“Wanna go on a family walk?” I ask. It is a proposal met with enthusiasm and within 5 minutes our shoes are tied, the stroller is loaded with our offspring, and we are off. If this had been a verbal game of golf we’d be killing it because hardly a word was spoken during our preparation. We head up the street, his long stride purposefully shortened to match the short, tired stride of his petite wife’s at the end of a long day. A day during which she wore many hats. Counselor, teacher, friend, mentor, mother, wife; each of them valued, encouraged, and praised by him.
Barely a word has been spoken in two blocks, yet we are perfectly in sync. We know where we’re going, because we’ve walked this same path hundreds of times.
Our silence is comfortable. We don’t feel the need to fill every moment of silence with deep soulful revolutions. It’s not common for him to have two days off in a row, and we have taken advantage of every moment together. The word bank is temporarily depleated, which used to feel wrong, cold, and distant. After nearly six years of marriage it is comfortable. It’s a gift to be able to be silent yet completely comfortable.
I notice the new pansies that have been planted around the tree in the old couple’s yard and think to myself that I would never plant flowers so late in the season. Tomorrow is July 1st! Then again… my hydrangea isn’t looking so hot so maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to dish out advice on botany.
We’ve discussed buying a home and every time I consider the days of walking this path may be coming to an end I find myself fighting back tears. This path is like an old friend. It has witnessed our venting frustrations, our hopes and dreams for the future, and the process of revolving many problems.
I know that in the Spring I will sneeze my head off, but it’s worth it to see the garden on the corner in full bloom. I know that in the Summer the lavender in the yard next to my favorite garden will grow out of control, taking up half the sidewalk, and be swarmed by bees. I know that in the Fall my husband will be distracted by the ball-like pods the tree up the street from our house sheds. I know that in the Winter we will always talk about going on a night walk past Christmas corner, yet we will almost always drive instead.
I suppose what I will miss most about our walking path, one day when we do move, is the familiarity. But perhaps I have it all wrong. It’s not the path itself that I take comfort in because of its familiarity; it’s my company. The one who shares my hopes and dreams, and the one who fights for resolution to every arguement. Our walking path may change, but I can always count on him to be beside me. Matching my stride, being comfortable in the silence, and working alongside me. What a gift… far more beautiful than snowdrop flowers, grand historic homes, or Christmas corner.
We arrive home, having eventually enjoyed a good conversation, and he takes our sleepy son out of the stroller. They walk up to the house as I take care of the stroller. As I look at them, my kind and strong husband and my toothy grinned infant with sleepy eyes, I’ve never felt the saying “home is wherever I’m with you” to be more beautiful or more true.
There are a lot of awful things people like to tell joyful expectant mothers. “Take a shower. Sleep. Go on a date. Enjoy it all now, because once that baby comes it’ll never happen again.”
Frankly, it’s BS. That’s not motherhood, that’s being a victim of your children. (But that’s a soap box for another time). One of the things I heard over and over or saw posted on Instagram was “I never have hot coffee anymore,” and “Look at this mug of coffee I’ve microwaved 1,000 times and still not finished this morning.” I pictured motherhood as a graveyard of everything I once loved. Here, a tombstone for hot showers. There, a deep conversation with a friend. And let’s not forget the tombstone for hot coffee, may she rest in peace.
You know what has surprised me? I drink cold coffee almost every day… but not because I don’t have the opportunity to drink it hot. If I really wanted to drink hot coffee, I could make it happen. Caleb hasn’t stolen the luxury of a hot cup o’ joe. Instead, I choose moments with him over hot coffee.
Morning is Caleb’s best time of day. I shower before he wakes up (yes, it’s possible to be a mother and a clean human… and no, I’m not Wonder Woman), and by the time he wakes up I’m excited to start our day together. He greets me with smiles, holds my hand as he chugs his morning bottle, and wants to snuggle before he wants to play. While he plays, I usually get my coffee… and then he starts to “talk.” Inevitably, as soon I sit down on my love seat with my steaming cup, Caleb looks up at me from his play-mat and he wants to interact. He squawks at me, raising his eyebrows as he lifts his arms and legs simultaneously as if he’s saying “look what I can do!” I set my mug down on a coaster to tell him how strong he is, and to bring a smile to his face with his favorite song, a silly face, or a crinkle of his favorite toy. I trade my hot coffee for belly laughs… and that’s a trade I am willing to make every day.
This morning as I drank my chilled coffee, I thought “I remember when I drank hot coffee every day… and man I do not miss it.” To those who have never had the opportunity to trade hot coffee for baby belly laughs, I’m sorry. You’re missing way more than I am.
I drink cold coffee. Not iced coffee, but once-was-hot, but now-is-not coffee. And one day, when he’s not bursting with excitement to interrupt my morning cup of coffee, I’ll probably cry, because I’ll remember these precious moments and want them back.
Last week I met someone new. Unlike a lot of strangers, she immediately asked how the postpartum recovery has been for me. I gave her the surface level answer “Oh, it’s been good!”, because we live in a culture that doesn’t always want the real answer. The truth is that the aftermath of having a baby included a burst stomach ulcer, emergency surgery, and a lot of throwing up. What stranger wants to hear about that?
