The worst solo I ever did sing: A more realistic holiday update

A week before Christmas I posted a 2017 update for our family, I saw a lot of other people post similar types of updates.  Ours went a little something like this (I don’t post names for privacy/ security, so you just get titles here):

“Family Adventures 2017!
-Husband was asked to serve as the Elder’s Quorum President (president of one of the men’s organizations in our congregation) and is still working for [insert company].
-I started a blog and continue to teach Relief Society (the women’s organization in our congregation) once a month
-Son started preschool, he is LOVING it and learning lots
-Daughter is 15 months now, she’s been walking for a while now and starting to talk a little. Her favorite things so say are, “All done” and “NO!”

We’ve done a lot of traveling this year including-
-Houston and San Antonio with a little jaunt up to Waco
-Husband got to go to Philly for work and took a side trip over to Baltimore to see his brother
-I took the kids and youngest sister in law to Utah to visit cousins
-Utah (again as the whole family) including a family reunion in Lindon/Provo area, Vernal for Dinosaur National Park, petroglyphs at McConkie Ranch, Fantasy Canyon, Arches, and Goblin Valley
-Several trips up to Flagstaff for Lowell Observatory and Sunset Crater
-Sedona
-Grand Canyon
-I went to Utah (so much Utah!) for a girl’s weekend and got to see a life size replica of the Ancient Biblical Tabernacle at the old BYU stomping ground
-Husband took several trips to CA for work, in October we all tagged along and took a day to go to Sea World
-After Thanksgiving we rode out on the Apache Trail to see the ruins at Tonto National Monument”

Based on this it probably sounds like 2017 was really hunky-dory and we are just having so much fun over here.  And we are having fun, and we have so much to be grateful for.  But 2017 was actually a pretty rough year.  I realized after I posted focusing on only the positive that I had actually left out most of the amazing blessings we have received and lessons we have learned this year and in so doing, kinda left God out of our update.  So here’s a more accurate portrayal of how 2017 went.

We’ll start at the end and work our way around:

At the beginning of December our ward choir director approached me and asked me to sing a solo as part of our special Christmas Sacrament meeting program on Christmas Eve.  I love to sing and am always happy for the opportunity so of course accepted.  She gave me the song- Star of Bethelehem– which to be honest, I have never particularly liked.  It’s fine, don’t get me wrong, I have just always thought it was a little cheesy.  But, again, I was happy to sing it.

The week before Christmas Eve (on my husband’s birthday/our anniversary) I caught the cold from Hades.  I mean this thing has morphed more times than a Power Ranger- it’s still lingering 2 weeks later.  I never anticipated that I would be sick for a whole week (let alone 2) but with how much other craziness was going on (I’ll fill in those details later), I got to the Saturday night before Christmas Eve and the cold had settled all of it’s mucus in my nose and sinuses.  This makes singing a little tricky but it was a little too late to try to find someone else to cover for me.  I practiced it a few times, and though I knew I wouldn’t be at my best, I sounded fine.

The next morning I practiced with the accompanist, it sounded fine, not as great as I knew I could do, but fine.  When it came time to get up to sing in the program, I don’t know what happened.  The snot shifted weird or something, but I could hardly get a note out.  I had very little control over what my voice was doing.  That’s a very humbling place to be as a singer because your body and your voice are just not doing what you want them to do.

Then I got to these lines:

“A sweeter face I ne’er will see
Than of those loving eyes smiling up at me.
I found a King, I found a Friend,
That night in Bethlehem”

Since becoming a mom, singing about the Christ child has become very emotional for me. My kids have been giving me a run for my money lately, and maybe that added to it.  But thinking about Christ as a baby, and then referring to Him as our friend, I just lost it.  So on top of being sick now I was emotional which is just really not a great combo for beautiful singing.

I tried to get it together, which I probably could have done better if I weren’t also ill, but then came to these lines:

“And though I stumble and fall I can hear someone call,
“Do not despair, your star is still there.”‘

And I thought about the struggles we’ve been going through which pale in comparison to some of the other struggles going on in our congregation.  We have three members dealing with very serious cases of cancer.  One of those is a child.  And there are many other serious trials that people from our church family are struggling with.  So I completely lost it again and barely tripped along through the rest of the song.  I’m telling you it was the worst singing I think I have ever done publicly.

But…

Afterwards several people thanked me and told me they had been crying through it right along with me.  I think that if I had not been sick and therefore more humble than my typical self, and had not become emotional, it would have just been a simple (and maybe a little cheesy) song.  It might have sounded nice, but the message and the impact might have been lost.  I think we all needed a good cry together.  If I hadn’t been sick and emotional I know I would have missed out on a blessing and a lesson, and might not have been able to deliver the message that Heavenly Father needed delivered in that moment.

And that’s kind of representative of how 2017 went for us.  So here’s a summary of the craziness we have faced this year:

January- my husband woke up with his uvula so swollen that he couldn’t talk or swallow, and could only breathe through his nose.  Emergency room visit #1

February- husband had surgery to hopefully fix the issues that caused the great uvula debacle of January.  I also finally decided I was sick of being in constant pain following my second pregnancy and started physical therapy.  Which was very helpful, but finding a babysitter once a week (times 8 weeks) for 2 kids was a little bit stressful.

March- actually I think this month was ok over all

April- my anxiety hit a pretty high point due to some external stressors including my husband’s business trips, I gained back any and all weight I had lost post pregnancy

May- We started solids with baby girl and her stomach did not agree with certain baby foods.  She started waking up in the middle of the night with horrible gas pains and would scream for about 3 hours. Every. single. night.  Hoping to help clear her out I started giving her pear juice, and more pear juice.  Turns out pears were one of the problems.  We didn’t sleep for a month.

June- lots of traveling, fun, but taxing.

July- discovered nodules in my thyroid, had several suspicious moles removed two of which were found to be moderately concerning (don’t freak out there’s still severely concerning and pre-melanoma before you get to melanoma)

August- got said moles removed which meant no lifting for a while (that’s really easy when you have 2 small children), got in to a thyroid specialist (pretty sure I just like lived at the doctor this year- this started a round of monthly blood draws and doctor visits)

September- husband experienced some unsettling symptoms and ended up in the emergency room again- turned out to just be a complex migraine

October- car started making some weird noises

November- husband got a nasty cough that turned into chest pains that turned into another visit to the ER.  Everything with his heart was fine- they sent him home not knowing what the problem was.  With 3 ER trips in a year I decided we needed to start weeding out what could be causing him to get sick so often and decided to start with a mold test.  Look no further, we found mold.  Which as it turns out could cause ALL of the random symptoms he had experienced.  Just after Thanksgiving we started the mold removal process which meant emptying our playroom and having it tarped off.  Weird car noises constantly looming.

December- Just keep that construction zone in the back of your mind, lots of noise, lots of workers in and out of the house and coordinating schedules.  Then the heater broke, luckily it was an easier fix than we were worried about.  Then husband left town again for work.  I don’t do very well anxiety wise while he is gone in general, but on top of everything else it was really rough.  I had several commitments in the evening which meant finding babysitters which is nice for the break but the act of finding them was contributing to my anxiety.  And then to top it off, the afternoon before daddy got home, the 3 year old did this:
IMG_20171214_154758 (2)

Then I started getting that dreadful cold I referred to earlier.  Happy birthday/ anniversary honey, I feel like death warmed over!  However, we did have tickets to the Nathan Pacheco concert for the day after the Birth-aversary.  At this point we were both sick but decided it was worth venturing out.  We went to a Thai restaurant right next to the Mesa Arts Center.  We got seated right away and our order was taken quickly and then we waited and waited and waited.  Eventually when I was already starting to get anxious that we were going to have to rush through our meal, our waitress came over to inform us that she had forgotten to put in our order.  She offered to put it in right away but it would be another 25 minutes.  No time for that so we got Subway for our romantic anniversary date.  The concert was AMAZING.  But, a mom and her teenage daughter sat in front of us.  For the first 3 songs, the mom, not the daughter, had her phone out constantly taking pictures and recording with her phone screen in my face.  PSA- this is technically illegal as it’s copyright infringement and there were signs posted, but it’s also really rude and distracting to the people behind you.  After the third song I leaned forward during the applause and tapped her on the shoulder and said, “I’m really sorry, but could you please keep your phone off, the light is really distracting.”  She responded, “Oh, my phone’s not on.”  “Well, it’s been on during the songs.”  Seriously??  Why was your first inclination to LIE?  You could have just said, “Oh, I’m sorry.”  Again, this was not the teenager, this was the 40 year old woman.  I could go on this rant for a while, but I’ll save that for another post.

We got to the car afterwards and headed towards my parents’ house to pick up the kids.  Now there’s this place along 202 Red Mountain Freeway where I have broken down several times in several different cars.  I’ve run out of oil, had a tire blow out, and run out of gas.  This stretch happens to have about 3 miles with no exits.  While in this stretch my car made a clunk noise and started losing speed and would not accelerate.  Got to the next exit and thought we would just turn into the nearest gas station, oh there aren’t any within 3 miles of the freeway there.  Managed to hop the car along the last 8 miles to my parents’ house.  They got it in to the dealer for me the next day and we discovered that it would cost more to fix than the worth of the car.  Something about spark plugs like exploding, I don’t really know much about cars, but bad things happened.

So needless to say I am kinda ending this year as a hot mess.

But, through all of this there have been amazing blessings and tender mercies.

Through all the ER and doctor’s visits, people have willingly and gladly stepped up and watched our children.  It’s hard to have had to ask for help so many times this year, but it’s beautiful to know that we have amazing friends, family, and a church family who will help us on a moment’s notice.

Discovering nodules in my thyroid was scary because I thought it might mean surgery, but it meant that I had to see a specialist instead of my primary care doctor.  The specialist immediately looked at me and said, “Let me guess, they keep telling you that you are ‘low side of normal’? Well, if you’re developing nodules then obviously that’s not good enough for you.”  I’ve literally been saying that for YEARS!  He suggested trying to up my meds in lieu of removing my thyroid.  I immediately started losing weight, the swelling in my thyroid has gone away, and the nodules are not growing- as long as they stay their current size they are fine.  So this medical problem ended up being a blessing in disguise.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do about having the moles removed and not being able to lift for a week.  You don’t exactly get sick leave from your children.  As I was trying to figure out what on earth to do, my little brother ended up deciding to move back to Arizona to search for a job, which meant that he didn’t have a job yet when I had to have the procedure so he was able to come and be my nanny.  In general having him back has been a huge blessing to our little family.

And the mold/heater/car issue.  All of those right on top of each other.  People often ask, “Where is God?” when they go through a significant trial.  It’s hard to keep perspective and rarely are we given the opportunity to see how bad things COULD have been.  Not that we should constantly dwell on that while going through trials, but when He does help us with the perspective it can be very strengthening.

The mold issue was bad, and initially we weren’t sure if insurance would cover very much of it.  We were being faced with the possibility that this would decimate our savings.  Then our heater went out on top of that, which was a possibility for another $4k right there.  And on top of that the car was not sounding good.   We are pretty big savers and avoid debt as much as possible so this was really scary.  We talked it over and agreed that we would keep Christmas gifts really small as we couldn’t justify spending more money when we were so unsure of how things would work out.  I immediately felt a burden lifted realizing that I didn’t have to spend effort on finding gifts, and I did have a box of books in the closet that I had been saving so there would be at least some gifts for the kids.  Then we found out that heater was actually a very simple fix, only about $100 instead of $4k.  Then we found out that the insurance company was going to cover almost all of the mold/ water damage remediation.  We still have some out of pocket expenses but nothing compared to the total.  The car died close to my parents’ house and they work at the same school together so they were able to loan us one of their cars without any extreme inconvenience on their part.  And while we did have to get a loan for the new car, which was something we had hoped to avoid, it’s not the end of the world.  Plus we got to upgrade to a van which has already been a blessing on many occasions.

