Our Birth Story

I have two different stories. The one I wrote right after my birth and the one I write now.

I do need to say that at the time I was happy with my experience. I even made a point to go back after one week postpartum to bring the L&D department flowers because I really felt supported during the entire process by the hospital staff. All my midwives and nurses were very supportive of my desire for a natural birth. They were excited about my essential oils I had diffusing in my room, they were friendly, sweet and supportive, but they didn’t know what I needed, because honestly I didn’t either. Hindsight is always clear and the what if’s will always be there. But it doesn’t make this story any less valid or any less true to what I was feeling below the surface.

This story is everything in between the lines of the first one. This one is as long as the birth itself. This one is not as neat and tidy and it doesn’t fit nicely on one page in her baby book. But this one is real, this one is raw. This one is written by a woman who has had time to process, time to learn, and time to heal. I know the woman I was then navigated a difficult journey the best she could. I give her grace for not knowing what to expect, not knowing what she would need, or what she wouldn’t. I write this as a way to process the experience for myself, for my future self to remember what I learned, and hopefully for someone who reads this to know that it’s all ok...

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All week I was an emotional rollercoaster. I was calm, I was at peace, I was content and I was simultaneously stressed, nervous, and annoyed by the world. So I hibernated, did yoga, meditated, danced, hugged cam, walked, enjoyed every minute with Michael, sat in the sunshine and did everything I could to stay calm and in my body. At 41 weeks though I knew the days were coming to an end that they would “let me” stay pregnant. I knew the words induction were coming and being made to feel like I didn’t have a choice in the matter was such a sickening feeling of dread. I always knew she would be late, I knew she would come when she was ready, but that didn’t matter. The induction was scheduled for Friday at 8:30am.


Thursday night I went to bed feeling defeated. A sense of doom that I was going to wake up to face the music and have a medical procedure done that I did not want. But it was “for the health of the baby” so we just fall in line don’t we?


2:30am - I woke up to a wet feeling and thought that maybe my water broke. I’d been having mild contractions all week that would go away when I went to bed, so I didn’t want to get my hopes up that this was just another false alarm or a sign I was misreading, so I didn’t wake Michael. I sat in the bathroom for a while and after being pretty sure that’s what was happening, I was full of so many emotions. Relief, excitement, nerves, all of the feelings at once. This girl was just waiting until the last minute, just like her momma! I went back to bed and woke Michael up to tell him the news. We tried to go back to bed after that and got another 3 or so restless hours in before I couldn’t sleep any longer.


The night before the L&D nurse had called me to say they were having power outages and they needed me to come in later on Friday for my induction. Which I of course told them, “great take all the time you need!” So once I got up I called them to check in and when I told them my water broke they said “oh well if your water broke then you need to come in now.” I was a little caught off guard by this since I had always planned on laboring at home until things started to progress and then going in, but once again you just do as your told and be a good patient. So I slowly showered, had breakfast, packed our things and we drove to the hospital.

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Entering the hospital, it felt like I was there to get a treatment or procedure done. Like you have a condition that they need to get you medical care for. You feel like you are on their turf and you’re playing by their rules. You don’t get choices about things like which room would you like to labor in (crazy thing was we got the very last room in the place), which direction do you want the bed to face in the room (a strange thing that mattered to me in the moment), do you want the windows open to get fresh air in so you can feel a part of the natural world (no they definitely do not), do you want anyone to talk to you (no I didn’t, but the first nurse we had just wanted to tell us her life story), I could go on, but my point is is that I felt so out of my element, so out of my comfort zone, so many things out of my control that I really feel like my body felt that too and shut down.


Once I got there they came in to get me all hooked up to the monitors, which threw me off again. What do you mean I have to have this thing on me at all times and attached to the bed? That was not how I wanted to labor. I wanted to walk, I wanted to be able to move without getting tangled in cords. The nurse seemed a little surprised, but went off to find out what my options were. She came back with a wireless monitor that she then proceeded to painfully scrape away at my stomach to get it to stick with what was basically sandpaper. I gathered from conversations later that happened that she actually did this wrong and did not need to scrape as deep as she did, but I was just grateful for the mobility so I didn’t ask questions.


Once I got checked I was already at 3cm. I was excited and proud of my body since I had been doubting myself and my ability to birth for weeks. They said great we don’t have to worry about induction at all, let’s just see how I progress. So they left. And I was just left to I don’t know “progress”? I felt excited like ok my body can do this, but my mind took over and was like well we can’t just sit here so let’s make things happen! I’m a do-er. I’m a people pleaser. I’m all the things I shouldn’t have been in that moment. I shouldn’t have cared about the checklist of things I went through to get labor going. I shouldn’t have cared about how long it was taking me. I shouldn’t have walked the cold sterile halls to look longingly outside the windows. I shouldn’t have cared about making small talk with the nurses. Checking in on my family. Worrying about when exactly I should have my doula arrive. Even worrying about Michael. I should’ve checked in with myself, my body, my baby and that’s it. I should’ve tried harder to get to go outside. To sit in the sun and feel the breeze that my body was dying for. I should’ve tried getting in the bath. I should’ve done a million things, but I did what I did and that is ok too.


