Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for Little Ones- July 2019

This month has a running theme of yummy treats and service! You’ll want to identify two families and/or charitable groups to work with this month. I included some charitable organizations at the bottom to consider.

I included Children’s Scripture Resources again, but I’m running out of chapters in the books I know about. Seriously after this month there is only one more chapter in the New Testament Stories book and one in the My First Scripture Stories book…for the REST OF THE YEAR. Anyone have any bright ideas or other resources to help with the epistles we’ll be starting soon???? I’ll be doing some research this month, but please share if you know of anything!

July 1-7 Ye Shall Be Witnesses Unto Me

Children’s Scripture Resources: New Testament Stories Chapter 55, 56, beginning of 57; My First Scripture Stories– Jesus Teaches the Apostles; New Testament Stories for Young Readers- I Want to Follow Jesus, Jesus Said to Share the Gospel

Song: Give Said the Little Stream pg 236

Materials- ingredients for a treat already measured out

Help children begin to understand sharing and the law of consecration discussed in Acts 4. Prepare the ingredients for a favorite treat by measuring everything out into small bowls or baggies. Give each member of the family a set of ingredients to be in charge of. Divide them out unevenly so some members have large amounts and others have very small amounts (for example one family member might have a few cups of flour and the eggs while another family member only has a few tablespoons of baking powder). Explain that Jesus asks us to give EVERYTHING to Him, no matter how big or small and then he will give us back something wonderful. Ask each family member to give everything they have to make the treat. Once the treat is made ask if the person who had the little ingredients should get less of the treat. Explain that even though what someone gives may seem smaller than someone else, it’s still important to the Lord just like how the small ingredients are still important to the recipe, and that as long as we give our personal best the Lord will give us something equally good.

July 8-14 What Wilt Thou Have Me Do

Children’s Scriptures Resources- New Testament Stories- Chapter 57, 58, 59, 60; My First- The Epistles of Paul (most of the content is actually from Acts)

Song: I Feel My Savior’s Love (vs 4) pg. 74

Materials: scriptures, materials for service project

Tell the children about Tabitha, New Testament Stories Chapter 60 is a good resource. Discuss how Tabitha helped bring people to Christ first because of her service and then because of the miracle performed for her. Talk about nice things you can do for people each day and then plan a small service project you could do in your ward (for the families you minister to, a new family, or someone going through a trial) or community.

July 15-21 The Word of God Grew and Multiplied

Children’s Scripture Resources: This is a stretch, but- Jesus Loves Me

Song: I’ll Walk With You pg. 140

Materials- multi-colored eggs, ingredients for a treat, matching game

Find eggs with different colored shells. You can typically find brown eggs in regular grocery stores, but I also have some friends who raise backyard chickens and they have given me eggs in a whole range of colors- the more colors the better, but at the very least get some brown and white. Or I guess you could pull out some Easter supplies and dye them ahead of time, but don’t boil them.

Show the kids the multi-colored eggs and ask them to describe them. Talk about how people are all different as well, we look different, our skin is different colors, we come from different places, etc. Then crack each egg into it’s own bowl. Each egg looks basically the same on the inside. Help them understand that while we look different on the outside we are all the same on the inside and we are all children of God. He loves all of us the same! You could then use the eggs to make a yummy treat (do you see a pattern here??) and explain that when we all work together we can do great things.

While the treat is baking you could play this matching game of kids from around the world.

July 22-28 The Lord Had Called for Us to Preach the Gospel

Children’s Scripture Resources: New Testament Stories Chapter 61, 62, beginning of 63

Song- your favorite Christmas song

Materials: Christmas decorations, Christmas cookie ingredients, gifts for your chosen person or group, wrapping paper

Christmas in July!!! Yes! Pull out some simple Christmas decorations. Sing some carols. Bake some Christmas cookies (I really don’t know why this month is all about food, but why not???) Maybe even watch a Christmas movie. Then read Acts 20:35 “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Take “Christmas presents” to someone in need (bonus points if you wrap them in festive paper!). Maybe someone in your ward going through a rough time. Maybe to a charity (I’ll list a few below the materials list). A homebound sister or brother. A new family in your neighborhood. Think and pray about who could use some Christmas in July.

July 29- Aug 4 A Minister and a Witness

Children’s Scripture Resources: New Testament Stories Chapter 63

Song: Love is Spoken Here pg 190

Materials: toy snake

No stuffed sheep today- this time you need a snake toy. If you don’t have one- I mean how would you not have one??? But if you don’t, you can find them at the dollar store for, well $1. Explain the promises Jesus made in Mark 16:18 then act out the stories in Acts 28:1-9. Discuss Priesthood blessings for healing and times you have seen the Lord fulfill promises.

Consolidated Materials:

ingredients for a treat already measured out

scriptures

materials for service project

multi-colored eggs

ingredients for a treat

matching game

Christmas decorations

Christmas cookie ingredients

gifts for your chosen person or group

wrapping paper

toy snake

Charities to consider for Christmas in July

Gathering Humanity– AZ based, this group assists recently arrived refugees and asylum seekers. They need household items to set up apartments for newly arriving refugees and back pack kits to give to asylum seekers. They keep a list on their website of needed items.