With this set of trials we have been able to see how devastating everything COULD have been, and yet at each turn it has turned into more of an inconvenience.   We have seen the hand of God helping us through.  Kind of like how that song wouldn’t have been as meaningful if I hadn’t been sick and emotional, if we hadn’t gone through these struggles we wouldn’t have necessarily recognized all of these blessings.

I’m grateful for the challenges because of the blessings they highlighted, I’m also grateful for the positive and fun things we experienced.  But overall, here’s to 2018 being far less interesting than 2017!

Judge Not- a how (not) to guide

Matthew 7:1 is one of those scriptural phrases that people like to quote pretty regularly.  I daresay even most people from non-Christian backgrounds are familiar with the phrase.  It goes a little something like this:

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

It’s like the perfect trump card in every argument right?  If you are trying to tell me I’m doing something wrong then I just whip out the whole “stop judging me” phrase and SHUT DOWN.  Except it rarely works that way, and then it just turns more into a defensive argument back and forth about who is judging who and why and then the internet explodes!

atomic-bomb-1011738_640

Now for a little clarification, at least from an LDS perspective.  We believe that through the years and many different translations of Biblical writings, some information was, well, literally lost in translation, or just plain and simply lost.  As such, we also believe that through the guidance of God, Joseph Smith was directed to translate certain portions to restore them to their accurate form.  One such notable passage happens to be Matthew 7:1-2, which states:

Now these are the words which Jesus taught his disciples that they should say unto the people.

Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment.

So then the commandment isn’t to do absolutely no judging, but to judge righteously.  So now we can quibble about what exactly a righteous judgment is.

Righteous and Necessary Judges

In our society we accept certain types of judgment as necessary.

An obvious example is that within the legal system there are judges, and if you find yourself needing to stand before one, he or she will most definitely and openly judge you.  If you were to look at the judge and say, “Hey, judge not!” I somehow doubt that it would go over well for you.  But if you try please do report back.

Math teachers have it pretty easy, either you got the answer right or you got it wrong, so they can just grade you based on those answers pretty easily.  But those English teachers, man, they have to read and judge before they can grade.

Another notable judge from my life has been adjudicators for auditions.  I am a singer/pianist/clarinetist.  I’ve been auditioning for things since elementary school.  Some poor person had to sit there and listen to a bunch of elementary students play their instruments semi-proficiently and decide which ones were best so they could go to elementary honor band.  For the record, I did make it into Elementary honor band, and yes, I am that big of a band nerd.  However, several years later during my senior year of high school I was not so lucky with my All-State band audition.  I had practiced so much, and not to toot my own horn, or buzz my own reed as it were, but I was doing really well.  My clarinet teacher had been an adjudicator for previous years and she was confident I would make it.  In my warm-up I played the pieces PERFECTLY, my best friend was there, she can attest.  I went into the audition and I played so horribly it was outright embarrassing.  My clarinet teacher was in the hallway listening and when I came out she asked if that had actually been me playing and let me know that that was the worst she had ever heard me play.  (Thanks- I really needed that.)  Now there was a miracle that came out of that bad audition, but that’s a story for a different day.  But anyway, telling them they couldn’t judge me based on one performance wasn’t going to help.

In all of these situations the people doing the judging are in a position to judge because they are experts in their field.  They have done all the studying, know all the procedures, and as a society we accept that they are able to “judge righteous judgments” because they know what they are talking about.

What they should not do is be judgmental about things outside of the scope of the situation with which they are presented.

In the following examples think of righteous judgment on a broader scope than the typical “churchy” idea of righteous, think moral, correct, and fair.

I showed up at my court date once after receiving a speeding ticket and got to stand before the judge, who judged me as guilty, because I was in fact speeding.  Now in that instance I was speeding on a down hill trying to catch a light because it was a ridiculously long wait if you missed it and I was running late for work (again).  But, the fact of the matter is that I did indeed knowingly break the law and was caught doing it.  He decided that I did in fact need to pay the ticket which was a “righteous judgment.”  However, if the judge went on to decide that I was a terrible person and an unfit teacher because I was not responsible enough to leave on time so that I didn’t feel the need to speed, that would be over the top, would not be taking into account the rest of the picture, and would be an “unrighteous judgment.”

If an English teacher comes across a paper that is full of spelling and grammatical errors, lacks focus, and does not meet the objectives of the assignment and gives the student a bad grade, that is a “righteous judgment.”  If the teacher goes on to assume that the student is lazy, didn’t even try, and will never amount to anything that becomes “unrighteous judgment.”

And finally, those adjudicators who deemed me unfit for All-State judged righteously based on what they heard from me during the audition.  However, if they had gone on to assume that I was the worst clarinetist in the state, hadn’t bothered to practice, and wasted their time, that would be incorrect and “unrighteous judgment.”

Judging- what it is and what it isn’t

So, how does this apply to us lay people?

I regularly see people on the internet accusing other people of judging when no judging was happening.  That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of judgment that does happen, but let’s just make sure we understand the difference.

Here’s some items that are not judging:

  1. Facts and Statistics-  When you ask a question and someone shares a factually based answer, this is not judgmental.  They are the facts.
    • As a subset of this, stating a procedure, rule, or specific doctrine is also not judgmental, it’s a fact.  This is what the procedure is, this is what the doctrine states.
    • You can decide whether or not to believe the fact or doctrine, you can decide that the statistics or procedures don’t apply to you, but if someone simply states what they are, they are not judging you, they are informing you.
    • If someone does not ask and you take it upon yourself to inform them, it may or may not qualify as being judgmental, but it’s almost definitely rude.  But if you do ask a question and someone gives you the information you requested, even if you don’t like it, it’s not judgmental.
  2. Opinions based on facts, etc.- this can get tricky because there is a fine line that often gets crossed, but simply stating your opinion is not judgmental especially if someone has asked for opinions or advice.
  3. Disagreeing- this is another item that has a fine line before it can turn into judging, but simply and respectfully disagreeing with someone is not the same as judging.

 

Here’s some things that are judgmental, and not of the righteous variety:

  1. Assuming intentions
  2. Questioning intelligence, level of commitment, moral caliber, or quality of love
  3. Insinuating that you are better than the other person or a group of people

Examples:

I’m going to give examples from different types of arguments I regularly see online.

Mommy Wars!

Car seats.  Oy please don’t ask car seat questions on online forums, just google the information, it just turns into a fight.  You could substitute a variety of mom topics in here- safe sleep, breastfeeding, introducing solids, screen time, etc. etc.

Possible question: Is it ok to move an 18 month old to forward facing because their feet are jammed against the seat and they are getting fussy?

Non-judgmental factual response:  It is statistically safer in a collision if small children are rear facing.  Most recommend at least 2 years, but even up to 4 years.

  • Simply stated a statistic- not judgmental

Non-judgmental factual response:  In Arizona, state law requires children to be rear facing until age 1, and have met the height and weight requirements on their car seat.  So if they are over 1 but are smaller than the specific car seat requirements the law says keep them rear, if they are under 1 but meet height and weight requirements they should still be rear facing.

  • Simply stated a law- not judgmental

Non-judgmental opinionated response:  Because of the statistics that show that children are safer when rear facing, I feel that it is important to keep them rear facing and have chosen to keep mine rear facing even if they fuss about it.  There are extenders you can get to help them have more room for their feet.

  • Stated their opinion based on statistics and their personal choice, offered an idea for help- not judgmental

Non-judgmental opinionated response: I had a similar issue with my child becoming extremely upset about being rear-facing.  As she met the legal height, weight, and age requirements I chose to go ahead and switch her forward facing as I felt that the trauma being caused by forcing her rear-facing outweighed the smaller chance of getting in an accident with a collision forceful enough to hurt her.  I also felt that the anxiety and distraction that her screaming was causing me was increasing my risk of getting in an accident.

  • Stated their opinion and personal choice despite the statistics- not judgmental

Judgmental response: How is this even a question for people?  I mean seriously.  Of course you keep your kid rear facing even if they fuss.  Wouldn’t you rather your kid be alive and fussing?  If you really love your kid then you wouldn’t even wonder if it was ok to turn them around.  I love my kids so I am keeping them rear facing until age 4.

  • Questioned intelligence by wondering how they could ask the question, questioned the quality of parents’ love who do turn their kids around, insinuated that she was better and loved her children more than other people- highly judgmental

 

Other examples of judgmental responses to other issues:

  • People with messy houses are lazy
  • When I see people allow their doctor to put Ilotcyn in their baby’s eyes, I know they are either uninformed or too spineless to stand up to their doctor
  • I’m not going to give that chemical crap (formula) to MY baby

 

Living your Religion

I am most familiar with LDS standards of living, which are fairly unique compared to the general public, and can cause a lot of room for questions on how strict people are etc.   I’m sure other groups face similar squabbles within their membership.  Unfortunately sometimes people forget the standards for kindness as they hash out the details, which begins to fall under the next part of the judgment scripture: “why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

I’ve been seeing a lot of questions about tattoos coming up in some LDS mom groups I follow so that’s the example I’ll use, but you could substitute a variety of topics- what’s ok to do on Sunday, when it’s ok to not wear garments, specifics for the Word of Wisdom, piercings, media, etc.

Possible question:  I recently lost a loved one and want to do something big to memorialize them, something I will see regularly so I can remember them.  I’m thinking about getting a tattoo, do you think that would be ok?

Non-judgmental factual response- Several times Prophets and Apostles have counseled against getting tattoos.

  • cited specific counsel- not judgmental

Non-judgmental factual response- While we are counseled against receiving tattoos, it will not affect your church standing as far as receiving a temple recommend or serving in most standard callings.  However, on a case by case basis, potential missionaries will be asked to keep their tattoos covered at all times or may not be able to serve.  Also some higher level callings (as in regional level as opposed to congregational) will also be asked to make sure tattoos are covered or may not be extended the calling.

  • explained policies- not judgmental

Non-judgmental opinionated response- As we’ve been counseled against it, I personally have chosen not to get tattoos.  Perhaps you could find a different meaningful way to remember them like a special necklace or ring and/or a piece of art hanging in a prominent place in your home.

  • simply stated their opinion based on counsel and offered an idea that might help- not judgmental

Non-judgmental opinionated response:  Yes we’re counseled against it, but it won’t affect your church standing, I might do the same thing in your position.

  • simply stated their opinion despite counsel- not judgmental

Judgmental response- I don’t understand how anyone could think this is ok.  Counsel is a commandment, and people need to be listening better.  If you really had a testimony this wouldn’t even be a question.  I follow everything the Prophet says so I definitely don’t have any tattoos.

  • questions intelligence, commitment, and testimony.  Assumes the other person’s intentions are to be disobedient.  Insinuates that they are better.  (And apparently forgot to listen when we were counseled to be kind- mote vs. beam)- highly judgmental

 

Politics

Quick, everyone run for the hills!  Just kidding.  This is definitely one of the trickiest categories for having civil discussions.  And I think that Thumper’s mom was definitely inspired when she came out with the old adage, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”  But, you can find nice, tactful, and respectful ways to disagree without being disagreeable, rude, and judgmental.

We’ll use birth control coverage as the example here, but again, substitute in whatever topic you can think of.  Sorry, I didn’t take the time to look up specific stats, etc, and those aren’t the point here anyway, the point is how to put together responses, I’ll let you do your own homework to find the stats. 🙂

Possible post:  Call your representatives to make sure that birth control continues to be covered with no out of pocket costs.

Non- judgmental response:  Insert facts and statistics about birth control use and it’s benefits to women.