So needless to say all day Friday I didn’t progress. Really at all. So Friday night they came in to talk about induction and at that point I’d already become disconnected from my body and discouraged. All along they always said they can start the pitocin and stop it if my body takes over. So I thought sure this will just kickstart things. There I go thinking again though and not feeling. I’m also a feeler, an ISFP. Introverted, sensing, feeling, and perceiving is my true nature and I had lost touch with all of those things while trying to go through one of the most magical and powerful moments of my life.


So we started pitocin. And it sucked. I progressed all night, but the intensity of pitocin contractions really do suck. (Although to be fair I don’t have non medicated contractions to compare it too) I started with nitrous oxide to help with the pain, but I found that the way you had to breathe into the mask really messed up how I wanted to be breathing. Also it didn’t really do much in terms of pain management, just really a few seconds of helping me to get to the next one. I started to feel like I was on a beach getting knocked over endlessly by waves. As soon as I would stand up to catch my breath another one would come and knock me over. I don’t remember exactly how this whole evening went, but when I think back to it I remember a sense of panic and fear.


All I kept thinking was how much further I had to go. I was still progressing fairly slow and I just knew I could only take so much more. I felt like I was just barely surviving every contraction and to think about hours more of it and then the pushing stage after that, it was just such an overwhelming thought. What was my next option? Fentanyl? Sure let’s try it.


My pregnant self would have never believed that I would be open to trying fentanyl. My post partum self is not a fan of the fact that I exposed her to a narcotic during a moment where I wanted to keep her as protected as I could from any harm. But my birthing self couldn’t see any other options.


Like you often hear with these kinds of stories, it snowballed. Fentanyl was worthless and soon I was begging for the anesthesiologist to get there so I could throw my natural birth plan out the window and get the dreaded E word. Epidural. Now. My nurses were so supportive of my birth plan they stopped me and asked me if I was sure. They knew I wanted a natural birth and they wanted me to think about the reasons I wanted it. They wanted to make sure I was making the right choice, which I appreciated, but in that moment I didn’t need them to help me think, I needed them to help me reconnect. But by that point it was too late, I needed that epidural and I needed it about 5 minutes ago.


I then took the best 2 hour nap of my life since I had barely slept Thursday night. Now I only had two hours of sleep since then and little did I know but I had another rough 24 hours ahead of me. So when they say sleep in early labor, trust me, sleep!


I woke up feeling refreshed, but then I stared to process my epidural and was overwhelmed with anxiety. I like to have control over my body so the reality of being numb from the waist down really freaked me out. Thankfully I realized I still had a lot of feeling in my legs and was still pretty mobile so I calmed down with some focused breathing. I hated being on my back so as much as I could I wanted to change positions. Being on all 4’s with a pillow was my favorite way to be comfortable. So that’s how I stayed for much of the day.


At some point on Saturday I was finally ready to start pushing. I pushed on and off for 6 hours. After hours of this I was running on empty. I didn’t think there was any way I could find the energy or strength left to push one more time, and then somehow I would do it again. The only way I was able to get through this day was from the support I had. Michael was right there holding my hand or leg and encouraging me with every push. He was the strength I was lacking and the safe place I needed. My doula was so helpful with getting me into positions and kept encouraging me. She always believed in me. The nursing staff and my midwives too all gave me so much positivity through the whole process, I felt lucky that with every shift change and new face I met, I was still supported along the way.

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Midway through this long day, my doula had a worried look on her face. I knew something was wrong and she said that she couldn’t believe she would have to say this, but she had to leave. She was the only attendant for a birth that wasn’t supposed to happen this soon, but babies don’t operate according to our well planned out calendar do they? She told me that my backup doula that I picked was also supposed to be at a birth but that I was her priority, so if I wanted her to be there she would come. When I met with all the doulas to select who I’d want to be there, i couldn’t decide between two of them. I felt a connection with both but I choose based on experience for my first choice, but I always had a strong feeling that my backup doula would be at my birth somehow too. Strangely enough at our post partum visit, she told me that she had the exact same feeling. I knew I needed her to come, I knew I needed to feel confident with my team, as I was losing confidence in myself, so I asked her to make my birth the priority. This shift change, so to speak, with the doulas actually brought a renewed sense of energy into the room. I think this change really helped me get through several more hours of pushing. Especially once we got to the hard parts.


