April 16, 2014

Coconut Oil...and other Hippie Beauty Secrets.

By Amy

Hey friends!  Remember when we talked about skin woes (as well as other beauty insecurities)?  If you read my gut-spilling crappy skin post, you know that I have had problem skin for about 13 years now.  Ugh.  I expected it to go away when I escaped my teenage years, but Noooooo....my face has still been misbehaving well into my 20's and up to my current age of almost 28.  But.  The fabulous news?  Just like when I was pregnant with Hayden, my skin becomes GLORIOUS during my 2nd trimester!!!  (Cue singing angels!)


I feel so much more confident when I'm not worried about my blotchy, spotty skin.  Those who have great skin, please appreciate it!  That's what I'm doing right now. :)  I'd much rather have the visa versa--generally great skin and then deal with a couple months of breakout during each pregnancy--but, hey I'll take any clear skin my face wants to give me!

But, rewind about 7 months, and I was quite bugged with my skin.  I just freakin' wanted it to be clear.  Seriously, is that so much to ask, you adolescent, temperamental face?  *ahem*  Sorry.  Anyway, one thing I tried was coconut oil.

Have you ever heard of Oil Cleansing?  I first read about it on The Healthy Diaries after a super cool blog friend gave me the heads-up. (She uses this method!)  Back in November and December, I decided to try Oil Cleansing, since nothing else has completely worked on my face.  My reasoning: "If my skin already sucks, why not try something new?  What's the worst that could happen?  My face will break out?  Oh wait, it already is."  Here's the general gist of oil cleansing: we commonly dry out our acne prone skin waaaay too much with harsh acne cleansers.  So, our sensitive, crazy skin keeps breaking out.  But, if we can return the skin's natural balance by nourishing and cleansing it with a gentle, natural oil, then our skin can heal and produce the right amount of oil on it's own...which will result in less breakouts!  At first, it seemed totally crazy talk to me--add more oil to a broken out face.  But, the skin on my face often feels tight and peels sooo much, I wondered if I really was aggravating and over-drying my skin by using my Proactiv face wash.

So, sceptically, I gave it a go.  I first tried Extra Virgin Olive Oil mixed with a small amount of Castor Oil.  Hmmm, my skin felt soft afterwards, but I didn't really like the feel of putting the olive oil on my face...it was too heavy of an oil.  But I used it for a week anyway.  A few days in, my pores were realllly clogged.  Yuck.  Now, some will say, "Oh but you didn't stick with it for long enough!"  But, I hated the feel of it, so the clogged pores really just seconded my first opinion.  I decided I needed to try a different oil.

Next, I tried Coconut oil...Organic and unrefined.  It's kinda strange stuff...it's got this weird, crisco like texture when it's solid, then becomes liquid when it's warm.

This is how I've been using it:

Right after my shower, when my skin is still damp, I use a q-tip to take a tiny amount of oil and put it on the palm of my hand, then I kind of mix it with my finger till it becomes warm and liquid.  Then I put it on my face--a small amount goes a LONG way!

I LOVED how the coconut oil felt.  Oh my heck.  It felt silky, not greasy.  Wow.  I used the coconut oil in this way for about 2 months.  At first, my amounts of breakouts were about the same as normal. though the general feel of my skin was much better--it felt soothed, instead of tight, if that makes sense. Alas, after a few weeks, it still wasn't a miracle cure.  I still was breaking out.  In fact, I noticed that my pores were a bit more clogged than normal.

But, then when I hit my second tri, my skin became glorious--no more breakouts!...and suddenly, I realised that this had become a flawed experiment.  How could I judge if my result was caused by my face finally becoming balanced or if the pregnancy hormones were the miracle workers?  Funny thing: even though my skin wasn't breaking out, I still had clogged pores!  Yuck.  Which made me sad, cause I so wanted the coconut oil to be that answer to all my crappy-skin prayers, since I loved how it felt! I finally decided that I don't want those clogged pores, especially since my skin is SOOO nice otherwise. I want to enjoy my 2nd tri face!  :)

So.  Back to the drawing board.  I want to try an oil next that is even lighter, for the sake of my pores....I've heard sesame oil is really good for breakout prone skin.  And since I tried the three oils that are super easy to get, I'll probably have to look online to try any other oils.