She asked a lot of questions about Caleb, was quick to tell me how cute he is, and her joy was palpable when she held him. Then she asked a question that I did not anticipate. “What is your favorite thing about being a mom?” Immediately, I realized that I couldn’t pretend like my trauma didn’t happen. I couldn’t simultaneously be authentic and give a pat answer. So I answered, knowing that I was about to shock this stranger, this potential friend (as I like to think of people), with my story.
I thought about it, and then I said, “Literally everything, because I almost missed it.”
I summarized the series of events, and her jaw dropped. No one expects to hear that a new mother did not get to be with her baby for the first few weeks of his life. No one expects me to tell them how many surgeries I had in the months of October and November. And I’m certain that this sweet potential friend did not expect to hear such a lengthy story (even though I gave her the Spark Notes version) in response to such a simple question.
The truth is that I love giving him his bottle of formula, and that I’m thankful for modern science because it allows me to feed my baby. The truth is that I love to change his diapers because I know his body is healthy and that he’s growing. The truth is that even when I am laying in pain with my heating pad on my back at the end of the day, I am thankful that I’m sore because it meant I spent the day caring for him. I love every moment with him, because I’m not missing moments of his life anymore.
Yet sometimes I find myself crying. I become overcome with grief and overwhelmed sadness over all the things I have missed. I become overcome with the fear that I am not enjoying every moment to the fullest… and his short life is already comprised of moment I will never get back. Instead of treasuring the moment that I am in right now, I often cry because of the ones I missed against my will.
Some people struggle with resentment of others when things are taken from them. Thankfully, I don’t resent others that get to snuggle their newborns and tote them around in carriers. But I do wish I had had the opportunity.
Thankfully, I no longer feel guilty or overcome with sadness that I don’t get to breastfeed. I have never once winced in pain giving my son a bottle of formula… and never once has he said “Hey mom don’t you have anything better?”
Our lives are made up of moments that we cannot get back, and I have felt crushed by the pressure to enjoy every moment to the fullest. So instead I’m trying to be thankful in the present moment, because I am living moments I almost did not get. I could have easily died, but God in His mercy, gave me these moments. In response to His gift, I must choose not to wish for the moments that have passed or fear the moments to come.
In this exact moment, I’m thankful for my swaddled baby (we call him Paco the Taco), who is sleeping peacefully in his crib with a Mickey Mouse paci. I’m thankful for my husband who helped me clean this morning, so I could have this moment, right now, to work on my writing. I’m thankful for the couch God blessed us with five years ago, even though one side is being held up by a stack of books because it lost a leg during its service in our hospitality efforts. Our treasured couch, that is currently cradling me in comfort, has supported many hurting friends, served as a bed for weary people, and witnessed the sharing of joyous news and events of celebration.
Our lives are made up of moments that we cannot get back, but each moment shapes us. Moments turn into years, and years into a lifetime. I want to look back on my lifetime, confident that I spent it well, because I was thankful for the moments.
I realize this is not the typical title for a birth story, and before you assume this is a horror story that will persuade you that the process of birth is something to be avoided at all costs, let me set one thing straight. This is not a horror story, it’s a story of God’s protection, grace, and provision. Also, nothing I experienced is “normal.”
My whole pregnancy I planned on an unmedicated birth center birth. After my success in treating Vaginismus (click for that story), I had a lot of confidence in what my body could accomplish. To my surprise, the more I researched birth, the more I became convinced that unmedicated vaginal birth was best for me and baby. The closer we got to my due date, the more I was actually looking forward to our “birth” day and the birth experience, since it was what my body was made to do. I read books, including Ina May’s “Guide to Childbirth,” “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding,” and “Holy Labor” by Aubry G. Smith. We took the class at the birth center, I made sure to steer clear of horror stories, and I prayed through my fears. I was convinced that Caleb would come on his own, that my plan was fool-proof, and I was prepared to stick to my guns to make sure my birth plan happened.
The 41 Week Change of Plans
The birth center policy is that you can give birth there up until 42 weeks (after which a hospital induction is scheduled), but they require a series of tests to be run at 41 weeks to ensure it’s medically safe to wait. I didn’t think there was any chance we would have to run those tests at 41 weeks, but Caleb decided not to come on his own.
Just before we hit 41 weeks, I had an ultrasound. At that ultrasound, the doctor informed me that I had elevated levels of amniotic fluid, but said there was no reason for the elevation (gestational diabetes or the baby not swallowing in utero are typical causes- neither of which were present). He called it “idiopathic,” strongly suggesting I be induced closer to 41 weeks than 42 weeks. I totally brushed him off, thinking “of course that’s your opinion- you’re a cautious doctor that wants to medically intervene.” This was on Thursday October 4th, and I had an induction scheduled for the following Thursday the 11th. The next morning, I had an appointment with my midwives. The baby was high, I wasn’t effaced at all, and I was barely dilated. They told me that my levels of amniotic fluid might risk me out of my birth center birth and they’d get back to me. I didn’t hear anything the rest of the day, so I relaxed and thought my plan would still happen. The next day, I woke up from my nap to a voicemail from my midwife. She said that because of my elevated levels of amniotic fluid, and because my body wasn’t showing any sign of going into labor on its own, she and the director had decided to transfer my care to the hospital, and they had scheduled an induction for Monday night.