There was always one thing about the pushing stage that I will always wonder if it would’ve changed things. In the weeks leading up to her birth I found a Hypnobirthing video that talked about J breathing. A type of breath that you take down your spine and push out that I found so helpful while dealing with constipation in late pregnancy. (Sorry TMI, but this is a birth story..) So there were several points where I remember asking my midwife if I could try it. She told me that she had never heard of it and to just continue pushing how they were instructing me to do it, which honestly never felt natural. I remember feeling like I was pushing and giving all my energy towards it but it felt forced. It didn’t feel like I was working with my body, I was just forcing it to do something. Over and over again for hours. It wasn’t my body giving it everything it had, it was my mind. My mind was listening to how I was told to do things and just kept on forcing my body to fall in line.


When we came to the hospital we thought oh her birthday will be May 25th, but soon even the idea of having her on the 26th was slowly fading. We had watched another sunrise and sunset and as the night came we we finally got to about +1. and my midwife told me that we could see her hair. This felt so great that I had come so far and we were getting so close! I was hopeful and found renewed energy thinking we were almost to the finish line. Then things stayed the same. No progress for a while. I could feel the energy in the room deflating. My midwife had to leave to go another room for a woman who was actually about to give birth and her leaving right at that point made me feel a little given up on. I know she was just doing her job and she actually had to go to the other room, but I felt like I was not doing a good enough job and a part of me gave up at this point too.


I continued pushing because If I didn’t push it would hurt so much worse. So I just kept at it and I figured maybe I’d make some progress if I continued. Having Michael on one leg, my doula on the other and nurses around me giving me everything they had alongside me was the only way I even made through.


When the midwife came back she said that she was getting concerned about her hand possibly being up by her face or her cord being wrapped around her neck. Once she talked about her hand being by her face I remembered back to our ultrasounds and during every single one she always had her hand up by her face, so that did seem to make sense to me. I couldn’t believe that after this long and this much effort we were now talking about a C-section though. She told me that right now I had options, I could still make decisions about how this could go, with an emergency c-section I would not. I was still in shock, but at that point I was honestly a little relieved, I was so exhausted and didn’t know how much more I could possibly take.


Thankfully at this point my doula was there to remind me of the wishes I had included on my birth plan for a C-section. Because strangely enough throughout my whole pregnancy I never wanted to think about that as a possibility. I would avoid C-section birth stories, I didn’t do any research about it, up until the very end. It was around her due date and I just had a feeling that I might have to have one. That thought made me go through the mental process of how I would feel if that was our story. I did some research and found some interesting ideas that I added to my birth plan that made all the difference!


I am very claustrophobic so I requested to have a clear sheet up over me on the table so I could see what was happening and honestly I would’ve really struggled had this not been done! It was hard enough for me to not be able to drink water, since I was drinking sips of water after every push for hours and still felt so thirsty. It was hard for me to have to leave my arms straight out in a T position for the rude and brisk anesthesiologist, when all I wanted was to have my body back in my control. It was hard to have him inject me with a stronger epidural so I would lose all that mobility in my legs I had been so happy for. I had to take off the robe and clothes I brought to labor in and get into a hospital robe. I had to take off my jewelry that was made for me to wear during labor. I had to lose everything. While I understand the necessity of all of these things for the process that is modern surgery, it felt like the final stripping away of control over my body and my birth.


The doctor that came in to do the surgery was one from my practice that I had never had an appointment with. I had been adamant about only wanting to meet with the midwives since I wanted a natural birth, but she was one of the kindest, sweetest people I could have ever asked for to be my doctor at that point. She set up a Bluetooth speaker for me to be able to play a playlist on. She let Michael take video of the whole thing, which is incredible to have a video of her first moments into the world. She was kind when the anesthesiologist was rude. She even sang Happy Birthday to her when she was born! Her presence helped us get through this last major hurdle we had before we could meet our little girl.


As they took her out and sang happy birthday to her I realized how disconnected I had been to the whole process. For a while I didn’t even think we would ever get to meet her. In the video when I rewatch it I hear me say the words, “you do exist”! It felt really surreal to finally be meeting her.


Right now we are pretty sure we are only wanting one child, but if the future does ever hold another birth for me, I will do everything I possibly can to VBAC. I say that because looking back the part that makes me the most sad is what happened after they took her out. I was thankfully able to see her as they lifted her out, but she was then taken across the room from me to get her vitals checked and do what felt like a million other things to her. All I wanted was to hold my baby. To have her in my arms. To have my voice and my face be the one she was seeing as she tried to understand this new reality. We had been connected for so long and to have her feel like she was just ripped away was something I’ll never forget.


When they finally brought her over so we could do skin to skin she was cleaned off, wrapped up, and placed practically on my neck since there was not much room as I was still on the operating table. I was having a hard time feeling like I could breathe but I didn’t care. I was so happy to see her and have her in my arms, I said hi baby and when she lifted her face towards mine and looked into my eyes, nothing else mattered. That is the moment I became a mother. It all clicked and I will never forget what that moment of connection felt like.

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Sadly I really started to feel like I couldn’t breathe. It was so difficult to hold her like that I asked Michael to take her, even though all I wanted was to never let her go. They said they were going to take her to the nursery so Michael went with them and I was left alone while they finished my surgery.


