I've never experienced before. I was so worried something would happen to her, me, or Zach. This was too good to be true. I didn't deserve this. It was too much. I would have to pay. 

This anxious worry consumed me the first few days of my daughter's life. Two days after being home from the hospital I was readmitted because my blood pressure was increasing, not decreasing as it should have. I had never been in the hospital due to illness or any health problems. I was sure I would come home that night or the next day. 

One day led to another and I found myself in the hospital for five days. It was too much for me. I was so scared. By the end of the second day, I felt like I was losing my mind. I was certain I was dying. It was irrational, but I felt trapped. Of course I was dying. My life had just truly felt like it had begun. I wasn't going to get to raise JaiseAnn. I wouldn't really get to be a mom. 

I prayed and prayed for two or three days straight. When I had a few minutes alone in my hospital room, I got on my knees and prayed with all of my heart. When I was alone with JaiseAnn in my room, I sang primary songs and hymns to her. I never felt peace. I never felt comfort. I felt fear. I felt sadness. I felt hopeless. 

These are things I had never before felt or experienced. 

I talked at length with many people about this and I received Priesthood blessings. I wanted to hope, but I couldn't. At the end of my stay in the hospital, I had taught myself to be afraid to pray. "It won't help anyway." "If something's going to happen to me, Heavenly Father knows it and He won't change it, he'll only try to change me and my heart. I want to stay. I want to be here with my daughter. I want to be a Mom. If something's going to happen to me, I will not change my mind about it. I don't want to talk to Him."

In all my life, I've never felt afraid to pray. But I did then. 

I am almost positive that part of my overwhelming anxiety and fear had to do with intense sleep deprivation and severe hormone fluctuations. I was only one week postpartum when I was sent home again. The fear and hopelessness lessened only slightly. I was home, but I was still certain I was too blessed. Something bad was just bound to happen and I wasn't about to pray.

But I did. I still kept praying. I didn't give up my faith even though it failed me. I still kept going through the motions. I went to church, I said my prayers, and I tried so hard to feel a change of heart.
A little more like me. 

It didn't come.

Still, I kept at it. And one Sunday, when JaiseAnn was five months old, I had my first spiritual experience since she'd been born. I finally felt something other than fear. I finally felt a little bit of faith.

When you've been low on faith (the lowest you've ever been) without real reason, it doesn't make sense and it can be scary--especially if you've lived your whole life with faith--usually in abundance. That loss was heavily felt and the little bit that I felt I got back that day was such a welcome relief. 

I still have questions and things I don't understand. I often wonder what people mean when they say to "Trust God" with your children and family. What does that mean? I don't understand God's role in tragedy and trial, even though I hear about it very regularly through my studies and attendance at church. I still don't quite get what My Heavenly Father's role is when it comes to my suffering and my sadness. Maybe I never will.

At about five months. This is the best picture I have that shows the definite change in my countenance. 
But I'm studying more and praying more and thankfully feeling more. My heart is in it a little bit more. Sometimes we struggle...whether it's our faith, our feelings and thoughts about ourselves or others, our relationships, our finances, etc. When those struggles come, sometimes we just have to keep moving as though we aren't struggling. We keep going and doing what has always worked for us in the past. Sometimes that's all it takes and sometimes it takes more, but we get there. 

Have you ever experienced something like this? What has worked or works for you?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Childbirth and Choices Part 1: Your Health Care Options

Choosing where you will receive care during your pregnancy and labor is a difficult decision. This time in your life is special and intimate which may make an out of hospital birth appeal to you. This time in your life is priceless and this little life is so valuable--you might fear an out of hospital birth and gravitate toward a medical model of care. There is no one-size-fits all approach to choosing health care during pregnancy and labor.

I've outlined a few options below and given a few details. Ultimately, however, it comes down to your health and your instincts.

Choosing Care:
Things to consider or ask yourself:
-Am I healthy? Is my pregnancy healthy?
-What do I believe about the birth process? Do I feel it is a natural life process?
-Where would I feel most comfortable giving birth or receiving care? Why?
-What do I want out of my birthing experience? Do I want a drug-free experience or would I prefer to medically reduce the pain during labor?
-What are my options where I live?

Things to consider or ask your health care provider:
-His/Her approach to your prenatal care. How much involvement will you have? Will you be given choices?
-What will happen at each appointment?
-What is your approach to induction?
-What is the percentage of C-Sections each year for your practice?
-What is your approach to a drug-free birth?
-What does your facility offer for my labor experience?

