Pearl in the Sand {10th Anniversary Edition} Book Review

Can a Canaanite harlot who made her living enticing men be a fitting wife for a leader of Israel? Shockingly, the Bible’s answer is yes.

This 10th anniversary edition of Pearl in the Sand includes new features that will invite you into the untold story of Rahab’s journey from lowly outcast to redeemed child of God. Rahab’s home is built into a wall, a wall that fortifies and protects the city of Jericho. However, other walls surround her too: walls of fear, rejection, and unworthiness. Years of pain and betrayal have wounded Rahab’s heart—she doubts whether her dreams of experiencing true love will ever come true.

A woman with a wrecked past and a man of success, of faith … of pride. A marriage only God would conceive! Through the heartaches of a stormy relationship, Rahab and Salmone learn the true source of one another’s worth and find healing in God.

My Thoughts

This is a fictional account of the story of Rahab of the Bible. It is well-imagined and does stick to the correct facts laid out in Scripture, though they are few. The story takes greater depth and becomes heart-changing in the hands of one of my favorite authors, Tessa Afshar.

In the opening pages, Rahab is faced with an unimaginable life circumstance. Her strength astounds me as she overcomes the obstacles this puts into her life’s path at a young age. And the lies it breathes into her mind and heart. Her dreams and hopes for the future lay at her feet as she digs in and finds a way through. As the story unfolds, she comes to find her worth is far more than she ever hoped and those lies are vanquished in the light of truth.

What I love about this story is the character development in both main characters. It is so helpful to see this in both the male and female character, which speaks to me of how life and relationships truly are. Both people needing growth, not just one person leaning on the other’s perfections. I could say a lot here, but I will leave the rest to this book and your own heart’s revelations should you read it.

I felt the Holy Spirit dealing with inner wounds that I think many women (and men) can relate to, concerning our worth. Or the lie that says we have none.

If you are looking for a Christian historic fiction novel that is full of cheesy romance, you will not find that here. What you will find is much more real. I found myself stopping to ponder and pray many times. And even to weep.

I highly recommend this heart journey for you, too. As I invite you to read this 10th anniversary edition of Pearl in the Sand!

XOXO,

Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided a copy of this book by the author or publisher. All opinions in this review are my own. I did purchase the original for myself before this new edition copy was provided for me.

Click HERE to purchase your copy!

Tessa Afshar is an award-winning author of biblical and historical fiction. Her books have won the Christy and INSPY Awards and been voted by the Library Journal as one of top five Christian fiction titles of the year. Her first Bible study and companion video teaching, The Way Home, based on the book of Ruth, was released from Moody Publishers in June 2020. Born in the Middle East, Tessa moved to England in her teens where she attended boarding school for girls before moving to the United States permanently. Her conversion to Christianity in her twenties changed the course of her life forever. Tessa holds a Master of Divinity from Yale University, where she served as co-chair of the Evangelical Fellowship for one year. She worked in women and prayer ministries for twenty years before becoming a full-time writer and speaker.

Connect with Tessa: https://tessaafshar.com/

God, our Father in Heaven

Many of us are familiar with this prayer from Matthew 6:9-13 which says,

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.[a]
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,[b]
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.”[d]

Matthew 6:9-13

Who is our Father in heaven?

Is he like men on earth?

What comes into your heart when you think of the word, “father”?

Do you shudder?

Does your heart melt?

It is so polarizing, depending on what kind of father or fathers we have known.

Have we experienced their kindness, or debilitating pain? Or some mixture of both?

Have they pushed their agendas & mindsets on us harshly, or even cared to ask for our thoughts? Or have they sat down with us and truly listened to every word, then weighed in with life-changing wisdom?

It’s good to know that God of the bible is called Abba. This word is Aramaic and is related to the Hebrew Av from which Abba or “father” is derived.

This is Daddy, or Papa, or Baba, a term of endearment towards a father.

Romans 8:15 speaks of God as Abba.
15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.[a] Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”[b]

As I woke up today, the light was shining in all around me from a sunny day after many cloudy days.