I had a lot of feelings, but mostly I was terrified. To me, induction was the worst case scenario. I spent the rest of Saturday, all day Sunday, and most of Monday walking, bouncing on my birth ball, or drinking raspberry tea desperately trying to jump-start labor. When I wasn’t trying to encourage labor, I was trying to mentally prepare for labor. Despite my best attempts, labor did not spontaneously begin. On Monday evening Josh and I went to Outback for dinner and then went to the hospital to start induction.
Due to my high levels of amniotic fluid, I was considered high risk. The concern was that the umbilical cord could slip out before Caleb, which would cause major issues. I was on constant fetal monitoring, which was extremely annoying and uncomfortable. Annoying, because I have a hyper-active baby and he kept swimming away from the monitor. Uncomfortable, because the monitor was strapped right on top of my extremely itchy PUPPs rash I developed over the weekend. I was put on an oral dose of Cytotec, a drug that encourages dilation, and had to have an IV. I remember thinking how miserable that IV was, and telling myself “it’s just for a few days and then it will be a SUPER long time before you ever have to have one again.” (Spoiler: it wasn’t.) I only got a few hours of sleep on Monday night, despite the sleeping pill they gave me, and figured it would be ok because I told myself “today will be the day I meet my baby!” (Spoiler: it wasn’t.)
Labor was long, starting with mild contractions on Monday night that continued all day Tuesday, but it kicked into high gear at midnight on Tuesday. My nurse had given me Benadryl to help me sleep, but I didn’t get any rest. At midnight I had another round of Cytotec, and within 10 minutes the contractions were on top of each other. As soon as I hit the peak of one, another one would come just as intense. It took me a while to be able to even talk to wake Josh up. At 1 am, I went to the bathroom, threw up, and there was a giant gush of liquid. I was worried, because it was grayish brown, and it didn’t look like what I expected my “water” to look like. I proceeded to leak said liquid and blood, so I called the nurse. She tested it and it was in fact my water. The color was from meconium- meaning at some point Caleb had been in distress in utero and had a bowel moment. That totally freaked me out. The midwife came in and explained that I had a high leak, and this wasn’t ALL my water. She said “you have enough water in there for a pool girl. You’ll know when your water starts breaking because there will be SO MUCH you might float away.” (Later the midwife broke my water, and she was right… I thought I was going to float away.)
The midwife checked me at 3:30 am and I was 4 cm dilated, 100% effaced. I was SO exhausted, and knew Pitocin was the next course of action. Looking at how intense it had been thus far, and how long I still had to go, and the fact that I hadn’t slept at all (and barely got any rest the night before), I decided to get an epidural around 4:45 am. I thought it would be horrible, but I honestly don’t remember it being painful at all. I remember being relieved, and I remember finally being able to catch my breath.
I got a few hours of sleep, and we started Pitocin around 9 am. I spent the day breathing through contractions, and Caleb’s heart rate crashed twice. The first time, I had been alternating laying on my sides with giant peanut ball between my knees trying to open things up. We decided to try me sitting up straight for a little bit. When I did, I started gushing liquid, Caleb’s heart rate dropped drastically, and next thing I knew the room was full of nurses and the midwife turning me on my side, hooking me up to oxygen, and making sure the umbilical cord hadn’t slipped out. It was terrifying.
By 7 pm I was dilated to 9 cm, but Caleb crashed again while the midwife was checking me. This time it was even more intense. It happened right in the middle of the nurse shift change. Suddenly the nurses were shouting instructions and the midwife started talking about considering a c-section… all while I was trying to move the way the nurses wanted (with a numb lower body), with a giant oxygen mask inhibiting my hearing and sight, and no one telling me if my baby was ok.
I had a complete breakdown. I couldn’t stop crying, I started hyperventilating, and I asked them to give me a minute to discuss it with Josh. I remember feeling exhausted and like my all my dreams were being crushed. Not only was I two days into an induced labor, I was coming to the realization that I might not get the vaginal birth I had wanted and planned.
By the time the midwife and nurse came back, Josh and I had decided that the c-section seemed like the best option because Caleb was still so high and I wasn’t progressing very much. However, while Josh and I were discussing the c-section, the midwife had been conferring with a doctor. The midwife said that they would like to give it a few more hours and see if I could progress and still pursue a vaginal birth. I was exhausted, but agreed – because that’s what I really wanted.