  • citing statistics- not judgmental

Non-judgmental response:  Insert statistic about how much it costs to provide at no out of pocket cost.

  • citing statistics- not judgmental

Non-judgmental opinionated response:  We need to make sure that we continue to provide this benefit for women’s over all health, prevention of unwanted pregnancy, etc, etc.

  • simply stating an opinion- not judgmental, someone may disagree but you have not attacked them or their position

Non-judgmental opinionated response:  I am concerned about the cost of this benefit on an already overstretched National budget, and the increase in insurance premiums for the already overstretched household budgets of many Americans.  I wonder if there are other ways we could help, or if there are higher priority items that also require budgeting.

  • Simply stating an opinion/ concern, offering the possibility for compromise, did not attack the other position- not judgmental

Judgmental response:  If you aren’t pro- free birth control then you are anti-women.

  • Assuming people’s intentions- judgmental

Judgmental response: People that want free birth control just don’t want to take responsibility for their finances and choices.  Just keep your legs closed if you can’t afford it.

  • Assuming people’s intentions, and questioning their morals, and just rude/crude- judgmental

 

Other examples of politically judgmental responses/ statements:

  • anything that assumes or insinuates that the other side is stupid or uninformed.  I know a lot of people on both sides of the political spectrum of varied education levels, and who do a varied amount of research.  Just because someone came to a different viewpoint based on the information received does not make them stupid, it’s also a sure fire way to shut down discussion.
  • All they care about is…..
  • If you don’t support [insert platform] then you hate [insert group]

Righteous Judgment in our Daily Lives

Essentially every decision we make involves some amount of judgment, we judge styles, media, appropriate activities for our children, etc., but this gets trickier as it involves our lifestyles and the people with whom we choose to associate.

If there is a person in your life who is making decisions that may affect you or your family in a negative way, it is not only within your rights, but your responsibility to righteously (think fairly, morally, and correctly) judge if their behavior is dangerous and whether or not you should continue associating with them or to what degree you will continue to have them in your life.

Looking beyond the scope of how their behavior effects you and judging the circumstances that led them there would no longer be righteous judgment.  Assuming that they don’t want to change is also unrighteous judgment.  Deciding they are a lost cause or what type of Eternal rewards they will or will not receive is most definitely outside of your place to righteously judge.

Final Judgment

The last type of judgment I mentioned, the lost cause or Eternal rewards type, this would fall under the jurisdiction of Final Judgment.

I do believe that someday we will stand before God and our Savior and be judged of all our works, actions, intentions, thoughts, and desires.  They are the only ones qualified to judge us not only righteously, but perfectly and finally because only they know our WHOLE story.  For us to attempt to pass that kind of judgment is unfair and completely unrighteous.

Our job is to hope for, love, and assist others, not to judge their worth or their Eternal standing with God.  I think we will be pleasantly surprised by how merciful His judgments will be.  So when righteous judgment does become necessary in this life, be fair and careful, but do your best to lean on the side of mercy.

 

 

 

Christ-centered Christmas Advent Activities

Last year as we were coming into the Christmas season I had a few strong impressions from the spirit which lead to some resolutions.  One that I needed to be a more deliberate mother, that we needed more structure in our lives.  The other that I needed to focus on keeping this holiday about Christ.  With absolutely no deliberate action on my part, my children will learn about Santa.  Santa is everywhere.  Shows, decorations, songs, EVERYWHERE.  Let me be clear that I am by no means anti-Santa, and he does visit our house.  BUT, because everywhere else we get inundated with Santa and commercialization, I felt very strongly that I needed to come up with meaningful and fun activities to make sure my kids understand that this holiday is about Jesus.

If you look at my Thanksgiving advent post I explain a little bit of how I put together these activities.  But for a quick recap, I keep it simple, there’s candy involved, and I use dollar store muffin tins with circles of construction paper to make the calendar.  I don’t have December’s put together yet, but here’s a picture of November’s for reference- just imagine red and green paper instead.IMG_20161031_151857448

Some of my activities are based on the #LightTheWorld campaign from mormon.org, but I struggled to come up with activities for a 3 year old and 1 year old that fit with each scripture.  I also did not go in the order of their calendar at all just because certain activities would work better for us on different days of the week.

You’ll notice that I included a day to celebrate Hannukah, I did this for a few reasons:

  1.  One of my very best friends is Jewish and she has inspired me to want to teach my children to love and respect other cultures.  Also she’ll be visiting right after Hannukah ends, so we’ll get together and have a belated Hannukah bash!
  2. My thought for that day is that we believe in a God of miracles.  The story of Hannukah contains a beautiful miracle and it’s fairly simple for children to understand.
  3. I want my children to understand that God loves and gives miracles to EVERYONE, even those that believe differently than we do.

In addition to the activities listed below we also have Nativity picture books, one from Usborne and the others I think I just grabbed from Toys R Us, and I found some Nativity printables on Pinterest and turned them into magnets for the magnet board in the play room.

I don’t have all the dates set in stone, but here’s my list of thoughts and activities.  Activities based on Light the World have a little star.

  1. Jesus created the world and all of nature.  Decorate the Tree.
  2. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad.* Attend the Southwest Family Christmas Party (my mother in law works for Southwest and you should all be jealous because their family party is so much fun!  But I felt like this Light the World activity should definitely be matched up with a party, so if you already have a holiday party to attend, just pair it with this scripture!)
  3. Jesus speaks through His Prophet and Apostles.  Watch the Christmas Devotional.
  4. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.* Make ornaments to take to neighbors (I’m using foam and felt snowflakes that I got from Target last year because they are super easy and low mess, but substitute whatever craft floats your boat.)
  5. Nativity sticker scene, again, I picked up a pack of stickers last year at Target.
  6. I was in prison and ye visited me.* Take treats to a police station.
  7. Make gingerbread stables for Family Home Evening.
  8. Jesus is the light of the world.  Go to Glendale Glitters. Here’s an example of doing something fun, but still keeping it Christ-centered by linking the lights back to Him.
  9. I was sick and ye visited me.* Take treats to the NICU.  If you want the long story for why we pick the NICU you can read that post here.  Short story, my daughter was in the NICU for 10 days.  We took treats last year, and I plan on continuing the tradition as the kids grow up.  If you want to do a NICU near you just know it’s best to call ahead and you really will just drop the treats off, young children will most likely not be allowed in.  But, being there even for the short time we were, was lonely and stressful, I can’t imagine being there during the holidays, so NICU parents are definitely a group that could use some cheer.  You could pick any group of ailing individuals, visit someone who recently had surgery, etc.
  10. Jesus gave us temples.  Got to the Mesa Temple Lights.
  11. Family Home Evening, movie night with Nativity movies.  Bible Videos-Nativity, Collection of short Christmas videos, Joy to the World
  12. I was naked and ye clothed me.* Drop off donations to Maggie’s Place.
  13. We believe in a God of Miracles.  Tell the Hannukah story, light candles, play dreidels, etc.
  14. Jesus gave us families.  Make ornaments for grandparents.
  15. Visit a Live Nativity.  There’s a few I’m considering but need to figure out some dates.  Here’s some links to help you out.  Walk through Bethlehem, Grace Glendale
  16. Because of Jesus, our family can be together forever.  Make wreaths (circles have no end.)
  17. Ye shall meet together oft.* Go to church.
  18. Make more ornaments for friends and family.
  19. Family Home Evening- Caroling
  20. For I was an hungered and ye gave me meat.* Donate food, either to a food drive or take a meal to someone who is sick, or a refugee family.
  21. Wisemen still seek Him.  Do a wisemen craft.
  22. Jesus was born in a stable with animals around.  Visit a petting zoo.
  23. Go to see The Star in theaters.  We aren’t huge movie goers, and part of me is wondering if I’m crazy to take a 1 year old and a 3 year old to a legit movie theater,  but I feel like it’s important to support this film so that more like it can be made!  Also, my friend’s son is one of the animators so that’s pretty cool!
  24. Bethlehem dinner.  Last year we started this tradition, and it definitely went over my son’s head, and I think he was sick and didn’t eat anyway, but by golly we are going to stick with it.  We’ve decided to do Christmas Eve on our own as just our little family.  For dinner we eat the type of food that was eaten in Bethlehem.  We had lamb with pita bread which I bought from a Middle Eastern market (you should find one, it was a really neat experience).  We had goat cheese, I cheated on this and bought the stuff wrapped in cranberries from Costco, so maybe less authentic, but sooo good.  Then we read the Christmas story and used our Nativity magnets to help act it out, as the kids get older we’ll have them do the acting, but for now we just use the pictures.

Merry Christmas!

Thanksgiving “Advent” Activities

Last year as the holiday season was approaching I felt strongly that I wanted to do a Christ-centered advent activity calendar for my then 2 year old.  As I was collecting ideas…in October…don’t judge I was sick and had a lot of time to scroll Pinterest…I realized, why not do the same for Thanksgiving.

Fun fact- Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE holiday.  It’s like the underdog of the Holiday season, and I feel like it needs way more attention than it gets.  When trying to shop for Thanksgiving related items towards then end of October there’s like 5 double sided aisles dedicated to Halloween, there’s already several dedicated to Christmas, but Thanksgiving gets this tiny little display that takes up part of one side of an aisle.

I mean what gives!  We go from dressing up and asking for candy straight to asking for gifts and forget to be grateful in between.

So in an attempt to give Thanksgiving it’s due attention, and to help teach my son about gratitude, “circles” were created.

Pinterest has tons of ideas for super cute and creative ways to make advent calendars.  As mentioned in previous posts, I like to follow the KISS method- Keep it Simple Stephanie (or stupid, or smarty, whatever is appropriate for the given day).  I went to the dollar store and bought muffin tins, so $4 total right there.  Then I cut circles out of construction paper and put a slip of paper and a piece of candy in each of the sections and use double sided tape to attach the colored circles over the tins.  It’s pretty simple, keeps me organized, and my son LOVES the candy…and the activities, but the candy definitely helps keep the motivation.

For my list of ideas I scrolled through Pinterest for inspiration but couldn’t find any specific posts that fit us exactly so a lot of things I came up with on my own.  I’m not super crafty and I hate messes so I don’t pick a lot of the craft ideas, when I talk about coloring pictures for people, I happened upon a pack of cute Thanksgiving coloring pages last year at Goodwill, so sorry, no link for those, but if you are reading this blog then chances are you may have been introduced to this thing called the internet which contains Google and Pinterest, between the two of those you can pretty much find anything your little heart could desire.  Now if you are one of those crafty sorts of people and you don’t mind chasing feathers around your house, then you could definitely incorporate some pretty cute crafts into these ideas to give away to people.

Another thing to keep in mind with this list is that my kids are currently 3 and 1 so this is very much targeted towards that age group, mostly the 3 year old.  I also try to incorporate activities we already do but find a way to make them focused on the holiday.  So when you see things on the list like, going to church or tee ball, and you think, “wait, that’s cheating!”  Not cheating- simple, smart, resourceful.

