Friday, February 23, 2018

Abigail's Birth Story (from 2015)

I am finally at a point where I'm excited to have a baby, and even to give birth. I recently re-read Abby's birth story, and now I'm reading Ina May's Guide to Childbirth (highly recommend it!). The first half of the book is simply positive stories of "natural", or un-medicated births. It's wonderful and amazing to read. I'm also looking forward to reading The Gift of Giving life, which should be on it's way from amazon.

I just thought I would share a summary plus excerpts from my journal about Abby's birth. She was born August 11, 2015.

The day before I had an appointment and was dilated 2 cm. I took Elena to the park because it was "only" 91 degrees. I got Mexican food with a friend. I packed a hospital bag and wrote down Elena's bedtime routine. I took Elena swimming. I had thoughts that "I can do this!" in thinking about doing it without an epidural. The thing that occurred to me is, my body knows what to do, I have to let it happen.

I started having mild contractions at 2 in the morning. I stayed in bed till about 6:00. We had breakfast, I went on a walk outside and talked on the phone to my mom and sisters. I knew I needed to stay busy and save my labor-coping techniques for later. My awesome friends took Elena on a play-date. They had planned this before and what good timing! Jeff went to work for part of the day and our dear friend Jane came to be with me.

I stayed calm and breathed through contractions, sometimes leaning forward on the exercise ball. In the afternoon I still felt so calm that I wasn't sure whether to go to the hospital, but the contractions were very consistent, so we went around 4 pm or so. In the car things were getting more intense so I started moaning when I felt a contraction starting. When I was admitted I was at a 4 1/2 or 5. The nurses let me do my thing. When I was having a contraction I was in the zone. But in between I would talk with Jeff. He was so proud of me.

I spent a lot of time leaning forward on the exercise ball. I asked the nurses if there was anything I should try besides moaning. The nurse explained that slow breathing is good for relaxation but fast rhythmic breathing is to distract yourself. That's when I started chanting vowels like "ah, ah, ah"

I tried standing for a while. I leaned on a cabinet. We had ocean waves sounds playing. This is when it was starting to get pretty hard. But I realized, the pain and discomfort is coming from the baby descending into my pelvis. But that is the goal! The only way out is down. So I tried really hard to embrace the pain - both mentally and physically by not resisting and closing my legs. This was difficult, and I didn't always succeed, but I believe it helped. I even managed to do some tiny squats during contractions a few times.

After doing that for a bit I was exhausted and went back to the ball. However the leaning over was starting to hurt my lower back. I thought it was time to try the bed. I lied on my side with my legs propped open. It was getting really painful. I was clinging to the side rail. It was harder to relax. I wanted to be checked and was hoping I had earned 8 cm by now, but was at a 7. I didn't know if I could do this. Jeff asked the nurses how long it might take, and they said it can be 1 cm per hour. Horrible answer. I couldn't do three more hours. But deep down I still didn't want an epidural. Vocalizing my doubts got me encouragement from Jeff and the nurses.

I got through another contraction or so and the nurses came back and asked if I thought things might have changed. I said yes, because I want to push. Moans turned to screams. It just felt so natural. There was a little chaos because I wasn't sure if I was supposed to push. They checked me again and I was 10 cm dilated. More screaming, some attempts at pushing, some attempts to stop. On one push my water broke, and I was happy to think this was really happening, and it was satisfying to have productive pushing.

They had me move to my back and scoot down which was super hard. But from this point on I knew it was almost over. There was a lot of pressure and a bit of that burning people talk about, but it didn't feel as raw as I thought - I must have had some good, natural pain killing chemicals going on. It all went fast after that. There was one point when the older nurse got my attention, made eye contact and reminded me to wait until the doctor said I could push, so I would tear badly. She told me the hollering was wasting my energy. I understood. I calmed down.

All I remember is really soon I was pushing and the nurse and Jeff could see her head, and soon I could feel her head pop out, and then the rest.