I would go in and out of sleep and hear whispers to my heart of who I am, as God’s treasure.

Whispers from the Holy Spirit.

I do believe God to be three persons (Matthew 28:19-20). I know it doesn’t make sense, but I think it doesn’t make sense in a beautiful way, not an unintelligent way.

I’m thankful to not quite understand how God can be Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I love thinking on this mystery.

And I love addressing each one. The Holy Spirit makes Jesus known perfectly, and Jesus is a perfect representation of the Father. And the Father is “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:6).

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The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven

Hebrews 1:3

I think my favorite thing I’ve come to recognize in interpreting Scripture from the Bible is seeing one principle repeated throughout all 66 books in different ways.

So I can find God as a father in the old testament and all throughout the entire Bible. These echoes and mirrors we can see throughout the 66 books makes me feel a sense of awe. So many different authors from different times and yet the connections are woven through every page. This is truly why I believe these words to be inspired by the Holy Spirit.

And so, “Father” becomes something new to me.

Something different and better than I’ve ever seen modeled to me.

I’m thankful for every moment my dad and my father-in-law have shown me what the Father-heart of God is like. It’s generous, giving everything to provide for me, listening, kind, turning attention towards me, enabling me to skip out on some things in life that would hurt me by sharing wisdom freely without judgement.

And yet, that is just a whisper of who God the Father really is.

I don’t know about you, but I need to keep getting to know Him.

I have been getting to know Him in reading His word, through talking to Him and listening for that still small voice, or His shouts in the beauty of nature.

He is so much better than we ever dreamed and He has good things in store for us.

God is like a mother, more nurturing than we ever dreamed and He has comfort for us.

God uses all of His power to reach our hearts. He never uses it against us.

Will you join me in forgiving our fathers who have gotten it so wrong sometimes?

I don’t say that lightly, for many of you have seen far more abuse and only terrible things from that man known as “father.”

But I truly have found that forgiveness releases all of that bad from me, and I imagine giving all of that brokenness to my Father in heaven, letting Him absolve it in Himself, in His Son who died for us and was resurrected, who conquered all of that horrible would-be inheritance.

And then we get to go free. To become good fathers and mothers ourselves, and ask His forgiveness when we fail in our own fallen state.

His goodness keeps coming for us. His forgiveness is always there.

HE is always here, present with us. Not absent. Never unkind. Always using His power to give us good things.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

James 1:17

I love the whole book of James, such a good read!

Much love to you,

Eilah, the princess- reminding me of how we are adopted by our good Father in heaven & called His royal ones.

Do you ever feel like you just aren’t enough?

Do you ever feel like you just aren’t enough?

Don’t do enough, can’t give enough?

Everyone around you seems to do the best they can and you come up short, again.

In your tone of voice, your work, your estimation of yourself, your weight, your style, your smarts, your ability to save money, to raise your kids to be free-spirited yet educated…on and on.

Friend, can I lead you where my heart just went?

Let’s ask ourselves some questions:

  1. Is this an unusual season?
  2. Is it a tougher than usual season?
  3. Are you in the midst of what feels like a huge learning curve?

And some more questions:

  1. Are you getting the water intake you need, like how about in this moment?
  2. Are you able to take 10 minutes to do something de-stressing?
  3. Can you just breathe in and then breathe out in this moment?

There…so glad you joined me for that. 🙂

Is it maybe your own estimation that is causing you to be so tough on your own self?

This post is prompted by a realization I just had.

So, this is my second year of having two children. And continuing to work full-time. And since March, the two days a week I used to escape to the office turned into fully working from home. The weekly couple of mornings of childcare for my older child turned into having him home every day. The baby stopped needing naps in the mornings, and with all of the upheaval, the older one stopped taking naps altogether.

It’s been such a huge learning curve. I’ve had seasons like this in the past, where the amount of responsibility required of me for that season is just more than I can handle. And though there are some things I can drop, the minimum requirement feels many times like too much.

Anyway, I looked at my time off for the year and get this, friends. It actually makes me want to cry.

