A few weeks ago, God took care of a situation and answered a prayer of mine that I have been praying about for a year now. I still find myself stopping in gratitude as I go throughout my day and taking a moment to thank God for providing and protecting me and my family. I don’t want to take these sweet moments for granted, because I have come a long way from when I started praying for this situation.
There were a lot of dark, hard days last year, especially going into the fall and winter months, that left me wondering if I would ever feel happy or whole again. I couldn’t make sense of the situation and I was left feeling hurt and confused. But even on the toughest days, I trusted that God was going to take care of me even if things didn’t play out the way I wanted them to.
During that season of waiting and praying I learned a lot. I learned that sometimes God lets us go through difficult situations in life, not because He doesn’t care about us but because He wants us to learn and grow from our trials. And He also wants us to learn to lean on and trust Him, not just in the good times, but in the bad.
If God would have answered my prayer in the way I wanted last year when I turned to Him, I wouldn’t have grown in grace and strength the way I have. I would have wanted all of my problems to disappear right then and there, instead of doing the ugly, messy work of healing. I would have missed out on valuable lessons and learning what areas of my life needed growth. I can see all of that now that I’ve come through it, but God knew what I needed all along.
This picture was taken at the beginning of July this year. I will never forget this evening. About a month prior to this I came to God in boldness and desperation, telling Him that I couldn’t go on much longer with this situation the way it was. I needed Him to move for me in a mighty way, and remove some things from my life that only He could.
While I had been praying for a year about this season I was in, I realized that my faith hadn’t been what it needed to be. I was still trying to hold on too tightly and control things myself. It wasn’t until I realized that I needed to fully surrender my situation to God and trust that, no matter what, He was going to fight my battles, that I was was able to release everything into His hands.
A month after that, when this picture was taken in July, a new chapter was beginning to unfold in this season of my life. I was finally starting to see prayers being answered. I went on a walk by myself that sweet July evening, and as I walked the same paths I always do on Liberty University’s campus, I found myself feeling a deep deep gratitude for all of God’s goodness, His mercies, and protection during this incredibly difficult season I had been walking through.
I couldn’t help but smile as I walked and looked at the gorgeous sunset. I had this overwhelming sense of peace. Peace that things were indeed going to be okay. I heard God telling me “See, I told you I was going to take care of you. Trust me and let me handle this.”.
As the sky burned with deep colors of orange and red as the sun began to set, I felt the need to stop my walk and sit in the prayer garden for awhile to pray. Yes, I had been thinking all of these thoughts of gratitude to God, but I knew He wanted me to take a moment to stop, turn my music off, and just be still in His presence. So I did.
I sat and reflected on all I had been through the past year, and how through it all God had carried me through. I would never choose to walk that path again, but I could see how God had used all of it for my good. As I sat in stillness, I prayed for God’s protection, no matter how the situation was to unfold, and asked that He would help me to trust Him, even when it is difficult.
As I got up from the prayer garden and continued on my walk, I couldn’t help but feel that all of campus and nature was humming and singing praises and peace along with me. The campus was quiet but it also felt so beautiful and alive, I haven’t felt that there in a long time. I smiled as I walked, and felt a bit lighter and more confident. I even saw a mama deer and her two little fawns. I had the urge to look up the meaning of a deer encounter right away and read that “a deer encounter can represent unconditional love, gentleness, peace, and to trust in your inner wisdom and intuition.” I thought that was perfect and very much described what I was feeling in the moment.
I share all of this as encouragement to anyone who is going through a difficult season right now. Know that even in the darkest times God is with you and He hears your prayers. Our prayers might not always be answered the way that we think they should be, but remember that God’s timing is perfect and His ways are better than ours.
I have definitely seen God’s hand in my life and how He has provided for me and my family, but none have been so evident to me than in this difficult season I have walked through. I believe that I have walked through the darkness and come out on the other side and now have the empathy and experience to help others that are walking through similar seasons of life. What a beautiful thing to come out of so much pain!
This has been on my heart recently and I felt led to share. I hope that if you are going through a difficult season you find hope and encouragement to keep pressing on!
Every year around the beginning of September, right before my birthday, I like to take some time to reflect on the past year and look at what I’ve gone through and how I’ve grown. Last year when I wrote this type of reflection post, I said that 26 had been the hardest year of my life. Well, little did I know that 27 was going to bring me to my breaking point and force me to go through a lot in order to grow a lot.
As I sit here taking in the past year of my life, I am reminded of my birthday celebration last year and what a beautiful day it ended up being. I always wanted to share about my 27th birthday on my blog last year, but it just never happened. So, I thought I would share a little bit about that today and some photos from my birthday last year.
Last year for my birthday all I wanted to do was get dressed up and go out to lunch like things were normal. My mom, grandma, and Brendan had planned on coming out to lunch with me at one of my favorite local restaurants downtown and then afterwards I was going to have some family over for dessert and coffee that afternoon.
I picked a cute outfit, curled my hair and took a little extra time to do my makeup. Brendan was going to come home on his lunch break, pick Ellis and I up, and then we were going to meet my mom and grandma at the restaurant downtown. Well, as we were about to head out the door, my mom let me know that the restaurant was closed that day. I was so upset. I don’t do well with plans changing last minute, and while I know this was kind of out of our control, I started to lose it and I ended up having an anxiety attack.
My mom suggested that we pick a different place to eat, or that we pick up something and bring it back to the house, but I was too upset and didn’t care at that point. Brendan ended up driving us around for awhile while we decided what to do next. And I quickly started to spiral. On top of being disappointed that things weren’t working out the way I wanted them to, I then started feeling so bad that Brendan took time to leave work to spend his lunch break with me, and here I was crying and not knowing where to go to eat.
I ended up telling him to just pick a place for Ellis and him to get some food and not to worry about me. At that point I was feeling like I was so upset that I didn’t want any family to come over to my house after lunch time. I didn’t want to have to try and act happy and hide how stressed out and disappointed I was. My mom insisted that it would be okay and that everyone would still come over and it would all be fine.
I fought it for awhile, but I also didn’t want to disappoint anyone else by changing plans last minute. So, we ended up picking up some lunch for me and bringing it back home and I ate a bit while I finished tidying up the house before everyone showed up. Brendan went back to work and Ellis and I waited for everyone to come over.
While I was eating my lunch my sister texted me telling me Happy Birthday and asking if I’d like a coffee. I told her that would be so nice and then proceeded to tell her about how the day was just going as planned so far and how I was stressed. Since I knew she had class that afternoon, I figured she would be bringing me a coffee later in the day when her classes were over.
My mom and grandma were the first ones to arrive. I was still bustling around and feeling pretty frazzled and didn’t even realize that my sister was also there. She surprised me by skipping her class that afternoon so she could come over for my birthday. I don’t usually get emotional in front of other people, but I couldn’t help tearing up when I hugged her. In that moment I started feeling the love that I needed most in that moment, even though I had tried pushing everyone away and canceling the whole afternoon. I’ll never forget that moment.
My mom walked in with two big Mum plants to go in the beautiful stone planters that my dad had gotten me for my birthday, and again I felt loved. Not long after that everyone else arrived and we all just kind of gathered around in the living room to chat. I was surrounded by all of the women closest to me in my life — my mom, sister, grandma, aunt, cousin, second mama and what I consider my adopted sisters.
Ellis ended up playing upstairs with the girls almost all afternoon, so I felt like I got a much needed break from being “mom”. And the rest of us sat around and talked about motherhood, being a stay-at-home-mom, and me just kind of opening up about how I felt so defeated and how I felt like motherhood felt so overwhelming to me.
