The Happy Sacrifices of a Mama

It feels a bit audacious to entitle this post with that line.

What mom wouldn’t give all for her kids, if she could?

It’s not what the dreamy romantic younger version of myself thought of first when I dreamed of having a family one day, to be honest.

As the dream come true unfolds, the grace comes, too.

But what hard thing doesn’t require sacrifice?

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Our announcement photoshoot for baby #1, our son! Photo Credit: Dana Christine Photography

When I first became a mama, first found out I was expecting within, things got devastatingly worrisome for me, very fast.

I didn’t expect to find myself bleeding and cramping at 6 weeks pregnant, while waiting for prenatal care to start at 10 weeks.

I didn’t realize those are the symptoms of a miscarriage, at first, but then I did and it was scary!

I desperately tried to find a healthcare professional to help make sense of what was going on.

I prayed a lot.

I tried the first option for healthcare and found myself even more worried, with no answers.

I tried the second option that had such strict rules, there was no help at all for me.

The third was a previously scheduled appointment to “just see” if a home birth could be right for me.

I don’t know why I even looked that option up. I always knew my mom had three home births out of 4, but I didn’t know if I had it in me!

Some part of me stretched to imagine the hopeful end of this pregnancy and wondered if I could really make it through contractions with no option for pain relief medication.

Here I was, the girl who just thought how cute my belly would look rounded. And how fun it would be to get cute maternity clothes!

And yet, here I was, the girl who took a natural pregnancy course to prepare years ahead of even being ready to start having children.

Who took a prenatal multivitamin because I was of child-bearing age.

Who tried her best to get her health in order.

I went to the home birth appointment and immediately found support.

Immediately, I was taken seriously AND someone could help.

I was sent to an ultrasound to check for the baby.

I was given a test to see what my progesterone levels were and found out they were almost nothing within a few days.

Our hearts leapt with joy & relief as we saw our little one’s strong heartbeat on ultrasound at just 6 weeks pregnant. (This technician had years in the field, had opened her own practice and specialized in high risk pregnancies- but even then it was super early to see the heartbeat, not a possibility to hear it yet).

But they plummeted as I continued to bleed and cramp through the weekend.

I held onto that ultrasound, knowing there was a real possibility it could be the only picture I’d ever have of this child.

We got the results quickly about the low progesterone and the midwife I had just met was able to refer me to a doctor who prescribed progesterone injections and pills.

My husband became my nurse and was the most amazing.

I barely had bruises that are common at the injection site from how excellent he was at administering the shots! We were pretty shocked with that new responsibility- who knew so many women go through that to have a baby?!

I did however, have excruciating hip nerve pain. I could hardly put any pressure on them. I talked about this with those I was close with, but a new feeling in all of this was a feeling of being alone. I wonder how many other pregnant mamas feel this way?!

I was in a ballet program, at the height of my dreams to finally go en pointe and dancing 6 hours a week.

I had the best abs of my life 😉 And quickly took a picture in case I never saw those things again!

But every time I did a class, I had miscarriage symptoms or excruciating pain I didn’t understand. I so badly wanted to be the girl who did ballet up until birth.

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7 months pregnant with our first!

It took me 33 weeks to finally realize it wasn’t working for my body.

(I took a break until the second trimester then came back full force).

So, enter the progesterone shots that made me so severely ill I threw up more times in a day than I could count. All my favorite foods were out.

I was in survival mode. Survive and let this baby survive.

And…he did!!!!!

And he was worth every second. But that was so hard and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.

After his homebirth you can read about here, I finally realized I’d been experiencing symphysis pubic dysfunction (SPD). That was the reason for the clicking and the barely being able to walk after ballet class or walk up hills, or even open doors without the pain.

After his birth, I took it easy and around 9 months postpartum, I did a workout program with Beachbody called 21 Day Fix. I craved that intense athlete type of burn that I’d experienced as a ballerina.

But I still couldn’t lift my legs in a grand battement or any of the positions of ballet without intense pain.

So, for the first time in my life, I branched out into weight training and cardio. Those boring things that non-dancers did! 🙂

It was the MOST fun!

At 10 months postpartum with my first, we became pregnant with our second.

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And I avoided over-exercising completely so I would stay far away from that incredible pain of SPD. I had a great pregnancy (if you can just easily say something as hard as carrying a growing person for 9 months is great-  for me it was AND it was so challenging)!

I was so in love with our little girl growing in the belly while being completely in love with our son who was soon to become a sibling, unbeknownst to him!

Her amazing birth came and you can read about it here!

I had taken up a light workout in the last 4 weeks of pregnancy because I couldn’t take it any longer and figured I’d made it this long without having a flare-up, and I couldn’t sleep unless I worked out at least a bit each day.

The birth was great on me physically, so at 4 weeks postpartum, I came back to movement.

And 6 weeks postpartum, I did some postnatal workouts.

I puffed up to the highest weight I’ve ever been I thoroughly enjoyed my maternity leave with baby Eilah and didn’t focus on anything stressful. I was pretty much high on happy essential oils and her sweetness and baking anything I wished; it was the sweetest 6 weeks ever!

Then real life hit and I could barely do it. Two babies at different stages + working was just all I could figure out, and I could never figure it out. It just got done somehow! I tried my very best!

I finally realized I needed a new tool to fight anxiety and down feelings that I’d successfully fought off with other forms of self care- ie, sharing my heart and life with Jesus & family, Epsom salt baths & essential oils.

So I went back to Beachbody workouts and started Morning Meltdown 100. It was neat timing because that program was just coming out at 5 months postpartum and it was set to music, so I felt like it was *my* program!

It added so much to my life! A feeling of confidence, a sense of having control over our days & my health, and those feel good hormones! (I know quite a few amazing coaches if you need a referral!)

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Using baby girl as a “weight” on vacation!

But I had to take it so very slowly and any time I tried anything special with my diet, our breastfeeding relationship suffered.

So I had to let the idea of a “perfect-diet-that-would-magically-make-me-lose-weight” go.

I was heavy, couldn’t eat dairy on top of my regular gluten free diet and it wasn’t fun to be eating so healthy but weighing so much.

At least the workouts made me feel responsible in that area, even though nothing seemed to change.

I don’t know…I guess I’m at the end of the blog here.

