Who Am I?

9/5/2020

Who Am I at Twenty-Six?

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.

Moving Forward

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!

Breastfeeding Journey

I have been breastfeeding Ellis for 14 months now. Its been a beautiful journey! We still enjoy snuggling up together to breastfeed morning, afternoon, and night. And honestly, I don’t see us slowing down anytime soon.

From the very beginning of my pregnancy I knew that I wanted to breastfeed my baby. My mom had breastfed me and my four siblings and other women in my immediate family had done the same. It was familiar to me and I knew I had a good support team of other mamas surrounding me.

Liquid Gold — The First Drops of Colostrum 

I started producing colostrum the day before I entered my third trimester. It took me by surprise! But I was so grateful that my body had already started producing food for my son.

I wondered if I would have a good milk supply since I started producing colostrum so early, but I tried not to place any expectations on myself and my body. I had started reading The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding per my midwife’s suggestion, so I felt like I knew a decent amount about breastfeeding. Still, I don’t think a book fully prepared me for just what to expect.

The First Latch 

I gave birth in the comfort of my own bedroom and was blessed to have skin-to-skin for the first few hours with Ellis before his newborn exam.

Sadly, I don’t clearly remember the first time Ellis latched on. I know it was within the first couple of hours after he was born, but that’s about all I can recollect. Both my midwife and doula helped me with getting Ellis to latch and showing me which positions I could try for nursing.

The next day when my midwife came back to do our 24 hour check, she asked how many times Ellis had eaten the day before. I don’t remember the number of times he fed, but I remember my midwife encouraging me to try and get him to eat more often. I felt so guilty when I heard her say that — I was worried that I was failing my baby and not feeding him enough.

The Early Weeks 

Right from the start, Ellis was a cluster feeder and loved to be held. And I chose to feed him on demand — no measuring or fretting about the time on the clock. When he was hungry, I nursed him. When he needed to be consoled, I nursed him. When he just wanted to be held close, I nursed him.

This worked really well for us and I enjoyed it.  The thought of measuring and feeding on a scheduled time stressed me out. It was much more convenient for me to just nurse him whenever he wanted and not worry about pumping or feeding him at a specific time.

That’s not to say that breastfeeding was a breeze.

The first few weeks were actually pretty uncomfortable and painful for me. My nipples were so raw and sore that it hurt when Ellis latched on. And since he was feeding so often, I felt like I never got a break to let my nipples heal. Both my midwife and my mom tried to help me work on getting Ellis to latch properly, but it just took us awhile to find our rhythm.

I was a little discouraged at first because the books I had read about breastfeeding basically said that if it hurt you were doing it wrong or baby wasn’t latching properly. But honestly, I just think my body needed time to get used to this new uncharted territory. I was hopeful after talking to my mom about it and seeing a few posts on social media where other mamas said to just give it a few months.

For me quitting wasn’t an option. Yes it was a bit painful those first few weeks, but I knew that there was a light at the end of that tunnel. And sure enough, around the 3 month mark breastfeeding became a lot easier and more enjoyable for the both of us. And at that point I was so grateful that I had pushed through and stuck with it.

Long Days and Late Nights

I think the hardest part of breastfeeding for me has been being needed so much. For the first couple months, I felt like I lived on the couch in the living room nursing Ellis and holding him while he napped. I watched so much Netflix that I became sick of looking at the TV.

The late night feedings were especially lonely for me. Even with Brendan asleep in bed right beside me, there was nothing to keep me company besides silly puzzle games on my phone and the low hum of the radio in the background. I would try telling myself that I would miss these moments with my baby once he was grown, but that brought me little to no comfort. All I wanted was somebody there with me, somebody to talk to.

Those lonely nights broke me. I would hold Ellis close and sob from shear exhaustion. There were times when I really thought I couldn’t carry on feeling the way I did (this was because of postpartum depression and anxiety, not just breastfeeding. But that’s a story for another time). But in those weary times, God was there with me and I grew closer to Him than I had in years.

While those nights were extremely difficult for me physically and emotionally, we eventually found our rhythm. And then I learned to nurse Ellis while lying down (game changer) and we all got a little bit more sleep at night. Those first few months were challenging, but we made it and I absolutely love breastfeeding now.

Breastfeeding Today

Breastfeeding for us has changed quite a bit over the past several months. What started out as being a time to cuddle close and nourish Ellis with my milk, has turned into times of playful giggles and acrobatics while he nurses. Even though Ellis still nurses throughout the day and nurses to fall asleep just about every night, its nice to have shorter feedings and longer stretches of time between feedings.

Now that I have been nursing Ellis for 14 months, I can say that all of the time, effort, and tears have been a million times worth it. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything and I am so grateful that I have been able to nourish my baby this way.