I don’t know if anyone picked up on it that afternoon, but looking back now I realize that I was caught right in the thick of postpartum depression. I just couldn’t shake the fact that motherhood felt too hard, and I thought I was just a bad mom or not meant to be a mom. Even if nobody knew how bad I was suffering in that moment, I was still grateful to have people that loved and supported me all around me that day.
We ended up opening presents and then eating a homemade vegan lemon bar dessert that I had made. We put candles on the dessert and everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to me, and I felt so much happier.
When Brendan got home from work all I wanted to do was to get some dinner and watch one of my all-time favorite movies, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. Ellis ended up falling asleep before we could get him dinner, so the two of us ate Rivermont Pizza while watching the movie. And then I got to open up my presents from Brendan. He had also bought me some beautiful Mums.
I don’t know if many people will care to read this blog post, as it’s almost just like a journal entry for myself. But I loved these pictures from last year and wanted to share them. I’m hoping and praying that my 28th year of life will be full of growth, change, grace, and beauty. The world feels like a scary place to be in anymore, but I know there is so much life and beauty here too.
It’s true when they say every pregnancy is different. In a lot of ways, this pregnancy has progressed pretty similarly to my pregnancy with Ellis. But there are some stark differences this time around that have completely caught me off guard.
When I was pregnant with Ellis I did a month-by-month update on my pregnancy and talked about how I was feeling physically and emotionally. I didn’t feel led to share that often this time around, at least during the first trimester, so this post will be a re-cap of the entire first trimester all rolled into one post. Going forward, I might write some updates more often if the mood strikes me or if anyone shows interest in it.
Okay, lets dive into the first trimester and all the messy stuff that comes along with it!
The First Few Weeks
I was just 4 weeks along when I found out I was pregnant. I took a pregnancy test on the day I was supposed to start my period and those two little lines on that stick saying “positive” were so bold there was no denying it. As I mentioned in my last post, I had a deep intuitive feeling that I was pregnant before I ever took a test. Intuition aside, there were plenty of signs that my body was sending to me to let me know a big shift was happening.
This is what I love about the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) of tracking my cycle (if you don’t know what FAM is I highly encourage you to go look it up!), it has helped me learn more about my body and be so in tune with myself that I can detect when ovulation is, when my period is about to start, and when I am pregnant. I want to write a separate post on this topic in the future, especially because I have been using FAM for years and it is how I got pregnant with Ellis and this baby, and how I avoided pregnancy in-between without ever taking any kind of birth control.
Anyway, those first couple of weeks after finding out I was pregnant were pretty normal. At the time I was doing intermittent fasting, drinking coffee everyday, eating plant-based, and feeling very active and energetic. I was physically feeling the best I ever have in my life!
We had a beach trip planned with Brendan’s family the next week and I was a little nervous for how I would be feeling. It was around week 6 during my pregnancy with Ellis that I first started feeling nauseous and a bit lethargic, so I was hoping I could make it through this trip without feeling sick. I was definitely not ready to share the news with family yet, so I was praying that everything would go well during the trip.
Thankfully, I made it through that week feeling pretty normal. I did find myself exhausted in the evenings and couldn’t stay awake late, but besides that I was able to eat all the normal foods I usually do and wasn’t feeling sick at all. But on our way back home from the beach that Thursday, I started feeling lethargic and not up to eating a whole lot. I wasn’t sure if this was due to being pregnant or just being tired out from vacation.
The next week after vacation was week 6 of this pregnancy, and sure enough about halfway through the week I started feeling fatigued and a little nauseous. It’s such a strange feeling to go from feeling your very best, and the healthiest you have ever been, to zero energy or desire to eat normally.
When I was pregnant with Ellis I felt nauseous for about 2-3 weeks, and then that faded away. I never actually got sick which I’m extremely grateful for. This time around I feel like the nauseousness and fatigue dragged on and on throughout most of the first trimester.
How I’m Feeling Physically
During those early weeks, I found myself feeling tired in the afternoons and even took a couple of naps on the couch while Ellis watched some cartoons on certain days (if you know me, I despise naps and never take them). After dinner, I found myself beyond exhausted and most evenings I would just crash on the couch and doze until it was Ellis’ bedtime. This really threw me off of my normal day-to-day rhythm, and I forgot just how physically draining growing a tiny human can be.
In addition to feeling exhausted I felt extremely bloated from the start. I did feel this way during my first pregnancy, but again this time around it seemed that the bloating would never go away. As a result of the bloating, I felt like I already had a baby bump showing at just 8 weeks. At that point it really was just bloating, but I felt huge and was convinced that everyone was going to be able to tell that I was pregnant.
The fatigue, nauseousness, and bloating were the only main physical differences I noticed right off. I definitely felt different in my body and was able to pick up on the changes much sooner during this pregnancy.
When I was pregnant with Ellis I started experiencing a few food aversions right around week 7 or so. For the most part during my first pregnancy, I could eat savory/spicy foods for a couple weeks and coffee was replaced with ginger tea when I was feeling a bit nauseous. But besides that I was able to eat most all of my favorite foods during the entirety of my pregnancy.
This time around, things have been vastly different!
I have never been so disgusted by so many of my favorite foods. I think the food aversions started around week 6-7 and they hit hard! It was as if overnight I couldn’t tolerate foods such as cereal, crackers, tortilla chips, peanut butter, rice, spicy/savory foods, onions and garlic, and coffee. I found this so bizarre as a lot of these foods were plain and would normally have been easy on my stomach (such as the crackers and plain cereal).
My guess is that these foods were processed and fairly oily and thats why I felt so turned off by them. Just the smell of plain cooked rice, a saltine cracker, pretzel or tortilla chip would turn my stomach. It was as if I was smelling and tasting them for what they really were, overly processed and full of all kinds of additives the baby didn’t need.
The coffee is really what threw me off. When I was pregnant with Ellis, there was a couple weeks that I couldn’t drink it when I was feeling nauseous in the mornings, but that only lasted a few weeks at most. This coffee aversion has lasted well into the second trimester during this pregnancy. I have always been a coffee lover and its the one thing I have never wanted to give up know matter how healthy the rest of my diet is. But I could not stand smelling it, cafe drive-thrus turned my stomach, and drinking it tasted like burnt, bitter, oily water. It was the weirdest thing! But again, I feel like it was the baby’s way of protecting themselves from the caffeine and whatever other nasty stuff is in coffee.
When I got a bit further along into the first trimester I started fixing a cup of green tea when I wanted a little pick-me-up, or if I was out I would get an iced matcha green tea latte. Not the best because it still contains caffeine, but a heck of a lot better than coffee.
What I’m Eating and Craving
I try to listen to my body when it comes to what foods I eat. I was eating plant-based all through the month of April and up through the first week or so of May. I had been feeling great and thriving eating this way, but when the fatigue started to kick in my appetite also increased a bit (weird, I know). I started feeling like my body was craving more protein (which I don’t eat a whole lot of) and since I know I usually struggle with eating enough food period, I felt like I should start including some things back into my diet for the time being.
I started adding in some pasture raised eggs for breakfast in the mornings because I knew it would give me some protein first thing in the morning to start my day off with and it was one of the only foods during those first few weeks that actually sounded good to me. I also switched to using grass fed butter instead of the oil based plant versions I had been using. And I allowed myself to add some dairy back into my diet.
I felt extremely guilty and disappointed in myself at first for doing this, since I had been feeling so great eating plant-based. But I knew it was important to listen to my body and put the needs of my baby above my own for the time being.
My guilty pleasures in the very beginning were pasta and ice cream. I always wanted ice cream when I was pregnant with Ellis, which was pretty unlike me since I usually reach for a salty or savory snack over sweets. But alas, this pregnancy is no different in regards to the ice cream.