When the initial discussion of c-section started, my mom came to the hospital. I’m SO GLAD she was there. The labor I experienced after the 7 pm crash was totally different from everything I experienced up until this point. It was back labor, and the contractions were intense. Seriously… thank God I had the epidural, because I don’t think I could have made it as far as I did. Somewhere around 10 pm, I was checked again. There had been no change in that couple of hours. My midwife suggested the c-section again, and after conferring with my mom and Josh I concurred that c-section was really the safest option. I was completely and utterly exhausted, it didn’t look like Caleb was going to engage in the pelvis, and if he crashed again it would become an emergency situation. A c-section wasn’t what I wanted, but I felt like I was making the best decision for both of our safety.
The Unplanned C-Section
By 10:15 pm I was being prepped for surgery. By 10:44 pm on Wednesday October 10th, Caleb James Cornelissen was coming into the world screaming his head off and trying to open his eyes right away. I had an excellent surgeon, a very kind anesthesiologist who stood by my head the whole surgery and told me what he was seeing (“Wow there’s a head full of hair— I can see him coming out!— WOW that’s a big baby! He’s already trying to open his eyes and check out the world!”), and they let us do cheek to cheek contact as soon as they cleaned him up.
Reflecting on this whole situation, I’m extremely thankful for two things. First, my epidural. If I hadn’t gotten the epidural, I would have been completely knocked out for the c-section. Instead, I was fully conscious and I’m very thankful for that. Second, I’m very thankful that the birth center sent me to the hospital. I think that even if I had been able to labor at the birth center, I would have ultimately had to have a c-section either way due to the insane amount of amniotic fluid I had. The fact that we were already in the hospital meant that I got to make the choice to have a c-section instead of being forced because it was an emergency.
Josh and Caleb headed back to our room for recovery while they finished closing me. When they went to transfer me back to my bed, the only thing I could move was my head and my right arm. My left arm was completely dead, which was terrifying and it took an hour to regain control of it. In that hour, I held my baby for the first time- but I needed help doing so because I had one arm. I felt so out of control of my body. I remember bits and pieces of what happened before we were transferred to our recovery room, but most of what happened after his birth is a blur. I clearly remember my mom coming in and meeting Caleb, which was so special because they share a birthday!
The next several days in the hospital were terrible, and I thought it was all related to my long labor and complicated delivery. Looking back, we know that what I was experiencing was complicated by an underlying medical issue that had yet to be discovered, which is part of the whole story. In the hospital, I developed a blistering rash over my entire body, most likely an allergic reaction to the anesthesia used during surgery, but everyone who came into my room had a different theory about my rash. It was exhausting listening to everyone’s theories about my rash, and dealing with more and more doctors trying to diagnose it- all without any definitive answers. I couldn’t keep food down. I couldn’t sleep. I could barely move. And my legs and feet inflated like balloons. On top of all this, the recovery wing was completely booked. Lactation consultants were available, but literally told me that I was going to be at the hospital for a longer stay than everyone else so they needed to help the other patients first. After surgery, my whole body was swollen. Caleb and I did our best to breastfeed, but he had an improper latch and by the time we got real help I was in excruciating pain from trying to figure it out on my own, and any pressure on my abdomen was absolutely excruciating. I kept trying, but with each feeding my pain increased, and so did my frustration. I had to fight with the doctor to get discharged. They were concerned about my rash and the vomiting, but I thought the vomiting was the result of extreme sleep deprivation and stress, which were two things that would be remedied by being in my own home. By the time we were discharged from the hospital on Saturday night I cried at the very thought of feeling Caleb, because it was so painful. My plan was to use my breast pump at home, but we started using formula that night just to survive. I felt like such a failure. Not only did I not get my vaginal birth, breastfeeding was turning into a nightmare too.
The Week After Birth and The ER Visits
We got home, and I continued having issues keeping food down. I starting working on pumping instead of breastfeeding, because I really needed to heal, but I didn’t want to close the door to breastfeeding. I hoped to pump until I could try again under the guidance of a lactation consultant that actually had time for me. I have never felt more discouraged, trying to pump while not being able to keep down food. I grew physically weaker each day, I had no desire to see – let alone hold – my baby, and even if I did want to, I was too nauseous and too sore to do so.
On Tuesday afternoon (October 16th), I was taken to the hospital by EMS. I had sharp pains in my abdomen, trouble taking deep breaths, and I was in pain more severe than labor. Unfortunately, my experience in the ER was a nightmare. After ten hours of being ignored, given a CT and ultrasound, fluids and meds, they concluded that my bowels were backed up and that was the cause of my pain (spoiler: it wasn’t). They gave me an enema, and sent me home in the middle of the night.
On Wednesday, I felt like I was dying… and that’s because I was. Over the next few days, my abdomen grew more and more distended. I felt fluid sloshing around in my abdomen, and moving caused excruciating pain. Not moving also caused excruciating pain. And honestly, there was no relief because I threw up everything, including medication. All this time, I was still trying to pump. Talk about major mom guilt. I was laying in my bedroom, absolutely drenched in sweat, unable to keep anything down, feeling insane because the doctor in the ER told me that the only thing wrong with me is too much poop, and I was trying to pump around the clock because I was feeling like a failure as a mother.