However, I understand that breastfeeding is difficult for many women. Mamas, I want you to know that no matter what your journey looks like, you are not alone and you are no less of a mother for feeding your baby differently than I have done with my baby.

Support is one of the most helpful things we can give breastfeeding mamas! So if you have friends, family, or know of new mamas in your community that are starting out on their breastfeeding journey, reach out to them and offer them your love, support, and encouragement.

I will touch on breastfeeding tips, advice, and resources in another post soon. But for now I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite breastfeeding photos from the past year!

End of Year Reflection 2018

And Just like that another year has come and gone. It seems like just the other day I was writing 2017’s reflection post on my previous blog, Novel Ideas. I’m pretty sure 2018 has been the biggest year of my life, full of so much growth and transformation.

I haven’t blogged since Ellis was born, so I wanted to write a reflection post as a way to catch everyone up on my life. I’m hoping now that Ellis is a bit older I’ll have more time to blog in the new year. I’m so thankful for this space and being able to share my thoughts, feelings, and my experiences throughout motherhood.  

Here are some questions of reflection from 2018:

  1. What is something I accomplished this year that I am proud of? That’s a hard one. The only thing that really comes to mind is that I had the unmedicated home birth that I wanted, despite the doubts of others. I’m pretty freaking proud of all my body is capable of! Birth is amazing.
  2. What is something that happened this year that I think I will remember for the rest of my life? Giving birth to my first son at home on Labor Day! I had the most beautiful home birth with the most amazing birth team. I’ve been writing Ellis’ birth story and hope to have it posted soon. I never get tired of talking about his birth and I love sitting down and reliving that day with anyone that is willing to listen! If you haven’t heard the full story let’s grab a cup of coffee some time and I’ll tell you all about it.
  3. What was the most challenging part of this year for me? By far, parenthood has been the most challenging part of this year. My pregnancy and labor were fairly easy and I loved it, but I was anxious about becoming a parent and it really is hard. I’ve sacrificed sleep, warm meals, one-on-one time with my husband, and on some days my happiness. I know that sounds awful, but I’m trying to be really honest here. Becoming a mother is one of the best things that has happened to me and it’s been such a beautiful journey. But, I’ve been struggling with Postpartum Anxiety and there have been some dark days where everything is messy and I feel so lonely. Thankfully, I’m doing a lot better now and I’m in a much better place than I was a couple months ago.
  4. If I could change one thing that happened this year what would it be? I’m not going to go into detail about it on here, but even though I wish I could change what happened I know that God let it happen for a reason. I had some dark days where I felt numb and broken but I’ve come out on the other side and can see that I’m stronger now. 2018 was an amazing year, but I’m not going to lie you guys, I had some awful days, probably the hardest days I’ve ever had to face. There really wasn’t anyone I felt like I could truly open up to. I’m hoping that I’ll find that person that I can talk to soon.
  5. What are the three most important things I learned this year? 1). It takes a lot of work to keep a marriage happy and healthy, but it’s always worth the fight, 2). You’re stronger than you think you are, 3). Nothing changes if nothing changes.
  6. What was the nicest thing someone did for me this year? There are so many times people have reached out to show me kindness this year!! After I had Ellis people stepped in and helped me out when I couldn’t help myself. Brendan was so amazing at taking care of me after Ellis was born. He did laundry, cooked me food, made sure I was taking my herbal supplements for postpartum healing, fixed me a sitz bath, and loved and encouraged me. I would have been lost without him. My mom was my hero and came over about once a week to help out with Ellis so that I could shower, get chores done around the apartment, and go shopping with some extra help. And then there was one Monday in particular I remember where Brendan had gone out of town for work and I had been up all night with Ellis and was exhausted. My doula (who had moved across the country at that point) knew that I was having a rough day and sent her doula friend to my apartment with coffee and breakfast from Starbucks! Dani held Ellis and played with him while I ate my breakfast. It was awesome and really lifted my spirits.
  7. What was something that was hard for me at the start of the year that is easy now? Breastfeeding! Obviously, I didn’t start until I gave birth to Ellis in September, so I didn’t struggle the whole year. I had absolutely no problems with my milk coming in or my supply, but it took Ellis and I awhile to get a good latch. And then once he did latch it hurt and I was raw and sore. Giving up wasn’t an option for me, and I knew I’d push through, but there were some days that I didn’t look forward to feeding Ellis because of the pain. I felt like I was missing out on the bonding aspect of breastfeeding because I was so sore. Honestly, it was more painful for me than labor was. I know some women don’t experience any discomfort and that’s so awesome! I had read different women say that it takes about 3 months for breastfeeding to get better, and that was so true for Ellis and me. Now I absolutely love it! Don’t give up, Mamas.
  8. Of the books I read this year, which was my favorite and why? While I definitely didn’t meet my reading goal for the year, I did read some amazing books. Most of the books I read were about natural birth and my very favorite book was Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method by Marie F. Mongan. Brendan and I took Hypnobirthing classes during the summer that were taught by my doula and it was such a positive and empowering experience. I ended up having a beautiful home Hypnobirth and I’m so grateful for this method. If you’re at all interested in a natural birth, I highly recommend this book (and classes).
  9. Which person has made the biggest impact on my life this year? Why? My son. Ellis has been changing and molding me into a new woman ever since I found out I was pregnant with him. But he truly impacted my life on the day he was born. That day I became a mother and all of my priorities shifted. Caring for Ellis has been the best and hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. He’s taught me a lot about selfless love and he’s helped me grow closer to God.
  10. What could I have done to make this year better? Spent more time with my friends.
  11. What three words best describe this year? Change, Birth, and Strength.
  12. Knowing what I know now, if I would travel back in time to the start of 2018, what advice would I give myself? Stay in God’s Word, no matter what.
  13. What are my most important goals for 2019? I would have to say spending more time with my husband, serving him more, loving him better, and working on our marriage.
  14. How am I planning on achieving them? Spending more one-on-one time together, serving him and helping him have time to himself, reading a few books on marriage, etc.
  15. What should I do differently next year? Be more open to letting people into my life.  