I was then taken to a post- op room, which felt a little bit like a dark closet in my memories, and was told I needed to be in there for what felt like forever. I was so thankful that my doula could be in there with me so I wasn’t alone, but all I wanted was my baby and my husband by my side. I finally got a hold of Michael and asked how it was going and he sent me so many beautiful pictures of her and was just gushing over her. He was in love. It was so beautiful, but the fact that I didn’t get to experience that time with them right after she was born. That she wasn’t right on our chests while they checked her vitals. That she only got several minutes of skin to skin. That I was tucked away in a dark room watching the clock tick by until I could be with them, these are all heartbreaking parts of my story to me.

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When they finally brought her into the room they put me in, she was all bundled up already. So being a new mom I didn’t even think twice about it. They said she needed to eat so I awkwardly tried to hold this little bundle up to start breastfeeding and thankfully she was a pro at it right from the beginning, but it all felt so unnatural and I kept feeling like I was doing something wrong. When I look back now I want to scream at myself to unwrap her. Get her skin to skin, hold her little body close to yours and it will all feel better. To listen to yourself when something feels wrong, because it probably is.


For example, I hated her being in the bassinet they had her in. I wanted to hold her hand, i wanted to have her close to me. To at least be able to see her at all times, but the bed I was in would automatically adjust every time I would move to try and look at her and her bassinet was up just high enough that it was hard to see her clearly from. After deciding to cosleep with her as she got older I understand now why that time felt strange to me then, because it is. As a mammal and as a mother, we’re not designed to keep our babies away from us. We’re meant to stay close to each other. These are all things that I have learned though and without having those strong uncomfortable feelings, I never would’ve thought to start trying to learn more about why I felt that way.


This story could go on forever, because our story doesn’t end at birth, it is just the beginning. But these feelings that I was left with after the birth process, good and bad, were a part of my birthing process of turning me into a mother. They were opening doors in my heart and my mind as I walked into this next chapter of my life and I will forever be thankful for it.

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Sacred Work

Happy Monday! Which really doesn’t mean much to me anymore, except that I have to wait all week to get some extra time in with Michael again. It doesn’t mean much to me because technically im unemployed now, but it’s also because my work doesn’t start on Monday and end just because it’s Friday.

As my maternity leave was coming to an end this summer I decided that, for me, there was no way I could miss out on these days with my baby girl and go back to work. So I didn’t go back. I know that’s not possible for everyone and how lucky I am to get to be the one to rock her to sleep for every nap and be the first one she sees when she wakes up is not lost on me. But we were lucky enough to listen to Dave Ramsey when we did and having no debt and a paid for house really put us in a great spot to make this decision a lot easier. So I decided to stay at home with her for at least her first year and see where we’re at after that. So I guess I’m a stay at home mom now? I never thought I would have this title added to my resume of life, but life has always pleasantly surprised me and I can honestly say that this is, by far, the most gratifying, soul-satisfying work I’ve ever done.

 Photo: Maiko Media

 Photo: Maiko Media

I also understand that this job is not something that everyone wants. From moms who choose that working is best for their family, or who just prefer it that way, to women who have no desire to be a mother at all, everyone’s decision on how they want to parent or not and live their lives is a very individual and personal decision. Really, when I think about how things worked out, it makes me all the more thankful to the women’s liberation movement and the women that fought hard to give us the ability to CHOOSE how we want to live our lives. Because I’m by no means saying my way is the right way, it’s just what makes my soul happy, so to have the luxury to pursue that is an amazing privilege.

Although the one thing I don’t understand about this job is why they call it being a stay at home mom. I’m not just “staying at home”. This is work. It’s hard work. It’s nonstop work. It’s work that doesn’t stop when she’s napping or end when Michael gets home. It’s a permanent full time position plus some! To be not only a caretaker, but an educator, facilitator, nutritionist, sleep specialist, nurturer, playmate, guardian, advocate, and observer just to name a few roles.. and to also find time for my own self care and marriage is a tall order somedays. But to me these roles have been invigorating to take on and to learn how to get better at them. It’s a constant learning process and then as soon as you think you have something down, give it a month and it’ll all change! There has been no bigger challenge in my life that has made me grow and learn more than this.

 

Learning how to be the best mother I can be has taught me more about myself than I ever realized it would. It’s ripped open my ego and exposed my deepest flaws to show me the areas I have to grow. It’s taught me when I need to ask for help and where I need to allow myself more grace. It’s also shown me that my mind and body are stronger than I ever thought possible and that my intuition will guide me if I just stop and listen to it.


Seeing myself through her eyes has given me a new perspective on how I understand myself. Who do I want this girl to grow up and say her mom is? What are the feelings and memories I want her to remember about her time spent with me? What really are my values and how will I communicate those to her when the time comes? Was I present when I was with her? Did I put away the distractions, look her in the eyes, and really truly listen?