Pregnancy is Strange!
I’d say the weirdest thing about this pregnancy, besides the odd food aversions, is my heightened sense of awful smells and the fact that sweat/body odor smells like straight up onions to me! That’s right, when I sweat I smell like onions. My husband and my mom have assured me that they don’t think I smell like onions, so I guess (I hope) it’s just my nose that is interpreting it that way. But it’s actually the worst thing ever haha. The coffee aversion I can deal with, but this I am so over. I know that women tend to sweat more when pregnant and that their hormones can change and therefore change the smell of their body odor, but I’ve just never heard of this.
And then my heightened sense of bad smells this time around is killing me too. I feel like during those first couple months I was so sensitive to so many different smells. Even smells I usually really enjoy such as citrus fruits had a very off putting odor to me. Oh well, I can only hope that these things will disappear once the baby is born. Somebody please tell me these things will go away!!
Securing My Birth Team
During my first pregnancy, I had a difficult time finding the right prenatal care (I have written about that in another blog post if you care to read it). After a few hiccups, I finally met with my midwife for the first time and knew that she was the right fit for me. Trying to hunt down the right midwife really stressed me out last pregnancy, so I knew that right from the start one of the first things I wanted to do during this pregnancy was get my birth team secured.
I wasted no time at all and called my midwife just 3 days after I found out I was pregnant. I knew it was so early on, but I wanted to go ahead and make sure she was available to attend my birth, especially because I am due right around Christmas/New Years. I was so grateful to hear that she could take me on as a client again!
A few weeks later I reached out to a team of doulas in the local area. My doula from my first pregnancy has since moved to a different state, so sadly we could not have her attend this birth. But we have so many amazing birth workers in this area and I had heard wonderful things about this group of doulas, so I knew before I was pregnant I would want to meet with them to discuss their services.
I met with my doulas the first week of June and felt such peace in knowing they were the right women to have attend my birth. They were also available around my estimated due date, so we were able to secure their services right away. And then later that week I had my very first prenatal meeting with my midwife.
Both Brendan and Ellis were able to come to the prenatal meeting with me and we were all able to hear the baby’s heartbeat together for the first time. It was such a special moment and Ellis’ reaction and excitement were so sweet! He is thrilled to be a big brother. I absolutely love the midwifery model of care and how it gives the whole family the opportunity to be involved. There’s nothing like it!
Well, this turned into an extremely long post. But if you made it this far thanks for reading!! Hopefully I can get a few more posts written soon about the second trimester, what books I’m reading, and going through pregnancy after Postpartum Depression (PPD). If you are currently pregnant or have already had your baby, how was the first trimester for you?
Carrying another babe in my womb is something I have thought about regularly since I gave birth to Ellis. I always knew that I wanted to have several children, I just never imagined how extremely difficult the postpartum period would be for me, or how it might change my mind on when I would want to try for baby #2.
I thought that maybe 2020 would have been the year to try for another baby, but for so many reasons 2020 ended up being the hardest year of my life and a baby was not on my radar at all. It wasn’t until I had made some significant changes in my everyday life this year that I started to feel ready to try again.
April was a beautiful transformative month for me this year. In addition to doing a major cleanup and shift with my diet and incorporating more workouts into my exercise routine, I also did a lot of growing mentally and emotionally. And with growth usually comes some pain.
I did a lot of release work during the first few months of April. And let me tell you, letting go of certain things and situations in my life, surrendering, and accepting that I really have no actual control is some of the hardest, most terrifying internal work I have ever done. My counselor really helped me with this, and before I saw things take a turn for the better, I had a lot of shadows and doubt that I had to work my way through.
This is very deep and personal stuff I’m talking about, and I might share more about this in another blog post, but I just felt like I couldn’t tell this story of my second pregnancy without mentioning just how emotionally intense this month was for me.
As the month of April moved along, I started feeling the best I ever have physically. I had gone back to eating a plant-based diet at the beginning of the month, I had started intermittent fasting, and I was still doing daily yoga. For the first time in years, I felt strong, healthy, and confident in my body! I loved the way my body looked and I was amazed at the energy I now had.
I always thought that I would reach my body’s prime in my early 20s before I had children. I was feeling pretty comfortable and happy in my body before I became pregnant with Ellis, but after I had him I never thought I would quite get back to where I was. In a sense I was right about that, my body has never quite gone back to what it was pre-pregnancy. But after putting in a lot of time, dedication, and hard work, I have learned to love my body and what its capable of even more!
Am I Ready For Another Baby?
There were a lot of times last year that I wondered if I would ever feel ready to have another baby again. For years, Brendan and I had both talked about wanting to have several children, but after experiencing the worst of my Postpartum Depression (PPD) I think we were hesitant to rush into another pregnancy. (I’ll talk more on the topic of my experience with PPD in a future post.)
But with time and lots of healing work on both our parts, we were feeling hopeful and excited to be talking about when we would want to start trying for another baby some time this year. In my head, I was thinking that I’d continue to clean up my diet, get stronger, and do more healing to work through my PPD before trying to conceive. Midsummer was sounding like a good time to me to start trying for baby #2.
However, as God would have it, I would become pregnant a few months ahead of “my timeline”. And isn’t that the way God tends to work? We think we know best and like to plan out our lives and be in control of how things will play out. With my tendencies toward perfectionism, this is a very hard thing for me to let go of and give God control over.
I also always told myself that I would never want to have a winter baby. Winter is my least favorite season and there are so many reasons I would not choose to have a baby during the coldest, bleakest months of the year. But, again, God had different plans for our life, and that’s okay. Sometimes we need a good dose of this to wake us up a bit and serve as a reminder that we are indeed not in control.
So during the month of April, both Brendan and I felt comfortable saying that if I happened to get pregnant our hearts were ready to welcome another baby into the family. But we weren’t ready to start actively and intentionally trying to get pregnant. I think being comfortable with the possibility of getting pregnant without the stress and pressure of actively trying to conceive was good for both of us.
Trusting my Intuition
By mid April I started having that deep, intuitive feeling that I was pregnant. I knew that we hadn’t been actively trying, but there was definitely a possibility that I was. The feeling was strong, but I didn’t mention it to Brendan.
When I first took a test to see if I was pregnant with Ellis, I took the test as early as I possibly could, before I had even missed my period. This time around I knew I could do the same thing, but something was telling me to be patient, wait, and lean into my own intuition. That took a little bit of surrendering, but it was worth it.
The end of April was a very emotional time for our family. Brendan lost his grandfather on April 25th and we got the call that he had passed away while we were sitting at the dinner table. And I’ll never forget feeling so strongly in that moment that I was for sure pregnant.
On Monday April 26th, I woke up excited and a bit nervous to take a pregnancy test. I was supposed to start my period that day and I was feeling pretty certain that I would see those two little lines pop up on that stick. I waited until Brendan left for work, then I went to the bathroom to take the test.
I set the test on the back of the toilet and avoided looking at it for a minute or so while I washed my hands, looked at myself in the mirror and said a little prayer, knowing that my life might be shifting in a big way. And sure enough, I turned around and those two pink lines lay looking up right at me. Positive. I was was pregnant.
A happy little gasp escaped my mouth as I stood looking at the test. My intuition had been right! I can’t remember if I told Ellis that morning or not, but I knew that I would be waiting a couple of days before I shared the news with Brendan. Just as I felt very strongly that I should wait to take the test and trust my intuition, I felt that I needed to have a couple of days of keeping this news to myself.