I’m excited to see what 2019 has in store for me!

Weeks 25-28 Pregnancy Update

Hello Third Trimester! I honestly can’t believe that I’ve already arrived to the final stretch of this pregnancy. At this stage in my pregnancy I feel like things have been flowing without much physical change, but there have been a few changes with life during the past few weeks.

Travel

Within the past 4 weeks Brendan and I have been on two mini vacations. The first was a trip to New York City at the end of May to celebrate our 2 year wedding anniversary! We celebrated both our honeymoon and our 1 year wedding anniversary in New York City as well, so it seemed fitting to visit our favorite city once again before we become a family of 3.

In years past we thoroughly planned out our NYC trips – hitting up lots of tourist-y spots and seeing all of the main attractions the city has to offer. But this time we really didn’t plan a whole lot. We decided to stay in Queens this time vs. Manhattan and it was definitely a fun change.

We do a lot of walking when we are in NYC (I’m talking walking at least 15 miles on foot throughout the day), but this time I couldn’t get around as fast. I guess that’s what happens when you’re 25 weeks pregnant! This trip taught me that it’s okay to slow down and enjoy time together with my husband and that it’s okay to listen to my body and allow myself to be pregnant.

Our second mini vacation was a trip to Delaware to visit Brendan’s family at the beginning of June. We were hoping for some nice sunshine filled days spent lounging on the beach, but the weather ended up being rainy and in the 60s most of the time we were there. We did get one beach day in though and we had a nice time.

We’re Moving!

After what feels like months and months of searching for a new apartment and praying about whether we should stay in Roanoke or move back to Lynchburg, we finally found a bigger, cozy apartment at a wonderful apartment complex in Lynchburg!

While I’m sad to be leaving Roanoke and all of my amazing co-workers and our Bible study group, I’m looking forward to being back in the city where Brendan and I met and to be just that much closer to my family. I’ve loved living in our little downtown apartment – its something that I always wanted to experience. But I must say I am thrilled to move into our new, bigger apartment and start my nesting and setting up the baby’s nursery!

Doula and Birthing Classes

While we were away on our trip to NYC we signed up for our very first birthing classes in Roanoke and found a wonderful local doula (who just happens to teach the birthing classes). A friend of mine recommended my doula to me and so far she has been absolutely amazing! Originally Brendan and I weren’t planning on having a doula for the birth of our son, mostly to save money. But the more we thought about it and read about the benefits of having a doula the more it felt right for us to hire one. If you are in the Roanoke/Lynchburg area and are looking for a doula, shoot me a message and I’d be happy to give you some recommendations!

We chose to enroll in Hypnobirthing classes instead of classes that are taught at the local hospitals in our area. These classes take place over 5 weeks and teach methods of deep relaxation, different breathing techniques, and learning how to surrender to your body and your baby during the birthing process.

I have loved everything about these classes! I love how this method really lets Brendan get involved in the birthing process and how it has helped us bond more with each other and our baby. I’ve also noticed that not only am I learning how to go into a deep relaxation for when I’m in labor, but I have been able to use the calm breathing method throughout my day-to-day life. And most of all, it has helped me build confidence in myself and my body and my ability to birth naturally. Brendan and I have also learned to not listen to people’s negative comments about the birth we are envisioning and the horror stories of birth they have experienced. It really has been such a freeing and empowering experience and I would highly recommend this class!

How I’m Feeling Physically

Honestly besides my belly continuing to swell, I really haven’t felt much different physically. Some days I definitely feel more “pregnant” than others, but so far I’m still feeling pretty energetic and healthy. My little Sunshine Babe is still on the small side, but no doubt he is growing and getting stronger everyday!

