A Hard Winter

Winter can be particularly hard for those of us with mental illness. This winter has hit me harder than usual.

When January 1st came along, I gave birth to our sweet baby “Ryn”. It was a much desired end to a difficult and tiresome pregnancy, and the birth went well but it was fast and painful. I had seemingly no time to just rest and enjoy my newborn. My older children were gone for just one night, and then I had the main responsibility of caring for them and our home again. I had to prepare to attend my aunt’s funeral, and my mother was in mourning. I felt alone, and very busy.

I struggled to feel attached to Ryn because of everything going on. I loved her, no question about it, but I lacked the elated over-the-moon in love feeling I usually have. I felt depression wrapping its sticky arms over me, and anxiety climbing up inside of me.

I reached out to my husband, family, friends. I let people know “hey, I’m having a hard time here.” It helped, and I was able to spend some time alone with Ryn; I developed that intense love I had been looking for.

We were also hit with the flu in February, which in a big family takes weeks to go through everyone. It felt like I was hit by a truck, while caring for sick little ones.

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We stayed in bed for days, nursing and resting.

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I felt a need to distract myself all the time with mindless things. Simple tasks felt impossible and overwhelming. The less I did, the more stressed and worried I became.

My husband and some friends reminded me to focus on only the most important things. Dishes in the sink, laundry to fold? That can wait. They gave me permission to not be perfectly on top of things.

I have slowly gotten better and better, but I’m not fully there yet.

Another thing I have to remind myself of–prayer. It seems that when I need to rest in His presence the most, I hide and rely on myself. Very foolish thing to do, because when I finally do open scripture and go to Him in prayer, I feel relief and peace.

Spring is coming soon. My oldest child will be turning 8 YEARS OLD! I’m looking forward to the sun warming my skin, and the smell of the earth renewing its life. I dream of long hikes with my children, and time spent playing outside.

In the meantime, I have to keep trying and believe it is enough.

Shalom

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Coping with Post-Partum Blues

I have so much on my heart, but this cloud of sadness and anxiety leaves me in a state of inertia. Wanting to speak, but sitting silent.

My 5th baby is here, and 24 days after I brought her into the world, I’m finally fully bonding with her and feeling some of the cloud lift.

My pregnancy was hard and not very enjoyable. Typically I love being pregnant. So, I waited for her birth.

Her birth came on fast and fierce. She was my fastest labor by far, and I couldn’t shake this feeling of being unprepared. I couldn’t enter into a “birth space” state of mind. My desire was just to get it over with.

Her birth came days after my aunt died suddenly, so I met life and death in the same week. Her first outing was to a funeral.

I didn’t have much of a break before I had no choice but to dive back into life with the kids, and responsibilities.

I usually have at least a few days to enjoy the “cocoon” of just baby, husband and I.

So, I felt the depression sneak up on me. The anxiety started to come over me. I wanted to crawl into bed, put the covers over my head, and leave the world.

Of course, with 5 children this was impossible. Not only that, but with my experience of depression, I knew hiding would only sink me deeper.

Instead of hiding, I reached out. I took a friend’s advice to have skin to skin time with the baby. I took the babies first bath with her. She LOVED the bath! She was so calm and peaceful. It felt like a return to the womb. I drank her in, enjoyed her, focused on her alone. It was then that I was able to open my heart more fully and get to know her.

I also took the advice of many wise women friends who told me to relax, be gentle to myself, and not stress over the laundry or dishes. I had JUST given birth, they reminded me. This helped me to rebuke the thoughts of “you’re a failure” ringing in my head.

Now we are nearing one month post partum and I am connected with my baby girl, and the emotional cloud to getting brighter and lighter every day.

I’m thankful I have learned to always SAY SOMETHING before getting truly depressed. This has saved me from a lot of suffering.

Please reach out if you don’t feel well. Come out of hiding and say something!

Shalom.

Freebirth Story on New Years Day!

*There is some nudity in these videos of my birth, but not very graphic*

On New Years Day 2019, I gave birth to my 5th baby! My 4th daughter, and 2nd freebirth/unassisted birth. I was 40 weeks exactly, she was actually born on her guess date. I had contractions from my 2nd trimester, which became increasingly frequent and strong in the week or so leading up to her birth. I felt a certain change in the strength of them in the 24 hours before labor began. I woke up around 4am on 1/1 and watched a show on Netflix. I went to my rocking chair in the living room and put up my swollen feet. I felt my belly getting stronger contractions but still slept in between them.

My husband woke up around 7am and asked me if he should call out of work. I told him to ask me again soon and I would tell him. I was not certain that I would have the baby yet by then, but while he got ready I decided that even if I didn’t give birth that day, I would need his help with the kids regardless.