Maggie’s Place– AZ based, this organization provides housing to pregnant women who have nowhere else to go. They provide them with education, tools, and resources necessary to get on their feet so that they can provide for themselves and their baby. They take moms at any point in pregnancy and allow them to stay in the housing up until the baby is typically about 6 months old, additionally, they continue to reach out to assist alumni moms. They can use women’s clothing (especially maternity and interview appropriate clothing), anything and everything baby related, cleaning supplies and hygiene items (full size not travel size), and toys and books for young children.

Your local NICU- I was only a NICU warrior momma for 10 days, some of those families are there for months. Those 10 days were very lonely and hard so you can imagine how exceptionally lonely and difficult it must be for those with a much longer stay. Each year at Christmas we take treats and a card to the NICU for the current families, but how awesome to get something at a random time of year. Some small things that would mean a lot to NICU families- gift cards to local fast food restaurants (hospital food gets real old real fast- and again I’m saying that after only 10 days), pocket size hand sanitizer (don’t want to spread any germs to the littles!), lotions (be careful about scents as little tiny babies can have super delicate skin), puzzle books or adult coloring books, little treats, etc. You would probably want to call ahead to find out how many families to plan for and to find out specific policies. Know that your children would likely not be able to enter the NICU (when we drop things off my husband keeps the kids where they can look through the window at the babies in the nursery), and you will probably either leave the items with the desk or in the family break room.

For the record my NICU baby is totally fine- she’s almost 3 now and has had no lasting issues. If you want you can read our story.

Image by Melissa Etheridge from Pixabay

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for little ones- Feb 2019

Can you believe it is already time to start preparing for February?!?  How are you adapting to the new schedule and new curriculum?  I’m still kind of weirded out by the short schedule, granted I’ve still been at church at least 4 hours between choir practice and conducting Ministering Interviews, but at least it’s not 5!  At home the kids are doing pretty well with Family Home Evening, but admittedly our plant that we planted for the Sower lesson is already dead…  I’m not sure what happened, plenty of water, plenty of sun, maybe too much sun? maybe it froze over night?  I don’t know, luckily keeping plants alive is not a pre-requisite to Salvation because I would be burning in the bad place!

Thank you so much for the overwhelming response to last month’s post, and if you’re new this month then welcome.  I was shocked, amazed, humbled, over-joyed (basically had all the feels) when January’s FHE post hit 1,000 views in the first 24 hours, and about 3,500 views total.  So thanks for reading and sharing, but even more I’m so grateful and glad to know that we are in this together to help teach and inspire our kids.

If you’re looking for more ways to make February meaningful with your kids check out my Family-centered Valentine’s Activities.

But on to Family Home Evening!

Feb. 4-10 For the Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me

Prep Materials: masking tape, preferred toys and treats, picture of Christ, picture of Sun, big prize or treat

Song: Choose The Right Way pg. 160

Create a path through your house- masking tape on the floor works well.  Review the story of Christ being tempted.  Tell the kids they need to stay on the path to get to the special prize at the end.  Place some of their favorite items or small treats just out of reach from the path.  Have one parent be the “Holy Ghost” reminding them to stay on the path and the other one try to get them to step off.  Have a picture of Jesus and a picture of the sun to represent the Celestial Kingdom at the end.  Explain that returning to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is the best gift we can receive, and then give them a prize or favorite treat.

 

Feb. 11-17 Ye Must Be Born Again

Prep Materials: pre-made Valentine with picture of Jesus, supplies to make Valentines (construction paper, glue, markers, etc.)

Song: As  I Have Loved You pg. 136  or God Loved Us, So He Sent His Son Hymn #187

Make a big Valentine card for your kids from Heavenly Father with a picture of Jesus in the middle.  Read John 3:16 together and explain to the kids that Heavenly Father showed his love to us by giving us Jesus.  Now have the kids make Valentines for Heavenly Father and Jesus.  I’ve made a simple printable with pictures they can glue on to Valentines, you could also encourage them to draw some of their own ideas.

Valentines for Heavenly Father

Feb. 18-24 Blessed Are Ye

Prep Materials: flashlights, candlestick (an actual one or made out of a paper towel roll or pvc pipe to fit the flashlights you will use), bushel (either a basket or a small box will work), pictures or objects to find

Song: I Am Like a Star Shining Brightly pg. 163

Pull out those flashlights from last month again!  Hide a few objects or pictures for them to find.  Read/ summarize Matthew 5:14-16.  Take the kids outside in the evening or in a dark room in the house.  Mom or dad should go first with the flashlight, turn it on and look around for a second and then place it under your “bushel” and keep trying to guide them.  Take turns being the light, give them the option to use a “candle stick” or a “bushel” as they guide the family to find things like a picture of Jesus, scriptures, a picture of Pres. Nelson, the temple, etc.

 

Feb 25-March 3 He Taught Them As One Having Authority

Prep Materials: containers (tupperware or casserole dishes), large rock, sand, small houses (you could just draw or print them on paper or make them out of legos), pitcher of water

Song: The Wise Man and the Foolish Man pg. 281

Using two large containers place a large rock in one and a pile of sand in the other.  Make two small houses.  Sing the song together and place the house on the rock, when you get to “the rains came down….” pour water around it.   Repeat for the sand.  Discuss what happened to the houses.  Read Helaman 5:12 together and talk about how you can build your house on the Rock of our Redeemer.