Since writing this originally, I’ve done a juice fast this past week. It was lovely & tough and it was just so fun to do something big for detox & my health. I had to cut it shorter than I wished, but it’s okay- mom energy comes first! I really felt in tune with my body like I haven’t in forever & it was so sweet. Also, non-caffeinated Ailene was super fun. (Like when I went to the Post Office & walked out with 3 unpaid packing envelopes to get a pen- then realized it and ran back inside! Maybe the workers watched the whole thing through the huge windows ☺️)

My baby girl is 17 months and we are weaned a little over 2 weeks today.

My journey of letting so many things go and surrendering to so many things happening to my body has come to a new chapter.

Parenthood is funny…any area that I ever used to let slide, I realize that I’m letting it slide now and my kids are growing up to have memories that are affected by that.

If I don’t do dishes today, at some point, we won’t have clean ones to eat off tomorrow. Not a big deal if it happens once or twice, but if it’s regular, that will be their normal! Yikes!

I’ve had to let things go SO much but for the first time in forever (oh wait, right this isn’t a Frozen singalong)…for the first time in a long time I have a sense of self.

I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding for 3 years & 9 months. (and both for 4 of those). Not the longest I’ve ever heard of, but I’m still amazed I was able to do that.

And one of the things I’ve received back in this past week is the ability to dance without abnormal pain, again.

I didn’t know if that would ever happen for me!

But if I could say one thing in closing?

I think our lives, in a lot of ways, are going to be better than we ever dreamed.

In a time when it’s easy, even prudent to focus on the concerns and fears, let’s not forget all the treasures right in front of us.

“Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.”- Eleanor Roosevelt

Xoxo,

Ailene

p.s. “If circumstances were a person, we could look them in the eyes and say, thank you for not being what I expected. You gave me an invitation to grow and become even more of who God dreamed I would be.”

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God has blessed me greatly with these gifts, the people in my family!

 

Eilah’s Birth Story

It’s a little over one year from the birth of my second baby and it’s time to write.

Hers was so special to me, I’ve just had to treasure it in my heart for this year.

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I write it here on my blog not to be too personal, but because I desire this blog to be a place where courage is written about.

And I write about birth because it is one of the most courageous acts known to man.

Birth is unpredictable. It is a surrender.

It is so beautiful.

*this should be pretty G-rated, I guess PG-rated. If you know going in that you’re reading about birth, you should probably be okay to read the whole blog. No worries if not, peace out here. ❤

When I first began to dream of having a second baby, I just knew I’d like to have that baby in a hospital.

My homebirth with my firstborn son was wonderful. It was everything I had asked for, even if some parts devastated me for awhile. I think that if you’ve given birth, you might know what I mean. If you sit down in my home for tea, I’d be happy to share more with you on that.

Just know that I treasure his birth and I’m in awe of the gift I was given to be able to have my first experience of becoming a mother and bringing life forth into the world, at home. It was SO my personality, SO where I was at, SO what I was comfortable with and SO where I felt “led”.

Not too long after I felt this pull to a hospital birth for my next child, I found out we were expecting. Our first was 10 months old at the time.

We felt shocked and then that shock immediately sparked into joy. Hard to describe the bubbling, free incredible joy of finding out there’s a new life growing inside of you.

I started out with getting care from a group of midwives that were connected to a hospital. It wasn’t a good fit for me. And I’m proud of myself for realizing that early enough so that it wasn’t too hard to switch things up and go down a path with someone I felt so comfortable with. A family doctor whose knowledge and kindness was just right for us.

Fast forward through 41 weeks and 2 days of pregnancy, growing belly a second time around and ultrasounds (including finding out she was a girl!), and it was go time!!

My parents came 5 days before our daughter’s due date and I took off of work to prepare, instead of working right up until labor like last time.

Only…labor seemed to start each time my doctor stripped the membranes, but stopped. I won’t do this again. I had it done 2 or 3 different visits at the end and it just was too painful & I’m not sure it progressed things really at all.

My mucous plug regenerated too many times to count and true to my experience in my first pregnancy, I’d had Braxton Hicks practice contractions & tightening throughout and like crazy for the last 2 or 3 weeks of this pregnancy.

Since this darling didn’t come on her due date, I had to go back to work for a week.

It.was.miserable.

I love my job but it was too much for me emotionally, physically and mentally.

My whole body, soul and spirit was preparing for a baby and I could hardly force myself to focus on anything else. It was so uncomfortable just to sit.

You get the point! And if you know, you know!

I remember thinking the Sunday night that made it 1 week of being overdue, my parents leave in 2 days….my 1 year old needs to be taken care of & he’s so used to them now & they know his schedule…I can’t go back to work…My husband’s whole staff is in limbo with us…I’m calling my doctor first thing tomorrow and getting the soonest available appointment and talking about induction.

I didn’t know too much about induction other than everything I had studied. I’m a researcher, especially when I’m experiencing something or getting ready for something big in my life. I do it for hours, can’t help it, just love it!

But studying and practical experience are two different things.

Anyway, that Monday, I mentioned it and she mentioned it and she asked when I would like to schedule it. I was so relieved!

It might seem like the natural course of things, but for me, I was coming from a homebirth. We didn’t talk about induction too much and I was also hesitant to go for it because of a lot of what I had heard in my studies on natural pregnancy.

Induction is a gift.

It’s probably not for every circumstance, every birth.

But in our story, mine and Eilah’s, it was right.

My body immediately went into painless labor upon scheduling the induction and went from almost 4 cm to 6 cm dilated overnight.

The relief I began to feel after all of that stress was incredible.

I also felt so close to the Lord as I had prayed and asked for a painless labor the first time around and it just wasn’t. It was a different story and I did feel prepared to go through it and I’m grateful on so many levels. I wouldn’t trade that story or working through that pain. It was a huge success story for me.

This labor was different. I felt some big things happening and a few times of cramping that I could breathe through and I wasn’t surprised to find my body had been laboring all night as I slept.

When we got to the hospital, its beauty and the warmth of the nurses enveloped me.

It was so my personality to have things scheduled and such a gift to drive there while my body was not in the thick of things. Hats off to you ladies who have labored in the car! Wow!

I stepped into my spacious room and mentioned to my nurse that I may want an epidural but I wasn’t 100%.

She was very supportive and I already knew my doctor was supportive either way I went.

My husband and sister left the room to get things & I had a moment to myself in that room where I’d give birth to my daughter.