I’ve struggled with depression in my past, but I have never experienced darkness like I did during that week. I sobbed almost constantly and I was absolutely consumed with anxiety. I listened to worship music and pleaded with God to give me the desire to live, because there were moments that I honestly believed that Caleb would be better without me. I thought that I was experiencing postpartum depression, but I was literally walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
Friday came, and so did my mom. My mom has a unique gift and ability to care for people. Diane Crutchfield doesn’t just take care of physical needs; somehow she is able to assess and treat all needs – physical, emotional, and spiritual – simultaneously. She’s also an incredible problem solver. So, in typical Diane fashion, she formed a plan and helped me process all the things that were going on with me emotionally- including my struggle with pumping.
Saturday morning I decided that the best thing for Caleb, and my mental health, was to have Caleb on formula exclusively. It was so kind of God to give me the opportunity to surrender this, because later in the day the choice would have been made for me. By Saturday afternoon I was in super rough shape (feverish, full body sweats, not super with-it, and extremely distended) and nothing we did improved my situation. We went to Urgent Care, where we explained the whole c-section and ER saga and the Doctor ordered an X-Ray. After reviewing it, he sent us to the ER and made sure they knew we were coming. Once we got to the ER, things happened very quickly. I don’t remember much, because I was extremely out of it, but I remember my mouth being super dry and desperately wanting water, I remember the incredibly kind nurses, I remember getting an IV, I remember getting a CT scan, I remember crying when the doctor told me I was going to be transferred to have emergency surgery, and I remember the kind EMS guys who gave me morphine. I know now that the doctor suspected that I had a perforated bowel, and that they suspected I had sepsis. I know now that I was dying… and that God spared my life.
I remember the ambulance ride, and thinking that I was so relieved to finally have a respite from the pain, thanks to my new friend morphine. I remember joking with the EMS guys, and telling everyone prepping me for surgery about my adorable baby Caleb James, and my amazing husband – who I referred to as “Super Dad.” (Guys, he literally is though.) I remember meeting the surgeon on call, Dr. Alleman, and him telling my mom all the scenarios from worst to best case. I don’t remember what he said, because a man that looked like the Black Panther was taking blood out of my hand. I do remember looking at my mom to see how she was reacting to what Dr. Alleman said, and she seemed ok… so I was ok.
Emergency Surgery and Ten Days in The Hospital
On October 20th, I had emergency abdominal surgery, just ten days after a c-section following a 48 hour labor. I don’t remember coming out of surgery, but I do remember waking up in ICU and being so happy because I finally felt better than I had in two weeks.
By God’s grace, I didn’t have sepsis and I didn’t have a perforated bowel. Instead of the worst case scenarios, which included a six month hospital stay and my bowels being in a bag outside of my body so my abdominal cavity could be rinsed, I had the BEST case scenario. I had a perforated stomach ulcer. Basically where my stomach and intestines meet there was a hole. So all the fluid from my stomach was leaking into my abdominal cavity. They pumped five liters of fluid out of my abdomen. (That explained the sloshing feeling every time I moved!) Instead of a six month hospital stay, he estimated a ten day stay.
It took several days for me to realize what all had happened to my body. When I woke up, I had two surgical drains, staples down my incision, a central line, an NG tube, a catheter, and I was on oxygen. My new incision went from my breastbone to my c-section incision.
The next week-and-a-half in the hospital involved another surgery (third surgical drain), physical therapy (lots of walking the halls), lots of blood draws, lots of bird baths, lots of people helping me to the bathroom, and no food or drink. Because I had a hole in my stomach, I couldn’t have anything by mouth for over a week. I got all my nutrition from TPN, an IV through my central line. Every time I closed my eyes, I had these mini dreams (thanks to morphine). I had many, many dreams of drinking a big, ice cold Coke or enjoying Five Guys Cajun fries (my fave!). Unfortunately the closest I got was a mouth swab (a piece of foam on a stick) in ice water.
Every day I walked the halls, tried to spend time sitting up in the recliner instead of bed, and tried to be a ray of sunshine to everyone that walked into my room. Not to brag, but I succeeded in that last goal. I called my surgical drains “honey pots,” my NG tube my “trunk,” and I was known by every nurse on the floor. By the end of my ten day stay, I had at least five nurses a day that would stop in to say hi, not because they were taking care of me that day – but because they wanted to see how I was doing, and if I had any new pictures of Caleb. Two days before I got discharged, I got to meet Caleb and my mother-in-law outside! It was so nice to finally see my baby, but it brought so much pain to the surface. At that point, I had the NG tube out, but we didn’t know how much longer I would be in the hospital. I cried a LOT that day.
Obviously the stomach ulcer is the craziest thing about this whole ordeal. The number one question we all had was WHY didn’t we know about the ulcer? The answer is that the symptoms of the stomach ulcer were masked by pregnancy symptoms. I had INSANE heartburn (to the degree that I had TUMS with me at ALL TIMES and called it “my candy”)… common symptom of an ulcer. I couldn’t eat a lot of food in one sitting… stomach ulcer. I had nausea… stomach ulcer. See? SUPER common pregnancy symptoms. Our other question was WHY NOW? Why did it burst when it did? Dr. Alleman said that during major (or traumatic) life events, the body shows its weakest part. For me, the major life event was having a baby, and the weakest part of my body was the stomach ulcer.