There was something so sweet and sacred about keeping this beautiful little secret to myself, just me and this little babe. For the next couple of days I went about my everyday rhythm with a bit more purpose and intentionality. My morning yoga felt a bit more magical knowing there was a new little soul being knit within me, I was being more loving and attentive to Ellis thinking about how he wasn’t going to be my only little baby anymore, and I felt like anyone I came in contact with must have known I was pregnant because I felt like I was glowing and about to burst at the seems with happiness.
That night, I went to a prenatal meeting I had with some of my doula clients. The drive out to their house was filled with peaceful landscapes and farm lands, and it was the most delicious spring evening. I was so excited for this couple who were expecting their first little baby and I was also feeling equally excited for myself as I was expecting my second baby.
It was late when I left their house and the full pink moon was shining so bright. The moon followed me all the way back home, and I couldn’t help but feel the magic that the evening held. I reached down to stroke my belly and to talk to my baby to let them know just how thrilled I was to be carrying them. My little Luna Baby ❤
That’s the name that came to me, so gently and naturally, that evening. Already I could feel a stark difference with this little soul than I had when I was pregnant with Ellis. Ellis felt like such a bright, energetic, little fiery soul, my Sunshine Babe. This baby was different — very calm, gentle, soft, and sweet, my Luna Baby. The Sun is associated with more masculine, bright, yang energy. While the moon, or Luna, is associated with more feminine, gentle, quiet, yin energy. And who knows, this baby may turn out to have a wild and bold personality too. But for now, this pregnancy has felt calm and meditative, sweet and gentle.
Telling My Husband I’m Pregnant
Wednesday April 28th is the day I decided to tell Brendan I was pregnant. I knew this time around I wanted to involve Ellis with announcing the pregnancy to Brendan, so as soon as I found out I was pregnant I ordered a t-shirt for Ellis off of Amazon that says “Big Brother” boldly across the front of it. I figured I would wait until Brendan got home from work that evening and then we would surprise him with the news.
Ellis has this thing about wanting to hide from people, even Brendan and me, when they come over to our house. He likes to pretend he’s not around and we have to look around until we find him, his own little version of Hide-and-Seek. So, I took Ellis upstairs to our bedroom and told him that we would put his new “Big Brother” shirt on and hide from Daddy, and then when Daddy came upstairs to find us we could pop up and say “Surprise!”. Ellis liked that idea! So I told Brendan that we would be “hiding” upstairs when he got home and he would have to come find us.
My heart was pounding as I waited upstairs for Brendan to come home, I was both nervous and excited to tell him I was pregnant. Ellis hid on our bed amidst all of the pillows and I stood in the corner of the room with my phone out ready to capture the moment on video.
When Brendan walked in he looked over at me and seemed confused that I was videoing him. Ellis jumped up and said “Surprise!” and pointed at his shirt. The look on Brendan’s face was priceless as he read Ellis’ shirt and realized what the surprise was. Brendan walked over to me and scooped me up and lifted me up in the biggest embrace. I then handed him the pregnancy test, which I had wrapped up in a pretty gold ribbon. It was such a sweet, emotional moment and it made it all feel that much more real to me. ❤
I look forward to sharing more about this pregnancy journey and how different it has been compared to my first. Up next I think I will share about the first trimester and how that was for me physically and emotionally.
For the last four years I have started each January by doing a 30 Day Yoga challenge. There’s just something about the start of the new year that gets me motivated to try new things and incorporate movement into my everyday routine.
While I have been no stranger to the art and practice of yoga, my relationship with my own daily practice has blossomed this year like never before. I rediscovered a love for yoga in January and, as cliche as it might sound, I’d say that it has changed my life in so many ways for the better.
Nice to Meet You, Yoga!
I first dipped my toes into the world of yoga when I was about 18 years-old. I had just finished my first year of college and was feeling weighed down by some unhealthy habits that I picked up while living on campus. I was feeling frustrated in my own body and was not happy with the way I felt — overweight, sluggish, and stuck. I knew I needed to make some changes in my diet and my relationship with exercise.
So, that summer I started doing at-home pilates regularly and I threw in a couple of yoga poses here and there. I had recently switched to a vegetarian diet and was enjoying those changes in my food choices as well.
At that point in my life, I was still trying to discover who I was (who am I kidding, I still am!) and I liked the whole idea and vibe of living a more down-to-earth hippie/hipster lifestyle.
I think in a sense I was trying to fit myself into this stereotypical white washed version of a more healthful lifestyle. In my head I wanted to be like these happy, care-free people I saw online or around campus that seemed to be into healthy eating and doing yoga outside on a regular basis.
While I did find that I genuinely enjoyed yoga and being vegetarian, I think I was really trying to jump into something that made me stand out a little bit. Growing up with four other siblings, this is something I constantly found myself striving for, something that only I was good at or interested in, something to call my very own.
Anyway, that was 2012. My interest in yoga didn’t go any further than getting a yoga mat and doing a few stretches on it. It wasn’t until 2016 that I really picked up my yoga mat again.
It’s Not About the Shape
By the beginning of 2016 I had finished college and earned my undergraduate degree, I was working my first part-time job in my field of journalism for a local magazine as the editorial assistant for a short stint of a couple months, and I was also deep into planning my wedding which would be taking place at the end of May.
Since I was done with school and had more free time on my hands, I really wanted to put some healthy exercise habits into place so that I could be strong, fit, and healthy by the time my wedding rolled around.
In March I came across a week long yoga challenge that my local yoga studio was holding. The challenge consisted of posting a picture of yourself doing the yoga pose of the day on your instagram account and tagging all of the sponsors for the challenge. The winner would win a couple of passes for free yoga classes at the studio and a gift card to a local taco food truck.
I thought this sounded like fun and knew it would help me jump back into yoga.
I ended up winning that Instagram contest and that further motivated me to continue practicing yoga.
I found myself looking forward to doing the daily yoga poses and finding just the right location to take a photo. I was surprised at how well my body was able to fold into these shapes. Granted, these were easy poses for beginners, but I was feeling motivated to try and stretch myself into more challenging shapes. I remember the first time I did a tripod egg inversion, I got such a rush of excitement.
The two months leading up to my wedding day I practiced yoga frequently in my bedroom in my grandmother’s basement where I lived at the time. I didn’t have a fancy space set up and I really wasn’t doing any flows or yoga videos. What yoga looked like for me then was rolling out my mat in a little corner of my room, in front of my cheap floor length mirror, and twisting my body into certain shapes that I wanted to get “good at doing”. The tv would be on the in the background as I practiced posing in these shapes. There was no mindfulness involved and I really wasn’t feeling more connected to my body.
Fast forward a few months to after my wedding and moving to a new city with my husband. I didn’t really do anything yoga related until the month of August.
I came across an instagram account called “DoYouYoga” where they would post monthly yoga challenges. These challenges were very similar to that first one I did back in March, where you have a certain pose for the day and you post a picture of yourself in that pose.
I quickly jumped into a few of these challenges toward the end of 2016 and really enjoyed participating. While I liked the challenge of trying to get my body into certain postures, it sometimes felt forced, like my body wasn’t really ready for it. There was no gradually stretching my body, building strength, or learning the foundations of the pose. I wanted to rush into being a yogi, without actually taking the time put the work in and cultivate my own daily practice.
My First Yoga Class
In 2017 I started to get more comfortable and familiar with our city and knew that I wanted to go to my first yoga class at my local yoga studio. I kept putting it off because going new places by myself always makes me nervous, but I didn’t really have any close friends at the time to ask to accompany me. But I had a feeling that it would be a freeing experience to go to my very first class solo.
This was kind of the extent of my experience with yoga for a couple years. In all honesty, I loved the idea of being a yogi and carving out daily time for it. But my relationship with yoga never went deeper than the photos I posted on Instagram.