Thanksgiving Activities:

  1. Heavenly Father led the Pilgrims to America so they could go to church how and where they wanted.  Make a Pilgrim Hat.
  2. Pilgrims came on a boat called the Mayflower.  Float boats in water (I have a little bin I use for water play on the back porch, or you could do this in the bathtub or sink).
  3. We show gratitude by serving.  We will be visiting an older lady from church who recently had surgery.
  4. We are grateful for our bodies.  Go to tee ball with Daddy.
  5. We are grateful for Grandparents.  Color pictures for Grandparents.
  6. We are grateful for nature.  Go for a walk, pick up trash if we see any.
  7. Family Home Evening- begin Thankful tree (we will add to this each week for FHE).  I bought a Thankful Tree from Target, but there are also a lot of cute ideas on Pinterest for making your own.
  8. We are grateful for Nursery.  Color a picture for Nursery leaders.
  9. We are grateful for books.  Go to story time at the library.
  10. We are grateful for animals.  Go to the zoo.
  11. We are grateful for the temple.  Visit the temple grounds.
  12. We show gratitude to Heavenly Father by going to church.
  13. We are grateful for cousins.  Color pictures and mail to cousins.
  14. Continue Thankful Tree.
  15. We show gratitude for our food by sharing.  Donate food (either to a food drive or make a meal for someone who is sick or a refugee)
  16. We are grateful for friends.  Make a treat for a friend.
  17. We are grateful for our minds and imagination.  Go to the Children’s Museum.
  18. We are grateful for Preschool.  Color a picture for teacher.
  19. Learn Thanksgiving songs and hymns.
  20. We are grateful for our food.  Color a picture for the grocery store cashier.
  21. Continue Thankful tree.
  22. We show gratitude for toys by cleaning them up and sharing.  Clean up and clear out play room (also helps get ready for Christmas gifts coming in and toys to donate to toy drives).
  23. Thanksgiving feast!
  24. Talk about first Thanksgiving, watch video, and visit Indian Ruins.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope this list helps you get some ideas going on how to teach your children about gratitude and give Thanksgiving the hype and attention in deserves!

I’ll post my Christmas ideas as well as we get a little closer.

 

 

 

Audiobooks: So that talking to myself isn’t my only adult interaction of the day

I love having the opportunity to be home with my kids.  We do our best to get out of the house, have play dates, go to museums, etc.  They require a lot of brain power sometimes, especially when figuring out discipline.  But it’s a different kind of brain power than I used while working and going to school.  They are a little less intellectually stimulating.

I see women, especially stay at home moms, commenting regularly on the internet about feeling like they are losing themselves.  Me too.  I’ve been there, still there sometimes.  I mean we all love our kids, and for many of us the staying home thing is a CHOICE we made.  But if you’re not careful, kids and basic child and home care can suck the life out of you.

As I mentioned in my birth stories post, I started suffering from depression while I was pregnant with my second.  I then faced a very traumatic birth experience which left me with Post Traumatic Stress on top of PPD and a predisposition to anxiety.  When I say a predisposition to anxiety I mean that when I am at my typical baseline I can cope fine without the help of medication, certain situations and circumstances can put me over the edge, but overall I’m fine and functional.  That wasn’t the case during the pregnancy or after.  I ended up being treated with medication after, which I am so glad I did, but I also didn’t want to be on it forever.

I found a really great primary care doctor who wanted to help me with my goals, we set up a plan for me to take the meds for 6 months and in the meantime work on building up my ability to cope so that I could wean off the meds and be fine.

So she asked me what I could do for ME, something that had nothing to do with kids or home or even my husband, just ME.  I was pretty stumped.  I sing in a community choir once a week, which is awesome and a great outlet, but it’s once a week.  She wanted me to figure something out daily.  She asked me what I used to do before kids that was for me….uh…..this shouldn’t be that hard to think of, but I mean back then everything was for me because I didn’t have kids.  So that was my homework assignment, to take some time to figure something out that could be just for ME.

I did some soul searching.  I mean whatever it was going to be it couldn’t really take up much time because then you have to find babysitters which can end up just adding extra stress and anxiety because then you have to find someone that’s available and hope that you aren’t causing them extra stress, and do you pay them or trade because too much of both would just add more stress and then there’s the financial commitment of going to something like Yoga which is everyone’s first idea of what you should do if you struggle with anxiety, but I’m not flexible so yoga might just be frustrating and add to my anxiety anyway…. and now you probably feel anxious as well as you realize how much my brain over thinks and can’t just do something for me.

So needless to say, yoga was out.  I started thinking about what I felt like I was missing that I used to have.  The two things that came to me were intellectual stimulation and frequent adult interaction.  I have awesome friends, but we’re not together all day like you are with coworkers.

Then the little light bulb went off in my brain.  When I have light bulb moments all the crazy racing thoughts calm down.  For me, that’s how I know that the Spirit is telling me something, the storm of thoughts calms down and I can think clearly through a plan.  Audiobooks that little voice said.  They take no extra time away from my family so I don’t have to worry about babysitters or the mom guilt of leaving them.  I can listen to them while I drive which also fixed the annoyance I was starting to feel at every song on the radio (I think I got old, I can’t stand what the kids are listening to these days).  I can listen while I do housework which makes housework more fun because I try not to think of it as chore time as much as audiobook time.  I pick books that are intellectually stimulating and there’s an adult voice talking at me.  So it doesn’t remove my need for actual adult interaction, but it’s way better than the little voices on Umi Zoomi and Bubble Guppies (although of the kids shows out there I do find these ones less annoying).

Pause- why not just actually read?  For me I struggle with taking the time to sit down and read when there are so many things I feel like I should be getting done.  Also, nothing puts me to sleep faster than reading.  In high school my mom legit read the entirety of Jane Eyre out loud to me because when I sat down to read it within ten minutes I would be asleep.  This also might sound silly, but holding a book hurts my neck and arms- pathetic right, like I should probably do some arm exercises so I can hold the weight of a book up.  Finally, you can’t read and drive so it would cut out a significant amount of my “reading” time.

I’ve been listening to books basically constantly now since January and I’m loving it.  It’s been a great way to use my phone as a tool instead of a trap.  I’ve been very inspired by a lot of the books and also feel like I can have more meaningful conversations.  I was struggling a lot when people asked what I was up to in life, well….kids.  And again, I love my kids and I will tell people about my kids, but now I also have something for ME to add in to conversations.

Side note- I was able to successfully get off my meds a few months ago.  Now, I’m not suggesting that audiobooks are a CURE for depression and anxiety.  But for me, finding something that is fun, stimulating, and focused solely on my interests instead of the interests of my family has helped me feel like me again which in turn has helped me be a better mom and wife.  You’ve gotta take care of yourself before you can really take care of others.

So without much further ado…what have I been listening to and how I access them?  Here comes some unsponsored reviews.

First off, how I access them.  I primarily use the app Overdrive, but also sometimes use Audible.

Overdrive:

Pros:  It’s FREE!!!  You sign in to your library using your library card and then you can access a bunch of audiobooks (or e-books if that’s your thing).

Cons:  It’s free…which means that there are frequently wait lists for more popular books.  Once a book is checked out you have 2 weeks before it disappears on you (but hey, you never have to worry about late fees).  I’ve run into issues before where I’ve been on a few wait lists and suddenly 2 books are checked out to me at the same time, I think if you are watching your place in the lineup and you realize that might happen you can let someone go ahead of you in line, but I don’t pay enough attention and haven’t tried it, so then I have 2 books to finish in only 2 weeks.  You’re also limited to what they have available, you can suggest books for them to buy, but you are left to them to decide if they will or not and on their timetable.

Audible:

Pros: Lots more books, no time constraints because you own it.

Cons: Not free.  Audiobooks can be a little pricey but you can subscribe and then use credits to buy books typically at a discount (except some books cost less than a credit is worth to buy them outright).

I use Overdrive most of the time because I enjoy free, but periodically we subscribe to Audible for a month or 2 to get credits and my husband and I buy a few books at a time.  We have very different book interests so we share an account, but for the most part don’t share books, every now and then we find something for a road trip that we both find interesting.

Now for some book reviews!

I am Malala by Christina Lamb, Malala Yousafzai, and Patricia McCormick:  I kinda feel like this should be mandatory reading for our country right now.  This really helped me understand what has been going on in the Middle East.  It also helped me learn so much more about different groups within the Islamic faith.  I felt empowered as a woman and an educator, I felt my heart grow and develop greater charity, and I felt sad that so many people judge Muslims based on a such a small group of extremists.  If you only read one book from my list, make it this one.

My Story by Elizabeth Smart: very inspiring and well presented.  It’ll make you think twice about leaving windows open or picking up a hitch hiker.  She is very honest and straightforward about what happened to her without being uncomfortably graphic.

Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielsen: this is about the LDS blogger who was in a plane crash and burned over 80% of her body.  This was really powerful.  I loved how real and open she was about the struggles, both physical and emotional, that she went through in her healing process.  It was really inspiring.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: Holy Cow!  This is the story of Louis Zamperini an Olympic track star turned second lieutenant in the Army Air Corps during World War II.  He survived 47 days floating on a raft (which is a crazy enough story as it is) only to then be captured and spend the next 3 years in various Japanese prisoner of war camps, only to have to come home and figure out how on earth to piece a life back together.  His story is a beautiful example of endurance, love, and faith.  I learned a lot of things about the Pacific Theater that I didn’t know previously.  I feel like the main focus in my schooling about World War II was on the European Theater, which is really important to know and understand, and there’s only so much time that can be devoted to it, but it was really interesting to learn more about what was going on on the other side of the world.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: Another World War II story, this one is a work of fiction.  This is book is beautiful.  He is really able to paint an amazing picture with words.  The book jumps back and forth following a blind French girl and a German orphan whose talent with radios lands him a high ranking place in the German army.  The story is very touching and really makes you think through difficult topics.  I loved every minute of it.

Animal Farm by George Orwell:  Not sure how I got through High School and then college without ever reading this, but I did.  So glad I finally took the chance to read it.  It’s pretty short.  I listened to it on the way to and from Tucson in a single day.  It’s scary how much it reminded me of our present political situations.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo:  Some really awesome ideas, and I’m trying to implement things.  Mostly I wish I could afford to have her come over and fix my house because I’m not sure how I would ever find large enough blocks of time to do it on my own.  A lot of the ideas sounded amazing if you live by yourself, but living with a husband and children a lot of things didn’t feel super practical.  So, unfortunately it didn’t completely change my life like I hoped, but I do get rid of stuff and have found some better ways to keep things organized.  I also really liked her thought that we should say thank you to our possessions for what they do for us but once they are no longer serving a purpose it is time to put them to rest.

Rising Strong and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown: These were life changing.  I can’t say enough about how much I love Brene Brown, her work, her ideas, and her delivery.  I feel like we’re kindred spirits.  She explains her ideas using stories and personal experiences.  If you need help with parenting, leadership, marriage, or just general being a good person then her writing is for you.  I am excited to keep reading more of her stuff in the future.

The Power of Now by Ekhart Tolle: Mind blown- which might have been the point.  There were a lot of things I wholeheartedly agreed with, a lot of things I am still attempting to process, and some things I outright disagreed with.  Which is probably the mark of a good book because it really made me think.  Except his whole point was to stop thinking so hard, so I’m still not really sure how I felt about it.

Beautiful Bodies by Kimberly Rae Miller:  I loved this book.  I felt like in many ways she was writing my story of struggling with body image issues since an all too young age.  It made me cry, made me laugh, made me angry, and left me feeling empowered.  I could go on and on about this topic, but that probably needs to be its own post at some point.  Warning, there is a little bit of adult language and subject matter.  But seriously if you have ever struggled with body image or know someone who does, or you want to help prevent body image issues in your children then this book is for you.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly: I saw the movie first.  The movie was very compelling, interesting, and entertaining, but also stretched the truth a lot and added in story elements that aren’t in the book.  I’m assuming they did this to make it more interesting, because unfortunately while the book has a very interesting topic, I didn’t find the presentation very interesting.  I’m still glad I gave it a listen because I think it is really important to bring out the “Hidden Figures” of history across the board.

Magnolia Story by Chip Gaines, Joanna Gaines, and Mark Dagostino: This one I actually physically read, crazy right!  I had the opportunity to go visit Waco back in February and wanted to read it before I went so a beautiful friend loaned me her copy.  I couldn’t put it down.  They are some really inspiring people.  In fact, this book is part of what gave me the kick to get serious about getting this blog started (it still took me a few months after I finished the book, but here we are so obviously it worked).  I feel like Joanna and I have a lot in common with big dreams, but when she would share those dreams with Chip he would make them a reality.  While I’m still not as willing to take as many risks as Chip takes, in fact if my husband did half the things Chip did/does I would have pretty regular and major freak outs, but it really inspired me to realize that I did need to stop just dreaming, take some risks, and just get moving on things.