 

Combined Materials List:

masking tape

preferred toys and treats

picture of Christ

picture of Sun

big prize or treat

Valentine with picture of Jesus

supplies to make Valentines (construction paper, glue, markers, etc.)

flashlights

candlestick (paper towel roll/pvc pipe)

bushel (basket or a small box)

pictures or objects to find

containers (tupperware or casserole dishes)

large rock

sand

small houses

pitcher of water

Family-centered Valentine’s Activity Calendar

If you have followed my Christ-centered Thanksgiving and Christmas activity posts then I hope you love this one as well.  I wanted to put together activities last year to make Valentine’s day more meaningful, but then my Grandma died and life got crazy and I didn’t have a chance to get to it.  This year I started early, because February is actually going to be crazier this time around with a wedding and a baby blessing, but those have been planned with ample notice, whereas funerals just happen when they need to happen.

As I was thinking through incorporating the wedding and the baby blessing into the calendar, lines from the Family: A Proclamation to the World kept coming to mind.  Initially I put it out of my mind and thought it wasn’t really related to Valentine’s day, and then it hit me that if I want to make Valentine’s Day meaningful then really Valentine’s Day is ALL about the family and the teachings in the Proclamation.

Obviously some of our bigger activities are not universal (unless you also have a family member getting married in February and another family member who recently had a baby, in which case we should be friends!), so I’ve tried to include a few ideas for alternate or extra activities that go along with the same theme.  And if you are a member of another faith, I’m sure you can still incorporate these ideas based on your beliefs, and I think you will find more similarities than differences in the beliefs outlined in the Proclamation on the family.

  1.  I love to see the temple- walk around the temple (or if you live too far away look at pictures) and explain it’s importance.
  2. THE FAMILY is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan… The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.” Wedding time!
    • If you don’t have a wedding to go to this month, or even if you do, you could pull out wedding albums, pictures, that wedding DVD you watched like once, and any other mementos from your wedding and show them to your kids.  Talk to them about your wedding day and how special it was.
  3. “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” Baby blessing time!
    • Pull out baby pictures and any mementos from when your kids were blessed (or Christened).  Tell them about their blessing and how much of a blessing it is to have them in your life.
  4. Learn the song Love One Another, Children’s Song Book pg. 136.  Including the sign language could be really fun.  This is a really great activity to throw in on a day you know will be very busy.
  5. HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ” Trade off date nights with the kids.  Obviously this is going to look different for each family depending on the number of kids, but for us we’ll do this over two nights, I’ll take one kid and my husband will take the other and then the next night we’ll switch.  Go as simple or as big as your budget and your calendar allow.  Maybe it’s just a walk or ice cream (or a walk to ice cream so it cancels out!) or maybe it’s bigger like a performance or game.  The biggest thing is that it’s dedicated time to them and their interests.
  6.  See above (and if you’re family is big enough you could just do one on ones the rest of the time until Valentine’s day and ignore the rest of the list!)
  7. We love our cousins!  We’ll be blessed to have cousins visiting so we’ll party hard with them, but if cousins aren’t available you could make Valentine’s to mail to them.
  8. We love our grandparents!  Make Valentine’s for grandparents
  9. “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” Do a wholesome recreational activity as a family.  For us this will probably be the Renaissance Festival.
  10. Heavenly Father loves us so he gave us a Prophet.  In Arizona we will have a special fireside with President Nelson and President Oaks this day.
    • If you’re not in AZ you could talk about going to church to take the sacrament and read John 3:16.
  11. Make a fun heart craft
  12. “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” Focus on compassion, do some kind of service project.  We will probably take a meal to a refugee family through Gathering Humanity.
  13. Make Valentine’s for friends and classmates (and by make, I mean write their names on little store bought cards, but if you’re crafty and into really making cute Valentine’s for everyone then POWER to you!)
  14. Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself- take treats to neighbors.  We started this a few years ago and our neighbors LOVE it.  Christmas time always gets so busy and we always end up getting sick so I decided to stop pretending like I was going to take around Christmas treats and now we just do Valentine’s day treats.  It’s way better than hunting down a babysitter and trying to get in to an overcrowded restaurant.

Happy Valentine’s Day!  I hope this helps you make the time very meaningful for your family!

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for little ones- Jan 2019

Can I just say how excited I am for this Come Follow Me curriculum.  There’s a lot of reasons:

  • studying the same material across age groups
  • home focus- which goes right along with some of my feelings about deliberate parenting
  • multi-modal learning- it’s making my educator heart sing
  • lots of opportunities to use my laminator- also making my teacher heart happy 🙂
  • FHE whenever works best for your family (which relieved all of the guilt I have had about having community choir on Monday nights!)
  • Family Home Evening ideas!

I keep thinking I should film the craziness that is Family Home Evening at our house but my 4-year-old is typically in his underwear and I’m not going to put that out there for the internet.  It’s kind of a circus and I’ll admit that I have gotten to the point of yelling, and threatening, and time out.  I’ve been better recently about keeping my patience and the kids have been a tiny bit better about listening.  One of the things I noticed was that they could smell fear and lack of preparation; the weeks where we were just throwing something together went really badly.  The past few months we started just using the Behold Your Little Ones manual, and that’s when I noticed that things started getting better and I think it has everything to do with my husband and I having a plan and being organized.