Life After Being Discharged
On October 30th, I was discharged from the hospital – and I thought that meant life would get back to normal. The truth is that I didn’t start feeling normal (in any sense of the word) until Thanksgiving. The first few weeks I was home were filled with nausea, vomiting, another trip to the ER, another CT scan, and another surgery to put in a (fourth) surgical drain. Thanks to the nausea, I still couldn’t spend much time with my baby. The smell of his formula (which I was thankful for but simultaneously hated – because it was a constant reminder of the fact that breastfeeding was taken away from me) turned my stomach and almost guaranteed that I would lose whatever food, liquid, and medication I had been able to muster down.
Through this whole ordeal, it has become so obvious how blessed Josh, Caleb and I are. Our families have sacrificed their time and sleep to care for us; Josh’s mom was here for two weeks, and my mom was here for almost a month. Our friends have provided meals, visited me in the hospital, have cleaned our house, brought us groceries, and come over to hold Caleb. Our pastors have come to visit, provided financial support, and prayed for us.
During my pregnancy, I took a postpartum course by Angie Tolpin (which I highly recommend). Her last lecture addressed the fact that her course – as many issues as it addressed – would not prepare the viewer for every scenario. She teared up as she shared her heart, saying that God allows hard things to happen and allows challenges because they give us an opportunity to grow. Motherhood is an opportunity to grow as a person, and as a Christian, and we can praise God for these things because they grow our character. We can praise Him because He cares about our character.
Lying in my hospital bed, separated from my newborn, unable to go to the bathroom without holding onto two people, God brought those words to my mind. God cares about your character. I’ve prayed many times that He would mold me to be more like Him, and this is one way He’s chosen to do so. I’ve prayed that God would use these experiences to encourage others, and I’ve prayed that God would let me see why He allowed these painful circumstances to be my reality.
I have a precious eight week old baby, who is healthy, happy, and so loved, and I’ve only spent 16 days as his primary care giver. It would be so easy for me to become a bitter, angry person… but I don’t do things the easy way. Yes, I wish I could have experienced the birth I planned for. Yes, I wish that I could have fed my baby with my body. Yes, I wish that I had gotten to experience life with my newborn. But I am way more thankful for the modern medicine that preserved our lives during my stalled labor, and my emergency surgery.
Even though I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, He was with me.
Like anyone who has experienced trauma, I have a lot to work through. I am on medication to suppress my stomach acid production, and will have to be closely monitored for the foreseeable future. My abdominal muscles are essentially non-existent, so I will be working on rebuilding them, hopefully in physical therapy. Primarily though, I’m loving my new job and role as mom.
If you have a fear of birth, I believe the best weapon is education. Do research. Our bodies were made to give birth, and it’s important to have a positive view of how our bodies are made. At the same time, birth doesn’t always happen the way we hope. I think I had a lot more fear about having a c-section, and lot more to work through afterwords, because I didn’t research how c-sections worked, or what the recovery was would be like.
If you had a traumatic experience, be wise. Don’t share every detail with every person. Work through the raw emotions with someone who won’t be traumatized by you processing your trauma. I strongly recommend reaching out to a mentor and seeking counseling. Don’t use your trauma as an excuse to isolate yourself! It will be tempting to avoid people, because it feels like no one understands what you went through. Even if that’s the case, it’s important to stay engaged in community and let others bear your burdens. Let people love you, and remember that it’s ok to not be ok.
If you know someone who had a traumatic experience, don’t avoid them. Show up. Your presence is a gift. Allow them to share as much or as little as they want. Pray for them. Find ways to love and serve them. It’s extremely likely that they are overwhelmed and simple things- like dropping off a meal or doing their grocery shopping- will be huge blessings.
I find myself thick in the season where goal setting is quite in vogue. Everyone loves to dream about the things they will accomplish, looking forward to the blank slate of a new year. I no longer feel like I have to wait until January 1 to plan big goals (see my last post!), but I do enjoy looking back on what the past year has taught me. Speaking of which, my goal to read the entire Bible through while I had a break from work was a fantastic failure. I decided to scrap it, because I wasn’t reading the Bible to change, I was trying to finish. I was trying to accomplish a goal, against all odds, so I had something to be proud of. I don’t think I need to say that is a poor motivation, but I’m going to anyway… that is a poor motivation. So instead of pushing onward, I stopped. I re-assessed. I set a new goal.
This coming year, I have decided not to race through the Bible, but to feast and savor. I have decided to select commentaries to accompany my daily reading, so that I am not just reading- but I am gaining knowledge and understanding. My dear In-Laws got me the most beautiful Journaling Bible for Christmas, and I am so excited to put it to good use, and to have space in the margins to write notes about what I learn as I study God’s word with intention.