Past General Conferences:  These I listen to through the Gospel Library App, not Overdrive or Audible.  This is may be the best of both worlds because they are free and I can listen at my leisure.  Twice a year the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints holds a worldwide General Conference in which the General leaders address us on pertinent topics effecting us in these times.  In many ways its a great opportunity to consider how the scriptures of old apply to us in modern times.  I started listening “backwards” starting with the most recent and then I’m moving backwards through the conferences.  I’m back to 2013.  I’m really enjoying re-listening, there’s been several talks that I had forgotten about that maybe didn’t apply to me in great deal at the time that are really hitting me now.  While this definitely doesn’t replace sitting down and studying, it’s a great way to get a little bit of inspiration in during the day.  And General Conference is coming up again next week!  You can stream it and watch from home or find a meetinghouse near you.

 

Thanks for reading!  I hope you’ve found some ideas for “me time” whether that’s going to be books or not, and if it is books, then I hope you give some of these a gander.

What have you been reading lately???  I’m always looking for more!

 

 

 

Birth Stories

We celebrated my baby girl’s first birthday recently.  I’ve gone back and forth about posting her (and my son’s) birth story for a lot of reasons.  It’s pretty personal and there’s a lot of TMI that goes into birthing.  My births have been a bit traumatizing.  A few months ago my cousin and I were discussing our traumatizing birth stories in front of her daughter who is twelve now and the daughter chimed in that she felt bad and a little guilty about what her mom went through.  I’ve reflected on that, I don’t want my kids to feel any amount of guilt or feel bad because of how things happened.  In the end, I would do it over again to have them in my life.  But, I hope by sharing my stories that maybe someone else can be better prepared or avoid some of the issues I had.

My stories are by no means the worst or hardest out there.  I have two happy, healthy children and I’m alive and (mostly) well to tell the stories.  However, of the “normal” births out there, I have some kind of extreme stories.  So if you are a hopeful or soon-to-be mom, please realize that my situations are certainly on the fringes.

My son

While it’s my daughter’s first birthday coming up, and her birth is the one that was in many ways more traumatic for me, you have to understand his story to understand the context for hers.

To add more context, my son is named after my “angel baby” brother.  As well as having several miscarriages, my mom also carried a baby to 38 weeks before he passed in the womb most likely due to complications following a version (the manual turning of a fetus in the uterus).  I was only 2 1/2 when he passed so I don’t remember much from the actual time period, but he has been an important part of our family.  And as such, I grew up knowing that unfortunately things can go tragically wrong with an otherwise normal pregnancy.

That’s a fear I have carried with me through both of my pregnancies (and mom, that is not your fault- you never told me I should be afraid, it’s just an unfortunate fact that is part of our family story).  It makes it hard for me to bond to my pregnancies because I have this constant nagging fear that one morning I’ll wake up and the baby will be gone.  This has lingered well past what most people consider the “safe zone” and actually gets worse the longer I go.  Which in the case of my son was a really long time.

My pregnancy with my son was fine.  I wanted to puke all the time from about 6 weeks to 10 weeks (never actually did, just always wanted to).  Smells were especially bad, something about the smell when I walked into the office building I worked in was especially offensive.  I would gag 3 times between the front door until I made it into our suite.  And don’t even get me started on the bathroom in the building, heaven forbid someone actually did lay a stinky.  But otherwise I was fine, I don’t remember being overly tired.  I definitely had some brain fog, a really hard time recalling words which made for some really difficult IEP meetings when I couldn’t remember the word, cognitive.  I was uncomfortable, and big, really big, but overall I was ok until about 36 weeks.  At that point my pelvis started to separate.  I told people my hip was starting to hurt, but that wasn’t a very accurate description.  It was up in the hip socket, in the crotch, not like on the outside of your hip.  But that’s kind of awkward to describe to people.  I couldn’t lift my foot more than about an inch off the floor which made basically everything really difficult especially getting dressed.  My husband pretty much had to get me dressed.  The only time I felt ok and could move was in the swimming pool so I guess lucky for me it was summer and we lived in an apartment complex with ready access to a pool.

Since this pain started at 36 weeks I figured ok, I can handle this, less than a month to go right???  Wrong.  I tried a bunch of the old wives tales (within reason and safely) to get things moving.  Nothing.  My due date came and went and the days just kept dragging on.  People would say things like, “keep him in there as long as you can- you won’t sleep a wink once he’s out,”  “just be patient, babies come on their own time.”  And they were so sweet, and I wanted to punch them all in the face.  I was huge, I was in pain, and I couldn’t sleep.  And I was anxious, really anxious.  Everyday he was inside was another day that I couldn’t see and make sure he was still alive.  That nagging fear just sat there.

Finally at 1 week past due I woke up at about 3 am on a Tuesday morning realizing that something was about to come out of me.  I made it to the bathroom in time, I thought maybe it was my water breaking but it was just the mucus plug.  Contractions started, spaced apart and not too painful.  I got to about 5 before I woke up my husband.  We timed them for a few hours and about 8 am we headed to hospital to be sent home with some tylenol and an ambien and told to come back later but it looked like today would be the day.  I went home and slept a little, went to the chiropractor to get adjusted and got a prenatal massage.  About 8 that evening the contractions were close together again and much more painful than they had been in the morning.  That drive back to the hospital was so miserable and whoever thought that speed bumps were a good idea at hospitals on the way to the maternity ward was a jerk.  Each bump was awful.

I got into triage and they started reading through my birth plan, “So it says you are considering natural?”  My response, “I wanted to see how for I could get naturally, I’m there, I’m done, epdiural now please!”  But I was only up to a 3.5, I wasn’t even far enough to get admitted yet.  At the thought of going home again I got panicked and told them no, I absolutely couldn’t go home again.  They had me walk to hall for eternity, I mean an hour, a very painful hour with fire coming out of my eyes at anyone who dared smile.  After that I was far enough along to be admitted but they wouldn’t let me get an epidural yet because I was progressing too slowly and they were worried it would slow me down more.  It was close to 10 pm, they got me into a room and into a labor tub.  That felt really nice, for a little while but eventually the pain was too intense for the tub to help.  I got out and they gave me some morphine because I was still too slow for the epidural.

That was a long night.  My husband fell asleep but I couldn’t really sleep because of contractions.  So I turned on the TV to try and pass the time.  The only thing I could find was King of the Hill.  So far giving birth was not going anything like I pictured, King of the Hill was definitely not in my birth plan.

About 5 am on Wednesday my water broke for reals.  Being beta strep positive, they started me on antibiotics, and having made some progress they finally let me have an epidural.  Yay!  They excitedly told me it should only be a few more hours and then my baby would finally be here.

The passage of time over the next several hours is sketchy at best.  The midwife visited several times checking in on contractions and told me when I felt like I was going to poop myself then it would be time.  At some point in the late afternoon I felt it and the monitors caught it and my midwife and nurse came in and let me know it was time to start pushing.

So I pushed, and I pushed, and he started coming on down.  But then a weird thing happened.  My contractions, while very strong, went down to 8 minutes apart.  So I’d push and push and push and he would come down and crown and then in the 8 minutes between he would just slide right back up.  I had requested intervention be kept as a last resort and the practice I had chosen as well as the hospital had low intervention policies.

I pushed for 5 hours and nothing.  At that point hospital policies said I had to be seen by a doctor and receive some sort of intervention.  Also, as you can imagine after 5 hours of pushing, which was like 36 hours after everyone had been put on alert that I was in labor, family members started to freak out.

I had wanted everyone to wait and come to the hospital a few hours after he was born.  I only wanted my husband in the delivery room.  So when he told me both sets of parents were coming I was very upset and told him no, they couldn’t come.  He explained that everyone was very worried, and they were coming.  At that point I hadn’t realized how long it was but as the amount of time that had passed settled in I agreed that they could come and give me a blessing.

This started the next round of waiting around and nothing happening.  I needed clearance from the doctor to start pitocin but every time the doctor was about to come in someone else would start pushing and she would have to run and catch a baby.  So another 2 or 3 hours later she came in and talked me through my options and we agreed to go ahead and try the pitocin before resorting to a c-section.

After finally hearing from the doctor, my in-laws went home because they had to work the next day but my parents decided to hang around.  My mom sat with me as the pitocin did it’s thing over the next 2 hours.  I was so exhausted at this point that I would fall asleep in the 2 minutes between contractions and then wake up again.  In one of my moments between being asleep and awake I remember thinking, “I’m just going to be pregnant for the rest of my life, I’ll just die pregnant.”  Not that I thought I was dying in that moment, but just I really thought that my pregnancy would never end because it certainly hadn’t been going anywhere fast.

With the upheaval and my entire birth plan having been thrown out with the bath water, I was at least still planning to have my parents step out once it was time to actually push.  But suddenly, at 5 am on Thursday- 50 hours after labor had first started- the midwife and nurse came in, announced it was time, my husband barely had time to get up out of his chair and wasn’t really awake yet when they had my legs up in the air ready to go.  With my dad sitting there not sure where to look.

What took 5 hours to NOT do earlier took less than 5 minutes with the pitocin.  However, having been so used to them trying to get me to push as much as I could I pushed a little too hard and a little too fast and ripped myself a new one.  Level 3 tear.  But he was out and I wasn’t pregnant anymore.  I got to hold him and finally see him and see that he was fine.  It was all so relieving.

The recovery was horrible.  I was physically so exhausted from laboring for so long, then pushing for so long- my legs felt like I had run a marathon, or at least I would assume that’s what they would feel like if I did run a marathon because I don’t run marathons.  And that tear, oh my word.  Lots of TMI here.  For about 8 weeks it literally felt like at any moment my hoo-haa would rip in half.  Standing and walking were the worst, sitting wasn’t much better, lying down kind of helped.  It hurt so bad.

I had no idea that wasn’t normal.  When I saw women out and about after a few weeks I thought they must be crazy.  I was down and out for a long time.  I forced myself out for the store and social gatherings for the sake of sanity, but I wasn’t great company and struggled being there because I was in so much pain.  Also I peed myself constantly for a few months.

A lot of people have criticized the medical staff for how that birth played out.  I don’t know how different it would have been if I had asked for intervention sooner, not pushed like a crazy person in the end, or if a c-section would have been easier on my body. What I do know is that they respected my wishes until it reached a point where it was medically necessary to intervene, my son is here and healthy, and I did heal.  At no point did I ever feel endangered or out of control.  I knew the whole time that they had my best wishes in mind.

My daughter

When my son was almost 18 months I got pregnant again right as we bought a house and moved.  I don’t know if it was because of the different gender, or the thyroid disorder I developed after my son was born, or the move, but looking back things were a little harder from the get go.  I started struggling with depression pretty quickly, I tried to wave it off due to the stress of the move, which was definitely a contributing factor, but it turned into a bad cycle that plagued me throughout the pregnancy.  I had the same “morning sickness” issues (hate that term because it’s not a morning thing for me- it’s all day).  I also had zero energy, like could barely get off the couch kind of lack of energy.  My doctor…didn’t care.  My thyroid levels came back normal so obviously I was just fine.