I only took one half day off for a personal day plus two more for a sisters’ long weekend. For the entire year.

I barely took that off.

I have had two children at home with me from March until September and worked full-time.

This means I’ve worked through their ups and downs and needs. And given myself to their needs while still making sure to catch up on work late into the night, after getting up early to do it.

This means, that because I’m already at home, even when I’ve been sick, I’ve just adjusted my hours instead of taking time off.

I had this thought, “girl, what is your problem?!”

I guess I would just think, I want to save my time off in case we get to travel in the summer.

And then, I’ll just wait until it’s closer to the end of the year, so I can look at those days off and have hope.

(I’ve used up my days off for the year early in the year before and it was so tough mentally!)

So now it’s OCTOBER.

Girl, take a day off.

Take.a.personal.day.

Haha, anyway, friend I hope you have days off. I know not everyone does. I am so very blessed. And yes, I’m privileged, I really, truly am.

And I’m here to remind you that so many breaths of fresh air are here for us after we go take the walks, or take that personal day, or just stare out the window and dream a second while drinking a yummy drink.

I pray you get that recharge time soon. Let me know if you feel comfortable, your thoughts and something you do to recharge below.

Xoxo,

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

What’s it’s like being a mom of 2 :) 11 months in!

It’s been 11 months since having our second child and I thought it would be nice to share how it’s been going!

First, you see those faces?! I adore them!

My children, a boy and girl, are 19 months apart. My daughter was born last February and my son was born two Junes before that.

Really, he was also a baby when she was born.

But quickly, oh so quickly and yet at times slowly, he’s becoming a little boy.

When we brought “baby” home from the hospital, we dressed her in an adorable pink furry bear onesie.

This may not have been the best choice, as he tried to pick her up like his favorite teddy bear and I realized our mistake. 🙂

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I remember those first weeks and leading up to it, wondering how on earth we could care for both kids.

We put some things into place and basically Daddy began to take over in some areas that freed me up to rest before she came and start to carve out a new normalcy of mama not always being available.

I also started to really take time for cuddles each day with my firstborn and that would continue after the baby got here. For us, it was watching Peppa or other shows. It’s still a great time for cuddling and nowadays I love being there with him so he can interact with me as he learns things on a show. Lazy parenting, whatever! Life-saving & a good break at times!

Now that I had two kids, I found myself reticent to go out. It would just be a bit before I could figure out how to do it safely- I’m guessing any parent with two smaller kids has to get the hang of it.

Something that has been tough is that we’ve been waiting for our oldest to talk clearly and make his needs known for a long time. I thought he’d be able to speak in English for about a year and a half before it just started to happen recently at 2.5 years old!

I remember the scariest moment when I braved going to the park with both of them and he ran into the street. I thought I would faint but determinedly ran after him and got him, while needing to leave my baby in her stroller. It was so stressful and it took me a long time to get up the nerve to try it again! I decided to wait until he could follow directions and we are still working on that.

So this past almost year, we have stayed home and opted for a daycare program that was a few mornings right after Eilah was born and then another one that’s only one day a week more recently. It’s been a great thing for our family!

In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with togetherness and being safe and then venturing out when you know it’s smart to do so. If you know me, I LOVE ADVENTURE!

Our son has been to 10 states, most of those in his first year of life. But we’ve chosen to stay home a lot more once our second arrived, just to give time to adjust to this major change for not only us, but also our 2 year old.

We have since traveled twice and both were great experiences!

I think the key to a great trip is to do it with family, if possible because everyone loves spending time together and it takes the pressure off to know that grandparents are enjoying being with their grandkids and caring for them. It’s just the best! I remember traveling last year at 3 months pregnant and solely with my 13 month old to a family beach vacation with my large Italian family. There were so many people to love on him and look out for him and it was still exhausting but so enjoyable. I’ll never forget my brothers and cousins being happy to hang with him while I went swimming in the ocean. Delicious freedom!

So fast forward to this morning with two kids.

My son is 2.5 now, my daughter just turned 11 months old.