With the new curriculum I want to get even more organized and I figure if I take a day and get everything prepped for the coming month then we can have super low stress family home evenings after church on Sundays.  And if I’m already doing the work, I figured I’d share with others and hopefully make things a little easier for you as well.  So I’ll give you ideas for how to take what’s in the curriculum and make it work with little ones, and at the end of the post there’s a combined materials list for the whole month.

Dec. 31- Jan 6  We are Responsible for Our Own Learning

Prep Materials: plant, rocks, thorns/weeds, pot for planting, print/ laminate sower game

Song: Faith pg. 96

Lesson: Review the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13:1-23.  If you are a super overachiever you could plant seeds ahead of time in rocks, among weeds or thorns, and in good ground and compare how they have grown.  I’m not so good at the growing things from seeds thing, so I’ll probably just fill a cup with rocks, show the kids the weeds in the front yard (maybe pull some while we’re at it!), and buy a plant already growing in good soil.  We’ll compare how things grow in different types of soil and talk about needing to listen well at home and at church so we can learn about Jesus really well.  Then we’ll  dig a hole (a favorite activity for my kids), put our new plant in, water it, and get it some sunshine (but not too much!).

Activity: Sower game

 

Jan 7- 13 Be it Unto Me According to Thy Word

Prep Materials: Christ’s lineage print outs, Pictures of ancestors, optional names and titles for game

Song:  Family History- I Am Doing It pg. 94 (or go to the Family History Section in topics, there’s a surprising amount of songs in this category)

Lesson: Christ’s lineage is laid out.  Below you will find an attachment with His ENTIRE lineage, do with it as you please depending on your kids’ reading and comprehension level.  Then there are pictures that just have His most famous Ancestors.  I plan to print those out, laminate them, and turn them into ornaments.  I will do the same with pictures from our own family tree.  I’m just going to go ahead and leave our Christmas tree up until we get to this activity, but you could make a tree out of paper, or just do the activity on the floor.  We’ll first talk about Christ’s lineage and then put our own family tree together.

Christ’s Lineage Pictures

Christ’s Lineage (this is the entire lineage given in Luke 3 as a list, if your kids can read and have a decent attention span you may want to put the names in a bigger font and print them to put together as well)

Activity: Let the kids play with the print outs.  I am going to print out 2 sets of our ancestor pictures and Christ’s lineage pictures and play a simple memory game.  If your kids can read you may want to have them match the picture with the name and title (great grandma, great-great grandpa, etc.)

 

Jan 14-20 We Have Come to Worship Him

Prep Materials: Kid friendly nativity set

Song: Picture a Christmas pg. 50 or Nativity Song pg. 52

Lesson: Hopefully they remember a lot from having just gone over the story, it’s like Christmas Eve round 2!  Use a kid friendly nativity set, if you don’t have one, you might be able to find one on clearance right now, or, I just have this little printable set.  Put the characters (yes even the animals) in a bag and have the kids pull them out at random then talk about that character’s contribution to the story.  Then have the kids tell the story the best they can (probably good to have the camera ready!!)

Activity: Just let them play with the nativity!

 

Jan 21-27 We Have Found the Messiah

Prep Materials: Flashlights (with pictures of Jesus if you want), Objects to find (could be church related, could just be for fun)

Song: Teach Me to Walk in the Light pg. 177

Lesson: Explain that Jesus is the Light of the World.  Either make a room in your house really dark or wait until it’s dark outside.  Give the kids a flashlight (you could tape a picture of Christ to it to help with the visual), then send them on a scavenger hunt.  You could do church related things like a picture of the Prophet, scriptures, church clothes, etc. or just fun items, or a mixture.  The final item could be some sort of Celestial treat!

 

Jan 28- Feb 3 Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

Prep Materials: two mason jars, food coloring, water, bleach AND/OR a tea bag (with a string), a cup with water, a lighter

Song: When I am Baptized pg. 103

Lesson: You could do either of these object lessons or both to teach about baptism

#1- super simple and guaranteed to work.  Fill a mason jar with water, the other one with some bleach.  Talk about mistakes that we make and drop food coloring into the water with each mistake.  Then explain that when we are baptized our sins are washed away- dump the bleach in and the water will return to clear.

#2- sorta complicated, and sometimes it doesn’t work quite right- you should definitely do a practice run!  We used to do this on the mission a lot and would turn it into kind of a story and get really into it- until our mission president told us we had to stop playing with fire, I’m sure he didn’t expect to have that conversation with a set of sisters, but it’s really cool.

Take a tea bag (it can be any kind of herbal tea but the bag needs to be the kind that is folded in on itself with a staple and a string (as opposed to sealed around the edges) and preferably individually wrapped)

Tell the kids that the bag wants to get to heaven but it can’t.  Toss it up in the air a few times to show that it can’t get there.  It will need to go through some steps to get there.

1- It needs to have faith so first off it’s gotta leave the comfort of it’s wrapper (or box if they aren’t individually wrapped).