Pause for a minute on my doctor.  We had just moved a half hour north of where we had been living, my midwives were 20 minutes south of where we had been living.  Going back to them was not a feasible option, especially considering that during high traffic times that drive can easily turn into an hour and a half to two hours.  I wasn’t super familiar with the area and didn’t know anyone well enough to feel comfortable asking around like, “Hey, no reason in particular but…anyone know a good OB?”  So I went with online ratings.  My doctor had really high ratings, everyone appeared to just love him.  He had been in practice for like forever, even my Pediatrician that I found had used him for her babies and they were now in college.  She told me after we made the connection at an appointment for my son that I “would have the most beautiful birth in his care.”

That was not my experience, in fact, finally in the last few months I have stopped having nightmares where he is the bad guy.

At about 10 weeks I woke up one morning and I didn’t feel sick, I was so grateful to be past that phase.  Except the very next morning I woke up and that horrible pain that had started with my son at 36 weeks was there.  I freaked out a little because how on earth could I survive that for 30 weeks instead of just 5 weeks.  Also my depression was getting worse.  Multiple times a week I would sit on my bed and cry for mostly no reason, sometimes there was an identifiable trigger, but nothing big enough to warrant hours of crying.

At my doctor’s appointment around 15 weeks I brought up the issues with the pain.  He shrugged it off, basically like, yep, you’re pregnant.  I told him about my issues with depression.  He told me that they don’t treat women for depression while pregnant so just go for a walk.  But I couldn’t walk, I was in excruciating pain.  He told me I should wear a belly band, I told him I had tried that and it wasn’t helping the pain much but was really uncomfortable in other ways.  He looked at me like I was an idiot.  I cried the whole way home from the appointment.

I thought about changing doctors at that point, but how was I supposed to find anyone better, I mean this guy had really high ratings so I decided to just stick it through.

By 24 weeks there was no relief in sight for the pain.  I had finally seen something on Facebook about SPD, symphysis pubis dysfunction.  I looked it up and suddenly realized that was what was happening, and why I had such a hard time explaining to people what I was experiencing, because I just hadn’t had the medical terminology to describe it.  I would tell people I was having ligament pain, and they would pat their round ligaments and say, “Oh yeah I had that too, everyone gets that.”  And I was like, no that’s not where it hurts, but it’s not exactly in a place you can point to in polite company.  But I’m all about TMI on this post so basically imagine someone stabbing you with a dagger in your crotch right between your leg and your vagina up into the hip socket.  That’s a pretty accurate description of what it felt like, all the time.  Sometimes it hurt so much that I lost joint stability.  Standing was the worst, walking was horrible but for some reason not as bad as standing, sitting didn’t continuously irritate it, but didn’t make it go away.  Rolling over in bed frequently made me cry out in pain.  Being in pain ALL THE TIME is really bad when you’re already struggling with depression.  I wasn’t ok.  I tried to explain this to my doctor at my appointment at 24 weeks.  He shrugged it off again and told me there really wasn’t anything they could do, I’d be fine.  I told him that I would need a handicap placard then, again I got the “you’re an idiot” look but he signed the paperwork.

For the record, if you experience these kinds of symptoms, there IS something you can do.  Unfortunately I didn’t find out until my baby was 6 months old and I was finally in physical therapy because the pain didn’t resolve itself.  But, you can and should see a physical therapist who specializes in obstetrics.  Why didn’t my OB suggest that, I wish I knew.

My only consolation in all of this was that in my early appointments, when we went over my history and the craziness of my son’s birth, my OB told me a few times that he definitely wouldn’t let me go over.  He didn’t want me to have another big baby and risk tearing again.  So at least I knew that before August 29th I would no longer be in pain.

At the end of July around 35 weeks I started having Braxton Hick’s contractions almost constantly.  And even though I know that 35 weeks is not full term and has some risks involved, the risks are low at that point and a big part of me hoped that it would just go ahead and happen.  My OB was in Africa for the month so I was seeing his nurse practitioner, she did put me on modified bed rest for a week to make sure I got to 36 weeks, and she figured baby would come early.

But over the next few weeks I kept showing up for appointments with baby girl still inside.  And the doctor changed his mind about sending me in early, she wasn’t as big as he had worried so no reason.

At 39 weeks I asked about getting my membranes stripped to trigger labor.  He explained that if you’re not ready it doesn’t trigger labor, it just makes you bleed so he didn’t do it.  I asked if we could go ahead and schedule an induction then.  Nope, low priority, I would just get bumped.  I looked him in the eye and told him I was in excruciating pain and needed to be done.  Nope, nothing, didn’t seem to care how much pain I was in, just another pregnant lady whining about being uncomfortable at the end.

I was physically and mentally coming apart.  The thought of putting up with that for one more week was devastating.  This wasn’t just me being uncomfortable and wanting to be done, I wasn’t ok, and he didn’t care.

That was a Monday, that Thursday as I was going to bed I felt a little more than a trickle of fluid leak.  Being beta strep positive again I knew that if you had a slow leak you needed to get in to be on antibiotics.  We called triage and they said I should probably come get checked.  I wasn’t contracting so I knew I wasn’t really in labor and if I was leaking and needing an induction it would be several hours, so I just went ahead and drove myself, but we put my parents on alert in case they needed to come get my son.

I got in and answered the nurse’s millions of questions in triage.  I went over my allergy to bananas and melons like 10 times (which is not a medical issue, if I get some I just get itchy, and I just won’t order them from the kitchen).  I told them that yes it had been a “normal” pregnancy.  And I’m sitting there like, why did I pre-register if you are going to ask me all of these questions again.

It was a false alarm.  They condescendingly patted my arm and told me not to come back until my water had broken or my contractions were less than 4 minutes apart, preferably both.  Again, I felt like I was being treated like an idiot pregnant lady.

40 weeks.  Doctor’s appointment.  No sign of labor.  We finally started discussing induction dates.  The appointment was on a Monday.  He said, “Maybe Wednesday…hmmm… no Friday, we’ll do Friday.”  I chimed in, “Or Wednesday!”  He asked why Wednesday mattered.  “I just want the baby out, I’m in horrible pain and I need to be done.”  “Well what’s two more days?”

Anyone who would say something like that has clearly never had chronic debilitating pain.  I almost jumped down his throat and said, “If I have to be in pain for 5 more minutes I’m not going be ok! That’s why 2 more days matters!!”

I didn’t yell at him.  I agreed to Friday.  He proceeded to check me and said I had made some progress from the week before so he went a head and “swept” my membranes.  I have no idea if there’s a technical difference between sweeping and stripping aside from sweeping sounds nicer.

The next morning I woke up crying about having to face another day in pain by myself with a 2 year old.  I knew I needed to not be alone but I also didn’t really want to be around people so  I headed to my parents’ house because my older brother spent the days there as caretakers for my grandmothers.  They were people and could help with my son, if I needed to talk they could listen, and if I needed to sit there in silence or cry, they were family so it would be fine.

Here’s where we start getting into a lot of TMI.  I was crampy and I started passing a decent amount of mucus and some blood vaginally.  It was gross, but I realized it would be expected following the membrane sweeping.  I had also been told not to go in until my water actually broke and my contractions were less than 4 minutes apart, because the membrane sweeping can cause some false labor.  No reason for alarm.

In the afternoon I started getting some chills and feeling a little sick to my stomach, almost flu like.  Again, no alarms going off in my head because I was overdue and pregnant, I hadn’t felt great for over 9 months.

My parents live 45 minutes away unless it’s high traffic, then it’s as long as an hour and a half.  That traffic starts to build up around 2 in the afternoon and doesn’t resolve until about 7.  If you don’t leave before 2 it’s best to just stay for dinner.  My husband had a meeting at church that evening anyway so I decided to stick around til after dinner and left their house about 7 pm.  No signs of labor, just generally feeling blah, passing mucus, and still in pain.  Always in pain.

A scripture started running through my mind on the way home.  Doctrine and Covenants 19:18-19.  This a revelation that Joseph Smith received in which Christ essentially details His mission.  As He explains what He went through in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross he says:

“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.”

The raw and very intimate explanation of his pain really hit me.  That a God trembled because of pain was validating to me that my experience with pain was not an idiotic weakness like my doctor was treating me.  It was a real trial and it was ok to not want to go through it.  Christ didn’t say, “yeah, it hurt, but it’s ok, I just dealt with it.”  He TREMBLED.  He didn’t WANT to drink it.  And I can’t imagine anyone patting Him on the arm and condescendingly telling Him, “you’ll be fine”  “What’s 2 more days?”  “Now don’t bother us again until it’s really happening.”  So why then were medical staff and others so condescending about my physical and mental pain?  I’m sure if any of us were there with Him (and I believe that we were there watching), we would have wept with Him.  While there was nothing we could do to ease the pain, we wouldn’t have discounted it or ignored it.  We would have reverenced it, because His pain was sacred.  Our own pains are sacred and we shouldn’t wave them away or discount them.  That doesn’t mean we go looking for pain, but when it’s there it needs to be given it’s due respect and reverence.

About 20 minutes from home I had one kinda strong contraction.  Nothing crazy, still able to drive, but definitely a contraction.

We put our son to bed and sat down to watch a show.  The contractions were a little painful and a little more regular so I started timing them about 8 pm.  By 9, they were definitely painful and I thought I should get in the bath to help keep me relaxed.  While in labor with my son, one of the midwives had told me that tensing up slows you down and I definitely didn’t want to be in labor for 50 hours again.  As I was about to get into the tub I suddenly got the chills really bad.  That hadn’t happened before so I had my husband Google it.  Chills can just be a normal occurrence in labor due to hormonal shifts.  No alarms going off in my head so I got in a nice warm bath and made my husband track contractions.

I started a lot of self talk through the contractions, “If you can deal with this pain now there won’t be pain later.”  I did my best to relax through the contractions rather than tensing hoping that it would help me progress faster.  After about an hour in the tub I got suddenly too hot so I got out.

With contractions coming pretty strong and regularly I climbed into bed and took a tylenol PM to help me rest in between.  I would squeeze my husband’s hand to let him know another started and then let him know when it stopped and drift off before the next one.  After a while I asked him how far apart they were- 4 minutes.  I sat up a little and asked how long they had been at 4 minutes- an hour.  I told him we needed to call my parents and get ready to go then.  His response, “I don’t know, I mean they don’t seem that bad yet.”

He was thinking about last time, I was not so calm with the contractions before.  Also, keep in mind 50 hours of that.  My thought was, “Gosh, I guess I’ll start complaining more.”

My next contraction I hammed up the moaning a little more so he realized it was more painful than I had been letting on and then on the next contraction my water broke.  Luckily I was lying on a towel, but still, fluid everywhere.  Then he believed me that it was for real.  This was a little after 1 am.

I went into the bathroom to clean up and then the contraction pain went up another notch, a little past my breathe through it place.  He called my mom so they could come get our son.  I heard him on the phone, “No, she definitely can’t drive herself this time.”  I started shouting, “Get in the car, get in the car NOW!  Why isn’t she just in the car yet?”

He called triage to see if I needed to come straight in or if it was ok to wait the 45 minutes until my parents could get there.  They weren’t concerned about the 45 minutes even with me being beta strep positive.  So initially we decided to wait the 45 minutes, I thought maybe I could just continue to breathe through the contractions.  There was a big mess to clean up anyway.

Maybe 10 minutes later I think I turned into the spawn of Satan or something.  Everything got way more painful than I remembered it ever being when I was in labor with my son.  I suddenly went from the ok, let’s wait 45 minutes to, get me to the hospital NOW, no THEN!  I need the epidural NOW!!!!  Right now.  Stop putting things in the washer and let’s go NOW!!!!

My husband asked if we should call one of our back ups on our side of town to drop our son off with them and then my parents would grab him there.  No, I didn’t wan’t to take the time to call, then stop, then pull out a car seat.  I wanted to teleport to the hospital.  Moving was next to impossible.  Just getting to the car from my bed I had to stop at the couch.