Midwifery Care
Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) are registered nurses that spend an extra two years in a Master's program for midwifery. Midwives offer a model of care that is more personal and individualized. The Midwifery Model of Care views and treats birth as a normal life process. Midwives monitor the physical and emotional well being of the mother throughout pregnancy. Education is part of the Midwifery Model of Care as well. Midwives provide expectant families with individualized education throughout the pregnancy. Midwives minimize technological interventions while identifying women who need to be transferred to obstetric care at any time during their pregnancy or labor.

Obstetric Care
Obstetricians are extensively educated in their field. They complete their necessary requirements for medical school and spend an additional 4 years studying and practicing obstetric care exclusively.  The medical model of care focuses on "preventing, treating, and diagnosing complications that can occur during pregnancy, labor, or birth."  This model of care is done via testing and through the use of a variety of medical interventions used to avoid complications that may occur.

Where to Give Birth:
Home births are usually paired with midwifery care. Usually when a person plans to give birth at home she has been receiving prenatal care through a midwife. Several weeks before her due date she will be asked to have certain things ready for a birth at home. In healthy pregnancies, home births are often just as safe as a birth in a birthing center or hospital.

The advantages to having a home birth are:
-The environment. Giving birth is a body/mind experience. If you believe in the power of the mind, then you might consider a home birth. Your body is in a familiar environment and is therefore more relaxed. The labor process is able to take place naturally and progress with minimal interventions. 
-An easier recovery is anticipated due to fewer medical interventions during labor and delivery

The disadvantages to having a home birth are: 
-The location. If an emergency situation occurs, your proximity to the nearest hospital is important and can cost you or your baby precious minutes.
-There is no access to medicinal pain management

Birthing Center:
If you have midwifery care, a free-standing birthing center is an option. Free-standing birth centers are not affiliated with hospitals or clinics. They are independently operated. Certified Nurse Midwives attend at the births in a birthing center, physicians are not part of a birthing center approach.

The advantages to birthing in a free-standing birthing center are:
-Drug free births take place in birthing centers. There are midwives supporting you throughout the birthing process as well as having the necessary facilities available (birthing tubs, birthing balls, birthing chairs, etc...) to help aid the birthing process.
-It feels like home. In a birthing center, a woman labors in what looks and feels like a bedroom. It is a comfortable, relaxed environment. Food and drink are encouraged for laboring women in a birthing center and often times birthing centers have a kitchen for families to keep meals and healthy food available to them.
-You are likely to have an easier recovery due to fewer medical interventions.

The disadvantages to birthing in a free-standing birthing center are:
-No immediate access to obstetric or neonatal care--you will need to be transferred to a hospital which can cost you precious minutes.
-There are no options for medicinal pain relief.
-You usually return home from a birth at a birthing center before eight hours. This can be a determining factor for some women who are nervous about recovery or postpartum symptoms.

Birthing at a hospital is paired with obstetric care, but can also pair with midwifery care. Some hospitals house midwifery practices (though the practice is much different in a hospital than an free-standing practice due to hospital policies and liabilities).

The advantages of birthing in a hospital include:
-Medicinal options available for pain management
-Medical technology and expertise available for emergency/life-threatening situations
-Medical supervision for the first 1-3 days (typically) postpartum
-Many women/families feel safer at the hospital

The disadvantages of birthing in a hospital include:
-Fewer options or choices for care. For example, in most hospital situations a mother with Group B strep will have no other option than to receive antibiotics during labor. In out of hospital experiences, mothers usually have more options and input in their labor/medical care. There are legalities in a hospital that determine whether or not certain accommodations can be made.
-An increased chance of medical interventions. In a hospital, you are more likely to be advised to speed up the labor process with some mode of intervention (Pitocin and breaking the bag of water are two ways this is usually done). These interventions can often times lend themselves to more interventions.

My Experience:
Our experience with prenatal care is unique in that we received midwifery care throughout my pregnancy and I was transferred to an obstetrician's care for the birth of our daughter due to an induction. I have experienced both and I think that was good for me. I am a big fan of/believer in the midwifery care model. It worked very well for me and continues to work well for me. I need to be involved and educated in the decisions I am making. It was really important for me to have a say in my medical care and I am grateful I got that chance throughout my pregnancy. Having a drug-free birth was very important to me. I wanted a minimal amount of interventions and receiving my care through a free-standing birth center allowed me to prepare for that.