This past year has been such a beautiful picture of joy and sorrow in my life, which maybe I will share in a later post, but if there is one thing I have learned, it is this: I can do tough things. I can be consistent, I can dig deep, I can learn new things, I can be vulnerable, I can encourage others through my struggle.
That’s where I am! I’m excited to share more and to continue reflecting on the blessings and lessons of this past year.
This has been a year of healing, adventure, and growth! I stopped blogging because I lost my voice, or at least felt I had nothing to say. I’m still not sure I have much to say, but I thought I’d at least try to start using my voice again no matter how hoarse it may be to begin.
This year has been void of blogging, but much has happened. I’m finally beginning to process through all of it, and what I’ve learned.
I quit my full-time job and felt relieved.
Josh and I took on a business venture.
Josh and I bought a second car, debt free.
Josh and I have whittled his student debt down and will soon be debt free.
We experienced healing from past wounds.
We experienced freedom as roles changed.
We traveled to new places and enjoyed adventures.
I have closed my business.
I have planted a flower garden.
I have started fresh.
I don’t know how to summarize all the ways we have grown and changed this year, so I’ll just say I’m thankful. Like never before, I am enjoying my long morning walks and healthy meals, going to work, and dreaming about the future.
I’m not sure where this blog will go, or what its new purpose is… but I’d love for you to walk with me as I rediscover my voice and begin to use it again.
I tend to like things in spurts. A while back I became obsessed with Mumford and Sons… their songs are sadly no longer enjoyable because I played them into the ground. I went through a hat phase and was rarely seen without one… now I feel much like Kathleen Kelly, most hats are a mistake. The point is that at any given time, there are some things I am really into and are current favorites. I thought it would be fun to list 5 of my current favorites! Hopefully I don’t wear any of these things out!
Thieves essential oil. I have dipped my toe into the sea of essential oils this summer, and I am glad I did. I ordered a starter kit from Young Living, and have used my oils for cleaning, fighting off colds, healing burns and rashes, and battling anxiety. My current favorite oil is Thieves, because I don’t go a day without using it. I keep getting a sore throat, and after using my Thieves roller, it goes away every time. PLUS it smells super good. 🙂
Brie cheese… best if paired with Salami and Red Grapes. Seriously, this is a delicious combination. My love for Brie cheese began in France, so obviously it makes me feel very cultured, but it also brings back such happy memories. (Please note this hilarious and hidden joke referring to cheese cultures. Thank you.)
LuLaRoe Carly dresses. Yes, I sell them- but I don’t love them because I sell them, I sell them because I love them. 🙂 This dress is seriously so comfortable that I wear it on days I’m not “doing” anything. I have NEVER been one to wear a dress just because… but the Carly is the exception. (If you want to shop, I have a weekly Popup on Thursdays in my Facebook group!) I cannot wait to layer these dresses with leggings, boots, and long cardigans!!!!
Pumpkin French Toast Bake. I made this last weekend for our growth group retreat, and I am a fan. I am someone who struggles to make breakfast happen every morning, so I love making casseroles like this that I can just warm up. Minimal effort, people.
Cam’s album Untamed. This ALMOST turned into a Mumford & Sons situation… but I quickly realized my trajectory (and remembered the graveyard of albums I used to love)… and took a break. So, now I’m back to loving the album. Even if you don’t like country, just listen to Burning House… and if you don’t cry, I’m not sure you’re human.
Friends, the last few months have been packed full of crazy changes. I have been meaning to sit down and get back into blogging, but stuff just kept happening! So here’s a whirl-wind update on our summer. 🙂
May was a BIG month.
My parents celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary and went to Ireland for a few weeks, so we visited my brother Andrew in Columbia and celebrated his 18th birthday at Carowinds. What a blast! A week later, Josh graduated with his M-Div from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and started a full-time job at CarMax! He is working as a sales consultant, and frankly crushing it.
Aaron moved out! He is adulting like a boss, working 2-3 jobs, paying his bills, making meals, and we are so excited with him and proud of him.
We bought a car for Josh, because Aaron is using the Explorer. 🙂 We got a Nissan Versa from a motivated seller on Craig’s List, in our price range, and with crazy low miles.
I researched and prayed and decided to sign up with LuLaRoe. At the time, I thought it would be good to have something to keep me busy in the evenings and the weekends, because Josh’s work schedule requires a lot of evening and weekend hours at work. I was working full-time in May, but Josh knew I couldn’t shake the idea of starting my own LuLaRoe business. So the day he graduated, I submitted my on boarding paperwork.
ALSO in May we bought our first brand-spanking-new major appliance, a dryer. This may not sound exciting, but I could not have been MORE excited. Long story short, we have paid ridiculous power bills this year because a bird made a nest in our exterior dryer vent, and our dryer was running for hours without drying the clothes. Once we fixed the bird issue, we realized the dryer was just dead and we could keep paying ridiculous bills or bite the bullet and buy a new dryer. Obviously we bought a new one, and we haven’t doubted the decision once! (Also our power bill is HUNDREDS of dollars lower each month. Isn’t that insane?!)