Things picked up really fast after this. We were in the kitchen together as the kids woke up, and my husband noticed my contractions were awfully close together. He was keeping an eye on the clock and told me they were about 5 minutes apart. He was surprised by how close they were, and I was feeling certain that baby was coming now.

I called my mom and told her to come get the kids around 8:30am. By 9am, I had sequestered myself in the bathroom where I held onto the sink for dear life as the contractions rocked me. I could not deal with being by the kids, so I called my mom and basically told her HURRY UP BABY IS COMING.

She flew over here and grabbed the kids for me. As my husband put our son into her car, she pushed on my hips for me but then she said, “how do you know the contractions are actually doing anything?” “have you had any bloody show?” I remembered then why she can’t be my birth support with a UC, she means well but her questions were not helpful. I only ever had bloody show or a mucus plug with my 4th baby by the way. I had no obvious signs of cervical dilation, neither was I concerned at all about checking myself, but I simply could feel their power and knew they were doing their job.

She left with the kids and finally my husband Fernando could come in and help me. I had him give me counter pressure on my lower back for a few contractions, then I asked him to run the shower and get in with me. It was very nice to have the hot water on my back and to be close to him physically. He stood in front of me and I leaned into him. He saw I was anxious, because of how fast I went from “maybe labor” to “holy moly this hurts”. He reminded me over and over that I was capable, and strong, and that my body knew how to have the baby. He also reminded me to BREATH. I took some deep breaths and calmed down.

When I felt ready to leave the shower soon I told him to come out and get stuff ready for me. I was having many contractions now, and occasional breaks of a few minutes or so. Those breaks were like heaven for me. In my head I was thinking about escaping the pain, but I would talk back to myself “that is because the baby is almost here, your almost done”. I left the bathroom with a towel around me, and stood by the living room table. I had a pillow on the table that I leaned on, as Fernando pushed on my lower back and reached around me so I could squeeze his hands. It was around 10am and I KNEW I was in transition and baby was coming shortly. I was also resisting a bit, because I had no time to mentally go there.

I was not zen like at this point. I banged on the table, threw a bottle of water, and cursed through contractions. I also did not care one iota. I just wanted to get through this and I kept picturing myself resting with my baby as motivation.

I felt things shift and pressure building. I moved to my previous births “birth spot”, on my knees and leaning over my bed with pillows. I had my husband do something that I never imagined before, but it just kind of happened and felt perfect. He came behind me on his knees, and he leaned over me in a bear-hug type position. The pressure of his weight against my hips and lower back felt awesome and being surrounded by his body and holding his hands was perfect. It actually felt very sensual despite the pain I was in, and it was not the first time I felt sensual towards him during this labor. It was not sexual exactly, but very sensual.

I was being totally consumed by the contractions and the pressure was very intense. My body was bearing down, and my belly was squeezing baby down very hard. My water was still intact. I took out a hand-held mirror and watched my vagina to try and distract myself. I never bothered to watch before, it was a good distraction. I thought I saw the baby’s head and got excited, but it was my own tissues being pushed from the pressure. I knew baby was right there though.

Sure enough, the next contraction came, and I felt her deep in my birth canal. I was in a lot of pain but breathing through it. I put my hand down there so I could feel for the head, again, as a nice motivation and distraction. That is when everything let loose. My water exploded, poop came out, and my vuvla was opening up for baby’s head. I felt the head right there, almost out. My husband was still behind me and I knew all those fluids were getting all over him, but I thought “well, I have to give birth so he can handle that” lol

Next came baby’s head, and then the body just slipped right out! I was SO RELIEVED to have given birth. It was right about 11am.

Right away I noticed it was a GIRL, and we both laughed so hard because I swore the whole pregnancy it was a boy. She was crying immediately, and her cord was very short. I asked for a towel because she was so slippery, I could hardly hold her. She sounded like she had some gunk in her and we considered sucking it out with out mouth, but it didn’t seem too bad, so we just waited, and she was fine.

I was sitting in a pool of blood and bodily fluids, everything was everywhere. But I was so excited to have my baby! She was beat up from her quick exit, but we realized she looked like me! Finally, after the other 4 being my husbands twin.

Fernando helped me move into a reclining sitting position. I was in a bit of pain still, so I didn’t want to sit directly on my butt. I got to know this little person who I carried for 40 weeks. She nursed, and her latch was perfect. She was wide awake and taking it all in.

I decided to try and move into a better position to birth the placenta after about half an hour of needed rest. It just didn’t come, but I was still bleeding a lot. I felt healthy, so I was not concerned. It was about an hour after birth when I stood up for a while and told Fer to cut the cord, so I could focus on birthing the placenta. But, I had a feeling that it was an emotional block. As he went to gather supplies for the cord, I put my hand over my belly and told the placenta to let go, it was ok to let go. I realized I was holding onto the placenta with my fears, because birthing the baby hurt so much. As soon as that fear released, the placenta detached, and I felt it coming out. Just in time, Fernando caught it in a chux pad for me.