I prayed and envisioned angels to minister and protect. I walked around and felt such peace.

Everyone came back in and my sweet doctor then walked through the door. I instantly felt at home. This woman who had been caring for me from the halfway point of my pregnancy on, was here and she was going to take good care of us.

I was nervous to have my water broken…this was the light induction we had decided on the day before. I didn’t need or qualify for other means because the cervix was dilated a ton and soft and ready!

I laughed because having my water broken wasn’t painful at all. The contractions started coming and it felt so good to walk around.

(It hadn’t felt good to walk through my contractions when having my first baby.)

You can read about his birth here.

I could feel my baby girl moving down with each contraction. I sat on an exercise ball (which had been my saving grace with my firstborn’s labor towards the end) but even though the counter-pressure felt good, I wanted to keep walking so gravity could help as much as possible.

The other surprising thing that was awesome and funny to me was that sitting in the hospital bed was also the best most perfect counter-pressure for my lower back! I just always read that it wasn’t the right position to labor in but for the moments I needed to have baby’s heart monitored and needed to be strapped down, it was sweet relief and very comfortable. And my baby’s heart rate was beautiful!

Maybe one of the biggest preparation points for me going into both births was meditating on peace and being fearless. I had many positive words I would speak and it’s amazing how I felt my spirit was built up each time. I had two different soundtracks I listened to during pregnancy and one I really listened to right before labor and birth to get me in the right spot for leaning on God and trusting and choosing to be fearless.

Jumping back in- I had only back labor with my son. This time I was having labor that started in the front but about an hour and a half into it the pain started stretching to my back.

I made the decision to get an epidural at that point. I knew you had to make that decision early enough and I wasn’t up for experiencing front and back labor while not having a birthing tub and having quite a bit less energy from being a mama to a 1 year old and not being able to sleep much.

The anesthesiologist was incredible and a God-send. He kept explaining everything the whole time and honestly the worst part was probably having to curl my neck over as I had to hunch over so he could place it properly. My neck hurt a ton the next day from that and it seemed to go on forever!

The epidural kicked in and it was magical!

I texted a group of my close friends who were praying for me and they were so sweet!

I told them how much I recommend an epidural and one of my friends let me know she was actually expecting and we had the sweetest conversation!

And then…I felt like throwing up. It was 20 minutes in and I had felt a stitch in one side so they had recommended pressing the button to up the dose.

I felt okay for a bit and Carl laid down to take a nap in the room.

The nurse checked me and I hadn’t progressed, so she contacted my doctor and ordered Pitocin to rev things up.

She left for lunch break.

And then I felt worse. I was crying and felt like throwing up and passing out. It was so tough to have pure bliss and then feel so much worry as pain started to come back.

My sister was right by my side and she had studied up on how I was last time so she could be prepared to help me for this birth. She knew it was hard for me to communicate at all the first time. I was wanting to get outside of myself this time and ask for help, but it was so helpful to have her fight for me and step up and go get a nurse and tell them what was going on with me. This is what a doula does and she was my best friend sister doula!

The head nurse who was older and very sweet came in during this time. She asked if this was my first baby and when I said it was my second she looked around and things got moving. She checked the cervix and said, baby moved down and it’s about to be go time.

It was such a relief to realize that this is what was going on.

They asked me to hold off on pushing and I was happy to.

I really wanted my doctor and nurses to help me not to tear this time around. I know that I needed and wanted that guidance and help from them.

And it did not disappoint.

There is nothing like feeling the pain of contractions (a muscle contraction that you can’t control but just have to breathe through) and pushing with all your might to work with that intensity.

Knowing that baby is working, moving down, too.

It felt like forever to work through that contraction and then wait for the next one. I begged to keep pushing; it’s just such a high level of intensity. This is probably what had me tear almost to the 4th degree the first time around, pushing too soon & not going with my body and I wanted to follow the advice of my doctor because she knew my desire to try to not tear and she was there to help me reach that goal.

The nurses, now friendly faces and my doctor looked me right in the eyes and each one said, you can DO this, that’s it, you’ve GOT this, great JOB and it was one of the most incredible moments of my life. My sister was so touched, as well. She was right there and Carl had woken up and was right there, too. His green eyes were my rock and steady place.

My team told me when to wait and helped me to hold on until the right moments.

It felt like pushing was taking forever but it actually was 4 minutes altogether of pushing, shaving 1 minute off my 5 minute time with my son.

And labor was 4.5 hours altogether.

And my dream come true was here. And I cried.

She was my treasure, my darling girl and she is and always will be. ❤

How to Recover from Birth

Dear mama,

You’ve just come through it, haven’t you?

I remember the complete shock when my first child was born.

My first thought was “Whoa, heavy!”

It was a water birth & as soon as he was in my arms, I realized why it was so crazy carrying him those last few weeks- 9 lbs 9 oz & I was such a thin-armed person which is a funny way of saying I HAD NO ARM STRENGTH AT ALL!

With my second child, it was just so sweet.

It was a typical hospital birth situation & she was laid on my chest & I cried!

So, my friends here are some tips on how to recover from this wonderful experience. Now, I have not had a c-Section experience, so I won’t be able to speak on that. But I did have a full 6 weeks of needing rest from my first experience with birth, so in that perhaps you can relate.

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Q: What just happened to my body?

A: A lot, sweet tough lady, a lot!

For me, I was recovering the first time around from an almost 4th degree tear. Don’t look that up if you don’t know what it is, and if you’re family (I mean, except for like mah GIRL COUSINS or my sister who knows literally everything, shoutout, you all rock & I LOVE YOU!!!!) stop reading this article here. HAHA! During this time of recovery, I recommend these things, in this order:

1. Figure out the easiest way to have a “smooth move” bowel movement. Listen to your care providers and ask any questions before you either go home or they leave your home. Prepare ahead of time with some foods that help with this. My go-to the first time was eating whole bags of delicious apricots. It really, really worked like a charm! The second time was smoothies & chia seeds, at least one chia pudding a day. I also had this herbal tincture for afterbirth pains & took a drop under my tongue while experiencing that pain, which was greater the second time around so I also took ibuprofen. I’m not totally sure but I think herbs in general help my body with bms, too.

2. Have your tribe around you. I don’t honestly know what this looks like during the time of writing, since coronavirus is a thing & social visits aren’t. Perhaps you could hire a nurse or postpartum doula to help smooth things out. I’m not sure about doulas in the place of birth at this time, but hiring them to come to your home afterwards is probably up to you.