The work of being a mother and the way you raise your child has long lasting impacts. Be it positive or negative, the decisions you make can affect generations of people. So to be charged with guiding a human being into this world in a way that they feel safe, valued, and loved to me is the most important work. This is how we can change the world. This is sacred work.

Photo: Maiko Media

Photo: Maiko Media

Never have I ever

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So it’s finally time for a post about being pregnant. I've been wanting to talk about this experience for months now, but it’s been one of those topics that I've struggled to find the adequate words to express all that this experience is. It is an experience so eye opening and wonderfully magical, that it has taken me by surprise, especially since it’s an experience I thought I never really cared if I had or not.  

Here are some ways my perspective has changed:  

 

I’ve never felt more proud to be a woman.

As someone who has prided myself on being a strong female I always thought that my goals and priorities in life were the only things that were important. That what defined me as a person and a woman was what I accomplished and who I was as an individual, but I now see that there is a whole other dimension to my gender that I was completely unaware of. The fact that I never taught my body how to grow another life and it just does it, has felt like untapped potential I had inside of me, but that I had to step into to truly know its power.  Now I see that being pregnant and birthing a child is one of the most creative expressions of my feminity, because it is unique to our gender. As I open my body up to become a safe place for another being to thrive in and as I fall madly in love with this little girl, who I don't know anything about yet, I've realized that being a strong woman can come in so many more forms than what I thought. For someone who’s wanted to control and manage as much of her life as possible, this surrender to the power of biology and love has been scary, but freeing.

 

I’ve never felt more connected to my feminity.

Before being pregnant I really had no idea what my body was capable of. I always hated science classes in school and honestly didn’t even know the basics of the biology of my body. If you asked me where my cervix was and what it did a year ago, i really wouldn’t have a great answer for you. If you asked me to explain ovulation, I wouldn’t have been able to give you the ins and outs on how that works either (which explains a lot lol)...But after much googling and as many podcasts and books as I could get my hands on, I have a whole new understanding and appreciation for what our female bodies can do. One of my favorite sources of insight was Natalie Angier’s book Woman. This quote is reflective of her way of looking at the miracle of the female body:

“At some point midway through my pregnancy, when I knew I was carrying a daughter, I began to think of myself as standing in a room with two facing mirrors, so that looking into one mirror you see the other mirror reflecting it, and you, off into something approaching an infinity of images. At twenty weeks’ gestation, my girl held within her nine-ounce, banana-sized body, in a position spatially equivalent to where she floated in me, the tangled grapevines of my genomic future. Halfway through her fetal tenure, she already had all the eggs she would ever have, packed into ovaries no bigger than the letters ova you just passed. My daughter’s eggs are silver points of potential energy, the light at the beginning of the tunnel, a near-life experience. Boys don’t make sperm — their proud ‘seed’ — until they reach puberty. But my daughter’s sex cells, our seed, are already settled upon prenatally, the chromosomes sorted, the potsherds of her parents’ histories packed into their little phospholipid baggies.”
— from the first chapter of 'Woman"

 

I’ve never felt more powerful.

Honestly, before being pregnant I never understood people who wanted to be mothers. I’m ashamed to say that I thought them soft or weak, but now I realize that it’s the opposite. It’s not a softness that makes me smile with love every time I feel her kick and move, it’s a deep vast unending space of love that its' depth is hard to even fully understand yet. It’s not a weakness when I think about wanting to stay away from seemingly innocent things like paint fumes and unpasturized cheeses, its a fierceness and a strength that makes me to want to do every possible thing to protect and help this baby grow to her fullest potential. So far, being a mother, has been one of the most powerful, innate forces that i've come in contact with, and its a force to be reckoned with. 

 

I’ve never felt more confident.

I’ve never felt more confident in my body. I know not everyone’s pregnancies are easy, but watching my body grow and do things that I never imagined were possible has been pretty impressive. Sure my body has accumulated new ailments & new challenges along the way, but I try and look at them as reminders of the hard work my body is putting in to grow this little girl.  I also know birth is going to be a rude awakening compared to the dreams I have where everything goes quickly and perfectly, but I am also ready to face it. I feel ready for the challenge, for the struggle, and to see myself and my body coming through it to the other side. I know i’ll feel vulnerable, weak, tired, incapable even at many points, but I also know the strength I have inside. When I think about birthing wtihout fear, the thing that gives me the most peace and strength is that the entire history of humanity is all connected by this one event, birth. The power and strength that the millions of women who have gone before me possessed gives me a calm to know that I can do this too. 

I want to add that a lot of this confidence comes from having the right support system in place. As soon as I knew I was pregnant, the next thing I decided to do was to find a doula. I knew that I could be as prepared and informed as possible, but if I didn’t have someone objective to be there to support Michael and I during the birth, things could go really differently than what we were hoping for. She has been amazing so far and I know that if I get lost during labor and am unsure what I should do, she is there to help guide us through to the other side. I cannot tell you how valuable she is to my peace of mind, when it comes to birth.and the overwhelming feelings of not knowing everything. 