It was the day of the week we needed to get up and out to drop him off at his daycare experience.

I was trying to fight off the familiar feelings of stress and feeling disappointed in myself for not getting it right.

It’s been really hard to get him up and out lately and I didn’t want to start the new year in the same frame of mind.

He tantrums every single time.

Right now tantrum triggers are anything to do with being told what to do and having to do it in a timely manner.

Our past 3 times, we were so late even though we started getting ready an hour ahead of time. The very last time before break, it was 30 minutes! Ee!

So, this morning, I did NOT want to repeat that!

I decided I would make his lunch the night before to get that out of the way.

I’d wake up early and get an hour of work done so I didn’t have that in the way.

Check. Check! It was going well!

He threw a tantrum about getting his fleece pullover on, normal. (He’d already thrown a small fit that involved a dirty diaper and we successfully got through that while keeping everything clean so I was like, we will DO THIS).

Daddy (my back up:) ) left for work and we were still on time and it was shoe time.

I gave him a choice and to my delight he said, “boot doe”. Doe is his word for shoe and this was his first time saying boot! He thought it had to go with shoe, so cute!

And my goodness, was this the first time ever he has SAID an opinion or preference?! My eyes tear up just thinking about how long I’ve waited for that!

I put Eilah in her baby carseat and we all 3 happily began going down the stairs to the door.

We stepped outside as my 2 year old stunned me again by chatting about the birds and wanting them to come back and saying “birds, fly!” It was wonderful!

Then reality came crashing through me as I realized I had forgotten my purse with not only my driver’s license but also my fob.

How could I have forgotten that? And my phone was in our home.

My husband was hopefully coming as back up to help us load up, but it was cold and we couldn’t just wait.

It dawned on me that all this joy and ease was about to get difficult.

Two steps forward, one step back. That has truly been this whole year as a mom of 2.

Making me unflappable. Making me thankful things weren’t always easy and for all the depression and challenges I’d overcome after having my first. Making me figure out a schedule and always always planning ahead not just for things to go smooth, but just for things to happen at all!

I think being a parent of two little ones gives an invitation for intentionality. Whenever a movie pops on, I still have a hard time sitting down and staying still. For me, movie means time to clean up the home & get things done while the toddler is entertained and the baby doesn’t need to nurse, go down to sleep, etc! It’s a bit embarrassing- especially when my sister is over and we are supposed to be enjoying it together and I just go to the kitchen and start unloading the dishwasher!

So, yes, my 2.5 year old did not understand why we had to step back inside. He cried so hard all while I was explaining it to him every step along the way. Even the baby started to cry (she doesn’t cry often!) I tried not to cry, myself. I fought off the feelings of disappointment in myself for not being perfect and at the same time, felt determined that we could still make this all happen and be on time for his class.

I ran up, got the purse, ran down and when he realized we were going back outside and to “our-car” (He says it like one word), he was instantly back to being happy. I was glad I held onto happy, too.

We got to his school and he just started quivering as soon as he recognized it. Not because it’s scary, but at the same time, it is at his age sometimes. He feels all the feels like one live wire. I took it slow, took him out and held him and tried to form a plan.

His school involves stairs, so I learned early on that I can’t keep the baby in her stroller. I’ve tried everything. I’ve carried her in a carrier and ended up carrying my 2 year old at the same time. That’s a wild experience.

Today was even harder. Why did I think doing my arm day workout was a good idea before this whole deal?!

I decided to carry her in her carseat and carry him, as well. Idk but I think that was like 50 pounds. I was staggering and pushing forward with everything in me.

A lady was like, please go ahead and I was like, uh, I can’t. Thankfully the greeters came and helped and held Eilah in her seat while I helped him transition into his class.

Whew. So yeah, that’s an example of what it’s like being a mom of 2. Just the practical real life-ness of it.

It’s hard, it’s simple and it’s beautiful.

We’ll have many years of going out to parks and on adventures and it’s okay that the first year was more quiet.