In the meantime, I am using a very light moisturizer that my sister-in-law recommended: Nivea Firming Lotion.  I really like it so far!  And, maybe if my skin stays happy even after babe comes, then I'll just stick with that.

But, what to do with a big jar of coconut oil?  I already tried to use it as a makeup remover for my eyes--um, no thank you.  It is supposed to be wonderful for the skin around the eyes, which I bet it is!  It's said to reduce the fine crinkles...which are now creeping in on me....but, when I use it, even if I used it the night before and wash it off well with soap and water in the morning, my mascara and eyeliner are smudy under my eyes all day.  That stubborn small amount of greasiness that seems to stick around for two days, makes it impossible to keep eye makeup in place.  Equaling racoon eyes.  No thanks.  Avril Lavigne can keep that look.

So with my coconut oil on hand, I decided to try another beauty fad...Oil Pulling!  Here is an Oil Pulling link from Design Mom.  Have you heard of it?  It's totally weird, but lots of people swear by it, (people who I would consider non-extreme) so I thought, what the heck!  Basically, you swish oil in your mouth, through your teeth, back and forth, for 20 minutes.  Then you spit the oil into the trash, so it doesn't clog your drain.  This is supposed to be great for your teeth and gums--they say it pulls toxins out of your saliva, more efficiently gets into those tiny nooks and crannies of your teeth, and helps your mouth be healthy and clean.  Also, they say it whitens your teeth.  SO, I wanted to try it!  Why not, right?  It's cheap and all natural, so it can't do any harm.

I especially wanted to try it, because I'd like whiter teeth, but the two times I've tried Crest Whitestrips, my teeth were so sensitive the next day, I felt like I was CONSTANTLY biting into a hunk of ice cream.  To those who deal with cold-sensitive teeth, you know how evil and torturous that would be!   And I felt like that ALL DAY!  No good.  So, if only for the benefit of whiter teeth, I wanted to try oil pulling.

About a week ago, I took the plunge.  I put a small spoonful of coconut oil in my mouth (but remember, it's solid till it warms up in your mouth, so I had a mouth full of grainy crisco) and after holding it in my mouth for about 3 seconds, I started gagging and coughing it into the garbage.  It was soooo gross.  I'm such a dope--I should have known!  Since I'm pregnant, I gag WAY easily right now, especially from textures.  And that texture was Not Good.  *shudder*

But, I tried it again this morning, and tried NOT to think about the fact that I was swishing a mouth full of oil and spit.  "I'm cool, I'm cool...No big deal," I told myself, then popped a spoonful in my mouth and hopped into the shower.  My goal was to make it 10 minutes and...I made it 11!  Wahoo!  So, nothing magical happened, no organic rainbows and unicorns burst forth from my suddenly perfectly whitened smile... (ha..I"m kidding...I know I only did it once, and only for 10 minutes!) but I'm going to keep trying it out.  I still am going to brush...some oil pullers totally quit brushing and flossing!  I plan to keep trying the oil first thing in the morning, then brush right after.  Cause, I've been brushing for forever, ya know?  I'd feel way too nast if I just didn't brush.

So, friends...how about you!?  Have you ever tried oil cleansing or oil pulling?  If so, I'd love to hear about your experience!  Awesome or over-hyped?  Do you have any other funky beauty habits to share?  It's fun to hear about. :)  OH...and anyone else have dramatic changes in their skin during pregnancy?  Or have a physco gag reflex?  Ha...pregnancy is weird.


April 9, 2014

Kicking Fear in the Face--My Messy Beautiful

By Amy

I am so freakin excited to be part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project! This project celebrates the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback.  (PS...the book is fabulous.)

I love Momastery.  Glennon's goal of getting women to be real with each other, to support and encourage each other is what we strive for here at Swag on Momma!  There's too much on-the-surface perfection out there, and too little opening of hearts.  We are all a little broken and a little messy, but life is still beautiful!  Here's me opening my heart to you about my journey to overcome anxiety...my messy beautiful.

*This is a pic of me trying on my cousin's wedding dress...it kinda freaked me out to be wearing that.

Sometimes I struggle with fear.  Real fear.  The kind that paralyzes you and keeps you from your daily functions.  And the tricky thing about fear?  It likes to sneak up on me.  I'll be happily sailing along in life, for weeks, even months...then it will silently creep in.  Buta I always recognize it, cause one thing never changes: it always whispers to me, "You're not good enough."