Got the hospital about 2 am.  They wheeled me in to triage while my husband parked.  They asked me to get on the scale, nope not going to happen.  They asked me to pee in a cup, totally missed the cup.  They asked me if I was sure my water had broken, I wanted to punch them all in the face.  They checked me and told me I was only at a 4, and for a second I freaked out that they might not admit me.  Then someone checked my temperature and asked me if I had been sick.  I said no, I didn’t think so.  Then remembered earlier in the day when I had an upset stomach and the chills.  They told me I had a fever, and I remembered the really bad chills before getting in the tub and the overheating.  Then they got a monitor on and baby’s heart rate was too high, she was in distress.  They put an oxygen mask on me and told me if they couldn’t get her heart rate down I would have to go in for a c-section.  My response about a c-section- “Whatever gets me the epidural faster!”

My husband came in, with the 2 year old who was very much not asleep and making plenty of noise.  So now I’m lying there, begging for an epidural, answering their million asinine questions again because they couldn’t save them the first time, and they can’t really understand me because I have an oxygen mask on, and there’s a toddler in the room.  Something had to give so I sent my husband out with our son to wait for my dad to come.

Here let’s insert my dad’s story.  He got ready and left the house after the call with me screaming from the toilet.  He realized he was out of gas, but my parents’ nearest gas station is a few miles away.  He got to the gas station and realized he didn’t have his wallet, so he had to turn around and went home.  Upon getting home and grabbing his wallet, rather than switching cars he stayed in his and went back to the gas station.  Because, remember last time, there would be plenty of time.  He got to the hospital about 2:15, he met my husband and they got the car seat traded and the kid in the car.  And as he was about to leave my husband said, “Well, we’ll probably have a baby sometime tomorrow.”

It’s a really good thing we didn’t wait at home for my dad and his gas station escapades because….

My husband got back in the triage room just as the nurses finished all of their questions and told me they could finally go put in the orders for my epidural and my antibiotics.  I reiterated how urgently I wanted the epidural.  She sent me another one of those condescending smiles and left.

I turned to my husband pretty frantic, I felt like I couldn’t breathe with the oxygen mask on and in the craziness getting out the door I had forgotten to put my hair up and it was everywhere and making me extra hot.  Here’s a little tender mercy, he looked down and found a hair tie on the floor, and while maybe that’s gross to use a hair tie from the triage floor, I didn’t care.  I also couldn’t get it in my hair by myself because of all the monitors so he did the best he could being a man who does not do hair and me thrashing about in pain from a contraction and the feeling of claustrophobia brought on by the oxygen mask.

On my next contraction I suddenly felt the urge to push.  I ripped the mask off and told him I had to push.  He didn’t know what to do, the nurses were out.  I yelled, “Go find the nurses, I have to push!”  He ran out in the hallway and a few seconds later they all came running back in.  I was up to a 9, going from 4 to 9 in about 20 minutes.

I knew that once you hit 9 you don’t get an epidural, but as they were yelling for people to get things prepped in case I delivered in triage I asked if there was something they could give me for the pain.  She said no, it would be dangerous for the baby.  My eyes got wide and I asked for morphine or anything, again no.  My mind started racing- I mean could I get hit over the head, a leather strap to bite on, a stiff drink maybe??  I took to gripping the sides of the bed which they kept having to tell me not to do because the doorways they were rolling me through were too narrow.  Also they ran me into a wall, which was excessively painful when in the middle of a contraction.

At this point I started panicking.  I had not signed on for natural childbirth.  If someone had asked me if I wanted an epidural the day after I found out I was pregnant the answer was yes.  After being in constant pain for 30 weeks straight I had absolutely no interest in being in pain for a second longer.  And this was more painful than I ever could have imagined.  With every contraction I was sure my body would just rip in half.  And for all I knew this could go on for 5 hours because that’s what happened the first time around.

I had signed consent forms for an epidural, not for natural birth.  I struggle with feeling out of control.  I am most definitely not an adrenaline junky- skiing, sledding, ziplines, etc. are not my thing.  I don’t like feeling like my body is out of my control and suddenly it was completely out of my control.

They got me into a delivery room but then everything they asked me to do my answer was no.  “Can you get yourself over to this other bed?”  “NOPE!”  I mean really, I could barely roll over in bed before I was in labor, now you’re asking me to transfer beds while contracting, with an oxygen mask on?  After the next contraction I did manage to like flop myself over to the other bed but in completely the wrong position and I made them scoot me around somehow.

“Can you scoot your bum down?”  NO!  Tried a little but then announced I was pushing, too which they told me not to.  Ummmm….this is not a voluntary action!  So then I just started pooping everywhere.  Which wasn’t so much embarrassing because I know it happens to a lot of people while giving birth, it just added to the alarming feeling of being completely out of control.

I kept telling them I was pushing and they kept telling me to stop because there wasn’t a doctor there yet, which was incredibly aggravating.  Finally a doctor comes stumbling in the room and asks, “What’s going on?”  I’m pretty sure I yelled, “I’m having a baby, what did you think was happening?”  But I might have just said it in my head- it’s hard to remember what actually came out of my mouth aside from screaming.

There were so many people rushing around, it felt like complete chaos.  I finally looked at my husband who was crying from watching me be so panicked and not able to do anything.  I finally closed my eyes and began to pray, “Please just make it stop hurting….not my will but thine…….nope, I’m not there yet, please just make it stop hurting.”

And then they finally told me it was time to push.  The doctor was concerned that I would tear along my original scarring so she went ahead and started cutting- which I could feel.  And then blessedly baby girl was out in only 2 pushes.

They didn’t really tell me what was going on, they didn’t show her to me, the only thing that let me know she was actually out was them bringing my husband around to cut the cord and then I heard her cry.  But they immediately took her across the room.  She was born with a fever and her heart rate was really high.

Friends that have delivered naturally (whether intentionally or accidentally like me) have talked about the rush they got afterwards.  The amazement and empowerment that they were able to do it, and the joy.  I didn’t get that, and maybe part of it is because I went through all of that and then didn’t even get to hold my baby.  All I felt was confusion and trauma about what had just happened.

They started to stitch me up which, despite the fact that they did start giving me some kind of pain reliever, I could feel.  Then they finally brought her over and handed her to me, but I was shaking so badly and wincing with every stitch so I couldn’t really hold her and they had to whisk her off to the NICU anyway.

They got me cleaned up and let me rest for a little while still in the delivery room then wheeled me down to the NICU to see her.  Her blood sugar had been dangerously low so they had given her a bottle immediately and had already gotten an IV in and started her on antibiotics because of exposure to Beta Strep.

They got me to my room and I met my nurse.  She explained that I would be on an IV antibiotic because I had an infection in my uterus.  She told me that I must have been leaking fluid throughout the day which introduced the infection, my labor had gone so quickly because my body was trying to flush out the infection.

Then it really all came together.  My doctor had swept my membranes.  I was passing mucus and blood, so I didn’t notice that there was also fluid leaking.  I felt sick, because I was sick.  The chills before getting in the tub was not a normal part of labor, it was a warning sign that I was about to spike a fever.  Getting into a warm bathtub was the WORST thing I could have done because it allowed the bacteria to proliferate.  And then my body did what it had to do to get it out fast.

My doctor never warned me of the risk of introducing bacteria with membrane stripping.  With how desperate I was to be done, whether or not we would have decided to move forward with it, if I had known that if I showed any signs of illness it could be a sign that there was a problem I would have gone in several hours earlier and gotten antibiotics.

Instead I faced an incredibly traumatizing birth and my daughter stayed in the NICU for 10 days receiving IV antibiotics.  Her blood cultures came back positive which meant she also had to have a spinal tap to be sure it did not get into her spinal fluid as well.  The first time they attempted the spinal tap they failed, she was bigger than they were used to dealing with in the NICU and she wiggled too much.  They had to give her a dose of morphine to sedate her so they could get it done.

When I got released my parents brought our son back home.  We had been doing our best to prep him for the new baby.  I had put her rock and play next to our bed a few weeks ahead of time and kept showing it to him and explaining to him that it was Baby’s bed.  When he got home he ran to our room to see her in her bed.  My heart broke.  There wasn’t a book for explaining that baby had to stay in the hospital.

My husband and I traded off going to the NICU and did our best to time our visits so we could be there for feedings while the other stayed home with our son.  It was definitely not the sweet time we had imagined having home together as a family while he had paternity leave.

The most difficult part of the NICU for me was having to relearn the “rules” for my baby depending on which nurse was there.  Most of the nurses were AMAZING, but there were a few that I just did not get along with well.  One day, before I was discharged, I was holding baby and started drifting off with her in my arms- like most new mothers do while holding a sleeping baby in a recliner.  The nurse barked at me, “If you’re going to sleep go back to your room!”  I looked at her a little shocked, thinking maybe she was being sarcastic about not sleeping in front of her because she couldn’t sleep.  But then she added, “You might drop her.”  Excuse me, I was sitting in a recliner, if my arm went slack the worst that would happen would be that she would land on my stomach, there was no way she could get hurt.  The other nurses we had didn’t mind us napping with the baby in our arms so it was shocking to be yelled at for it.  There were other smaller things that changed between nurses, but that was the most upsetting.  It was stressful to feel like I was not the one in charge of MY child.  Like I said, most of them were wonderful and I’m so grateful for them, but I was also very grateful when it was time to leave and take her home with us.

Physically I recovered much faster from her birth.  The pain from the episiotomy went away after about a week as opposed to the 8 weeks of pain I went through from tearing.  When people say it’s better to tear, it heals better, I kinda want to smack them.  I went through both, the cutting healed so much faster and better, maybe that’s not the way it is for everyone, but it most certainly was for me.  I also was significantly less exhausted, probably because I didn’t labor for 50 hours and push for 5 on limited nutrients.

The emotional and mental healing has been harder.  Way harder.  I found a new primary care doctor a few months after baby girl was born, she diagnosed me with post traumatic stress.  Being in constant pain for 30 weeks followed by a delivery that felt out of control followed by having to leave my baby behind in a hospital broke something inside of me.  As opposed to my son’s birth I DID feel endangered and completely out of control and I did NOT feel that my OB had my best wishes in mind at any point in the pregnancy, delivery, or post-partum.  Like I mentioned before, I began having nightmares, sometimes about the birth, sometimes just in general, but my OB would show up as the “bad guy.”  I would wake up frantic and sweating.  I could tell the story of her birth to people, but when I was alone and really thought about it I would get anxiety attacks.

It’s been a year and we’re doing really well.  Little girl has had no lasting effects, she’s reached her milestones on track or ahead of schedule.  She’s happy and healthy and simply adorable.  My nightmares have stopped, and I can think through the birth without having an anxiety attack, although it is most definitely a painful memory and something I hope I never have to experience again.

Here’s the things I’ve taken away from my experiences combined:

  1.  Maybe c-sections aren’t as bad as the internet mom crowd make them out to be, I’ve had friends heal faster physically from a c-section than I did from my tear with my first, and with my second I would have avoided an incredibly traumatic birth and resulting NICU stay.
  2. Doctors need to fully explain the risks involved with procedures so that women can make INFORMED decisions, and then know what to watch for if there is a problem.
  3. If you have ANY reason to be worried go in and get checked.  Let the nurses roll their eyes at you (but also nurses, please stop treating women so condescendingly), it’s better than ending up in the NICU.
  4. The right way to give birth is one where mom and baby are safe and preferably not traumatized at the end.  If that means an elective c-section or in a tub in your living room then good for you.
  5. Women’s mental health and physical well being needs to be considered in greater detail when determining what is best practice for BOTH mom and baby.
  6. Listen to women, take them seriously.

As I said before, I love my children, and in the end these experiences were worth it to have them here in my arms.  I just hope that these stories will help others to avoid some of these issues, or at the very least know that they are not alone and find some empowerment in that.