So far I haven’t had any swelling, no headaches, no stretch marks, and I haven’t been bothered by the heat. I have only had very mild heartburn on occasion and the other week I noticed that I was getting the occasional calf cramp in the middle of the night. But those have been my only discomforts, nothing to complain about though!

And one of the most exciting physical changes that has come with my transition into the third trimester is that I have started to produce colostrum! Two days before I hit 28 weeks I started lactating, and it really took me by surprise. But I am just amazed at my body and it’s ability to not only grow and nurture my son in my womb, but also to produce the most nourishing food he could ever receive when he arrives – “golden liquid”, the sweet nectar that is colostrum.

We have so many exciting life changes happening within the next few months and I am just trying to focus on being present and enjoying every little kick, wiggle, and hiccup while Sunshine Babe is still in my womb. This journey is magically beautiful!

25 weeks pregnant – In New York City by the Hudson River

25 weeks, 6 days pregnant

25 weeks, 7 days pregnant

27 weeks pregnant

27 weeks, 7 days pregnant – Sunshine Babe’s first time at the beach

Hello Third Trimester! 28 weeks pregnant

Hello Third Trimester! 28 weeks pregnant

Searching For The Right Model of Prenatal Care

Written: 2/21/2018

First Impressions of Birth

Growing up I enjoyed hearing stories about how my mom gave birth to me and my siblings. When I became a teenager I was intrigued to learn more about the birthing process, what it was like being in the hospital delivery room, how long it took, and my dad’s reaction to the whole process. I then started to imagine what it would be like for me to give birth and have my own baby someday. But I never once thought about whether I would have my baby at home or in the hospital.

I knew about home births and water births when I was in my late teens, and I had even watched some reality TV shows where women gave birth at home. But if you had told me 8 years ago that one day I would be considering a home birth for myself, I would have said you were crazy.

Even though I grew up knowing about home births, I never thought that would be an option for me. It just wasn’t the “normal” model of birth you hear about in the United States. My mom had me and my 4 siblings in the hospital, and I had only ever heard stories about women giving birth in the hospital. All I really knew was that birth was supposed to hurt severely and that you needed to be in the hospital to have the help of doctors and their hospital equipment to have a safe birth.

Thankfully, my mom never painted birth as something to be fearful of. She said it hurt, but that it is so worth it and you forget about the pain once your baby is in your arms. Sadly, most young women hear horror stories from their mothers, mother-in-laws, friends, and even television shows about how painful labor and birth is. And that is their first taste of what birth will be like.

I didn’t start taking my health seriously until I was about 18 years-old. I wasn’t really into natural medicine back then, but I was skeptical of doctors and our modern healthcare system. Over the years I’ve become more educated on natural holistic medicine and herbalism, and I tend to shy away from doctors as much as possible. So when I started daydreaming more about becoming pregnant and having a baby of my own, I naturally started thinking about and researching midwives and natural birth.

Even before getting pregnant, I was very fascinated with natural birth and home births. I found myself following several different Instagram accounts of women who were planning on having a natural home birth and I even read a book called Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block last summer, so I could do my research and get educated on the differences between a hospital birth and a home birth.

The Hunt For the Right Midwife

Finding the right prenatal care provider for this pregnancy has not been easy. I started searching for midwives and birthing centers in my area last summer before getting pregnant. I wanted to do my research and be prepared for when the time came. At this point, seeing an obstetrician was not an option for me. I knew I wanted to have a midwife for my prenatal care, whether I was to give birth in a hospital or at a birthing center. I knew of one birthing center that was about 15 minutes away from where I lived and it had good reviews. So, as soon as I found out I was pregnant I contacted the birthing center and set up a time to meet with the midwife there for a free consultation.

I was a bit nervous but mostly excited when I went to see the midwife at the birthing center. As soon as she took me back to a room to chat, she calculated when I was due. She said I was due right at the beginning of September, and unfortunately that was the one month that she didn’t take clients because she takes the whole month off for vacation. So, that was about it. There was nothing she could do for me. She gave me a couple names of other midwives in the area, but they only did home births, not a birthing center birth.

I left the birthing center trying not to be beaten down, but I couldn’t help but cry and feel defeated. I honestly didn’t know where to go from there. Thankfully, it was still very early on in my pregnancy, so I knew I had time to figure things out. Even though I was feeling very discouraged when I left the birthing center, there was a part of me that knew it happened for a reason.

At that point, I hadn’t told anyone that I was pregnant besides our close family, so I really felt like I didn’t know where to turn. I looked up a couple of other birthing centers that were about 30 minutes away from me, but I could just tell by looking at their website that it wasn’t meant to be. So, I decided to reach out to a girl that I had known in college who I knew was pregnant and was into natural birth and midwives, and she just so happened to live in the nearby area.