Growing up, I was very outgoing and happy, involved in the Show Choir, Newspaper staff, leadership in my Church youth group, and co-president of the art club.  I spoke my mind, I loved people, and I probably seemed pretty confident.  Basically, I didn't seem like the kind of girl who was scared.  Now, I wasn't a fearful person in general...in fact, I specifically remember standing up to the guy who was the most powerful super jock in the school when he was being a jerk to a girl in our class.  (I might have said, "Guess what.  You are NOT that hot." which was maybe not the kindest way to handle it.)  I also sang a lead role in the high school musical with lots of solos...I was shaking scared, but I knew I could do it--and I did!

However, there were other times when fear overwhelmed me.

First, I feared math.  Lame, huh?  After years of struggling, my vague dislike for the subject became deeper and more intense.  I excelled in other subjects and was talented in art and choir--but when I was in a math room, the only way I saw myself was STUPID.  I asked myself again and again, "Why the heck can't I figure this out and everyone else can!? What is wrong with me?" During my junior year, it became full-blown anxiety--I couldn't even think clearly enough to try to hear, let alone follow the teacher's explanation.  I'd sit, drowning in my rising terror, filling my lined paper with drawings to keep from crying in class.  During work time, I'd try to ask the teacher for help, but I would inevitably get scolded for drawing and daydreaming.  I couldn't explain that I was only trying to cope with the churning pit of fear in my stomach and the tears that were always waiting just below the surface.  Math filled me with shame--it taught me that I wasn't smart enough.

My other big fear was dating/relationships.  In high school, I secretly crushed on SO many guys, but as soon as I was asked out on a date, I would panic.  Bad.  I didn't even have a reason to be so afraid--I never had any scarring experience to justify my terror.  But as the friend of many beautiful, flirty, outgoing girls who made guys drool, I just generally felt less-than.  Not pretty enough, not smart enough, not funny enough, not flirty enough...just not enough.  And after years of reiterating that to myself, I became irrationally afraid of being paired off with one boy, even just for a 3 hour-long-date, because surely he would quickly become bored of my company, and wish he was with any other girl.  So I avoided dating.  It was safer.  I would never have to face rejection from a boy.  I had lots of really good guy friends that I was comfortable with, but as soon as any of them started acting "weird" (if any boy complimented me or showed any interest) I would run.  Even if I liked him; especially if I liked him!

Once, I heard an older boy said I was cute.  Later, I saw him coming towards me while I was wandering through the halls during class.

 The hall was empty--just he and I.  Walking toward each other.

And I was about to DIE.  My stomach was climbing up my throat, my arms were going numb, and my mind was...non-functioning.

In my panic I stuck my head in a locker.  And, no, not my locker.  I still remember being horrified at myself, rooting around like I was looking for my Biology notebook in some stranger's un-locked locker, willing that boy to walk past without noticing me.  Oy.

In college, it grew worse--I would have full-on panic attacks when I was asked out.  Anxiety was keeping me from any serious relationships, though I had many amazing guy friends and had a ton of fun at school.  The problem was, I really wanted to someday find a guy who would more than "like" me.  I wanted someone to "cherish" me.  I don't know how I got stuck on this word, but that's what I wanted.  And we would get married, have a family, and laugh and enjoy a happy, simple, awesome life together.  Not that I ever acted like I wanted to love and be loved.  But, in reality, I longed for someone to love me best in the whole world.  I literally wept when Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe FINALLY ended up together.  I sighed in ecstasy in every Jane Austen book and movie.

But you can't exactly get married without dating anyone. (and...being a mail order bride didn't seem like a smart option.)

This fear was a mountain in front of me that I couldn't seem to climb.  And after a while, I stopped trying.  I literally planned something for every Friday and Saturday evening of the entire semester, so that when I was asked out, I could just say, "Oh I'm sorry, I already have plans that night."

It seemed like a good strategy, although some would judge me as being cruel to the poor boys who had scraped up the courage to ask me out.

But, I couldn't very well tell them, "Actually, no thanks, because I'll get so emotionally worked up from now until then, that I'll fight nausea and dread every day, and then the day of our date, my IBS and churning stomach will cause explosive diarrhea for hours. And then I'll cry and have one of my roommates call and cancel with you. Now, I need to function for the rest of this week--I have classes and homework, so lets both avoid some suffering by agreeing that you should not ask me out."  