I went on to take a few yoga classes that spring/summer. There was one time I went with a friend who invited me to a yoga class that was held at the rock climbing gym she was a part of. We went on the evening of that Summer Solstice and it was a beautiful evening. While I enjoyed flying solo to most of the classes I took, it felt great to have a friend who was also interested in yoga and willing to go with me.
It became clear to me after those classes that there was something much deeper to be found in yoga than simply contorting my body into cool postures. These regular goers of the yoga studio seemed to have a deeper knowing about them, a wise intelligence, and they seemed to be at peace and so connected to their bodies. I knew that I hadn’t found that side of yoga yet, and didn’t know if I had the time or dedication within me to go looking for it then.
Find What Feels Good
Throughout the remainder of 2017 I did a few more yoga challenges. But it wasn’t until January of 2018 that I discovered the Yoga With Adriene community. At that point I think I had heard of Adriene Mishler and had probably even done a couple of her yoga videos when I searched for yoga videos on YouTube, but I had never heard of her 30 Day Yoga Journeys that she does every January.
So, in January of 2018 I decided to join in on the True 30 Day Yoga Journey with Adriene and thousands of others around the world. It felt like a big commitment, especially because I had just found out I was pregnant a couple of weeks prior, but I was determined to see it through.
There were definitely some mornings where I had to begrudgingly drag myself out of bed to do my yoga practice before work, and there were some days where the early pregnancy nausea and fatigue had me wanting to nap on the couch instead of getting on the mat and moving my body, but I did the 30 days and was proud of myself for showing up.
I wish I could say that after that month I was hooked and started consistently practicing yoga, but that wasn’t the case at all. For the next couple of years I went on to do those 30 Day Yoga challenges in January, and then simply let my practice fall by the wayside and let my yoga mat sit in the corner collecting dust.
It wasn’t until January of this year, 2021, that I felt a huge shift in my perspective and my desire to search for healing in many areas of my life. One way I have found healing is in how I move and take care of my body. I spent a lot of time at the gym last year, essentially physically and mentally beating myself into shape, and I knew I couldn’t keep doing that to myself.
I plan on writing a separate blog post about my yoga experience this year soon. But I really felt like sharing my beginnings with yoga and how far I’ve come! I know this is a long post, so if you’ve made it this far I just want to say thank you for being here. Namaste!
I remember that when I took this photo on my birthday weekend in 2020 I thought 27 was going to be “my year”. After the past few months with the pandemic going on and the craziness that the world was in, I thought that surely this coming year would be better and things would start looking up.
I imagined being 27, spending cozy fall evenings cuddling up at home enjoying my autumn decor. I imagined having friends over more often for small dinner gatherings where I would make a delicious homemade meal and there would be soft jazz music playing in the background. I imagined being more bold and confident in who I was as a person, living the way I thought was best for me and not caring what other people thought. But, the following months I felt anything but confident, I didn’t want to have people over, rather I slowly started pulling away from others. There weren’t many happy cozy evenings that October, instead I spent many nights up late, the hours fading into the early morning, crying and unable to sleep.
Last fall my anxiety reached an all time high, the Postpartum Depression I chose to ignore came flooding back in full force, and I don’t know how many people around me actually knew how much I was suffering. I had trouble letting others in, I didn’t want to tell others the thoughts I was having or the way I was feeling. It all felt so hard and complicated to put into words, plus I really didn’t want to burden people with my problems.
Looking back, I wish I had let people in sooner. I wish that I didn’t push people away, or try to pretend that things were okay when clearly they were not. I wish that I hadn’t spent so many sleepless nights up by myself, with just the tv on for comfort because I was too afraid of what others might think of me and what I was going through.
I thought 27 was going to be a year where things slowly started to look up, because how could they get any worse? But I didn’t realize that I would have to reach my breaking point, the lowest of lows, before I reached out to my best friend, before I asked for prayer, before I started going to counseling. I didn’t know that in order to seek true healing, I would have to actually ask for help. I thought I could do it on my own or ignore it until it went away. But God doesn’t want us to go through life, and especially the soul crushing seasons of life, alone.
I am so grateful that I am finally in a better, healthier place now and am actively working on overcoming my Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. There has been a lot that has happened over the past 2 1/2 years of my life that has played into this, things I will be working on healing from for quite some time. But May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I’m so grateful for the conversations that are being had and the resources that are being shared about this topic. And I am so happy that I feel like I am finally in a healthy enough place that I feel lead to share more about my experience. Mental illness is real and many people suffer from it and we should not feel ashamed about it. I plan on sharing more about this season of my life as I feel lead to. ❤️
One of our big intentions for the year 2020 was to buy our first house. The lease to our apartment was supposed to end in October 2020, so I knew we had a little time to “shop around”. Even though we didn’t start actively looking at houses on realtor.com and zillow.com until the first of the year, I consider our house hunting journey to have started during the summer of 2019.
That summer Brendan and I would ride around town looking at houses that were on the market while Ellis napped in the car. It was a simple little thing, but I came to really enjoy Sunday drives looking at houses and dreaming of what our future home might look like.
Making a List
In October 2019, I felt pulled to sit down and write out a list of what I wanted in a house. I was very adamant about the qualities I was looking for, but I wanted to see God’s will manifested into our lives and I knew I couldn’t cling too tightly to the house I had dreamed up in my mind.
So, at the top of my list I wrote Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (ESV). I prayed over that list for three months and I was blown away by how God provided.
On my list was written “What I Want in a House…”
Enough yard to be able to sit outside and read, have space for Ellis to play, and to have a small garden.
Privacy — not too close to other houses, a fence, or trees and bushes.
Away from the road.
Either a finished basement or no basement at all.
Lots of natural light.
The Hunt Begins
By mid-January we had started actively looking at houses that were on the market. Our hope was that we could get out of our apartment lease early if we found a house that we liked and wanted to make an offer on it. During this time both Brendan and I were on a social media fast that our church was participating in, and so we had more time and attention to focus on house hunting and really praying about the whole process.
Brendan’s parents’ came to us and wanted to gift us some of their stock money to put towards a down payment on a house. We were so grateful! That allowed us to put in an offer sooner if the right house did come along.
On Sunday January 19th, we went to our first open house. It was an older home that had been slightly updated, but I knew it wasn’t the house for us. Our realtor was the one showing that house and that was the first time that I got to meet him. We talked to him a little bit about what qualities we were looking for in a house and he said he would keep us updated if he found any houses he thought we might like.
The First House
The very next day (January 20th), Brendan met our realtor and they went to go see two different houses that afternoon. One of the houses was an older brick house that Brendan and I had both looked at online. It was pretty nice, had the character and amount of bedrooms we were looking for, and had a fenced in backyard. The kitchen on the other hand was not to my liking at all.
Brendan tried to convince me that since the house was a bit cheaper than our budget we could afford to remodel the kitchen. I knew that I had to see the house in person myself, so that evening I bundled Ellis up and drove out to see the house.
I’m a pretty intuitive person and I’ve always felt that I would know which house was the right house for us when I walked into it.
As I walked into the house, I tried to open my mind’s eye and imagine what living in the house would look and feel like — I could see us making the front living room cozy with curtains, a big comfy couch, and our tv mounted on the wall. I could see pretty fairy lights strung in the back yard, a little garden patch near the wooden fence, and Ellis running around playing as I tended to the vegetables and herbs. But that was about as far as I got. It felt hazy, like I could see us potentially living there, but it felt forced.