Even though I wasn’t close friends with this girl, she was so open to sharing with me and was so sweet and encouraging. God knew that I needed her in that moment, and I was so glad I decided to reach out. She told me of the midwife that she was using and said that she had been amazing thus far. Thankfully, this midwife lives in my area and was affordable.

Disappointment

In the meantime before I scheduled a visit to meet with this midwife, I decided to go ahead and schedule an appointment with a women’s center in Lynchburg to get a check up and an ultrasound (since I still hadn’t seen a health care provider at this point). I chose to go see a nurse midwife in Lynchburg instead of Roanoke because I had family that recommended the place to me. So, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to go ahead and visit this women’s center for one visit, even if I chose not to continue seeing them.

I just wanted to see my baby and to know that things were okay.

Well, I set up the appointment for my ultrasound and Brendan asked his manager to come into work later that day so that he could come with me to the appointment. Even though I wasn’t thrilled about going to a women’s center, we were both excited and looking forward to seeing our baby for the first time. So we got up and drove all the way to Lynchburg for our appointment at 11a.m. only to get there and have the receptionist tell me that they had called to let me know they had rescheduled my appointment for 9:30 a.m. and that I had missed it. We both couldn’t believe it. I told her that I had gotten a voicemail on Friday with a reminder that my appointment was at 11a.m. (I even had the voicemail saved on my phone), but that I had never received a call telling me that the time was changed. She sat there looking uninterested and said there were no more openings that day and there was nothing she could do for me but schedule me for a different day.

Me and Brendan walked out feeling angry, upset, and discouraged. I had taken off work to make this appointment, and Brendan had asked to come into work late, and we both took an hour out of our day to drive to Lynchburg for the appointment. And on top of that, Brendan then had to turn around and drive four and a half hours to get to his client for work. I couldn’t hold the hot stinging tears back any longer, and I let them flow. I felt so helpless. Here I was at the second appointment I had made to see a midwife, and it didn’t work out. I felt like I kept trying to do what’s best for the baby, to make sure he or she was okay, and I kept failing them.

I had planned on hanging out in Lynchburg for the rest of the afternoon, taking myself out to lunch and then going shopping. But all of a sudden I had no desire to do any of that. As I watched Brendan drive away on his way to work, I couldn’t help but feel lost. I drove to Goodwill to do some book shopping, but couldn’t find the motivation to get out of my car. I just sat in my car for an hour crying, and talking to Brendan, my mom, my aunt, and my second mama. I knew that there was a reason for the appointment cancelation and I knew that God would take care of everything. But I just needed a moment to sit and feel all of the emotions that were racing through my mind.

Falling Into Place

Thankfully things really started looking up for me and the baby later that week. After our disappointing appointment cancelation on Monday, Brendan made a few phone calls to find a good place for us to get an ultrasound in Roanoke. He ended up finding a place a few minutes away from where we live and the price was actually cheaper than what we would have paid at the women’s center in Lynchburg (even with our insurance). So I called the place and made an appointment for our first ultrasound! Unlike the people at the women’s center, this lady was so sweet and seemed genuinely interested and excited for me. I felt like it was God telling that He had orchestrated everything that happened on Monday for a reason – to save us money and to put us in the hands of someone who genuinely cares and is in our area.

The day after that I had a free consultation set up with a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) in Roanoke (the one my friend had recommended to me). This consultation was to go over her model of care (the Midwife Model of Care), tell me about her studies and experience, and to go over everything she can and can’t do as a CPM. This midwife specializes in home births in the Roanoke and Lynchburg area.

The meeting went so well and I was so pleased with her. I loved how calm and friendly she was, how she made me feel like my baby and I truly mattered, and how she went over everything in such detail with me. She was very open and honest with me about the things she can and cannot do as a CPM, and I so appreciated her raw openness. She provided me with a lot of paperwork, articles on home brith, and nutrition information to take home and go over. I left feeling like things were finally falling into place and that everything was slowly coming together.

Brendan and I originally thought we wanted to give birth at a birthing center with a midwife. This seemed like the best in-between option for us since we knew we didn’t want to give birth at a hospital unless it was medically necessary, and a home birth with our first baby seemed a bit daunting. But the further along we got on this journey to find the right prenatal care, the more it became apparent to us that a home birth seemed to be in our near future.

I truly believe that things didn’t work out with the birthing center and women’s center I visited because we were meant to have a home birth. Some said that I should maybe plan on giving birth at a hospital since the first CPM I visited didn’t work out and since, after all, a hospital is probably safer for a first time birth. That didn’t sit well with me though and I continued to pray, trust my intuition, and keep searching.

It’s great to be open minded and listen to people’s advice, but in the end, you have to do what’s right for you and your baby, whether other people approve of that or not. Trust the process, trust the journey, trust your intuition, and above all trust God.