I did it! I couldn't believe it. I was so happy and relieved. Abby was purple but they said she was fine. I suddenly became aware there was a total thunder storm going on outside. So cool! I soon got to hold her skin to skin. She was smaller than Elena. Jeff told me I was much more alert and happy after this birth that with Elena when I had the epidural.

So that's it! I am excited that this time I will have a midwife in the hospital with me. I am seeing midwives at OSU's medical center and one of them will be there during my labor and birth. Also, in the hospital they have birthing stools, squat bard, and tubs. And I can deliver in whatever position I want. No more scooting down to the edge of the bed for the doctor!

Giving birth naturally is super empowering, and the more I read birth stories from Ina May's book the more I realize it is kind of the culmination of other things I'm learning about mindfulness. Looking forward to doing this again at the end of June!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Next Right Thing

It has been a while since I've blogged! But when I looked at the date of my last post, it makes sense. That would have been just before I started entering first trimester nausea and fatigue.

Despite having done it twice before, and despite being in really great mental and physical shape before becoming pregnant, first trimester knocked me down again! It's just hard to not feel well enough to do anything, but bored/sad that you can't do anything. And despite all the emotional progress I had made, I was really struggling to be excited to have a baby (babies are the hardest thing I've ever done, are you kidding me? Why am I doing this!) or to even be able to acknowledge the reality that it was happening. I preferred to stay in denial.

God's words to Eve in Genesis were becoming pretty real to me:

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children;
Genesis 3:16

Sorrow! Does anyone else feel it at times? Also, I found it helpful to read that the footnote for 'multiply' says that the Hebrew means"increase thy discomfort and thy size (i.e. in the condition and process of pregnancy)." Definitely relevant and validating. It's part of the process.

Well, now I'm in second trimester and feeling much better. I've been able to exercise again, which feels great physically and helps my sanity. I'm getting more excited to meet this little girl as well.

Yesterday I posted this photo to my instagram stories of me doing crow pose. That morning I did some living room zumba/pilates/yoga. For maybe twenty minutes. That's how I roll. I'm sore today!

Then later that day for a little reality check I also shared this photo of me, literally lying in my laundry on my bed. (I guess I lost the original file, sorry)

I was tired! I was also sad because it seemed like my two year old, Abby, was starting to lose the afternoon nap. I had tried quiet time for the first time, and it worked, but only for the 25 minutes I had my timer going (start small). Now, both girls were on separate devices, which I didn't really feel great about, and I felt like I couldn't get up. Not a good feeling. 

I share this because something interesting happened with Elena that served as a reminder to me of the fact that we can always turn our day around.

Earlier, in the process of teaching Elena about nap time, she had been defiant and disobedient and lost the previously discussed privilege of having candy after quiet time. I have recently embraced rewards, a big step for me, and it's been very useful! Well needless to say she was very upset and had a hard time with it. Watching Abby get a treat for staying in her room was also difficult. But we got through the afternoon. 

Eventually I was able to get myself up, get the girls off the phones, and started folding laundry, and listening to music to brighten my day. Elena folded some towels to work toward earning her daily dime for doing three jobs (another new thing for me!) She was so cheerful and said, "this is a great day! I'm so glad we could go see my new pre-school this morning." 

It just struck me what a change this was from earlier. But I also felt better. Sure I felt kind of lazy when I was lying in my bed, but I tried to give myself compassion and thought, "I'm tired. I'm pregnant, and I exercised, and did a lot this morning, and I'm tired." I also practiced some thought work I have learned from Jody Moore (Bold New Mom podcast -- listen to it!) and let myself feel sad about the nap time thing, but not let it escalate to worry. Anxiety, she teaches, is always about the future. I told myself, even if she doesn't nap anymore, I will figure it out. It will be ok. 

And now we were busy folding laundry and/or playing as the case may be. It would be a fine day! 