As we walked through the house I started to realize that the remodel and updates would be a bit more than I was hoping for. There were enough bedrooms upstairs, but the second bathroom we hoped to have for when Brendan’s family visits was downstairs, and there was only a toilet, no shower. The main bathroom upstairs felt very open, but there was a tub in one corner of the room, the toilet in the corner next to it, and then the shower was a step up and incased in the wall.
The attic wasn’t my favorite place, but I knew it would be nice to have that extra storage place. And then there was the basement. I’ve always strongly disliked basements —- the house I grew up in didn’t have one and they’ve always creeped me out a little bit. Well, this one topped all of the creepy basements I’ve seen in my life.
It’s been a while so my mind is a bit foggy on just exactly what it looked like down there, but I know that the stairs were dusty and narrow, it was so dimly lit that I couldn’t see a whole lot, and it was unfinished. I didn’t walk very far down there because it was absolutely filthy and just felt dark and dank. There was also a very disgusting urinal in the corner that just added to the strangeness of the area. Our realtor pointed out where we would hook up a washer and dryer, and that about sealed the deal for me right there. There was no way I could see myself coming down in that basement to do laundry by myself, much less with Ellis in tow throughout the day. We talked about possibly moving the laundry upstairs, but doing that and remodeling the kitchen probably couldn’t have been done with the money we had.
Brendan thought we could make it work, I knew we could too. But I just didn’t like the feeling of not being comfortable in my own house and being creeped out by an eery basement that we might not be able to finish for years to come. And then, there was the fact that someone had already put an offer on the house and our realtor said that if we were going to make a move it would have to be that night.
My head was reeling. We told our realtor we would take a couple hours to think about it and get back to him. We grabbed a bite to eat, we prayed about it, and then we talked it over with Brendan’s parents. And by the time we had talked, his family was saying what I already knew, we had made up our minds to pass on it.
It was a little sad to pass up on it because we did like the character of it. But I let the house go and told Brendan that if the house was meant for us then maybe the other person’s offer would fall through. And so we were back to the hunt.
Found on a Whim
If I remember correctly, Brendan looked at a couple of other houses with our realtor that week. I kept searching online and sending Brendan links to any and every house that I liked that was at least somewhat within our budget.
And then I found this beautiful old brick house that stood out from all of the other houses. To me it looked like a house out of a fairytale. It had character, charm, and a bit of whimsy that I hadn’t seen yet. I was instantly drawn to this house. The inside was charming and dripping with character too, and as I flipped through the photos online I knew that this was the type of house I had been dreaming of.
However, the listed price was over our budget. My heart sank a little, but I still decided to send the link to Brendan. I told him that even though the asking price was more than we had talked about spending, I still wanted a chance to walk through the house during the open house that coming Sunday.
Open House, Open Heart
As we pulled up to the old brick house on that sunny winter afternoon, my heart skipped a bit. It was just as charming in person as it was in the photos online.
There were quite a lot of people moving about from room-to-room inside when we got there, so we didn’t get to take as much time to really look at the house as I would have liked to. But I loved everything I saw about that house — sure it was a bit older, but the character of the house had been pretty well preserved and there were also a few updated features that were nice. As we walked through the house, I started to get a glimpse of what it would be like to live in this house and raise our family here.
This house had what I was looking for — lots of windows and natural light in every room, hardwood floors, character, the right number of bedrooms and bathrooms, a finished basement, and a huge fenced in backyard. I loved it!
I told Brendan, and he said “then lets make an offer on it.”. I knew it was over our budget and I saw all of the families that were looking at the house that I assumed made a lot more money than we did. I was torn and knew we needed to think about it.
After walking through the entire house we talked to the realtor that was showing the house; she gave us the specs and she and I bonded over our dislike of creepy basements. We commented on the number of people coming through to see the house, and she told us that a lot of them had been people that lived in the neighborhood, just curious to walk through and see the house. That gave me the tiniest glimmer of hope that maybe, possibly, if everything lined up just right, this could be the house for us.
We saw one more house that afternoon, but it was so small, dark, and boxy (and there was a creepy unfinished basement) that it’s not even worth going into detail.
The Next Day
After we saw the house we sent the Zillow listing to our parents and contacted our realtor. We arranged to meet our realtor at the house the next day to do a walk through and get a better look at it and see what he had to say.
What I remember about the walk through that day is the way the house looked even prettier to me than the day before, the way Ellis ran around and around and around shrieking happily, and our realtor saying “Lets do it!” in response to the idea of us putting an offer on the house that day.
So, we put in the offer and our realtor asked to have an answer from the seller that night. I was so giddy that whole day and tried not to dwell on it too much.
That night Brendan and I stayed up late watching HGTV and dreaming about owning our own home while we waited to hear back from our realtor. At 11:45p.m. Brendan got the text from our realtor congratulating us saying that the seller accepted our offer!
From Offer to Close
From there things got moving quickly! Our accepted offer contract had us set up for closing in 30 days, and there was a lot that needed to get done within that time frame. We scheduled our house inspection for later that week (January 30th). Brendan was there for the entirety of the inspection so he could get an idea of what we were dealing with as far as what needed to be addressed and repaired before we closed. Ellis and I stopped by for a little while and met the inspector and spent more time day dreaming of making this house our home.
Overall the inspection went well. There were a lot of small things that the inspector noted, but the only things that really needed attention right away were a faulty compressor for one of the A/C units, and the hot water heater not being turned on during the time of the inspection. Neither of these were really an issue though. There were a few other little things that we would have liked the sellers to fix before we moved in, but we decided to accept a repair credit that helped us pay for the repairs ourselves after move in.
Everything seemed to be going along smoothly. I had heard horror stories of the closing process when buying a house, so it almost seemed too good to be true that we were still right on schedule for sealing the deal and getting those house keys.
And then there was the issue of the buried heating oil tank. After Brendan noticed the oil tank during the inspection he did some research to figure out how much of a risk it was to buy a house with an oil tank like this that was no longer in use. After his research, Brendan requested that the seller have the soil tested to see if the tank was leaking oil, because the cost of removing the tank and addressing any contaminated soil could be quite costly.
The soil tests came back positive and things weren’t looking so good. Brendan was concerned about this issue and started talking about the possibility of passing on this house. I was devastated at the thought of losing this house and I was angry at the thought of letting something like an oil tank get in the way of this dream house.
After talking it over with my family with clenched teeth, I knew that I was becoming too attached to this house already and that I was holding on too tightly. Instead of being upset at Brendan for possibly wanting to pass on the house, I decided to loosen my grip and place the whole situation back in God’s hands. I was trusting that if we made it past this obstacle, then that was God telling us to move forward with buying the house. I felt a bit anxious, but a lot calmer and more at peace with whatever happened.
And then we found out that the State of Virginia would pay for most, if not all, of the tank removal. For peace of mind though, the seller also offered to pay up to $2,000 towards whatever the state did not cover. This was a huge relief, as we felt that the tank was the last obstacle we had work around in order to feel comfortable purchasing the house. I could see God’s hand at work throughout this whole process.
Brendan worked with a local mortgage broker and our banks’ national mortgage division to get all of the financing figured out. The last little hiccup we faced in the purchasing process was with the bank, as the underwriting ended up not being complete in time for us to close at the end of February. This actually worked to our benefit as it delayed when our first mortgage payment was due, and since we had to exit our lease early as a result of the purchase, that was a blessing for us financially. Again, we could see God’s hand at work!
So, after some back and forth between the bank, Brendan, and our realtor, the closing documents got finalized over the weekend and we were able to reschedule our close for March 3. The actual day of closing was a breeze! We had our keys and we were ready to pack up our apartment and move in a couple weeks.