Weeks 13-16 Pregnancy Update

Written: 3/21/2018

Time for another Pregnancy update! Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a whole lot to say when I write these monthly recaps, but I feel it’s important for me to share how I’m feeling and any changes I may be experiencing.

First Ultrasound

On March 5th I had my very first ultrasound. By this time I was 13 going on 14 weeks. Most women have their first ultrasound around 10 weeks, but as I’ve mentioned in another one of my posts Brendan and I had a hard time finding the right prenatal care provider. Brendan did a little research for me and found this wonderful place in Roanoke that does ultrasounds for a reasonable price, so I called and made the appointment.

Thankfully Brendan was able to go into work late that day so that he could come with me to the ultrasound. The attention and care I received at this ultrasound was phenomenal! The lady who performed the ultrasound turned out to be the sweetest person. She walked Brendan and I through every step, went over everything in great detail, and answered every question we had. And she seemed to love her job and genuinely care about me and my baby. She even explained to me that she had worked in the hospital setting before and that most doctors that perform sonograms prefer to keep the room as dark as possible so they can keep interaction with the patient to a minimum. I was thankful that my experience with her was nothing like that.

Seeing our little baby for the first time was such a beautiful experience. I was in awe of God’s beautiful creation and humbled that He chose me to carry this little babe. And then hearing the little heartbeat was incredible. I knew I was pregnant before, but I think in that moment it really started to sink in for Brendan and me that we made this little life together and that in a few short months we’re going to be parents.

Everything went really well and the baby is healthy. I was amazed at the detail we got to see on the sonogram. We saw all ten little fingers and toes, the spine, and the teeth embedded in the gums. And this little babe sure is active! He/she was moving all over the place. The lady that performed the ultrasound had Brendan hold out his hand to show us that from the head to the little bum, our baby is about the length of Brendan’s ring finger.

Our ultrasound session lasted for an hour and gave us time to get to see and admire our baby, ask questions, and voice any concerns. The whole experience was wonderful and I walked out of the room smiling.

Pregnancy Announcement

Brendan and I officially announced our pregnancy on March 12th at 14 weeks 6 days. The week before that I told all of my co-workers that I was pregnant and seeing all of their reactions was the sweetest thing. I was so excited to finally tell everyone! And now this pregnancy is truly starting to feel real.

Midwife Visit

I had my first official visit with my midwife during week 15. Again, I was a lot further along for my first prenatal visit than most women are, but I’m just thankful that I took the time to find the right midwife that I felt comfortable with.

My first visit consisted of going over paper work and doing all of the necessary routine things such as checking my pulse, blood pressure, and temperature and then listening to the baby’s heartbeat. All was well and normal. We also did a urine test and blood work.

Honestly, the blood work has been the only part of this pregnancy that I have been a bit nervous about (forget the whole birthing process! Having blood drawn is what makes me uneasy). The last time I had my blood drawn to be tested I felt dizzy and shaky afterwards and it was not a pleasant experience. I told my midwife about this and she had me lie down right away and just try to relax and focus on my breathing. I asked her how much blood she was taking before we started and she held up several vials to show me the amount (I didn’t count them). As I lay there focusing on my breathing my midwife talked to me about yoga – where I practiced, how often I did it, etc. And before I knew it we were done! I was surprised at how quickly it went and was very pleased with how gentle and calming my midwife was. Such a better experience than I’ve had with doctors and nurses in the past!

Now that the blood work is done, I think the worst is behind me.

How I’m Feeling Physically

I’ve been feeling really good physically. Around 14 weeks I really started to show for the first time and it seemed like my little belly came out of hiding overnight. I’m really loving that it’s truly a baby bump now and not bloating!

I’ve gained about 7 pounds so far, which my midwife says is right on target. While I know that my weight gain is a good thing because it means my baby is growing, it’s still a little scary to step on the scale and see that I am the heaviest I have been in years. This pregnancy has taught me to love my body and it’s ability to grow and carry another life. I’ve also learned to mentally accept the fact that it’s okay to eat 3 normal sized meals a day (something I struggled with up until I became pregnant). I guess my fear is that I will gain weight and then not be able to lose it after the baby is born, which I know isn’t true. It’s definitely a humbling experience and there are still many lessons for me to learn on this journey.

So far I haven’t had trouble sleeping or any aches and pains, just a lot of fatigue in the evenings and sometimes throughout the day. I feel like I’m turning into a fuddy-duddy because I can’t stay awake through movies at night and I fall asleep on the couch at 9 and 10 pm regularly. But I guess my body needs the rest so that baby can have more energy to grow and thrive.

That’s all for now! It’s hard to believe that in 4 short weeks I will be half way through this pregnancy. So far I am loving being pregnant and I am so excited and blessed to be on this journey.