2- Now it’s out but it still can’t get there, put your finger on the string to “weigh it down.”  Explain that it’s going to need to let go of the things holding it back by repenting.  Take off the string.

3-  Toss it up and down again, see that it’s doing better now but still can’t make it to heaven.  Even though it repented and let go of the weight it still has some things that need to be washed away.  Carefully take out the staple and empty the contents into a cup of water and explain that baptism washes everything away (but do NOT get the bag itself wet!)  Now you should have a tube, carefully stand it on one end.

4- Explain that now it’s standing taller, it’s getting closer, but it still needs one more thing, the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Sometimes the scriptures call this the baptism by fire because fire also purifies.  Light the top end of the tea bag tube on fire and as it burns it should suddenly float into the air “up to heaven!”

Activity: Set up a washing station in the sink or bathtub with toys that are dirty.

 

Full materials list for the month

plant

rocks, thorns/weeds

pot for planting

Sower game

Pictures of ancestors

Names and titles for ancestor matching (optional)

Christ’s Lineage Pictures

Kid Friendly Nativity Set

Flashlights (with pictures of Jesus if you want)

Scavenger Hunt objects

2 mason jars

food coloring

water

bleach

AND/OR a tea bag (with a string)

cup with water

lighter

 

 

#LightTheWorld Countdown for Little Children

I am so excited about this year’s light the world campaign and the opportunity to combine it with our annual tradition of having a Christ-centered advent calendar.  My kids call them circle activities because we use muffin tins to create our calendar so they take a circle off each day to find out what our activity is.  I have been doing them for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter the past couple of years (hoping to add Valentine’s day this year!) in order to keep our celebration meaningful, deliberate, and focused on the Savior.

I’m by no means anti-Santa, I love Santa, we do Santa.  But, I have had to DO nothing in order for my 4 year old and 2 year old to learn about Santa. He’s everywhere- in fact he knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake…

However, I do have to be deliberate and intentional in making sure they learn the true meaning of this time of year.  It’s not all strictly “religious” but I make sure that we find ways to tie the “just for fun” things back to the Savior.

As I mentioned I love the #LightTheWorld campaign for this year especially.  This time it’s broken down by week:

1- Light the World (global focus)

2- Light your Community

3- Light your Family

4- Light your Faith

As I sat down to start brainstorming our calendar I struggled a little to figure out how we could make sure the kids were actually involved in and understanding global service.  I reached out to friends for help and got some great ideas to incorporate into our calendar.  A really cool idea that didn’t make it on the calendar is the Light the World vending machine.  There is one in Gilbert by the water tower (also one at Temple Square in Salt Lake, Manhattan, London, and Manila- and if you can’t get to any of those there is a way to donate online at that hyper link).  This is a vending machine for charities- you choose to donate a pair of glasses, or a chicken, or clean water, etc!

Additionally- we’ll be kicking off our celebration before the calendar actually starts, I could just add it but it would throw off the perfect 24 spaces on the calendar and that might make my slightly obsessive brain explode.  But, we’ll be attending a local Live Nativity on November 30th at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church.  It runs the 30th-1st.  There is also the Walk through Bethlehem in Chandler that sounds amazing but as I looked at our crazy calendar for the month I realized I needed to pair down a little and the time and distance on that was going to be a little too much for us this year.  That one runs the 14th-16th.

I’ve had a lot of fun thinking through how to incorporate these ideas for my little ones, and I really hope this helps others find ways to serve and make this season meaningful no matter the ages of your children or if we belong to different faiths- together we can Light the World!

 

1- Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad!”- We’ll be attending a Christmas party- this is an example of how I incorporate a “just for fun” event and still make it meaningful.  This day has also been set aside as a Day of Service.  We will be bringing food and toy donations to the party as our service for the day.

Week 1- World

2- Jesus speaks to the world through His prophet- watch the Christmas Devotional

3- Missionaries are sent around the world to share the gospel- color pictures to mail to a missionary in a foreign country

4- Refugees have had to leave their homes in other parts of the world and come here to be safe.  Take a meal or other donations for refugee families.  If you’re in AZ then Gathering Humanity is an amazing organization!

5- Jesus created the world- Decorate the Christmas tree and talk about the days of the Creation

6- Jesus is the Light of the World- go to a light display (probably Glendale Glitters for us)

7- We believe in a God of miracles for the whole world.  Tell the Hanukkah story.  I’ve purchased this children’s book which tells the story and has beautiful illustrations.  I include Hanukkah each year for my kids because one of my best friends is Jewish and while we won’t be able to celebrate together this year, I have cherished memories of lighting the menorah with her growing up.  Also, I want my children to know and understand that God loves ALL of His children and provides them with miracles even if they believe differently than we do.  This also fits in so well with the global focus, no coincidence that Hanukkah lined up with week 1 this year, amIright??!

8- Asylum seekers come from different parts of the world and arrive here with nothing hoping to find safety.  Make and donate a backpack asylee kit.  We will have the kids pick the backpack and stuff it with the necessary items (my 2 year old LOVES backpacks right now so this will be a good way to get her involved).  We will be partnering with Gathering Humanity again for this one.  And special thanks to my cousin for guiding me to this idea!