I felt incredible for it all to be over! We wondered over our newest daughter and laughed and kissed. We cut her cord after about two hours and I showered off. I was bleeding quite a bit, but I decided to just keep an eye on it and it slowed down later to a normal level. I ate a banana and drank some juice and felt overall very healthy and strong and happy.

So, the birth was fantastic as far as health and autonomy. I love being in my own home, and I love birthing with only my husband. It was a very difficult birth as far as pain levels, and my guess on that is because it was my fastest birth by far. Typically, I have hours to get my game face on and prepare. But this was go time from the start. I learned a lot about my strength, and it was a way to grow closer to my husband because I relied on him so much. I wouldn’t change it for anything, and I am so happy to add her to our family.

Big Family Chaos, Letting Go and Letting God

Two days to my due date with our 5th baby, and after weeks of trying to keep our home clean and organized…it’s all falling apart. The holidays, the contractions, the chaos of four little ones who are inside most of the time lately; it is just impossible to maintain for very long.

Then, the sudden death of my aunt. While mourning her loss, it also means less help from my mother and other close family members as they (understandably) move their focus to the immediate needs of preparing to say goodbye to her. Not to mention the emotional pain they are coping with.

My husband is stressed over his job, and what his options are. He has worked his whole life, including military service, but he has also battled bipolar disorder for most of his adulthood. This has lead to difficulty in getting gainful employment and keeping it. He has been in solid recovery for the last few years, but it takes time. He knows that we need him, and he is worried. I am worried that he is worried! Not a good cycle.

Then, my oldest daughter goes from slightly sick to throwing up all over the couch today. I’m helping her get cleaned up and praying to God “Please, please do not let me get sick too!” I can’t imagine having to give birth while ill. And how long before the other kids get it and start throwing up too?

So there I am. Big and pregnant. Cleaning puke. Chasing my all-maniac-boy toddler. Managing arguments between the middle two girls. Squeezing my son onto my lap to nurse for the millionth time. The floors I meticulously swept, mopped, and vacuumed are a mess again. The bathroom that I scrubbed on my hands and knees has to be cleaned again. The toys I put away are on the floor, again.

And so, I started thinking, “how do I let go?”

How do I accept that no matter how much I clean, it will once again be a mess?

How do I accept that germs do not care that I am pregnant, and my kids still need me to help them when they are sick?

How do I let go of worrying over my husband so much, and allow him to figure things out?

How do I accept death, in the midst of bringing new life?

How do I really accept that I cannot decide when this baby is born?

It all reminds me that I really am not in control of much. Life is MESSY. Especially with a big family. But, it is a beautiful mess.

This verse comes to mind for me;
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ” Matt 6:33

Seek first the Kingdom. Seek after His righteousness. All these things (our needs) will be given to us. In other words, LET GO. STOP worrying so much! The Father already KNOWS what we need, and he is a GOOD father who takes care of His children.

Shalom.

Momma, When You Feel “Touched Out”

This is a picture my 6yr old daughter snapped of me breastfeeding my 2yr old son, while heavily pregnant. I love what this picture captures, his smile at me and my joy in him. I also love that my daughter decided to take the photo. But breastfeeding through my 5th pregnancy has been challenging in many ways, especially when it comes to feeling “touched out”.IMG_E0307

 

Sometimes, all I want is for the little ones to not need me so much! 

Sometimes, I have to tell my son “not now” when he asks to nurse (and that is okay too).

Sometimes, I need half an hour to myself without the children on me, before I can relax with my husband.

All of this is true, but I want to remind you touched out mommas (and myself) of some very important things…

  • You are so very important to these little people in your life! Your babies, toddlers, and children need you. There will never be another time when simply being with YOU is so incredibly calming for them. Your touch, your kisses, your milk, your lap; you are giving them the love they need. The world may not recognize the work you are doing, but it is so important. Don’t lose sight of that.
  • The older children are watching you, and your love is a gift to them too. Those of you with children of multiple ages, you are giving them an incredible living example of what loving sacrifice looks like. Every time you rock a crying baby, sooth an upset 3yr old, and nurse a tired toddler. Every time you scoop them into your lap and read them a story. Every time you forget about that tea you had to heat up for the third time, because you were too busy giving. Every time momma, they see it. It matters.
  • It really does not last forever. They will grow taller, leaner, and more self reliant. They won’t wake you up at night to cuddle. They won’t beg you for one more story. They won’t cry for you to carry them on your tired hips. They won’t need your presence the same way they do now. But, these days will have built a solid foundation within them. They will still know and rely on your love, and your strength will become their own. They won’t always need you like this, but your sacrifices will always matter.