 

I never expected these things.

I’ve never been more distracted by something. To have your body changing every moment and constantly reminding you of it and of your future child’s existence is a powerful force to be reckoned with. Every time I feel her kick or flip or turn (which is ALL the time lately!) It brings me back to thinking of her. It’s like that feeling when you first fall in love and you want to walk around saying “I’m in love, I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it!”  My life is changing in a major way in front of my eyes and she’s all I can think of. From the books I read, to the podcasts I listen to, to the websites I visit, she’s changed all of that and I couldn’t be more happy to be so obsessed with something.

I have never felt less included. It feels so silly to say with how much real divisiveness and prejudice there is out in the world, but think of almost any clothing store out there and pretty much 99% of them either don’t make maternity clothes or don’t sell their clothes in stores. So finding things that fit and that I actually want to spend my money on has been a challenge that left me me feeling frustrated and isolated. Go to a restaurant (at least here in the Midwest) and ask for a mocktail and they will look at you like you have a third eye. Ask about pasteurized cheeses and you’ll have to spend 10 minutes explaining that you’re pregnant and what kind of things you can’t eat or do. We missed out on fun trips & fun night outs, but thankfully there was a flip side to all of these things…

When I talked to other moms about maternity clothes and the struggle to find things they all had great tips and several even gave me bags full of maternity clothes to borrow! When I go out to eat now and realize how much money i’m saving by skipping the drink menu, it has become rewarding rather than disappointing. It has also been interesting to have a life without alcohol in it and to realize how much I don’t even miss it. When I think about all those foods I have to skip its made me a much more conscious eater. I look at my food now for what benefits it can offer my body and if I’m having a craving for something I try and listen to see what my body is telling me by that craving. Yes we missed out on trips and fun nights so we could save as much money as possible, but in the end all of these things created connection. Connection with other moms, connection with my body and the growing little person inside it, connection with our intentions, and connection with each other and those are the things that have real value and importance.

 

This journey has been a enlightening one so far and when I think about all the beautiful things I want to teach this little girl, I know she has already taught me far more than I could’ve imagined.

 

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How it feels to be a minimalist during the holidays

So guess what? Last month, we did it. I made my last student loan payment ever and we are 100%, even our house, debt free!!!! It was the craziest most freeing moment that also happened to be extremely normal too. Because it wasn’t like it was a green light to all of a sudden spend a bunch of money to celebrate! In fact we just immediately started working on our next financial goal of saving for our emergency fund (of 4-6 months of expenses for our Dave Ramsey baby step 3). Because now that we have figured out how to take charge of our money to reach our goals, we've learned that it still takes a tremendous amount of focus and attention.. 

Its the end of December though and the holidays are here, so did we become minimalists when it comes to gift giving and receiving because of Dave Ramsey? No and yes is the answer. Dave Ramsey loves Christmas and gift giving, but he is more focused on teaching you how to budget for gifts than to eliminate them. I do say yes though because this last year of focusing on our debt, really did make us examine where every dollar was going. So when we looked at the value of just buying stuff to check off the names on a list, it was missing our goal of being intentional with our money. So we did what a lot of people end up doing when they start trying to get a handle on their finances, and we just said no. No to friend gift exchanges, no to family gift exchanges, and definitely no to getting each other gifts. We have what we need and if we don't, then we save up and buy it ourselves.   

Really though, this started long before Dave Ramsey, and it was when I started looking at how much waste there was in gifts. I am always trying to be a minimalist at home, constantly frustrated by the things we do keep in storage and always purging things (Marie Kondo also stepped that up a notch). So when it came to gifts I just hated that they came with this feeling that I was obligated to keep them because someone gave them to me. Then when I got over that feeling of obligation and started putting gifts that I didn’t need anymore, or frankly never needed or wanted from the beginning, into goodwill piles I got even more frustrated! What a waste of that thoughtful persons time, money, and energy that they looked for this gift, bought it, found a box or a bag, got wrapping paper, wrapped it and brought it to me only for it to be dumped off at goodwill. So I started to make it known to as many people as I was close with, don’t get me anything!! I have everything I need and I’ll just feel bad if you get me something and I didn’t get you anything. So just don’t. It first got through to my friends who know me well and now we get to focus on spending our time getting together just to catch up. Trust me its so freeing to not be worried or focused on the gifts when you see your friends around the holidays. It is harder with family, who will still always ask if we want to do a gift exchange or something simple at least. It’s hard to say no because they love the giving part of it so much, but when we do it stay out of it and just spend Christmas together talking, eating, or playing games its so much more rewarding.  