3. Lay down as much as you want to. It felt like something had ripped out of my insides any time I tried to walk, and it’s okay to honor that sort of feeling, because it’s true. You have a placenta-sized wound inside & it will take 4-6 weeks or longer to heal, from what I understand. This is what the bleeding is about.

4. Ice padsicles or the hospital ones are a must for the first 24-48 hours or longer. It helps offset the pain & heal the swelling. I can’t imagine recovering without these!

5. Speak with your care professional about these options, but find a way that is comforting & familiar to rest your body more than just laying down. For me, it was epsom salt baths with a special herbal remedy to promote healing. My whole body relaxed and I felt like I came back to “me” in a special way with this experience. It’s not always recommended to have a bath, so there might be something else, like a heating pad on the shoulders (mine were always sore from the new job of carrying a little bundle 24/7!) or even a cup of tea! I highly recommend Pink Stork’s Recovery tea. These herbs are so supportive in this time & always gave me happy feelings.

6. Create something special or several special things for yourself. Things that can be within arms reach of your bed. I had a basket with a muscle rub, ear plugs, chapstick, nipple balm, a good book, my Bible & journal and yummy snacks on my nightstand. Also great place for pain meds (if you don’t have toddlers).

7. My best friend helped me with this perspective. Try to look at the frequent nursing or feeding sessions & middle of the night wakings as a time to do something extra fun that you’d miss out on if you were sleeping. Start a favorite show or have a list of favorite movies. We always had a few cluster feedings in those first weeks & months & it comes in clutch!

8. This also leads me to this- when you’re starting a nursing session, make sure you use the bathroom first, if your body is back to doing this naturally on your own yet after birth. The oxytocin from the milk letdown may make it pretty tough to hold out & it’s better to be in a calm & patient place when stuck nursing for a long time then feeling the urge to use the bathroom intensely! Plus, I’ve had sessions that lasted many hours & didn’t want to have to re-latch as I was learning how to do that & not so good at helping my baby do that with my first! So once he was on, I wanted him to stay on for as long as he wanted!

9. It helped me to view my maternity leave as a time to do just one thing- love on my baby & get to know them. Both times I met my children, I felt like I do with any other person, like I was getting to know them & was curious as to what they were like. It’s such an amazing time to see the very first tiny buds of their personality & it’s astounding how much you can tell from the very beginning! I did also set goals because it’s my personality- I wanted to rest well & nurse well & figure out how I could get my baby to sleep as quickly as possible for naps & through the night. I was really pleased with how this went but it never feels easy & since it’s a little human, it’s just not a little robot. There’s a lot of honoring their way & figuring them out, while also hoping to get some kind of consistency.

10. I loved using an app to keep track of sleeping, diapers & nursing. Helped me to see my daughter’s patterns and then work with those.

11. Be gentle with your body. Notice your thoughts, acknowledge the negative or positive ones. Don’t take either too seriously. Know that your story is yours. You may “bounce back” but things might be totally different, still. You may not bounce back but learn to celebrate the good things. Because bringing a new person into the world is a really, really, really good thing.

Much love to you!

Curious, what bit of knowledge or advice would you add to this?! Love to hear from ya in the comments!

Xoxo,

Ailene

2019- Year in Review

2019 will always be the year I had my baby girl.

She came to us “late” but early this year in February.

Such a sweet gift and perfect addition to our family.

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I just finished playing with my son, laying beside each other laughing inside his tent.

There’s nothing that fills my heart so much as quality time with my little family.

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And my larger fam. My heart is so full from a recent trip to Pennsylvania where I experienced the love of so many aunts, uncles, cousins, step-cousins and my immediate family as well all stayed together in our parents’ home.

My heart is also freshly grateful at the reminder of the brevity of life.

My heart grieves the brevity of this life and it also grows and stretches up into the hope and surety of my faith.

Eternal life.

Perfection of beauty.

Togetherness with God and all those who choose His love and just to simply believe.

He has saved us from our sins.

Sin= the ugly in each of us that separates us from God.

God= pure light & complete forgiveness.

Exchanging ashes for beauty.

 

I loved this year. Yet, it was really, profoundly hard.

I’m insanely proud of myself for how I handled really tough circumstances and challenging mindsets this year.

I didn’t always feel like I was winning, but I was.

And hey! Not only did I find a workout groove from 37-41 weeks pregnant in the beginning of the year, I was able to punch out 87 workouts from July on.

 

I’m proud of that and also just so grateful I can move my body.

I may be the heaviest this year that I’ve ever been by a lot, but I’ve learned that’s not a determining factor of beauty.

That comes from within and shines outward. And curvy isn’t ugly.

 

Dear One of my soul,

Thank You for life. For my husband who is the friend of my heart & life forever and the best person all around. For my teeny lady who is completely delightful and so beautiful & funny. For my son who taught and is teaching me the fun it is to be a mama and just how tightly love can weave its way into my heart for another human.

For my mom, who has weathered many storms with me and we always come forth stronger, more whole and more in love with each other with better tools on how to keep growing together. And my dear daddy who is the most amazing man I know before I met the most amazing man I know who is my husband. ❤

For my sister, who journeys with me through many things of heart & body and who also shows me how beautiful a life can be in many seasons of the soul.

For my older bro, who is not only fierce, but is someone to deeply love, easy to love and so deep and wonderful.

For my younger bro and his cats. 🙂

For my dear grandma and all the beauty she has grown on earth and the deep faith she has passed on to each of us.

For my dear grandma-in-law who is such a joyful person and loving generous Christian.

For my in-laws who have become even more deeply family and are a lot of fun for us all to be around and also oh so generous of heart.

For my coworkers who make life wonderful and help me to grow and be better.

For all who I love and who have loved me and mine.

XOXO,

Ailene

Fear’s Words- Post by Hannah Rosenboom

This is a guest post, or you could say a “re-blog with permission” from Hannah Rosenboom of Sincerely Hannah. 

Find original post and blog here.

This specific writing of hers hit me so hard that I immediately wrote to ask if I could have her guest post like, right now on my blog and if she would even consider letting it be this exact post. 