I’ll never forget the week we moved. The world started shutting down as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and people were being advised to shelter in place. While the rest of the world seemed to be in chaos, I was happy that we had a new house to keep us busy. With the help of my family, we moved in on March 19, 2020, the most beautiful sunny first day of spring!
I’ve been taking things slow recently, enjoying the stillness and calm that the winter brings. I wanted to share a little bit about my January and the word I have chosen for 2021. I might ramble on a bit, but that’s okay. I’m giving myself permission to freely share my thoughts today.
I’m trying to keep my expectations modest, my feet grounded, and my heart open this year. I’ve taken half the month of January to focus on the intentions I want to set for myself for 2021. In the past I would have been stressed to have a perfect list written out with my goals by January 1st, but this year hurrying things along didn’t feel right, sitting in stillness resonated with me more.
I always take time to write out both my intentions for the year as a whole, and then my intentions for each month. This year I felt like I wanted to pick a word that I could hold onto as my theme for 2021, and I also found a color to go along with my word. So first, let me share a bit about the color I chose.
My Color for 2021
Since the beginning of January, I have found myself attracted to the light blue color of the winter sky. Green has been my favorite color for years, but I have noticed that at different stages of my life I am pulled towards certain colors. I’m always curious to learn about colors and their meanings, so I did a quick Google search to learn a bit about this particular shade of blue.
Blue is typically known as the color of Trust and Loyalty. Like the ocean and sky, Blue is calm and constant. Other words associated with Blue are relaxation, peaceful, support, honesty, reliability, confidence, and security.
Every time I look up at the sky my eyes follow along the ombre shades of blue, going from dark to light. I see the white puffy clouds floating along, so light as if they carry no worries or burdens. I trace the outlines of the bare branches of trees against the sky, and feel a connection and a bond with those lonely branches.
My eyes are able to rest on the gentle color and soak in its peace, the airy clouds remind me to I N H A L E , E X H A L E and not take my breath for granted, and the trees remind me of how I have been stripped down to the bone and am left standing in full transparency, ready for new growth. I love this color because it reminds me that every day is a chance to start fresh.
My Word for 2021
2020 was a hard year. The last few months of 2020 were the hardest months of my life. There have been times I find myself longing for things to have gone differently and wondering if I could have avoided some deep wounds. But ultimately I believe that good can be found in any situation and I know that God is in control and can use what I have walked through for my growth.
A couple of words I considered for my word of the year were Growth and Self-Care. While these are beautiful words that I’d still like incorporate into my life this year, the word that has felt right to me is H E A L I N G.
heal•ing: the process of making or becoming sound or healthy again.
This word resonates with me because I have put myself on the back burner for too long and I have some deep hurts, both physically and mentally, that I need to tend to. I’ve gone through a lot of shifts and changes over the last 2 1/2 years and haven’t allowed myself to really work through what I’ve been feeling. I won’t go into detail about that here, but I just wanted to share what “healing” has looked like for me in the month of January.
I finally made myself an appointment for the chiropractor after putting it off since Ellis was born. I have accepted the fact that I’m still very much going through Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. I am going to counseling to seek professional help. I am letting others in and asking for help when I need it. I’m carving out time for myself everyday to do yoga. I have gone back to eating plant-based.
It feels good to be taking these small but significant steps toward bettering my health.
I’m looking forward to doing a 10 day fast with my church starting Wednesday, which I believe will be so good for me mentally and spiritually. I will be giving up social media and Starbucks (yes, its a problem) and focusing on spending more time with my family and reading God’s word.
I want to know, what are some of your intentions for the month of January? Do you have a word for 2021? What color have you been drawn to recently?
“Ah, September! You are the doorway to the season that awakens my soul.” – Anonymous
Long before I became a mother, I dreamed of what it would be like to have a house full of children to care for and raise. I’d imagine how fun it would be to build blanket forts on rainy days, make special homemade meals on the weekends, and make holidays special with arts and crafts and decorations.
I must admit that after becoming a mother its sometimes hard for me to hold onto those dreamy ideals. Maybe it’s just the age he’s at, but Ellis doesn’t seem to want to focus on one thing long enough to try and make a blanket fort or even entertain the idea of doing some fun afternoon craft project. However, he loved decorating for his birthday party and still talks about it and I know that what really matters is spending time with him and making memories together.
I’m starting a new tradition with Ellis where we pull out all of our fall and Halloween decor on September 10th. This gives us time to get past birthday celebrations because both Ellis and my birthday are in September. I also like the idea of having something fun to look forward to after the birthday excitement has worn off.
I love the changing seasons and autumn has always been a special time of year for me. I love the magic and coziness that autumn brings and the symbolism of slowing down and turning inward. In years past I have waited until the first day of fall to dust off the felt pumpkins and decorate our home, but I want a little more time to enjoy the warmth and cheer this year.
On Thursday Ellis and I enjoyed going through my big black box of halloween and fall decor. Unlike last year, Ellis was very excited to pull out all of the pumpkins and see what kind of goodies were in the box. We put on some jazz music while we decorated and then later in the day I made some Autumn Squash soup to have for dinner that night.
I want to know, does your family have any special autumn traditions? Do you decorate for fall or Halloween? I’ll have to give you guys a look at all of our decor once we get things in place!
This coming Wednesday, September 9th, I will be twenty-seven years old. I’m sitting here struggling to figure out how I’ve gotten here and how so much time has passed.
Since becoming an adult, the week of my birthday has come to be a time of deep reflection for me. Looking back on my life, where I’ve been, how far I’ve come, what I’ve accomplished up to this point in my life. My main focus of reflection usually ends up being on the past year of my life. So, I’m looking at September 9th, 2019 to the present.
To put it briefly, this past year has been one of the most challenging years of my life. I’ve struggled in a lot of areas in my life, and to be quite honest I haven’t been doing well mentally and emotionally.
I think it’s fair to say that 2020 has been extremely difficult on everyone. We’ve all struggled in different areas of life to different degrees, but no doubt we have all felt some type of loss and sadness. We’re in the middle of a pandemic and all that comes with that, for starters. And so many of us are hurting in so many ways.
I just celebrated my son’s second birthday, which means that I have now been a mother for two years. Earlier this year my husband and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary, which means I have been a wife for four years. I wish I could say that after these past few years I feel like I’m a confident wife and mother, but the truth is I don’t feel that way at all.
This past year has broke me in so many ways, some good and some bad. There are many names I go by in life — Wife, Mother, Daughter, Doula, Christian — these are my roles in life and names that others call me. But here recently I’ve really been struggling with figuring out who I am to myself.
All my life I’ve dreamed of the person I would become as an adult. During my college years I thought that I was getting a clear picture of who I was and could see a bit of the bigger picture. I could see myself and my husband making the life that we had been dreaming about. But here recently I’ve been questioning what it is that I want anymore. Some days I feel like a complete stranger to myself. And if I don’t know who I really am, then how could anyone else really get to know me?
In Order to Know Others, I Must Know Myself
It’s no secret that I’ve never really had a lot of close friends. I was homeschooled growing up so I always considered my siblings my best friends (still do). In college Brendan was my best friend and I almost exclusively hung out with him. I had a few friends during the first couple years of marriage, but they turned out to be co-workers more than deep rooted friends. Now that I’m a mother, I have a couple of mama friends, but I don’t see them very often and I know the friendship doesn’t currently run as deep as I’d like it to.
So what am I trying to say here? Honestly, I don’t really know. I think I’m starting to peel back the layers, the roles and names I go by, and begin to take a long hard look at the center of myself and what’s at that very foundational layer, what’s at my core.
I think it’s fair to say that I don’t have many friends, or am afraid to let people in, because I don’t even know who I am myself. How could I let others in and allow others to like me, to care for me, to love me, if I don’t even love myself?