    I had told a coworker recently that I don’t do gifts and he said “Wow your Christmas must be so boring!” And yes I haven’t mentioned the exception to this rule and that is, children! Kids and gifts are still all about magic and excitement, so yes we are good aunts and uncles and we do buy the kids gifts. But we try and stay under a very reasonable price point and try hard to get them things they are really into that year and will really enjoy. I’ve also been bugging my sisters for years to set up a college fund that I could put half of our gift budget into for them, without success though I might add. But yes if the kids are around we happily spend the money and enjoy moments of excitement with them opening their toys. But i never get bored of spending time with my family, listening to my grandmas stories, playing some crazy game, and having a big meal together. That is more than enough for me.

    What are the PRO's of being a holiday minimalist? 

    • NO STRESS!! I can't tell you how nice it is to not be running around from store to store, searching and looking for that gift that the person may or may not have, may or may not like, worrying about spending too much or spending too little, fighting traffic and rude holiday shoppers, etc! I literally don't have any of that! I ordered all my nephews and nieces presents online in about an hour this year and was done.
    • Well obviously you are saving money! But its not just about the money, its about what more that money could do. Rather than all just the stuff you are exchanging, it could pay for a trip with the people you love, it could be a night out with those people, or even go towards something so much bigger. 
    • You are saving the planet! Okay this might sound a little dramatic, but things like stocking stuffers are a complete merchandisers gimmick to make you think you need to buy a bunch of cheap crap that no one actually wants or needs. Its just disposable, and honestly the world could use a lot less of this stuff sitting in the landfills. 
    • A change in priorities & a shift in your focus. Rather than it being about the stuff, it can end up being about the quality time you get to share with your friends and family. Maybe you could hear a new story from a family member that you had never heard before? Or get to have time to go through old family photos? Or learn a new recipe from a family member. But once your attention and time is shifted towards togetherness, a lot can come out of it.    

    So this is not me trying to guilt you if you do buy gifts for your loved ones, its actually quite the opposite. Its about bringing an intentionality to this part of the holidays. Looking at what your purchasing and really thinking all the way through your reasons for giving them. Is it just a thing you've always done? Is it because that person is going to get something for you? Or is it because you really enjoyed taking the time to find that absolutely perfect thing that you know they are going to love?? Because when it comes from the right place and is given with the right intention, there is a such a beautiful joy in gift giving and receiving. But sometimes the absence of them can be just as, if not more, wonderful.  

     

    Musings: a period of reflection or thought

    I've had a lot of small things to share lately. The change in seasons. The balance of light and dark. Ideas on gratitude. But I've been embracing this time. Retreating inward, meditating more, embracing my introvert tendencies, and I've been finding myself reading voraciously and filling myself up with inspiration and knowledge like I'm trying to put on all the extra calories before a long winter. So that means I haven't been sharing, but damn I'm getting full! Full of some fantastic books, inspiring podcasts, and filling my brain with new ideas. And this is exactly what I need to balance out the warmer more expressive months that bring a whole different type of energy. 

    There are days now that I wake up and it's cold and dark and I'll drive through the blackness in silence. I enjoy these moments. This calm, quiet time. A time to explore the darkness that sits inside and to be with it.  I'm a huge fan of gloomy rainy days, snowy cold ones, as well as the perfect blue skied summer days. Besides Lake Michigan, it's my second favorite reason for living in the Midwest. This constant shift in energy does so much for me that I would feel incomplete without it. 

    I once texted my best friend after an especially good fight with Michael and asked her if she ever hated her husband? Like hated him so much it made you want to scream? She of course laughed and said no and in that moment I realized that it's me. It's a part of who I am, and that its ok. It's how I need to experience the world. I need to feel and be completely in the lows, just like I need the beautiful passion filled moments of the highs. So that's exactly what I'm doing right now with these seasons of my life. Experiencing it and embracing it all.

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    Since today is thanksgiving and since gratitude has been also been on my mind. Here's a few last thoughts.

    I've been worried lately about things going wrong. When I see bad things happen to other people it gives me thoughts of scarcity.  Like how can I have so many good things always happen in my life? Won't my luck run out at some point? Maybe there's only so much goodness alloted to each person and I'm reaching my quota. But then I went into my yoga studio a few weeks ago and was reminded of the principle of asteya. That there is abundance in this world and that if I practice gratitude for all the good I have been blessed with that I'll find much more happiness and fulfillment from that mindset. So ive been working on that and once I think through all the good things in my life, I'm reminded that these good things have only brought me more good, not the opposite. 

    So today and hopefully everyday I'm going to try and keep these blessings in mind:

    -Good health and a functioning body that carries me through everyday without pain and with relative ease

    -Inspiring, kind, and supportive people in my life. From my husband, to my family, to my good friends, when I think of all the people who are a part of my life I truely feel lucky

    -The future and all the exciting things ahead of us. Having lots of things in the works that we are working and planning for is so invigorating and exciting.  But knowing how to lay the groundwork and have a strong foundation in place is a lesson I have learned this year and feel so grateful for. 