One of the reasons I started Courage is in the Leap was to have a place to band together, creating a community of real people who are fighting to live courageously and who realize the power of doing it together. Hannah is just such a person and an amazing communicator. Her beautiful vulnerability shows not weakness, but amazing strength and inner fortitude. You can’t share deep authenticity without experiencing the “20 seconds of brave phenomenon”- basically just jumping out there and doing it. That takes so much courage. So here is her post and please go give Hannah some love over at sincerelyhannah.net

“How are you so weak that you can’t even handle adjusting to one baby? Heaven help you if you ever have to adjust to more than one child.

Why are you so pathetic?

No one else is having such a hard time with this.

Why can’t you get it together?

Just stop being so sensitive and needy.

You’re fine, stop complaining and pull your head up.

You’re not praying and in Scripture enough, and that’s why you’re dealing with all of this.

If you could just get it together and stop being so tired and lame and apathetic and actually do something, you’d be better.

Why can’t you lose the weight?

You’re not pretty enough.

You look like a mess all the time. You can’t even do your hair anymore. You look crazy.

Why can’t you at least look like you’re making an effort?

Why do you have to have so many panic attacks?

Why is everything so much more difficult for you than it is for everyone else?

You’re so pathetic, you can’t even handle a small inconvenience without having a meltdown.

Get over yourself, it’s not about you.

Stop being so selfish and start caring about someone other than yourself.

Wow, you did a terrible job handling birth.

You’re not a very strong person.

Other moms are at least normal. But you’re over here falling apart after a minor thing.

It’s been almost a year now, and you’re still dealing with this stuff?

I’m telling you, you’ve got to be a better Christian. Good Christians don’t struggle this much with minor difficulties.

Why do you have such a hard time making friends and being friendly?

People think you’re too hard to get to know, so it’s not worth it to be your friend.

You’re always misunderstood.

You’re too sensitive.

Why are you always the friend that cares and invests more? You always give more and don’t get the same level of friendship in return. It must mean people don’t want to be your friend.

You’ll never have a solid group of friends.

Can you please just act outgoing and friendly so people don’t think you’re rude and bitchy?

You’re never going to make friends if people think you’re rude and bitchy.

Pull yourself together, you’re being so dramatic. Things really aren’t that bad.

Wow, you’re having super dark thoughts. Your brain is messed up.

Well, you used to be a happy person. But things are different now. You’re not going back to that person. She was younger and more naive. You’re older and wiser now. It’s not possible to erase the last few years and get back to being happy.

You’re going to be like this for the rest of your life, just get used to the constant anxiety. The least you could do is make peace with it so you’re not constantly fighting.

Why are you so upset?

You have everything in the world to be happy about.

You have a great husband, a beautiful daughter, a cute house, good food, enough money, and your life is full of good things.

All of that and you’re still pouting and crying all the time. Unbelievable.

You’re so ungrateful.

You feel hollow inside and it doesn’t go away even when you’re doing things that bring you joy?

Your fault. Fix it.

Your daughter is growing up and this is what you’re going to teach her? This is the example she’s going to have? She deserves better. She doesn’t deserve this.

It’s almost her first birthday. You’ve spent the entire first year of her life dealing with this, and you’re never going to get this year back. You’ve really missed out. You could have been the mom she really needed but instead you chose to be anxious, sad, fearful, and hollow.

__________

I have spent the entirety of the last year in my head with these thoughts, constantly rushing through my brain and never being put to rest. I couldn’t turn them off.

The first step in getting better is recognizing that THESE AREN’T MY THOUGHTS. This is NOT my voice. This is NOT coming from my head. This is certainly NOT the voice of my Father.

These are not my words.

These are Fear’s words.

These are the words of someone who hates me. Who wants to beat me up so hard that I lie on the floor and never get up. These are the words of someone who wants me down for the count. Who wants me living as a shell of myself. Who wants me barely making it.

These are the words of someone who wants to take me out.

Who would really love it if I were dead inside. Who would really love it if I were dead period.

Well, this blog post is little me, as weak as I am, recognizing who is speaking to me, and refusing to tolerate this any longer. This is me saying, “ENOUGH.”

I’m getting up off the ground.

So Fear, you better run. Because this girl is about to fight back.

I may be weak, tired, beaten up, worn out, and covered in bruises, but I’m not dead, and I’m getting up now.

Every thought in my head that tells me I’m pathetic, weak, stupid, ugly, unloved, not enough, too much, and so on …. IS A LIE.

Fear, you better be scared for your life. Because now that I know it’s you who’s been speaking to me all these years, I’m fed up with you.

You’ve robbed me of rest. You’ve stolen my joy. You’ve stopped me in my tracks and pulled me out of the game. You’ve kept me trapped in a cage. You’ve taken my weapons right out of my hand and thrown me on the ground.

And I’m waking up to the truth of what’s been happening. And I’m saying ENOUGH.

Your words have tormented me for far too long.

Anxiety, are you listening? Fear, do you hear me? YOU BOTH CAN SUCK IT.

____

Quick word for anyone dealing with postpartum depression & anxiety – things are not all in your head. See your doctor and if you don’t feel heard, see someone else. I’ve learned that sometimes, your brain chemistry is off or your hormones are very out of whack – both were/are true for me. Get on a medication to fix that if that’s the case. Overall, talk to someone who is professionally licensed and has gone to school for these kinds of issues. While you wrestle against principalities and powers of darkness, stay grounded in truth and scripture. Do these things ALONGSIDE of taking care of yourself physically and emotionally, whether that means taking meds, seeing a therapist, or both. You have a mind, body and soul, and it’s not going to work to only target one of these areas if you’re struggling in two or all three.”

 

How I Prepare for Labor & Birth- Homebirth or Hospital

Hello friends!

I’m here with another topic that requires courage! Labor & birth.

I am 30 weeks along with my 2nd baby and starting to prepare for labor & her birth.

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This post is inspired by my conversations with many amazing moms who have had many amazing different birth stories.

I love gaining tips from them and sharing stories.

My main goals for labor and birth are to strengthen my body gently, rest well, and supplement effectively.