I know that my family loves me, my husband loves me, and my son loves me. But even more important than that I know that the God of the universe knows me down to my very core, sees the ugliest parts of me that I keep locked away and hidden in closets, and He still chooses to love me. And I’m embarrassed to admit how often I ignore Him and don’t take the time to get to know Him better and to love Him like I should.
I think until I take the time to get to know God better, and learn to love Him better, I will never know how to love and accept myself. Only then will I be able to let others love me and accept me for who I am.
And that’s kind of where I’m at now.
What’s My Role?
After I gave birth to Ellis, I feel as if a part of me died and this new person emerged. It was as if one day I was me, myself, the Ashley I had always known, and then the next I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the woman standing before me.
I’m sure many people know by now that I struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety after having Ellis. It’s been an on-again off-again battle I’ve been fighting for two years now. So that coupled with the huge identity shift I experienced when I became a mother has left me wondering who I am and who I’m supposed to be.
I don’t feel like the person I used to be before having Ellis, and I’m struggling to put all of the pieces together to figure out who this new woman is. I think in an effort to give myself a name, to find a new identity for myself so to speak, I’ve tried to rush into things I’m not ready for, roles I’m not ready or equipped to fill.
During the winter of 2019 I started doing some freelance photography work here and there when the opportunity presented itself. When I went to my first shoot I felt like I found a little piece of the old me that had gotten lost along the way. I felt happy to be using my talents and my college degree again and I felt important because I was filling a role, doing a job, and getting paid for it.
During the spring of 2019 I decided to go to a doula training through DONA International because I felt that God had put this calling on my heart to get involved with birth work. After my own pregnancy and home birth experience, I felt passionate about learning how to help educate, advocate for, and support women who wanted to birth differently. My own doula was amazing and I felt she truly supported me. I wanted to be there for other women like she was there for me.
I attended my first birth as a doula a couple months after my training and felt that I was really on the path that God wanted me to follow. This felt like a new piece of me that I had never known about before, a piece of my new identity.
Then I attended my second birth as a doula on January 1st, 2020. And that was such an amazing experience that I am forever grateful to have been a part of. I saw raw emotions, unconditional love, fierce mama lioness power, and a new life birthed that night. In that moment and the days that followed, I couldn’t think of a more messy, humbling, magical, beautiful way to start a new year and brand new decade.
I was believing for a bright and beautiful future in the year 2020.
During the month of January, Brendan and I did a 21 day fast along with our church to start the year off right. Those 21 days were transformative for me. I chose to give up social media, which I’m embarrassed to admit has come to take up so much of my time. I felt like my eyes had been opened and I started to see what was really important in my life.
During that time I was reading my Bible more often and felt like I was connecting with God on a deeper level, Brendan and I found a house and put an offer on it that was accepted, and I started to feel God nudge me in a different direction than I had felt at the very beginning of January.
January was a beautiful month full of life, growth, hope, and excitement. February was a pretty great month too and I felt like I was starting to get a clearer picture of who I was and how I wanted to take care of my family. And then March came and the whole world, not just my little corner of the world, got turned upside down.
I Hear You, God.
During those first couple of months when a lot of people were staying home and were unsure of what the next few weeks and months were going to look like, I felt myself slipping to the end of my rope. I needed help and I wanted answers and the only place I knew I could turn to was God and His Word.
And you know what? These past few months have sucked in a lot of ways. But, I can say that I see how God has used this year to break me down and bring me closer to Him than I have been in years.
Looking back over this past year, I can see that God has really been trying to show me where He wants me to be and what He wants me to do. I knew it in January, but I ignored the still small voice I heard. And now, after months of thinking about it, I feel like I can’t ignore it any longer.
Deep down in my bones I feel that God wants me to focus my time and energy on my home and my family, to be a homemaker, and to accept that and to be content with and at peace with that for this stage of my life.
I’m currently twenty-six years-old. Last year I jumped into twenty-six not knowing what an exhausting year it would be. In a few days I will be twenty-seven, and right now that number feels refreshing and inviting to me.
I’ve tried to push myself, to adapt, and squeeze myself into everything I think others want or expect me to be. I’ve done this for years, and it just doesn’t seem like something a twenty-seven year-old should do to herself anymore.
Ever since I gave birth to Ellis, I have been in way over my head with this whole role of being a mother. Ellis has been a dream baby and for the most part is so easy going and easy to please.
My husband has been more amazing than I could have ever asked for when it comes to caring for me and Ellis, supporting me in whatever goals I have for myself, and helping around the house and with Ellis. But still, I find myself drowning trying to stay afloat and take care of my easy-going baby and husband.
I look at other mothers and wonder how they seem to manage taking care of more than one child, serving their husband, and also working either full-time or managing some side project, and I’m over here silently screaming for help because I feel like I can’t even watch my child and take care of the house while my husband is at work. I’m not trying to compare myself to others, I just haven’t been able to figure out whats wrong with me.
All the while I hear God telling me that it’s okay to do what He’s asking me to and to to stop fighting Him. I’ve been striving so hard to try on different hats, or different roles, that don’t fit me quite right. Or, at least they aren’t the right fit at this point in my life.
I’ve been feeling guilty about not having a job and not making any money to help us get out of debt a bit faster.
I feel like I’m falling behind on my doula certification because I’m nervous and I’ve taken things extremely slow.
I feel like I’m not a great mother because I spend my time wishing Ellis would entertain himself or take a nap so that I could work on my doula studies or have some time to myself.
And I feel like I’m not being the best wife because my husband and I don’t get to spend a lot of time together at the end of the day, and my time and energy have been used up by then.
I’m kind of rambling on at this point. But what I’m trying to convey and process is how this past year has broken me, reshaped me and my mindset, and given me perspective and clarity into what’s most important in my life and the direction I think I want to take from here.
The thing is, nobody has made me feel inadequate in any of those areas. It’s me that puts the pressure on myself to do more or be better. It’s me who worries what other’s will think of me if I decide to take a different path. I’m worried I’ll disappoint others and worried I won’t be enough if I’m simply a wife, mother, and homemaker.
Deep down though, I’ve known that this is always the role I wanted in life. This has always been my highest calling.
Who Will I Be at Twenty-Seven?
There are a lot of things I’m passionate about and a lot of areas I’d like to work on in my life.
I’m passionate about birth work and helping support mamas on their journeys through pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.
I’m interested in learning about gardening and herbalism and how I can grow my own foods and medicines to help nourish and keep my family in good health.
I love different styles of writing and would still like writing to be a part of my life whether I’m getting paid as a freelance writer or just using this little blogging space to connect with a few people.
Photography is still one of my favorite ways to express myself creatively. I take pictures every single day and love to document my family’s life that way.
But my big take away from this past year of my life is that in order for me to focus on helping others or using my talents to do a certain job, I must first take a step back and learn how to place my focus and energy on my family. Because if I don’t know how to take care of myself and my family, then how am I to be expected to know how to care for others properly?
I just really want to make Twenty-Seven a year dedicated to growing closer to God, following where He leads me, and letting go of other’s expectations of me, and letting go of my own expectations of myself.
I know that this has been an extremely long post, and if you’re still reading I’m humbled that you would take the time out of your day to read these words.
I rambled on quite a bit because this started out as a simple journal entry, but I felt lead to share my thoughts and feelings in the hopes that it may help someone else not feel so alone. Trying to figure out who you are as a person and what role you are meant to play in your life can be very overwhelming. But I know that above all, I am a child of God and I can take comfort in that on the days where I feel lost.
So here’s to Twenty-Seven and all that is to come and all I am to be!