Would you be interested in tips on how to enjoy being at home with 2 kids, doing educational activities and having them practice self play? It’s been amazing for being a work at home mom! I think I’ll do a post about it soon. My next one will probably be my daughter’s birth story. It’s kinda neat because it was a hospital birth, after having a homebirth the first time around! I loved both for different reasons. I was ecstatic about both for different reasons. And I’ve absolutely treasured her birth story in my heart for the past year. What a gift it was to me and to our family!

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

What I wish They Told Me Before Having 2 Kids under 2

Here’s what I wish “they” would’ve told me before I had 2 kids under 2.

  1. Fall and Christmas plates & decor come back in season before you know it. Just leave them out! 🙂
  2. You might feel like you are required to be the energizer bunny & pulled in many directions, but just breathe. It.will.all.come.together!
  3. Prayer is powerful.
  4. Reach out for help. And when God sends help, open your heart to receive it.
  5. Stay close to your partner. Let out the ugly to God, then a tamer version to your partner. Sometimes it will be in the reverse order & that’s okay because life is real & they will love you through it & perhaps offer insight, kind eyes or prayer that will heal you. In the midst of it all, keep pursuing your spouse in some small way. It will go miles!
  6. Diapers are just diapers. No need to potty train super early unless it works for you & your toddler! You get used to it & it’s one less thing to worry about right now.
  7. Give it a little while before you feel like you’re in a rhythm. The home will come back in order, your health will come back into order, just take it in small steps towards your main goals. Write them down so they’re not in your head! Then give yourself grace as you slowly implement them. It will be soo satisfying when you reach each tiny goal- don’t worry, it will happen!
  8. Take in the moments of rest. When baby needs to nurse or be held longer. When the toddler needs to be held or read extra books. These are the highlights of your life. Truly, these babies won’t be babies forever and even the toughest memories when they are tiny become beautiful after some time passes.
  9. See if you can either a) get up a little earlier than the kids to meditate, pray, read the Bible and/or do something you love for a few minutes (sip some tea while watching the sunrise, etc.) or b) stay up a little later to do the same thing. But believe me, the more sleep you can get, the better so sometimes that is the thing that is most necessary & helps you the most!
  10. I wish someone had told me all of the JOY having 2 babies under 2 brings. When the 4 of us just lay on the floor and laugh, it fulfills something in my heart that I could never have dreamed. It’s SO good.

What’s something you wish someone had told you about having 1, 2 or 3 kids (or more!)?!

Xoxo,

Ailene

What Type of Parent I am

I’ve had the amazing realization of what kind of parent I should be this week.

I want to start by saying that I have a reallly compassionate heart and I remember what it was like to be a tenderhearted kid.

So, I guess I’ve always wondered how I would parent.

I figured that I would still be my Italian self who can be loud & passionate, but also gentle which is my nature.

I’m guessing I’m probably not alone in feeling a little afraid of how to proceed.

But 2 year olds…man, they pull it out of you.

You find yourself with a tantruming little person in front of you and you just have to figure out how to deal. Amiright?!

Our 2 year old’s tantrums have been at an all time high in the past few weeks and I won’t go into details, but let’s just say I’ve had to face everything. Just everything about how to parent and who I am as a parent.

And it hit me- I will be a firm and tender parent.

Firm where it’s absolutely needed for guidance and to keep my child from harm and from harming others.

And tender as soon as he gets it and I can just wrap him up in my love.

No matter how upset he has been, my love has been bigger.

It just overflows and you’re just trying to find any way to bring calm back to their hearts and environment.IMG_1683

I guess my heart as a child used to be confused by authority figures who were harsh and never explained themselves.

Every person has moments where they handle it badly, but I think the thing that healed me the most was those authority figures who followed up and apologized and when it was appropriate, explained what was going on.

I still don’t completely know how this will go- that’s parenting a firstborn for ya!

But I’ve had so much confidence in my parenting and my child responds amazingly well to my confidence.

So, to all the other mamas and papas out there who are going through tough times, I’m praying for you, that as you read this you’d feel grace and just know what to do next with your child.

We’re doing it!

In it together,

Ailene