How I Strengthen My Body:

  1. Drink red raspberry leaf tea or take it in my multivitamin. It’s simple, tastes pretty great to me and is a very effective strengthener of the uterus. I think regularly consuming it during my second and third trimesters contributed greatly to my strength in pushing with my firstborn. He was born in 5 minutes and even though labor had gone on for 26 hours, I felt very strong in pushing.
  2. Balance not over-exercising, but using your muscles each day. If you have a toddler who you pick up and run around with, you’re probably set. I’ve tried to add an extra workout in, but each time I find my strength zapped for the whole day & not enough energy to keep up with my 1 year old! During my first pregnancy, I definitely over-exercised but loved every second of it. I paid the price for quite some time by not listening to my body though. Even after having my son, I couldn’t carry him for awhile & had to rely on strollers, baby swings, etc. (I mean, he was also almost 10 lbs, so he wasn’t a feathery light newborn 😉 ).
  3. 30 squats every night. It works for me at night because I get tired out & helps me go to sleep. Squats are so good because they strengthen sore areas like your back (from all the frontal weight), quads and kinda your whole body. I really needed a strong back & legs for the work of labor, just made it a bit smoother.

How to Rest Well:

  1. This is probably different for each person. I try to get 8 hours of sleep a night (not possible for everyone, I know!) and let myself nap as needed. I really try to nap when my toddler is napping, but if I get enough sleep at night, I find that I don’t need it.
  2. Listen to my body. If I need to lay in bed because I just overdid it, I do that. If my hubby is able to help, that works. If I’m still in charge of my toddler and it’s not nap time, I lay down and turn on Peppa Pig in the background with no guilt. I supervise him, but keep drinking water and resting. Especially when experiencing Braxton Hicks, it’s been a sign to me that it’s time to drink water & lay down!
  3. Take Epsom salt baths. So huge for me. The magnesium intake helps with inflammation and soreness; the relaxation of being submerged in water takes some pressure off!

How to Supplement Effectively:

  1. Goals for supplementing for me are to pick the least amount of supplements, but the ones that help with energy, iron, folate & support pregnancy, labor and birth.
  2. I take alfalfa from 28 weeks on. This builds up Vitamin K2, which greatly helps with clotting and preventing hemorrhaging. I did have a pretty severe tear with my first birth, but I didn’t hemorrhage. Since it’s a leafy green, it’s also great for iron stores & helping milk supply.
  3. I drink red raspberry leaf tea. To tone my uterus as that muscle is about to see a lot of work! This tea is great for energy, iron stores, B vitamins and so comforting in my opinion. I made batches of it as an iced tea for my June birth and now drink it hot for my January birth!
  4. I take a multivitamin. I just look for folate, Vitamin D3, choline, and DHA/EPA. And a few others. I currently take the Smartypants Prenatal gummies and love how I feel on them! I used to take Megafood Baby & Me and loved those, especially during breastfeeding.
  5. Vitamin D3 was something I tested low in and along with issues I’ve had with digestion, it’s been something I definitely supplement with. You might have 1 or 2 areas of deficiency that you know about & add into your supplement regime, as well.
  6. I mostly try to eat well to get everything else needed to support pregnancy and my body! I’ve been addicted to 2 egg yolks, toast with butter & wilted spinach this pregnancy! (I couldn’t eat greens last pregnancy, so alfalfa was huge for me to take each day!)
  7. I begin the Gentle Birth Formula herbal tincture at 35 weeks and continue through to the end. I believe this also helped me to push so strongly and effectively. (I decided after a week of taking this and monitoring myself that I’m not going to continue with taking this herbal tincture this time around. I found myself unable to sleep and feeling down which I had not felt prior to taking this except in small, surmountable moments).
  8. I took Evening Primrose Oil orally at 36 weeks according to a dosage my home birth midwife gave me for my first pregnancy. I’ll do it again this pregnancy. You can look up the benefits of this one! Too long to explain! (I decided not to continue with this one, this time around. I will probably use it as a suppository at 40 weeks but will not take it orally, again due to the effect on my emotions).
  9. It’s best to share every supplement with our healthcare professionals and get their opinions. Just wanted to put this here.

How I Strengthen my Mind:

  1. I found a birth affirmation cd early on in my first pregnancy, when I had a miscarriage scare and really needed the support.
  2. I aim to agree with the affirmations I’ve chosen at least twice a week and notice that it helps massively to fight fear, doubt, etc.
  3. I let myself cry for a bit if I need to and move through the emotional release, but this time around, I don’t take it too seriously. It’s just a part of pregnancy, postpartum & all the hormonal swirls and it’s okay!
  4. Surrounding myself with positive people is a big one. Preferably people who can speak good things over you, too and listen to your fears, but then speak positivity over them.
  5. I also talk to at least a few moms and moms-to-be and it’s amazing how normal that makes me feel and how strengthening it is! Thanks, ladies!! Any and all of you throughout last pregnancy & this pregnancy! The sisterhood of motherhood rocks!

I am hitting the publish button now on this post that I had written at 30 weeks pregnant- I’m now 37 weeks and looking forward to a smooth birth with this girl in a few weeks!

Xoxo,

Ailene

Samuel’s Birth Story

This is my story, as a first-time mama. This is the story of my son Samuel’s birth!

What a swirl this past year has been! It’s time to write out his birth as his first birthday is drawing close!

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I’ve always adored kids and connected so well with them.

I’ve also always avoided newborns. They are just so sweet and tiny and incredibly precious! I wanted to leave these treasures in their own parents’ arms. Even though, of course, I was drawn to the sweetness!

I had NO idea that having my own would be soo sweet and soo simple, yet soo difficult.

Looking back, I had an amazing birth story, but the birth & recovery hasn’t been easy.

Labor was gradually and then immediately intense for me. I like to call it the “marathon of labor.” For most first-time mamas, this is what it is. Statistically speaking. In some way, pregnancy is a marathon of labor for all mamas. The birth story is incredible in that it ends up being completely unique for each mama & child. There are probably little or great disappointments and there are probably little and great joys.

Here is mine!

It began with cramps close to menstrual cramps the day before giving birth, just as I was finishing up working from home. I was 40 weeks plus 2 days at that point and it was 2p.m.

I had a lovely dinner date with my hubby at Cheesecake Factory the night before and I just felt like it was my last big meal. I just had this peace.

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Last Meal

My parents also came into town that week and once they got here, I felt like okay, now I can give birth.

So, on June 22nd, after finishing up work, I took a nap. This is the advice of my midwife team. Time to rest up for what I was pretty sure was to come. It was also recommended to go to sleep to see if the labor continues, or if your pregnant body just needed rest. (If tired or dehydrated, this can cause Braxton hicks, those practice contractions, but if you rest and drink water, they may go away).