Week 2- Community

9- Donate to the Humanitarian/ Fast offering fund.  We typically just do this online, but in order to get the kids involved we are going to go old school and use the paper slip and envelope and actual cash then have the kids hand it to the Bishop.

10- Angel craft

11- Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Make little ornaments and take them to our neighbors

12- Nativity Craft- I bought a cute little foam kit at Hobby Lobby.  They have a few different ones depending on your kids skill level (and your capability for handling messes!)

13- Take toy and clothes donations to Maggie’s Place.  One of our Thanksgiving activities was to clean up and clean out the playroom- this is where those will be going.

14- Jesus was born in a stable- go to a petting zoo to see the types of animals that might have been there.  We will be heading over to Superstition Farm.  This might seem silly, but we have done this a few years in a row now and the kids LOVE it.  Two years ago my son ran around the petting zoo yelling, “Jesus, where are you!”  Apparently when I told him we would see animals like the ones that were there when Jesus was born, he figured we would also see baby Jesus.  Last year we went after we saw The Star and they started calling all of the animals the names from the movie.

15- Jesus healed the sick- take treats to the NICU.  Our daughter was a NICU baby so we make sure and take treats to current NICU parents this time of year.  Be aware if you decide on a NICU for service it is best to call ahead and you really will just drop off the treats with the desk.  Small children will most likely not be allowed into the NICU.   We walk to the door together as a family and then my husband takes the kids to a nursery viewing window while I take the treats in to the actual NICU.

Week 3- Family

16- Jesus said, “Ye shall meet together oft.”  Church!  It might seem like cheating because we do this every week anyway, but I call it being creative with my resources.  Also, I think it’s good to periodically talk about WHY we go to church.

17- Light your family- Make little gifts for Grandparents

18- Cards for cousins

19- Jesus asked us to pray together as families- have family prayer and review how to pray

20- Gingerbread Stables

21- Family Movie Night- The Nativity (8 minutes- live action) Christmas Story videos (more very short videos telling the story) Joy to the World (about 45 min total), and we’ll probably do a VeggieTales or The Star

22- Make memories with Family- activity with extended family and open presents with them

Week 4- Light Your Faith

23- Sing Choirs of Angels- sing Christmas songs at church and with our opera singing relatives coming into town!  My husband’s brother is engaged and we will finally get to meet his fiancee this day!  Their common interest in opera brought them together!

24- Bethlehem dinner- I make lamb and other foods similar to what they would have eaten at that time in Bethlehem.  I’m hoping this year to eat it by light of a candle from that era as well.  Then we’ll read the story from Luke 2 and hopefully have the kids act it out!

 

Merry Christmas!!!  I hope this has given you some good ideas to incorporate in your own family’s celebration!

Thanksgiving Activity List

It’s that time of year again! Time for another round of holiday circle activities!  A lot of these are similar to last year where I also gave an in depth explanation of why and how I do this.  But to sum up I make a calendar using muffin tins and have an activity each day for my 2 and 4 year old kids.  This helps make our holiday prep and observance more deliberate and meaningful and to prevent going straight from asking for candy to asking for presents and forgetting to be thankful in between.

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I live in Phoenix, so the outings are naturally Phoenix based, but they are pretty easily adaptable to wherever you live.  And if you do live in the Phoenix area then I would LOVE to have you join us on any of our outings.

Thanksgiving Activities 2018!

  1. The Pilgrims came to America in a boat called the Mayflower- I think I’m going to be brave and try to fold boats out of paper this year- but if I chicken out or if you’re just not that brave either then just use a bath toy.  We have a water table so we’ll float a boat in that on the back porch, but it’s also fun in the bathtub, sink, or a large tupperware.
  2. Hand turkeys
  3. Pilgrim coloring page (I’ll be at Time out for Women so this will be an easy no prep activity for daddy to handle)
  4. The Pilgrims came to America for religious freedom, they wanted to go to the church they felt was right without being persecuted- go to church
  5. We are thankful for our bodies- go for a walk
  6. We show gratitude for our food by sharing with those in need- donate food- depending on the schedule we will donate to a food drive or take a meal to a refugee family through Gathering Humanity, maybe both 🙂 that link will take you to their sign-up genius where you can sign up to deliver a prepared meal for a family’s first night in their new home, purchase two weeks worth of groceries (both of those can be done using Wal-Mart pick-up if your schedule doesn’t allow for drop off, or you can sign up to set up an apartment or help in the warehouse- this has been an amazing and simple way to serve the community
  7. Begin Thankful Tree- I bought a thankful tree last year at Target, it has paper leaves to write on, we will start it today and then add to it throughout the month
  8. We are thankful for cousins- color pictures to mail to cousins
  9. We are thankful for animals- go to the zoo
  10. We are thankful for Primary/ Nursery- color pictures for their teachers and deliver them the next day at church
  11. We are thankful for the brave men and women that keep our country safe- color pictures for Operation Gratitude, this group sends care packages to active duty soldiers and veterans, they have some specific guidelines so look them up before you start
  12. We show gratitude for our home by keeping it clean- pick a chore
  13. We are thankful for our food- color a picture for the cashier (we’ve done this a few years in a row and they are always surprised and so grateful)
  14. We are thankful for Preschool- make a card for the teacher
  15. We are thankful for our minds and imagination- go to the Children’s Museum
  16. We are thankful for Grandparents- color pictures for Grandparents
  17. We are thankful for the earth- go to the Botanical Garden
  18. We are thankful for the temple- walk around the temple grounds
  19. We are thankful for friends- make a treat for a friend
  20. We are thankful for daddy’s job- take him lunch at work
  21. We show gratitude for our toys by cleaning them up and sharing with children in need- pick up and select toys to donate (bonus of getting ready for new toys coming in a few weeks for Christmas)
  22. Thanksgiving feast!
  23. The Native Americans helped the Pilgrims- visit Native American ruins, we’ll be heading up to Wupatki National Monument near Flagstaff (it’s connected to Sunset Crater National Monument so you get to see a volcano while you’re at it!)
  24. We are grateful for our family- fun family outing, for us this is going to be attending a horse race- I tried to find a way to make horses fit into Thanksgiving but all I could come up with was family time 🙂