Tool vs. Trap

Being the ripe old age of 30, I remember life before the internet and cell phones.  As a child one of my biggest pet peeves was when someone forgot to rewind the VHS because it meant I had to wait longer before my movie was ready.  I watched commercials and was limited to whatever shows were playing at the time.  When I wanted to call a friend I called their home phone and had to talk to whoever happened to answer and then wait patiently for my friend to get to the phone.  At one point, just before my little brother’s voice changed, no one could tell his voice and my voice apart on the phone which made for some interesting conversations when his friends asked if I could come and play or if my friends started venting boy drama to him.  When I started driving, if I didn’t know how to get to a place, I had to mapquest it before I left.  If I got lost, well, good luck.

My kids will never understand the frustration of rewinding.  Goodness, we went on a trip this summer and my son watched cable TV for the first time and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t watch the show he wanted WHEN he wanted, and commercials, those were crazy.  About a year ago, my son, who was 2 at the time, picked up an old corded phone that we keep around as a toy and shouted at it, “Ok google, show me some pictures of dinosaurs!”  With those googling skills, he certainly will never be lost while driving or be in want of random factoids.

I’ve been catching up on some old Star Trek recently on Netflix.  They had the concept down for a tablet to read reports and such from, but they had to have a separate one for each report, book, etc.  It’s a little funny to watch this “future” technology now, when we actually have things that are more advanced.  My cell phone alone holds the Bible, Book of Mormon, other scripture, multiple magazines, and audiobooks, as well as offering me the ability to check messages, emails, the news, and the weather wherever I want all in one hand held device.  Take that Star Trek!

Just in my lifetime I have witnessed some amazing technological advances.  In many ways our society and culture are very different because of these advances and conveniences.

A few weeks ago my phone died.  Not like it ran out of battery died, it gave up the ghost, went the way of all the earth, went to the great charger in the sky.  I had some warning signs, it was kinda coming in and out, so we ordered a new one and I hoped that it would stumble along until the new phone arrived, but none such luck.  It left me with about 5 days with no phone.

It was weird to say the least.  I had to physically write out a grocery list, think of the poor trees that were sacrificed!  I had no idea what time it was when I was out and about, a lot of places don’t have wall clocks anymore.  I didn’t really know what to do with my hands.  And overall, I actually kinda liked it.  Not enough for me to cancel my order for my phone, but it definitely got me thinking about the impact of technology on my life.

Technology can be an amazing tool.  As I’ve already mentioned it allows us to be in contact when we need to, find places easily, and gives us access to the media we want to enjoy.  It has done amazing things in advancing the work of family history, you can track health goals, find recipes, find ideas for basically everything, learn how to replace or fix pretty much anything, stay connected with friends, and share ideas all with a few clicks or thumb swipes.  It is truly amazing and such a blessing.

So then why did I kinda like not having a phone for a few days?

Technology is a blessing and a curse.  It can be such an terrific tool, but it can also be a terrible trap.

There’s some obviously dangerous traps such as pornography, and predators that stalk the internet, but I don’t want to focus on those.  I’m going to focus on things that are a little less obvious.

Before my phone broke I was definitely guilty of aimless Facebook scrolling.  I am by no means anti-Facebook.  Chances are if you are reading this, you found it on Facebook.  I really like keeping in touch with old friends and connecting with new friends.  I regularly use it to plan play dates and it’s how I connect with Lifting Hands International to sign up for opportunities to serve refugees.  But all too frequently it turns into a major distraction.  As a mom who does not work outside the home, sometimes I can start to feel a little isolated.  I think I turned to Facebook thinking that it would help me feel more connected to people, which sometimes it does connect me to people, but more often than not it turned into a mind numbing abyss that distracted me from reality.  You know, like my kids that are growing up too fast, the food that doesn’t cook itself, the dishes that don’t wash themselves, and just actually living my own life.  I would finish a scroll sesh feeling unfulfilled, bored, and sometimes rather anxious.  It got to the point where I couldn’t even claim it was relaxing and I certainly wasn’t feeling more connected to other people.

Now I’m not suggesting that this is what everyone should, or must do, but if you find yourself falling into the trap of aimless scrolling, here’s what I did.  When I got my new phone, I did not install the Facebook app and I vowed to myself not to open it through the browser.  When it was on my phone it was just too easy to hop on when I had a second of time that was not specifically designated for another task, which then turned into too much time.  I didn’t have to think about getting on.  Regularly I would grab my phone to do something else, check Facebook for a second which turned into lots of seconds, and then forget what I actually got on my phone to do.  Now, I have to grab my computer if I want some Facebook time.  It has to be an intentional decision to get on.  Now Facebook serves as the tool it should be.  I use it to connect, make plans, share my blog, and some relaxation time.  It’s far less of the time sucking and mind numbing trap it was before.

This issue isn’t limited to Facebook, really it’s anything that sucks up your time and distracts you from your reality.  It might be Instagram, the news, a game, Pinterest, or whatever other new fangled things the kids are using these days.  All of these have a time and a place and can be amazing tools.  I use Pinterest frequently to find healthy recipes and help with creative ideas.  Playing games can be relaxing and can even help keep your brain sharp.  Keeping up with current events is important for many reasons.  I’m not on Insta- but I hear it’s cool and less political than Facebook.  The problem is when these things prevent us from living our lives.  Are we actually playing with our kids for the sake of playing with them instead of either ignoring them or just hoping for good photo ops to show off on social media.  Keeping up with current events is good until it prevents you from keeping current with your family and friends or contributes to anxiety and depression.  Playing games can be relaxing and mentally stimulating but unfortunately can also take over people’s lives and prevent them from having a reality.  There are so many great ideas on Pinterest, but if you spend all of your time searching for the perfect idea or meal and never actually making them then what is the point.

The April 2017 Ensign (a magazine published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), had an amazing article titled “Growing a Healthy Technology Garden.” While published by a church affiliated magazine, notably this article is not specifically religious in nature, I would definitely encourage readers regardless of religious preferences to give it a look over.  The main point that really hit me was creating a “family media plan.”  The author, Marissa Widdison, offers some guiding questions, or if you click on that hyperlink it will take you to a search with several organizations that offer ideas for how to set one up.

I wanted to highlight the first guiding question: When is using technology OK, and for how long?  I can’t answer this for anyone else, I’m still working on completely answering it for myself.  But here’s some things you might consider as you create your plan:

  • Will I designate a certain amount of time, or designate specific times when I don’t use technology (family time, meals, etc.), or a combination of both
  • Are there things I should get done before I allow myself designated media time (household maintenance, exercise, church/ community responsibilities, personal/ spiritual development)

I am working on putting my phone away for specific times to devote to my children without any distractions and have decided not to have any Facebook time until I have exercised for the day.  This is what’s working pretty well for me (far from perfect), but again, figure out what works best for you.

Here’s what I have kept on my phone to make it a tool:

  • Fitness tracker- counting calories, tracking macro nutrients, reminding myself to drink more water, tracking exercise, it’s all super convenient
  • Gospel library app- now instead of browsing Facebook while I feed my daughter her bottles I read scriptures or church magazines- a really great pick me up in the middle of the day
  • Facebook messenger- I can stay connected easily with friend and family
  • Audible/ Overdrive- audio books have kinda become my thing lately, check back later for some reviews of some of the books I’ve “read” recently
  • Organization apps- I’ve got my calendar of course, but also meal planning, and Wunderlist to make checklists that can be shared with my husband
  • Pinterest- so I can access and find recipes conveniently

It’s liberating.  I don’t miss it.  Don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) make you miss out on your actual life.  Make your devices tools not a traps.

 

Quiet Bins AKA Sanity in a box AKA Momvana

I’m a stay at home mom (although I don’t really like that term, because we don’t really stay home, we get out as much as possible, but I’m yet to find the right title for my job so we’ll stick with it for now).  I have a 3 year old and an almost 1 year old and they are wonderful, adorable, brilliant, and they also are exhausting and are constantly finding new and amazing ways to push my sanity to the brink of extinction.

Being a mom does not come with a lunch break, union required 15 minute breaks, or even actually bathroom breaks.  But, hopefully it does come with nap time.  I love my kids, I love being home with them, I love taking them to do fun and cool things, and I also really love when they are asleep.  I’ve jokingly referred to the moments when they are either both asleep or at least independently entertained as my Momvana, like Nirvana, but for moms.  I’ve come to realize that breaks so I can be productive and just be me for a little while are really important.  If I can focus on me, then the time I am interacting with my kids is much better.  I’m more fun, I’m less likely to resort to screen time, and my patience level is much higher.  When I get a break, I’m more present when it matters most.

When I don’t get a break…I go insane.  It’s not pretty.  No one wants to see that.

So you can imagine a few months ago, when the 3 year old decided to skip naps more often than actually nap, I started going a little insane.

Enter quiet bins aka sanity in a box:

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We started a new routine.  He still needs to go in his room but he gets a bin, a cup of milk, and a CD to listen to.  If he sleeps then great.  If not, he has enough to keep him entertained for about an hour which is just barely enough time for me to reset and get one or two things done.

He actually falls asleep with his bin at least 50% of the time now.  Today is not one of those days…in fact right now, to prolong the break, he’s actually jumping on couch cushions in his room.  You’ll notice the baby gate in the picture, I do put the gate up in his doorway during quiet time so he can open the door if he wants, but not escape.  Luckily he hasn’t figured out climbing over the gate, so if that’s your kid, sorry, I pray for your sanity.

I gave myself some general life rules when I come up with a crazy idea, because I come up with a lot of them.

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Keep it cheap

I kept trying to think through elaborate plans for how the system would work and I spent far too long searching Amazon for bins.  I ended buying the Iris Stack and Pull Box, 6 pack because it appeared to be the best bang for my buck.  I decided not to worry about designating a box for each day of the week and just rotate through.

I filled the boxes with a lot of cheap stuff.  Since he accesses it alone I wanted to make sure things were either durable, or cheap enough that if he did break them it wouldn’t be a big deal.

Honestly, most of this stuff came from the Target Dollar Spot.  I love that place.  They are constantly rotating items there, so unfortunately a lot of the stuff from my bins has rotated out, but there’s always new stuff to go find.  They regularly have cheap board books, cheap little toys, and recently they’ve had a lot of felt books and magnet sets.  As you look through the pictures you’ll see a lot of those items.  The other items are just things I had lying around the house, toys, cars, thrift store books, and some new books.  I just raided what we had in the playroom because there’s too much in there anyway.  Side note, the toys in the bins, by and large get played with more than most of his toys because he has a designated time and limited choice.  I’m thinking about doing something similar with all of the toys, if only I could just get that organized.

I tried to go with themes for each box, but it didn’t work out perfectly.  I spent a while trying to figure out more and better themes and then realized that my sanity boxes were negatively impacting my sanity, so I gave up on that and dubbed a few miscellaneous boxes or just threw some things in to fill out some of the boxes that had less stuff.

He also listens to a CD while he’s in his room.  I found a second hand CD player at Deseret Industries (a church sponsored thrift store).  I had to try a few out in the store to make sure they still worked, but my hunting eventually paid off.  Then I realized I had no kids CDs so we’ve been grabbing some from the Phoenix Library.  Someone cooler than me could probably figure out a more technologically savvy solution, but the CD player was like $3 and the CDs are free to check out so it fulfills my rules for being cheap and easy.  Currently he is loving the Disney songs and story CDs.

These have seriously saved my sanity.  So if you have a kid trying to give up naps, I would definitely suggest giving this a try.  Give yourself a break so you can find your Momvana be the mom you need to be.

Here’s pictures of each bin so you can get your idea juices flowing.  Remember the KISS method (Keep it Simple Stupid!)