15 Weeks Pregnant

15 Weeks Pregnant 

Weeks 5-8 Pregnancy Update

Written: 2/18/2018

Time for another pregnancy update! If you hadn’t noticed the pattern already, I plan on updating you guys on how my pregnancy is progressing in 4 week increments on each of these “pregnancy Update” blog posts. So, updating you as each month passes.

By the time week 5 rolled around I started feeling a bit more tired throughout the day and my breasts had become swollen and constantly sore. I read that this was completely normal and often the first signs that a woman is pregnant, so I gladly welcomed these changes to my body.

We decided that we would tell both sets of parents that we were expecting once I hit the 5 week mark. We had originally thought about waiting until we were a bit further along, because that tends to be the “normal” thing to do. But I really wanted to share my joy with somebody else, and I wanted to be able to have someone to talk to, like my mom. So we decided that we would visit my parents over the weekend (January 6th) and give them the big news. We FaceTimed Brendan’s family the next evening and told them. Seeing both of our parents’ and siblings reactions was so sweet and definitely a moment I will remember for the rest of my life ❤

We could have easily waited a bit longer to tell our families, in fact most people do wait to tell their families until they are at least 7-10 weeks along. And the main reason for that is because it is still such an early and fragile time, anything can happen at that point. But, regardless of whether I continued to carry my baby or not, I wanted our families to know and I wanted to have that extra support and prayers from them. So we told them, and had them promise us they would keep it to themselves for the time being.

It was actually right around the time I was nearing the end of my 5th week that things took a turn. The day that we told Brendan’s parents I was pregnant, we had gone to the gym for a workout. While at the gym, I started feeling dizzy and a bit nauseous. And by the time we got home that evening I was so worn out and tired. And just like that, the fatigue and nauseousness hit and became an everyday thing. That week I also started experiencing some of my first food aversions.

For the past few months I had really been into Thai food and my go-to dinner was a homemade Coconut Curry Bangkok Noodle bowl. I made it earlier that week and just the thought of the leftovers in the fridge made me feel sick. Salads and steamed veggies also sounded like the last thing that I wanted to eat. I was still able to eat most things, but cooking was not something I wanted to think about doing anymore.

The nauseousness that morning sickness brings continued on pretty strongly as I approached week 6. I’d say that weeks 6-7 of this pregnancy have been the hardest on my body. It felt like overnight a switch was flipped and all of a sudden I started experiencing fatigue, nausea, and food aversions.

I no longer felt like drinking coffee in the mornings, raw veggies were off the menu, and all of my normal go-to dishes sounded so unappetizing to me. I felt bad for not wanting to drink green juices or eat salads, but at this point I knew I needed to eat what I could so my baby could get the nutrients he or she needed. Crackers, rice cakes, and toast became some of my go-to snack and breakfast foods. I was also drinking lots of ice cold lemon water and bringing ginger tea with lemon with me to work to help keep nausea at bay.

I’m normally a pretty energetic person, but fatigue hit me and lasted throughout the entire day. I also started experiencing heartburn regularly, whether I ate spicy food or not, which was such a strange sensation for someone who has only ever experienced it twice before. When I’d come home from work I’d be ready to make a cozy spot for myself on the couch and stay there until it was time to go to bed. Honestly, I started feeling like a different person. I simply couldn’t imagine how people put up with fatigue and heartburn regularly.

It was during these weeks that I became tired and spacey feeling at work. Throw in the nausea and I was just not my normal self at work. I was worried that there would be days when I’d have to call out and tell my manager what was going on (because I never call out of work). But thankfully I always had enough energy to get me through the work day. And I quickly learned that as long as I ate small snacks throughout the day, even if I didn’t feel like eating, it helped make the nausea go away.

At the start of January I set some fitness goals for myself – I wanted to workout/go to the gym 3 times a week and I wanted to do yoga daily. Well, once the nausea and fatigue kicked in, I quickly realized that the gym was not going to happen. I felt really defeated, and felt as if I was letting myself and my baby down. I knew that exercise was important for me, but I also realized that I was going to have to take a step back and listen to my body and rest when I needed it. Thankfully, I did continue doing yoga daily, which helped tremendously.

As week 7 came to a close, I noticed I had one day where I felt I had a bit more energy and didn’t really feel nauseous. Then, another day passed and there was no nausea. I wondered why all of a sudden the feeling had subsided, but knew that my hormones were all over the place and each day could look different.

Up until the end of my 7th week, I hadn’t been taking a prenatal supplement. I had recently bought a plant based natural prenatal supplement from my favorite health food store in Lynchburg called Health Nut Nutrition, but I hadn’t taken it yet because I hadn’t seen a midwife to confirm it was okay, and I was also afraid it might make me feel sick. But, I decided to do my own research and came to the conclusion that it would be fine to take the supplement.