Something I heard once that stuck with me, is when you are in one of those low moments (like lying on your bed feeling like you can't get up, and feeling lame about it) is to think, "what is the next right thing?" Don't worry about the past, don't worry about the future. Just take the next step forward. We can all do that, at any given moment! So I tried to take this opportunity to point out to Elena how before she was having a hard time, and now she was feeling so much better, and how we can always turn our day better. This led to having a family home evening lesson on Enos and repentance. Such a gift we have, to always be able to change.

Overall, I have been learning and growing so much lately, and if anyone wants to talk about the deeper aspects of motherhood or life, you know where to find me! I want nothing more than to have these conversations.

Have a great day!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Dreams of Agriculture, Joy in the Middle

I have been overdue for a photography date (with myself) lately as things have actually been really busy! But today is Jeff's last shift delivering for Donatos! I am so grateful he followed the inspiration to take that job, both between employment, and then on Saturdays after his OSU position started. He called himself Jeff - PhD: Pizza home delivery. I love his humble dedication to providing for us. But it was definitely hard to not have Saturdays for family time and family business. So, again following the Spirit, Jeff is quitting.

This morning, when the light was just stunning, I got to go by myself to take pictures of the field just south of us, across from the elementary school in our neighborhood (crazy to think Elena will likely attend there next year!!!)

In the summer these were soybeans. I've seen a lot of them around here. That and corn! #midwest

It's hard to explain the pull agriculture has on me. I didn't grew up on a farm or anything. Though my Dad grew up on acreage and with horses, so it is in me. My soul is irresistibly drawn to nature in general, and when I see it, I want to keep it. Sort of selfish I guess. Maybe that's why I like photography.

#morninglight #hearteyes
 I am lucky that Jeff and I have always shared this sort of far-fetched dream of owning land. There was a time when every time we went on a date or got in the car together we would talk about our future dreams.

We are now in this place in the middle. We are that much closer to our dream - Jeff finished his PhD, I survived the throws of new, young-motherhood. We upgraded from a sketchy apartment to a rental house. We escaped the desert and now live in a lovely, four-seasoned, green and moist area. We have literally and figuratively left the wilderness. :) And it feels great. We are so blessed to have divine guidance in our lives. It brings us so much peace knowing we are in the right place. This phase is proving to be great for Jeff's career path, and healing for me and for our family.

I am however looking forward to being settled somewhere. To have a real HOME. To be somewhere and know we will be there for 10 or more years. I actually like change, I thrive on it. But now that I am a mother and a homemaker, I can see the benefit of having a certain amount of stability, because things will always be changing anyway. I also love to really sink into a place so we can have strong relationships, grow, and ultimately, serve more.

That being said, I am also finding joy in the middle. If the fours year of grad-school in Arizona taught me anything, it is patience. We are learning so much through these lean years! I am so grateful we didn't start our marriage in wealth or convenience. These stretching experiences have helped us define our priorities. We aren't just preparing financially for the future, we are becoming who we want to BE in the future. (that could be a metaphor for life and heaven)

So while every time I step outside in the morning and see the light glint on the dew or shine through our neighbor's tree, my heart swells inside me with a longing for our own land, I rejoice at where we are now. Like Jody Moore says, "it is possible to love the home you are in, and at the same time want to move to a different home." In Arizona, that swelling in side of me was more like an ache. It hurt, thinking how far away that dream felt. Now it feels that much closer. And I know we can do it.

"I know in whom I have trusted." (2 Nephi 4:19)

So we have mice. We have bees.We have spiders. So our new car gets rear-ended and totaled just months after we made that providential purchase.

I know it will work out. We have gotten through this before!

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
Isaiah 41:10

God got us through the wilderness, he will get us through the middle. I still hold on to my dreams of agriculture, but we are finding so much joy, beauty and growth now!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

When a Feeling is Biological

I want to share my experience this weekend in case it will help someone.