 

You may be wondering how we afford the Zoo, the Children’s Museum, the Botanical Gardens, a National Park, and a horse race all in one month.  We’re not rolling in the dough, and those that know me know that I’m pretty cheap.  So here’s how we make it work- the kids get a zoo membership from Grandparents as their birthday present and the Children’s museum as a Christmas present.  For the Botanical Gardens, I watch for a culture pass at the library which gets two adults in for free so we’ll only have to pay for the 4 year old (they also have a free day once a month but it’s a Tuesday and I wanted to go as a family so we’ll use the culture pass to go on a Saturday).  The National Monument is $15 (per car) for both the ruins and the volcano and the horse race is only $2 admission.  So we’ll be able to do all of these things in one month for about $35 out of pocket.  While we’re thankful for daddy’s job and the financial security it brings, we are also thankful for all the money saving ideas we can find!

#RedforEd…now let’s talk budget

As a former educator in Arizona I’m super duper #RedforEd.  The pay is terrible, and even when salary comes up a little they kill teachers in other ways, like ridiculously high insurance premiums.  High stress + terrible pay/benefits = High teacher burn out.  I quit so I could stay home with my children.  Everyone’s favorite question to ask me is if I plan to go back once my children are in school or grown.  The honest answer is:  No way in HEdoublehockeysticks would I go back to that level of stress for so little money.  I do keep my certificate active in case it became a necessity to return, but I have no plans of going back.  That’s sad, and I know I’m not the only teacher that feels that way.  We are losing good teachers, or people that could be amazing teachers are avoiding the teaching field because it’s just not worth it.  I could soap box on this for a long time, but suffice it to say that I think a lot of issues in education could be improved if teachers were paid a competitive salary.

So Arizona teachers- I stand with you.  I would strike with you.  I support you.

But… we need to have a serious discussion about where this money is going to come from.  Unfortunately money doesn’t grow on trees (and if it did the inflation rate would be atrocious!)  There’s only two ways the State can increase the amount of available spending money- raise taxes or cut money somewhere else.  Unfortunately no one can agree on how to do this, which is really at the heart of so many political battles, not just education.

Propose that we raise taxes (whether that’s income, sales, sin, or luxury) and someone is going to throw a fit, propose we cut back on this or that budget and someone is going to lose their job and extra people are going to throw a fit, propose that teachers just suck it up and you’ve got strikes.

This is going to require coming together, looking at priorities, and making some serious compromises on several levels.  It’s not going to be easy, but it’s long overdue and it’s gotta be done.

There’s no one tax or cut that will solve the problem, it needs to come from multiple places.  I’m going to attempt to give pros and cons for suggestions I have heard from others or have thought of myself.  As I’m not an expert on State expenses I am very open to suggestions, in fact I’m writing this with the purpose of getting the conversation started.

TAXES

Income taxes

I don’t love this idea, because if you raise salaries and then tax them more then what was the point.  Also, I kinda like having the money that we work for.  But, I think we could handle a small increase in taxes, a little bit from each household could go a long way.  It wouldn’t solve it, but in conjunction with other measures it’s a viable option.

Sin/ Luxury taxes

Maybe I like this idea because as a “saint” with a non-luxurious lifestyle it doesn’t really impact my budget.  But the point of the luxury taxes is that those buying the luxury items won’t be hurt as much by the relatively small increase in price.  Sin taxes are sort of weird from an ethical point of view.  On the one hand I’m saying don’t smoke or drink because it’s bad for you, on the other hand, if it’s supporting education then please don’t stop because we need your money.  Also, I know a lot of people who drive to the reservation to buy their cigarettes to avoid taxes so there are ways around it.

This could be extended to raising the fees on police citations, but again, it’s almost begging people to speed so that we can increase revenue, and it brings up other issues with cops being more likely to issue citations to certain groups of people.

I think there is definitely some room for discussion here, but it’s by no means a full solution for funding.

Cut spending on other state funded programs

Public Safety and Department of Transportation

These are a no go for cutting in my mind.  My dad used to be the head of traffic for ADOT and now he’s a teacher (glutton for punishment much?)  And I’m pretty sure he would start twitching if we started trying to take more money out of the transportation budget.  Turns out that people like driving and having less traffic issues.  And public safety- well, I for one prefer that there are officers available if I need them.  So let’s leave these alone.