I didn't think that would go over well.

So I continued to avoid facing the fear.

At the age of 21, I decided to serve a mission for my church.  As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka Mormon) many young people go on missions--I had always wanted to go and serve others, and hopefully help bring others closer to Christ.  After agonizing over the choice for a year (since I did not want to be going just for a convenient way to avoid dating and relationships for a year and a half) I was finally still enough to recognize and feel God's approval for my decision.

While serving a year and a half mission for my church, I learned a lot about facing fears.  As a 22 year old, I discussed religion with trained Ministers and Preachers, I faced off drunk dudes on the street, and I invited people to learn more about Christ who looked like they wanted to punt me over a fence.  Plus, I was far away from my family and home that entire time...quite a stretching experience for me!  I got to see and help others overcome HUGE struggles.  They taught me that, "Oh heck yes, people can do hard things."  During this time, the Lord was my one and only lifeline.  I was forced to face fears on a constant basis.  And, I was surviving!  I started BELIEVING what God had always been telling me...that I was His daughter with infinite worth.  That I was Enough.  Enough for Him to send His perfect Son to die for me.  I truly came to know that Christ would lift me and help me face any trial, any struggle and yes, ANY fear.

And I was so freaking sick of letting it control my life.  In fact, I was ready to kick fear right in the face and knock out some teeth.

When I got home I had a truly solid faith that with Heavenly Father's help I could accomplish anything, even DATING.  I wasn't about to let fear rob me of my goals and my future.

God knows me well--He sent me Patrick three weeks after I got home, when I was still in my peak of faith and gutsy-ness.  But it still was terrifying.  I prayed a heckofalot while starting to date my husband.  But, I didn't retreat!  It was a miracle!  I knew how good and fun and hilarious and kind this short, bald guy was (I never anticipated loving a guy with no hair! haha!) and OH, how I wanted to be brave!  I knew he was worth facing the fear.

God kept me moving forward, often reassuring me that He was with me.  I was always kind of waiting for the day that Patrick would see that I wasn't enough and then stop liking me.  But, he never did.  And he got a pretty realistic picture of my craziness!  I was such a weirdo and seriously awkward most of the time we dated.  Example: the first time we held hands, he actually held my fist, while I covered up my face in my jacket collar.  I told him to let go--he laughed and told me to relax--we'd been together everyday for a month...It was time to start holding hands!  A few months later, he attempted to kiss me two different times, but I flat out refused.  I knew I loved him and wanted to marry him, but...I was the oldest girl in the world with virgin lips!  What if I sucked at kissing!?!?  A few weeks later, it took ONE HOUR of coaxing before our actual first kiss, while he sat all leaned over from the diver's seat with me huddled against the car door on the passenger side, muttering crap like, "Let's just forget about it, ok?!"...hahaha...I can't believe his patience!  And, it turned out that I liked kissing once I got used to it!  I *ahem* REALLY like it.  On June 19, 2010 we were married.  Life is not perfect, but it is really happy and oh-so-good!

It was a relief to overcome the dating anxiety.  Nowadays, I am so much better at controlling my response to fear.  I still face the normal day-to-day insecurities, like everyone.  But, now and then, when I feel anxiety start to pull me under, I have to realise that once again, I've been listening and believing that old familiar whisper, "You're not good enough."  So over and over, I have to choose faith instead of fear.  I have to trust that God will be by my side, even when bad things happen.  There's beauty and joy and happiness in life, if I can choose to see it.  He can magnify my meager efforts.  Even if I am just hanging on for dear life, I am still enough.  I am His.

I had to choose faith as a newlywed when we struggled with adjusting to life as a couple.

I had to chose faith as a freshly graduated, shakin-in-my-boots first-year High school Art teacher.

I had to choose faith when I was in labor and my baby's heartbeat kept dropping, and I felt wild with panic...My mind cycled these two phrases over and over: "Faith not fear!" and "Father, please keep my baby safe!"  And, after lots of pushing, he arrived, cone-headed, swollen, and safe.