It may not seem like much more than a whirlwind of tasks some days. Running from mess to mess, child to child, meeting the needs all around you all the time. You finally fall into some sort of sleep, tired and TOUCHED OUT.

But momma, it IS sacred work. Raising these beautiful babies is a higher calling. It is something pure, wonderful, and holy. Often the most holy moments are caught in the most mundane and routine tasks of care-giving. It is humbling work. It changes you daily, in ways you may not realize just yet.

So, yes, put those feet up when you can. Give yourself time, and rest.

But remember what an important, and fleeting time this is.

Shalom.

 

 

Nearing Birth, 37 Weeks Unassisted

Lately, there has been a major shift; physically and emotionally. I frequently wake up in the middle of the night, and the very early morning. I carefully move my legs out of bed, trying not to cause my hips more pain. I limp over to the kitchen and get something to drink and snack on. I empty my bladder for the hundredth time. I sit in my recliner and enjoy the silent darkness, before my toddler wakes and comes running sleepily to find me and nurse in my heavy, burdened lap.

I need more rest, and more time to think. I’m less interested in what it going on outside and around me. My focus draws inward, to the life that moves so strongly inside of me. I am startled awake sometimes by the strength of this little ones kicking.

Most of the time I feel joyful anticipation over the upcoming birth, but there are moments of panic when I consider the task ahead of me. It is the hardest thing to do. It takes physical and mental strength like nothing else I have done. I draw deep from within myself to have the courage, I lean on my husband physically and emotionally, and I pray to my Savior for His strength to come to me when I lose mine. I hold in my minds eye the image of my newborn, and I remind myself of the joy to come.

My contractions have become more intense since yesterday. Still sporadic, like the casual tossing of a sea. Yet, stronger. Filled with the sensation of my babies head pressing down, helping to soften and open me up to their birth. At times it feels like a powerful hug, almost enjoyable. At other times, it wakes me up and I cringe in pain.

My toddler still needs me so much physically. It is very difficult to handle his demands against my own needs at the end of pregnancy. I have committed myself to nursing him until he self-weans, esp because of his concerning lack of weight gain (a subject for another day). But it is hard!

My due date is still two weeks away, but I don’t think the baby is waiting that long. Time will tell.

I never had a winter baby before. It is kind of fitting, as the earth goes into itself that I would also go inward. It feels right, in some spiritual sense.

Shalom.

21 Weeks Pregnant UC Journal- Kicks and Cramps

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve reached the magical age of 30 or if it’s because I have 4 children already, but pregnancy #5 is not easy. I basically feel like an old lady every day. My legs hurt, back hurts, and I want to sleep. I normally love this stage of pregnancy and have plenty of energy, but this time I find myself just looking forward to the end result (holding the baby) and getting my no-longer-pregnant body back. Although, I will have my newly-postpartum-mother-of-5 body which probably isn’t much better. Welp. Put me out to pasture.

Then, two weeks ago I decided it was a great idea to take my 4 kids to the state fair. So I ended up lifting my toddler constantly, pushing our big stroller while stuck in a monsoon rainstorm. We even got lost in the massive “parking lot” (huge fields that look the same). I was seriously about to cry when we found the van. I was exhausted, we were soaked and muddy, and the kids kept wailing “I want dadddddddy”. Where do I get such great ideas??

After we got home that night, I had to wash dishes and clean the kicthen and give the gross muddy kids a bath. I went to bed with serious lower back pain, and when I woke up I was having contractions that felt serious. I was scared of how intense they felt at this stage of pregnancy, I was only 19 weeks, so I called my mother to come and help me with the kids so I could be seen at the hospital.

They checked everything and baby was fine. My cervix was closed, so the contractions were not doing anything. Unassisted pregnancy does not mean that you can never seek assistance if you feel unprepared for symptoms. I wanted to make sure I was not in preterm labor, so I did. I’m glad I went, and my blood work was perfect which was nice to know!

Now at 21 weeks, I have been taking it easier. No more monsoon treks through the state fair. I have been giving myself the grace I need to rest when my body tells me to rest. The contractions have subsided since I am taking better care of myself.

Despite being old and tired, the one thing that brings a smile to my face this pregnancy is baby kicks! I was feeling movement for about a month, but they were small movements. Now I can expect real baby kicks every day, and it is always such a joy. No matter how many times I have felt it before, each time it feels like a miracle and gives me a special connection to my unborn baby.

This is the first time we have chosen not to find out the sex of the baby before birth, and that has also been exciting!

Shalom