Parks and Rec

I like parks, I like having clean and well maintained parks.  We make use of parks on a regular basis.  I’m not suggesting to let the parks go.  But…the park we go to got a giant face lift this last year.  It’s nice, and my kids really like it, heck I really like it.  But, the old equipment was fine, it was not presenting a safety hazard.  So if it came down to brand new playground equipment or a little more funding to education- I definitely would have chosen to stick with the old equipment and send that funding to the schools.

An episode of Parks and Rec is running through my head right now, and I know Leslie Knope would hate me for saying this, but I would also be ok if they cut back or got rid of Parks and Rec classes especially if that meant more funding to extra-curricular activities at schools.

SNAP/EBT

A lot of the requirements on the SNAP or EBT program are federal mandates as far as what can and cannot be purchased using the card.  By federal mandate they can not be used for alcohol, tobacco, pet food, etc.  However, what many have deemed as “non-essential” food items such as ice cream, soda, etc. are not excluded by the federal mandate and can not be excluded by the state.

However, the amount of money put in by the State is not mandated on the Federal level.

Hold your horses, before you flip your lid and think I’m suggesting that the State stop funding EBT.  That is not what I’m suggesting.  However, as it has come down to teacher pay or people being able to afford ice cream with state funds, I’m going to ask them to sacrifice the ice cream before I ask the teachers to sacrifice their pay.

You could also consider that if my family were still living on my teacher income alone, now as a family of 4, we would qualify for these benefits.  So if you pay teachers higher than the poverty line for a family of 4 then you might have fewer people in the system anyway.  And if education improves hopefully we will have less in the system as well.

Cuts within education

Extra-Curricular Programs

Doug Ducey has suggested a giant decrease to arts funding as part of his solution.  Honest question here, and hopefully someone can help answer this: Why do they always jump to cutting the arts, and not sports, or at least balanced between arts and sports?  Follow up question, where does the money made from sporting event ticket sales go?  What budget does it fund?  Would ticket sales, or “suggested donations” to concerts do anything to help the situation?

I realize I’m super biased here, being all arts and no sports, but I will fight you on why the arts are an important part of a well rounded education, and that sports are no MORE important than the arts.  So if we are going to look at cutting back on extra-curricular programs could we take it off both ends, but mostly could this be the last resort instead of the first.

Top down approach

Can we take a serious look at the district level and determine if there is anything there that could be cut or combined?  As an extreme example- Tempe has 3 school districts (two elementary and one for the high schools), it is not a very large city and they were actually having to consider closing some schools while I was living there.  That’s 3 superintendents that are being paid about 5 times the amount I was being paid before I quit.  If they reduced to one district and therefor one superintendent that would open up $300,000 to the budget.  You could give 30 teachers a $10,000 pay increase right there.

But it’s not just the superintendents at the district level, on one of my more frustrating days as a teacher I stopped by the district office after work (on my way to my second job) to drop something off to one of the many district level supervisors.  First of all the person I needed to talk to wasn’t in her office because they were having an office party (paid for out of the district budget) and as I walked past the secretary to leave a note in the supervisor’s office I noticed that the secretary was playing Candy Crush on the computer.  I just about freaked out.  Here I had spent the day literally being beaten on by my students, had been using my own money to buy supplies for my classroom, and had a to-do list a mile long and the district level employees were having a party and someone was getting paid to play Candy Crush.  I. Just. Can’t. Even.

Combining

In addition to looking at the district level to find places to cut, I think a serious look could be taken at combining some smaller schools.  I’m not talking rural schools that are small and far between.  Again I’m going to pick on Tempe.  Tempe High and McClintock High, are only about 2 miles apart.  In their prime they were probably larger, but while we were living close to them they were both going down hill pretty fast on numbers and with low numbers their programs (mostly art, but also sports) were starting to suffer.  I’m sure there are probably other areas facing similar issues.  Why not shut one of them down, keep the academic subjects teacher to student ratio similar at one school, but now you have the opportunity for 1 thriving arts and sports program instead of 2 dying programs that can’t really be justified.  You also could have fewer administrators.

Downside, I just eliminated a few jobs.  That’s an issue that is going to have to be considered- it sucks, but it’s a discussion that needs to happen.

In conclusion

There’s only so much State Funding Pie and if you want a larger piece then other pieces have to get smaller or you have to make a bigger pie.  Every option to do that will hurt someone somwhere somehow.  It’s going to have to come down to open minds and compromise.  If every side keeps digging in their heels then we will continue getting nowhere.

I am sure there are so many ideas that I have missed and concerns that I have not adequately addressed.  So, here’s what I want from you.  Please comment with your top 3 ways to find the money, and your top 3 absolute no-ways.

For example:

My top 3 ways to improve the budget:

  1. Top down
  2. Combine
  3. Cut back on other non-essentials from state funded programs

My 3 no-ways

  1. Cut the arts
  2. Cut back on roads or safety budgets
  3. Status quo

 

Please keep all comments civil, fighting will not solve this, discussing will.  If you disagree with someone you could say, “I respect that you feel that way, but have you considered……”  “I see your point, but based on _______ I think there is a better way.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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.