I woke up around 4:30p.m. and it all continued.

By 6 p.m., I realized I was having back labor, which really surprised me! I also started to lose my mucus plug.

I jumped in the tub and ran hot water over my back to soothe it. My mom and sister came over and prayed with me.

I went to bed early and this began a full night of pretending to sleep as the contractions kept coming and bringing me awake. I knew my body needed to lay down and to rest if I was going to make my goal of having a natural home birth the next day or days; statistically first-time labor can go 24-48 hours! My midwives recommend drinking a glass of wine and going to bed once labor starts. I’ve never had a glass of wine, so I decided not to start now! Haha!

I was texting back and forth with my midwife and with my doula, just to update them that my mucus plug seemed to be releasing and the cramps/contractions didn’t lessen after sleep. They told me to take an Epsom salt bath and go to bed! I was laughing at that point, because I knew EXACTLY what my midwife would recommend and was already planning on it! (Epsom salt baths got me through my pregnancy, helping me to feel like a normal person each time the aches and pains got out of control.)

My long night of letting my husband sleep and pretending to sleep in and out of contractions ended at 4a.m. I was pretty sure I would throw up at some point during labor because I often did during the first painful day of my period (the rest of my period, I usually had no pain, but that first day was so rough most of my menstruating life pre-having kids!)

I finally yelled, CARL, I NEED YOU! It all came together, how intense things had been all night long, just me and Jesus and this babe. Time for some support!

I laid on my left side all night long, as this helps position baby best for labor. There is also a position where you lay on your left side with one leg up & bent that is really good, so I stayed in that position, of course moving when it was comfortable to change positions. That can also be good, to keep baby moving as they will probably keep moving during labor until they finally are engaged and it’s time to move through the birth canal.

Oh, how I loved studying about pregnancy, labor and birth these past few years! I took some courses I love from Kristen Burgess of naturalbirthandbabycare.com. Her Great Pregnancy course is amazing and just all of her classes. Helped me to prepare for becoming pregnant, know what to eat through all the trimesters and she’s just so. calming!! Not to mention she has had 7 babies of her own.

Carl, God bless him, woke up and then we were together for the next hours. I opened a book, Birthing From Within, and read about putting wash cloths in hot water in a crockpot and asked Carl to do this. That’s all I read! But it turned out to be a godsend.

After I rested as much as I could during the night, I began to record the contractions. I actually couldn’t hit the start and stop button because of the intensity and the plan had been that Carl would do that, anyway! I just didn’t realize I’d have to focus so much for so long. But it was good. The work of labor was good!

I would rotate between the bed, the couch, then my exercise ball and I tried to stay out of the tub though I would’ve stayed there forever, mostly because I knew I’d want hot water later for the blow up birthing tub! (Room temp water, not good for it to be more than a few degrees above body temp).

The warm birthing bath was going to be my “epidural”, so to say. My birthing education that happened with my midwives & doulas group (check out Arise Birth Doula, google it if you’re local), gave me tools to move through labor and move through pain. Especially the pain that can come with contractions. (Read Supernatural Childbirth if you’re wondering why I say “can” and not “FOR SURE WILL COME”). 😉

My doula was so amazing. Just looking into her brown eyes is the most peaceful and encouraging and calming experience! I knew I wanted her at my birth from the moment we met with her in my home. I got to not only have her at my birth, but another amazing doula who is a midwife in training and had her babies at home unassisted, and of course my amazing, wonderful, beautiful midwife. (And hubby, and at the last minute, dear sister).

I forgot to say that my whole labor experience was more involved than I had expected, so I didn’t use my music playlist. Instead, it was written on my heart from months of soaking in it and I could hear it in my head during some of the most challenging moments.

I moved through labor, with my rotation and eventually got to the point where I stayed on the exercise ball with a hot wash cloth pressed on my whole lower back. It was very painful in that area and I needed every inch covered at all times. Carl did this for me. ❤

At this point, drinking water made the contractions more intense, as did trying to drink a healthy smoothie. Things were intense, moreso than all night and I asked Carl in between contractions if he could please ask the midwife and doula if they could come. And also if he could get the tub ready. And if it wasn’t time (close to the end), DON’T TELL ME!!

Thankfully, it was time for them to come and it was time for the birthing tub to be blown up and filled. (We didn’t blow it up or fill it prior to keep it clean.)

My doula came and took over with the hot wash cloths against my lower back and I kept breathing, low and slow into the pain and through the pain. It was incredible.

I had a thought while I was breathing through some contractions- even if I could get an epidural, I’d still have to go through all of these hours of labor to get to that. And by that time, it will be close enough to birth and this is the part that I want to feel and be fully alive for. To me, being aware as I gave birth was a pinnacle of my womanhood and life. I love a challenge. This is probably why I wanted to have my firstborn at home. (That and we felt immense peace about it).

My midwife came and I was allowed to jump into the pool! It was amazing for 5 minutes and then the contractions came back. This told me that I was really gearing up here, the fact that labor didn’t stall out but continued. This is exactly what the birthing pool was for, relaxing my body even further to continue the work of labor.

It was a godsend to have my midwife there, helping with counterpressure on my back (counterpressure is a tool of natural labor that is AMAZING!). She talked me through some of the contractions and then offered to check me. Not a normal practice, but I was happy (& a little nervous) to find out how dilated I was.

I was almost there and they said, okay, you can get up and kneel to melt the cervix away. I was like, OH MY GOSH. I had begun to feel the urge to push, but I really had no idea if I was going to be laboring for another night and day, or if I was close and they were also trying to figure it out. I think I was a bit too calm for them to tell. And though I tried to communicate with them via text & phone calls, I really labored on my own for about 20 hours. (about 8 of those with Carl awake.) So they were trying to gauge where I was at in labor.

It turned out that they were with me for 5 hours, and that was active labor, the last phase of labor. It was about 26 hours altogether, from the very beginning and Samuel was born at 5:06p.m. on Friday June 23rd!

A prayer of mine was that my water wouldn’t break until it was close to birthing my son, because I heard that having the waters intact could be less painful. (And who knew, it could’ve been a miracle en caul birth!)

I had to get out of the tub to recalibrate, so to speak (you should only stay in about 90 minutes or less at a time). So I went to the toilet. This was where I was going in and out of sleep which is sign that birth is near. It doesn’t seem that it could be near the end, but things have been so intense and this is the body’s way of making it happen & getting the energy for pushing.