And it seemed almost as if by magic that my nausea completely subsided and I had more energy. I honestly think the prenatal supplement is to thank for this! I’ve read that B vitamins help with nausea, and since there are several B vitamins in my supplement I truly believe it helped. Makes me wish that I had started taking the supplement sooner, but I’m thankful I am feeling better now. And I’m truly grateful for the fact that I never actually threw up, just experienced some slight nausea. I’ve heard horror stories about some women experiencing severe morning sickness throughout their pregnancy. Whether it was the fact that I try to eat a pretty clean healthy diet for the most part, or because of the prenatal supplement, I’m beyond grateful that the morning sickness phase wasn’t any worse.

Besides the fatigue, nausea, and heartburn, I feel like I have been constantly bloated. No matter what I eat, even if it’s a light salad, my stomach swells to an uncomfortable size. This is the only symptom that continued on through week 7-8, thankfully. I’ve read that eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day can help with bloating, so I might need to try that and see if that helps. There are some days when I feel and look 6 months pregnant from the bloating. But in reality I’ve only gained about 2 pounds so far, right on track for a healthy first trimester weight gain.

Mentally and emotionally I’ve been feeling pretty positive and upbeat. I’m excited to be pregnant and looking forward to the whole birthing process. Some days it still doesn’t feel real, but I feel like the further along I get and the more people we tell, the more real this babe I’m carrying in my womb feels to me.

Me at 7 Weeks Pregnant 

Weeks 9-12 Pregnancy Update

Written: 3/4/2018

Here we are, coming to the close of the first trimester! It seems surreal that 12 weeks has gone by so quickly. When I first found out I was pregnant it felt like 12 weeks was many moons away and there were days when I didn’t think I would be able to keep my little secret for that long.

Week 9 started with a blazing Super Blue Blood Moon in the sky – truly a beautiful thing to behold. At this point I was still experiencing fatigue, bloating, and just the slightest bit of nausea. But overall I was feeling better. Brendan and I even made a weekend trip to Charlotte, NC to celebrate our 5 year dating anniversary.

What I’m Eating

My normal go-to foods have slowly started to become appealing to me again, and I’ve been able to get back in the kitchen to do some cooking. Motivation and inspiration to meal prep and try new recipes is still at an all time low though.

I haven’t really experienced any food cravings thus far, but I have found a few go-to’s that leave me feeling nourished and happy. I’ve been drinking plenty of natural high pulp orange juice in the mornings to make sure I’m getting enough folate and also to get some extra vitamin C. Avocado toast with black pepper, sea salt, and greens is one of my favorite breakfasts at the moment. And I have been eating plenty of almond milk and dairy-free yogurts that are packed with plant-based protein for lunches. I usually top my granola with ground flax seeds (a great source of Omega-3s), walnuts, and fresh organic berries.

How I’m Feeling Physically

This last month of the first trimester had been great for me. While I still find myself tired in the evenings after work, I’ve had more energy and motivation to get things done throughout the day. My nausea has completely subsided and heartburn seems to have subsided for the time being as well.

I’m still feeling bloated about 95 percent of the time, but I’m hoping and praying that this will ease as time goes on and my body continues to adjust to all of these changes. There is definitely a small little bump visible now and my pants are starting to get slightly more snug, but I don’t think it’s really noticeable to anyone else.

And a huge victory for me this month is that I am finally feeling well enough to go to the gym again. I’m taking it easy and not pushing myself too hard, but it felt so great to really move my body again. I also went for a 4 mile walk on the greenway when we had a very mild 80 degree day at the end of February. The fresh air, sunshine, and exercise gave me new life and energy.

Keeping My Immune System Strong

When I first found out I was pregnant and had to give up most of my go-to herbal teas and supplements, I was worried about how I was going to keep my immune system strong enough to fight off all of the illnesses that are going around this time of year. The germaphobe that I am became paranoid when my co-workers started getting sick and then Brendan came home one weekend with a slight cold.

Thankfully, I have found ways to continue to build my immune system naturally during this time. I am currently taking my prenatal supplement, which has plenty of immune boosting vitamins that are important, and I’m still taking a daily probiotic to keep my gut happy and balanced. In addition to that I’ve been eating citrus fruits that are rich in vitamin c, Brendan and I are still drinking our weekly ginger shots, and I’ve also been taking a few drops of elderberry elixir in my water when I’ve been around people that are sick or I feel a bit run down. And of course, I still take a shot of apple cider vinegar diluted in water every day.

And so far so good. Brendan got over his little cold pretty quickly and I never caught it (thank goodness). There are still natural immune boosters out there that are perfectly safe for me to take during pregnancy, it’s just taken a bit more research to find what options are safe.

That’s all of the updates I have for now! How were you feeling during the end of your first trimester?

Not the most flattering picture, but here I am at 11 weeks pregnant. Starting to see a slight bump. 

11 Weeks Pregnant

12 Weeks Pregnant