I think was in June… but it might have been May… we took a short trip to Charlotte and hit Ikea for some LuLaRoe supplies and ended up meeting my parents for dinner! It was a great time away, even though it was short.
June was frankly a month of struggle. Josh and I were both working full-time, and I cried a lot. Our schedules completely collided and my love cup was completely dry. I was gone from 7-5:30 everyday, and Josh was working mostly from 12-9 every night. By the time he got home it was 9:30 or 10, and I had fallen asleep because I had to get up early the next day for work. We agonized over what to do, and finally decided that the best decision was for me to quit my full-time job.
Growing up, my mom would always ask “What’s the goal?” Josh and I had a lot of conversations, serious conversations, over g-chat while we were both at work, because there wasn’t time to actually sit down and have a conversation. I felt so strongly that the goal of this season- just being married without anyone living in our house and before we have kids- is to focus on our marriage and make sure we are the strongest we can be. Secondary goals are to pay off Josh’s student loans and to gain direction for future ministry… but if our marriage isn’t strong, we won’t be able to accomplish much. Ultimately, we decided that both of us working full time may accomplish paying off the loans at a faster rate, but we might accomplish it at the cost of quality time and the ability to strengthen our marriage.
July was a month of endings and beginnings. Josh finished training at CarMax, I concluded my employment at my office job, and I got the call from LuLaRoe to order my initial inventory! We got to spend a long weekend with the Gilmores, and the dream of me spending more time at home because a reality.
August was a month of excitement. The first week I was home, not working full-time anymore, Andrew came to spend the week with us. We did a lot of fun stuff, but we spent the most time playing Pokemon Go. 🙂 In the middle of his visit, my initial inventory arrived! At the very end of his visit, he bought his first car. Josh was able to find the perfect vehicle, in Andrew’s budget. Isn’t that insane? When did he get old enough to buy a car?!?!?!
A week and a half later, I had my official business launch. It was what I hoped! I had several friends come to my in-home launch and fall in love with the clothes the same way I did. It was such a joy to see the giant smiles on their faces, and you could tell how amazing they felt about themselves.
Right now, I am loving the flexibility of my schedule. I’m establishing new routines and habits to take better care of myself and our home and enjoying the experience of owning my own business. Most of all, I’m thankful for Josh! He has been so supportive of my desire to spend more time at home, to pursue the dream of owning this business, and encouraged me to push outside of my comfort zone. I’m not sure what the next few months hold, but I am sure that we made a great decision putting our marriage first.
I have weekly LuLaRoe sales in my Facebook group (facebook.com/groups/lularoedeborahc) and THIS weekend I have an exciting multi-consultant sale! I’d love to see you there. It’s a great opportunity to try all the clothes on and get your sizes, as well as to see other styles I don’t carry yet. 🙂 Here are the details!
Last night I looked down at the beverage I was holding and just kind of chuckled. Seminary life is a strange, strange time… full of things I never expected and the gender stereotypes have been reversed. For instance, I’m the one that comes home from a long day and wants a beer. I have rarely do dishes, grocery shopping, or clean the bathroom. In fact Josh does a lot of chores for me while I’m at work so that when we’re both home we can spend time together.
It all feels backwards and it’s been hard for me to let go of all the things I’m supposed to do. I used to think that when I got married maybe I’d have a part time job, but that my main job would be taking care of our house… the floors would never be in dire need of mopping, the dust would not be out of control, the sink would be perpetually emptied of dirty dishes, and the counters ever clean and wiped down. Isn’t that a nice dream?
The reality is that I rise before the sun and I spend 10 1/2 hours out of the house each day… and in that time, there are other humans, with other standards of cleanliness, in my house. Yet, I still inwardly hold myself to that standard of cleanliness and when it’s not met, I feel like I’m not doing enough. WHY IS THAT? Am I comparing myself to other wives I know? Is it a fair comparison? (The answer is no, because it’s not fair to compare.)
I spoke some truth to a friend yesterday, and the truth is that I desperately needed to hear it for myself. The person you’re comparing yourself to isn’t perfect. In fact, they have sins that Jesus needed to die for… just like me.
Ironically, I’m finally learning to recognize the lists I make of things I should be doing just as we’re about to make more transitions out of seminary life, and into both of us working full time. I’m sure the amount of grace we’re giving each other will only need to be increased as Josh won’t have free days to get chores done. Just as I’m becoming aware of the unrealistic lists I’m making for myself, I need to be mindful of the list of “shoulds” I’m making for my husband. I can either be thankful for the things he is able to accomplish, or resent him for the things he can’t. I think the right choice is obvious, but often difficult to make. I pray I’m actively aware of this, and avoid hurting the one I love.
Last night, after a long day of work, a long walk by myself, and time spent in serving others, I didn’t list the things “I should be doing”… I rested and enjoyed that beer (and Grey’s Anatomy). Maybe the counters needed to be wiped, maybe I should have vacuumed our room- instead, I was grateful for the life we have, a husband that serves, and the freedom to say “this is all I can do today.”