My hospital experience was far better than I had expected. The doctors who attended to me worked closely with the midwives that cared for me. They were aware of my desires for a drug-free birth and presented options to me. They predicted certain things about my preferences and they asked me for my input. I felt very valued.  Ultimately, though, I felt safe and well taken care of throughout my labor. They allowed me minimal interventions as long as the baby was okay. They continually checked on her and me. I was continually offered a chance to have my water broken, but each time I refused, I felt as though I was being heard. I never felt pushed into a situation. The only negative thing about birthing in the hospital was that I didn't want to be there and it scared me. I could not sleep at night and I wanted to be home.

(Read the birth story)

What will I do next time?
I hope to have our next baby at the same birth center I planned to deliver baby #1 (see below). I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia with JaiseAnn at 39 weeks 5 days. I have a slightly elevated chance of getting it again with a subsequent pregnancy. If I am high risk when I get pregnant for any reason, a birthing center won't be an option. I will seek care from one of the doctor's who delivered JaiseAnn. If I am healthy and have a healthy pregnancy, we will try again for an out-0f-hospital experience?

I know that some people have terrible experiences with birthing centers and some people have terrible experiences with doctors and hospitals. I highly recommend meeting with two or more doctors/midwives/practices before settling on a choice. Do some research and find out what is important to you and discuss it with each practitioner before making a choice.

We received our midwifery care from Treasure Valley Midwives. They are located in Boise but service families throughout the Treasure Valley. I cannot recommend this center enough. Zach was apprehensive about having an out of hospital birth experience, but I really wanted one. I asked him to at least visit the two centers we have nearby and then decide.

We met with a different center at first. For a number of reasons, we left that meeting feeling unsettled. I think they knew because they never even offered a follow-up call. We visited Treasure Valley Midwives last. We met with the owner, Paula, and discussed with her our concerns and our desires. She felt that the model of care the center offered was in alignment with what we wanted out of our prenatal care and childbirth experience. She easily calmed our fears as she explained how the center has worked hard to establish and maintain phenomenal relationships throughout the medical community. They are within four blocks of our preferred hospital, so that made us feel better as well. Their statistics are posted on their website and I studied them before meeting with her. Those alone put me at ease.

After we left our appointment, Zach said, "We can absolutely have a baby here." I, of course, felt the exact same way. Every appointment with my midwives was thorough, both physically and mentally. They monitored the baby and me very closely. They talked with me at length (each appointment was allotted an hour. I usually took the full hour to discuss my options and share my life with my midwives). Those women became my friends and took far better care of me at the end of my pregnancy/after JaiseAnn was born than I would ever have expected or imagined. The postpartum care alone was worth it to me.

One night after JaiseAnn was born and after I had been out of the  hospital, I had some worries. It was Valentine's Day and I was scared to call because I didn't want something to be wrong--I had this deep fear that I would have to be readmitted to the hospital, and I didn't want to bother the on-call midwife on Valentine's Day. I wasn't healing properly and JaiseAnn hadn't dirtied a diaper that day, both things were severely stressing me out. Zach convinced me to call and the on-call midwife was so kind and she talked through each situation with me at length. At the end of the call I apologized for bothering her on Valentine's day and she said, 'Sharlee, that is what we are here for! We are here for you 24/7!  That's what we do."

TVM works with three practicing midwives and student midwives. As a  patient, you rotate appointments to get to know each one before the birth of your baby, as you never know who will be delivering your baby. This helps ensure that whoever helps deliver your baby, you will know her and have a relationship with her. Each appointment involved a physical examination (blood pressure, weight, sometimes lab work/if necessary, fundal height measurements, and fetal heart tones). Each appointment was also met with different options and approaches. There was nothing that I was forced to do and it felt like I had a choice for everything including whether or not to have the glucose test or the strep B test--these tests are routine in traditional care facilities, but I was given options to waive them if I wanted.

I felt very informed about each step of my pregnancy, with ample time to make decisions. When it came time to deliver JaiseAnn at the hospital and one of the hospital staff members asked me my preferences, I remember rattling them off--from skin to skin, to cutting the chord, to the treatments I did/did not want JaiseAnn to receive after birth. I was amazed at myself for being able to remember all of those things while delivering my daughter without medication. In hindsight, though, I realized that it was because I had thoroughly researched and discussed each and every step with my midwives beforehand. I felt confident in my decisions.

If you have any questions about my care through Treasure Valley Midwives, I am happy to share--just email me. If you live in the Treasure Valley, they are at least worth visiting. I have a deep love for that center and the staff there. I continue to receive well woman care from them and will hopefully utilize them for my next pregnancy.