     

    With gratitude and love, happy thanksgiving! 

     

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    My side tattoo

    I don't write as often as I could here, but I blame it on a life principle that I call being mad to live. From this blog, my past photography business, a website, a previous instagram name, a old tumblr page, to a tattoo on my side, its been my mantra for years now. Because to me its about having so much passion for something that it makes you crazy, it fulfills your soul, it gives you energy. It is doing things because they make you feel alive. So if I'm not feeling inspired by what i'm wanting to share or something i'm doing, then i'm just not going to do it.  The phrase "Mad to Live" is from Jack Kerouac's book On the Road, and even though I'm not living my life driving across the continent living a carefree beat life, it's about having that same wild excitement for even the everyday. Having a curiosity and desire to learn more and be more in every moment.

    “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
    — Jack Kerouac
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    Sunny skies or grey days? Its embracing them all. 

    that's being mad to live

    I have a tattoo on my side that is horribly done. It's faded, the font is barely legible, but it says "mad to live" and it's an been such a great reminder of this idea. I used to work at a restaurant with a group of people that made going to work every day so much fun. One Sunday after finishing up a brunch shift two of my girls and I said, "let's get tattoos"! So we drove to a local spot and I told the distracted (possibly on drugs) man behind the counter what I wanted. 20 minutes later, minus the time it took him to break for a nose piercing, I had a reminder of this philosophy. While it's not a life changing moment and some may call it just being impulsive, to me there was no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon. To be the one who says yes, I choose to live in this moment. To experience something different, even within our ordinary routines. To make memories with people who make you excited about life, that's deciding to be mad to live.

    So just know I care about the things I take the time to write about here, from the long detail-packed posts all the way down to the playlist I posted last time. That's why I don't do more posts just to create more content. Sure I could pull a bunch of beautiful images together and make a digital moodbard or inspirational post with them...and I absolutely might do that someday if I'm inspired to, but for today this explaination of my heart is what feels important to get out.

     

     

     

    summer daze

    daze | noun: a state of stunned confusion or bewilderment.

    Michigan summer's are so so glorious, but they always seem to go by so fast. I feel perpetually dazed, by the bewildering beauty of the lake, the beaches, the lush forests and a stunned confusion on how these longer days can go by in a blink of an eye..So I try and soak it all up while its here. Even yesterday as I complained about the humidity, as it came out of my mouth I realized, no, this is summer and i'll take all of it. All the perfect 85 sunny days along with the occasional humid or cloudy or rainy or too hot or not hot enough. I'll take it all. 

    So this playlist is made for soaking up these summer days. Specifically for driving with the windows all the way down on the back roads, for sitting at the beach with your toes in the water and a drink in hand, for laying in hammocks, for dancing by fires and watching the stars. Its as diverse and represents all the moods because its for all the moments of this beautiful fleeting season.  

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    tip: try to open this playlist in spotify to make sure you are listening to the full tracks  

    Action

    This past year, i've grown a lot. I've changed a lot of things in my life for the better and i'm the type of person that when I find something good i just want to tell everyone in the hopes that it can help them too! 

    So i've thought about writing this blog a lot lately and I've thought about all the ideas I could share. But that's all i've done, is thought about it. Because then I think about how sick i am of social media most days and the lack of real engagement. I've thought about how I would hate to spend my limited free time with my husband and dog, typing away blog posts on a computer screen. I thought about how bad of a writer I am and how wordy I tend to be. I thought about how I need to have the perfectly designed blog before I could put words on it. i've thought about it all, but then I couldn't stop thinkng about the fact that I want to do this. I want to share, I want to express, I want to help, and I want to have real engagement. 

    I was reminded last week in a yoga class that thinking is not enough sometimes.  When you let the moment pass you by where you are excited about something because you don't take action, its a waste of that energy.  So here's to not being wasteful and respecting that creative energy and excitement. 

    So this space will evolve, it will never be perfect, it will never be finished. I'll never post enough, it'll never look as good as I want it to be, it will never have as much engagement as it could, but that's ok. Because the action and the expression is enough. 

    "This is enough, this moment, this breath, this life, this time, this place, it's enough...you are enough" - Rob Bell 

    So be prepared for lot of different topics to be talked about here!! Because I am excited about a lot of things these days.. 

    • home design and remodeling
    • budgeting and getting out of debt (i'm a dave ramsey fanatic)
    • art, especially art created by females!
    • food!! recipes, inspiration, menu's, all of it
    • essential oils
    • ways to improve your life
    • michigan 
    • goals
    • spirituality and the big questions
    • and also fun stuff, like music, inspiration, and anything else that I can't stop thinking about! 

    Please feel free to send me messages, share stories, share ideas, or say hi! I'm sick of the engagement on social media, thats driven by self serving needs to gain more followers or more likes, or sell something. While I get it, i'm just ready for more! So let's do more and be more!