And I really had to choose faith in the first few weeks after his birth.  I was a wreck.  My babe had reflux, couldn't breastfeed, and cried and cried and cried.  So did I.  I felt myself once again sinking under fear and hopelessness...drowning in despair.  I didn't know what I was doing and I was so lonely in my house all day with this little person who was so angry.  His cries sounded in my mind like "You're a failure.  So much for a motherly instinct.  You can't even take care of a baby.  You really aren't good enough."  Over and over I pleaded for relief, and slowly, just like Christ lifted Peter from the waters of the sea, He lifted me.  When I struggled to find happiness, I had to earnestly CHOOSE to see the good.  I tried to recognize and focus on the beautiful moments I did have with my infant.   I forced myself to reach out to people and to go on walks.  I started this blog!  I vented and cried to my loving husband who helped as much as he could while both working full-time and going to school full-time.  And, we got through!  My son's reflux chilled out and I found my momma groove.  And we love our stinker so much!

And now, expecting baby numero dos, I have to choose faith.  A few months ago, I developed an extensive blood-clot in my leg and ended up spending a couple days in the hospital with a bright purple, enormous leg.  And now, I have to give myself blood-thinner shots twice a day for the rest of my pregnancy.  It sucks...but, it's ok.  Every time I get ready to give myself the shot, I look fear right in the face and say, "No.  You will not win.  I will do whatever it takes to keep myself and my unborn child healthy. "

And when I feel like a crappy mom cause I get frustrated with my toddler, I have to forgive myself, keep trying my best, and trust that the grace of God will make up the rest.  And when I see family and friends that I love struggle with illness, depression, addiction, disappointment, and trials, I start to feel crushing worry for them...but, I have to trust that they are in God's care.  I can reach out, serve, and love, but it's not in my power to save them--they already have a Savior!

I am not going to let fear dictate my choices and life.  And though I'm far from perfect at this and I have weak times, I'm trying.  And that is what our Father asks.  With His help, I am enough.

And you know what I truly believe?  YOU are enough, too.  You deserve a life full of joy.  YOU are worth everything.  I know that, because every one of us is His beloved and cherished child.  We're not perfect, but we are striving everyday.  The daily efforts are shaping us and helping us become more like the Savior.  And His grace will make our meager efforts enough.

Friends, whatever your hurdles, whatever you fear, remember, that with God's help, with loving family and friends, with courage, YOU can overcome.  Choose to live in faith.  Take risks for worthwhile goals.  Do things that you love, even if you aren't a pro.  And love.  Life will be SO much more full than if you spend your days cowering in the shadow of fear.  We can choose faith and send fear packing...after all, perfect love casteth out all fear.

PS. How about you?  Have you ever dealt with anxiety?  What do you fear?  What do you do to fight the fear?  I'd love to hear. :)

Also, if you are new here at SOM, Welcome!!!  This is a place where we share stories, tips, ideas, and laugh our heads off!   It's a lot of fun...We'd love to have you join the party! :)  (Psst, that means you should go click the little "Like" or "Join this Site" buttons...don't be shy!)

April 2, 2014

Stuff Your Baby Needs! (And Doesn't Need.)

By Amy

I'm almost 20 weeks...wahoo!  I'm past the exhausted, feel-like-I-got-hit-by-a-truck first tri, and I'm not achey and uncomfortable like the third tri, so I'm in the sweet spot...I feel good!  :)  Plus, I'm looking genuinely preg, not just the awkward bloated look or like I pigged out a little too much last weekend--I look legitimately "with child" and THAT is something to celebrate. :)  Life is good.  I'm getting out, getting stuff done, and I'm happy to be pregnant, with all things baby on my mind.  Which has led me to make many lists.  (ha, I'm obsessed with lists!)  Examples: "What to accomplish before baby #2 comes," "What we need to buy for baby," "What I will do to not end up a depressed, weepy, frustrated basket-case for the first month like I was with my first baby"...ya know, just some general lists. :)  Here's one list I was thinking about:

SO, everybody has opinions on what you need for your baby.  Here are my 2 cents for all those soon-to-be first-time mommas.

1.  Swaddler.
Ya know those little mummy wrap things?  We called Hayden's his straight jacket.  He was in his every time he slept till he was over a year old!!!  He left one arm out after about 8 months, but if he wasn't in that sucker, he'd flail and crawl around.  So, I was grateful for the swaddle to help him feel cozy and secure.  And, having one with velcro is HEAVEN!  You don't have to keep re-swaddling your child through the night when they wiggle out of their blanket and start crying...and duct tape is frowned upon.