There is so much background I COULD give, I almost don't know where to start. I could explain how well I've been doing emotionally and spiritually lately. I could mention that I currently take Kuvan, a drug for my PKU to help me metabolize protein better, thus allowing me to eat more of it. I could add something about Jody Moore and Hunter Clarke-fields and all that I'm learning from listening to their podcasts (Bold New Mom and Mindful Mamma). I could touch on my years of thoughts about and questions on and passion for the complex relationship between mental health and spirituality.

But I'll just jump right in. This Saturday was the general women's meeting of general conference. I was excited. I went to the church and soaked it all in. I came with questions. I took notes. I knew these messages were profound, relevant, true and what I needed to hear.

But at some point during the meeting I noticed I felt sad. I felt emotional pain. I thought "man this is hard. It's hard to feel so far away from God." And, trying to internalize the messages, thought, "well the one who bridges that gap is Christ. So I must need to draw closer to Christ to
feel peace...But I'm already trying to draw close to him every day! I guess I just need to press forward going through the motions even though I don't feel the good feelings."

Not a fun feeling or thought process. It is hard to put it into words, it may sound silly the way I described it, but it was very deep and very real. This, to me is depression.

I wasn't super worried, because I knew I could press forward (I have increased in my capacity to do this over the years). I did so on Sunday and had a fine day, but still couldn't shake the dark, empty feeling. When depressing feelings come it is hard to remember when they weren't there or imagine them going away. It feels like it will always be this way. 

I felt really confused about this though, because I had very recently, just earlier that week, been doing really well. Like, facing adverse circumstances with presence of mind, optimism, gratitude and joy. (See recent instagram posts) Experiencing genuine peace. 

I have also been learning a lot about thoughts from Jody Moore. Thoughts cause feelings. But I didn't have a thought that made me sad, I was just sad. I didn't have anything going on my life that was sad, I just felt sad. 

I was explaining this to my husband, and he asked, "Did you take your kuvan this week?"

I gasped. There were two days, Tuesday and Friday, when I forgot to take it. I hadn't noticed anything until then, but at that moment it clicked. I was experiencing depression. But this time it wasn't from circumstances or thought processes, it was because, if I am correct, my higher protein diet without kuvan had cause a higher blood Phe level which messed with the neurotransmitters in my brain. I can't prove this because I didn't take a blood level. But I am convinced that is what it was. (BTW this is the whole reason I have a low-protein diet -- untreated PKU causes neurological damage)

I share this because 

1) I have so much sympathy for people who have clinical depression. It is such a horrible feeling. I think it is especially painful when you have the fullness of the gospel and understand God's plan of salvation. It is just so confusing to experience such mental pain when you strive to follow the Prince of Peace. To those of you with this struggle, you are incredibly strong and I pray for you.

2) To raise awareness about depression and to raise questions about the complex relationship  between mind, body and spirit. Little episodes of depression like this or longer have dotted my life. But I am also close to people who have more chronic mental health challenges. So I speak from a place years of experience dealing with this.

My experience this weekend was unique in that it was almost completely biological, but I personally believe there are many causes and therefore many solutions to mental health challenges. Figuring out which ones are right for you and putting them into practice can take years, but I believe there is a lot of hope and healing available. Again, I am not trying to oversimplify, but I have seen this happen. I should probably write a whole different post, or blog, or book about this.

Taking a broad rather than a narrow view of mental illness opens up so much potential for growth and improvement. I believe in a holistic approach. Specifically, I support sleep, exercise, therapy, medication, personal spiritual devotional practices, introspection, thought work, self-care, self-compassion, meditation, yoga, relationships, all of it!

3) Faith still is the answer. I thank Heavenly Father that my husband had that insight and we were able to figure that out. One thing that led to that was me remembering how I felt earlier and knowing that was real, and wondering what the difference was. 

Faith is a choice. Sometimes pressing forward in the darkness is what defines our faith.

I think I could write or talk about this for hours. So I will just leave it at that for now.