Sources for this post are listed below:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Mission of My New Lines

Shortly after I had my daughter I went on an outing to Target with her. As I came through the checkout lane a college-aged girl commented on how cute she was and said, "I cannot wait until I get married and have kids!"

Normally people respond to comments like that with things like:

"Enjoy your time now, there's plenty of time for that later!"
"Don't rush!"
"It's not as glamorous as it seems."

I would never encourage anyone to rush into marriage or motherhood. I also would encourage young women to enjoy their single life because I very much enjoyed my life as a single girl. Despite those things, I did not caution this girl against rushing, nor did I tell her to "Enjoy it now!" Instead, I said this: "Good for you! I'm so glad that you are looking forward to that, not enough people do anymore. I'm telling you what---a family is life's best kept secret."

 After I got married I remember being so surprised at how awesome it was. The world around me made it sound so terrible, but it wasn't. It was incredible. I was warned it was so hard, but instead I found it fun and almost easy. I fell so in love with even just the concept of marriage after experiencing it firsthand.

Likewise, after I had my daughter I remember being surprised at how incredible motherhood was. People told me that I would look forward to returning to work--that I would need the break from the monotony. People warned that I would be sleep deprived, lonely, and often times frustrated.  It was never more clear to me what my dream job was than after having my daughter. I wanted to care for my family and my home, full time. I will not claim I am not horribly tired, sometimes lonely, and frustrated, but I wish more people would share the good parts. The good so far outweighs the harder parts. Family is where it's at!

Just as I was having this intense conversion to the beauty and majesty of family, I recognized how deeply it contrasted to the world's approach to family and views.  I am constantly seeing confirmation that the family is in jeopardy. 

When JaiseAnn was first born, I couldn't watch our usual television shows. There was too much darkness. There were too many things that screamed at me, "You brought this perfect little being into a world like this???!!" For over two months, I religiously watched The Cosby Show. Laughing at the Huxtable family (mainly Dr. Huxtable himself) was such welcome relief to my soul. But more so, the family values portrayed on television were such a sweet contrast to what I had been used to seeing. My postpartum hormones had something to do with this undoubtedly, but one day I sent Zach a lengthy text raging about our societal shift of family values. Part of the text went something like this, "And we used to see families eat together at the dinner table and that never happens on TV anymore. There's no joy in family on television. I miss Full House."

I have a flare for drama, I don't deny that, but that does not take away from my strong belief that the family is under attack. I see it more and more clearly every day. I could write blog posts about it all day long but they'd probably create controversy and be isolating, which isn't the purpose of this blog.

This blog exists for one reason: to give me the opportunity to be one more voice sharing with the world the joys of marriage, family, motherhood, and womanhood. I wanted a chance to tell as many young women and families as I can that it is so worth it. I want to share the joy of keeping a home, raising a family, and connecting with my spouse. 

I get such satisfaction out of being a wife, mother, and homemaker. I want to share that. I want to fight against the images of balls and chains, sweatpants, and sadness. I even want to fight against this argument that women can (and should) do it all and have it all. I want to share that even in the hardest moments in any of my womanly roles, I am so deeply satisfied and happy.

This blog a place to share that happiness. I want to share my stories and discover the beauty in them for myself as well as share it with others. I never want to share my happiness, though, without honesty.

While I feel that casual sex, violence, and media that portrays financial or worldly success over family success is detrimental to our society and our values. I feel that social media can be equally as damaging. Each and every social media platform has a way of celebrating images of perfection. I am a sucker for beautiful photos but trying to measure up to perfection is not my ideal.

Playing with my daughter on the floor is beautiful to me. Even when my floor isn't as clean as I'd like or I'm not dressed in an "outfit of the day." Date nights with my husband are so much fun and so valuable, even if we're not spending gobs of money at a fancy restaurant and sharing that experience with the whole world. There is so much beauty in the normal, but we overlook it at times.

This blog will be a place to share the real beauty. The beauty behind the pinnable images and the staged photos. The beauty behind the illusions of perfection. The beauty of a house that is always being cleaned rather than clean. The beauty of a marriage that is finding it's way through parenthood but will still find the couple sitting down for a game of Skip Bo at night. The beauty of meals that are prepared long before they are served because it's just easier that way.  The beauty of a life that I'm still writing and figuring out every day. A place to share the blessings of family even when it's not always worthy of social media's approval. The beauty of a real family doesn't have to be one of life's best kept secrets anymore.

Thank you for being here.

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