My water also broke.

So, I remember that I left the part about getting up to kneel. This position helps the cervix to open and works with contractions to let the baby come down quicker than other positions could. It’s still a process but effective. I couldn’t imagine breathing deeply and calmly, relaxing every muscle, but against the feeling of pushing while in this position. But I also knew that I needed this birth to come, that I couldn’t exert energy and labor forever.

So I said, with Christ, ALL things are possible! It was the most difficult sensation ever. To calmly breathe through an urge to push and not give in. My pelvic floor muscles were shaking with the effort but I did it again and again. I thought I would give up, in a panic and as I voiced this, my doula and Carl and midwife said, no Ailene, breathe, you CAN do this! I came back down into the peaceful, gentle birthing place I desired to be in.

My darling sister walked in at this point and was a calming presence who was praying and just being a support.

All the prayers I’d prayed about this birth, the miracles I’d asked for, they came alive in me.

I gave birth in an apartment in peace, quietness and gentleness and even 10 months later, some of my neighbors were so surprised to hear it had taken place!

My mom also turned inward for strength during her experiences, so I believed that I would be the same. In prior intense physical experiences, this was the case with me, so I also had that knowledge.

In fact, for years, during the first excruciatingly painful day of my menstrual cycle, I learned to pace and read Scripture to get through until the pain meds kicked in. I just kept going for those 45 minutes and I believe I built up a well of trust in God, through physical pain that came back around to help me through this birth, as well. So incredible.

So, my water broke and then I asked if I could get back into the tub (I didn’t talk a whole lot, it was too intense). The instant they said yes, I actually ran and jumped in! My doula laughed, surprised and said I’ve never seen a pregnant woman in labor run and jump like that! (I just didn’t want to have the baby on the toilet!)

It was time to push. I breathed and groaned deep and low (the lower your sounds, the less pain, the higher the sounds, the more energy used).

And oh my GOSH, my husband made up this cold red raspberry leaf, ginger and honey tea for me to sip on that was a PERFECT labor drink! I highly recommend it!

I just asked him and he made it up the day before. It was red raspberry leaf tea bags, fresh ginger and honey, he stirred it all up and then refrigerated it (take the bags out after 10-15 mins, maybe a little longer, leave the ginger in).

Red raspberry leaf was an incredible tonic for me. It really gets your uterus ready for birth. I drank it in my second and third trimester. Another supplement that was huge for a home birth was alfalfa tablets. This built up my stores of Vitamin K and baby’s stores. This way, we both would clot really well during birth.

I felt SO strong while pushing. In fact, I pushed and they said, he is crowning! I pushed again 1 or 2 times and they said, his head is out! I felt his head but it was a bit distracting and honestly kinda grossed me out! 🙂 I pushed a few more times and, just like we talked about & practiced, he was up and through and into my arms, out of the water!

He was so heavy and real and it was the most crazy outta this world experience of my life.

He was so cute and Samuel opened his eyes and looked around, so peaceful and calm. Like, hello world! He made some noises and his lungs were clearing of the fluid (which actually this process starts the lymph system for the first time! So amazing!)

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So happy!

He latched and we practiced nursing on and off all night. I was not a natural, it wasn’t easy. It was awkward and I hoped I was doing it right. My doula and midwife literally taught me everything (and my mom, she’s such a pro). 3 days later, at the home visit from the midwife, she helped him latch on and my milk literally came in. He has always had such a strong latch and suck, but I had to learn how to let it happen!

I was on such a high. Nothing like it.

30 minutes later, on the dot, I gave birth to the placenta. This is TOTALLY tmi, but it was heart-shaped and one of the dear doulas pointed out. Nothing was gross about the birth except for the placenta, but honestly it wasn’t shocking, probably because they handled it professionally and were fascinated by it scientifically. Telling me that it was showing signs of aging. I had been overdue 40 weeks and 3 days and Samuel was a big boy! 9 lbs, 9 oz. So shocking, but totally made sense. Gosh, he was heavy those last days!

They let the placenta pulse until it stopped, giving Samuel an incredible blood transfusion that gave him enough iron for the first 6 months of his life. You could alternatively have the cord blood saved in case of illness in the child’s future. Pretty incredible, but I preferred it went straight into him after birth, especially since we wouldn’t be monitored at a hospital.

It turned out that I had a third degree tear. It was decided that I needed to get to the hospital right away to be stitched up. I was so grateful for my midwife’s wisdom.

My mama got to come with us to the hospital, and my midwife came in and held my hand through it. So tender and I needed her support and strength. Samuel was skin to skin on Carl’s chest and went for his very first car ride. Aunt Deni had dressed him for the very first time, so precious!

I was very happy to be numbed up after birth, and even though it wasn’t ideal the birth hormonal high that comes from natural birth got me through! (I don’t know if it comes with every birth, I’d imagine it does in some way but I haven’t researched that!)

The hospital I went to and the doctor and nurses were so incredible. I really appreciated them.

We finally made it back home and my dad was so grateful to finally be able to DO something after a day of waiting and praying. He met us with Chipotle and the picture we have of that moment…it’s beyond words! SO much joy!

At this point, I headed straight for bed in a completely cleaned up apartment (not that it was hugely messy). Midwives and doulas do an incredible job keeping birth neat and tidy. Birth in itself, without intervention is a lot neater than you’d think! I only have one experience, but my experienced team let me know this when I asked during one of our planning meetings.

Everyone else left us and we snuggled in bed, smiling huge, very tired and ready to dig in to our food.

Anytime I left the baby at this point, I shivered violently. We were both regulating each other’s temperature. Did you know that mamas are the only ones who can both warm and cool a baby?

Thus began the craziest chapter of our lives, 72 hours of skin to skin and becoming a family of 3.

It was an incredible labor. I relished each moment and found grace to meet every turn by leaning in and rising up instead of backing down and curling up like I wanted to. I’ve found that this is the calling of not only pregnancy, not only labor, but motherhood itself.

It continues to be a journey of rising up into beauty, rising up into strength and transforming.

Thank you to all who helped and prayed. Those prayers were so strong.

Thank you to all who have read this!

Much, much love,

Ailene

p.s. do you feel that oooshy gushy tender love? I think it happens with each and every birth. Families get doused in it. I think it’s a gift from God.

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Mommy’s Darling Boy