So, the pic isn't the most photogenic, but it's the only one I could find of him in his straight jacket!  It's just the free one we were given at the hospital after he was born.

2. Binks.
Um, yes.  If your child will take one, then hallelujah!  I had an infant who cried...and cried...and cried...so, the bink allowed me to keep my sanity.  We had to try several till we found one that he would take. (He loved the MAM brand binks)  And no, you don't have to let them use it till they're 17.  Chill people.  When Hayden was a little over a year, we made the rule "Binker is only for sleep."  And he whined about wanting it for a few days, then got over it.  Now, as soon as he wakes up, he says, "Bye, bye bink." and hands it to me.  (Ok, ok, and he gets it now and then when we're super desperate in church.)

Update: Becca reminded me, and I can't believe I didn't mention: bink straps!  Super helpful.  Seriously.  It' is VERY annoying to go wash the babies bink when it hits the ground and it stinks to lose a bink...do yourself a favor.  Get a strap.  Make sure the strap isn't too long, please, especially if you clip on their bink at night!  That can be a choking hazard.  I made a short little ribbon for one of his binks and superglued the ribbon so it would come undone, then attached it to an old-fashioned diaper pin...they are safe (they don't come undone!) and less bulky than a big clip for sleeping.  When my son hit 10 months, he started putting his own binky back in at night...MIRACLE!!!

3. Bouncer.
Or something like this that keeps baby comfortable and safe so you can get stuff done around the house (or you can put baby in it and set it on the bathroom floor so you can take a desperately needed shower--which is super relaxing while baby screams the entire time...haha!  Who needs shaved legs anyway?)  You can't hold your baby at all times.  Don't do that to yourself.  And for times when you don't want them on a blanket on the floor, (like on the hard bathroom or kitchen floors) a bouncer does the trick.  And the little hanging toys can keep them entertained!

Hmm, now this pic makes me a little nervous...it looks like the bouncer could fall off the edge of the step!  I swear he was safe.

4. Play Saucer thingy.
Life saver for us.  My babe wanted to be standing from like 2 months old!  He loved being in that thing. We'd take it to lots of different rooms in the house and in front of windows, etc.  It was nice when I was cooking or doing dishes.

We used this when he was pretty small--we'd wad up blankets to stick around his torso, so he didn't bob back and forth.

5. Baby Carrier
SOOO nice for walks with an infant.  When it was chilly outside, I'd wear a big sweatshirt over me and the baby!  It doesn't really work to put a tiny, tiny baby in many types of strollers (they get all slumped down) so for my infant, I loved using a simple carrier that I could wear.  Plus, on hikes, carriers come in handy!  Unless you are cool with pushing a stroller up a mountain. :)

See Hayden?  He's on my back! :)

6. Stroller (maybe two!)
I like to keep a cheap little stroller folded up in the trunk of my car...has come in handy many times.  And a nice, bigger stroller with storage under is super useful (for longer strolling at the mall, fair, farmer's market, walk to the park, etc.)  I love that our stroller has a little tray in front, cause we could have lunch at the park, and he had a perfect little spot for me to put all his finger food! :)

All cozy in the big stroller.
7. Bassinet.
I did not want to walk down the hall every time I needed to calm my babe through the night, I wanted him within arm's reach!  After 3 or 4ish months my babe started rolling over, so we moved him into his crib in his own room.  (Too bad he still didn't sleep through the night for a while...darn reflux!  Sometimes I slept on a camping pad on the floor next to his crib.)  But, a bassinet was SURE handy for the first few months!

8. Update: I am adding, slick, plastic kind of bib with a pocket!  (Good point, Becca!)
These are the bomb. (You can see one of my son's in the pic above.)  I just rinse them off in the sink after a meal or two, and I never have to put them in the laundry!  They catch so much crap in the pocket that would end up on his clothes...and once when he started puking in the car, I used one of his bibs to catch the puke!  haha!  We pulled over when he was done, and I opened the door, and poured the puke right out of the pocket...easy peasy, no extra laundry!

9. White noise machine or small fan.
It's soothing for baby and cancels out noise enough that they can nap during the day without anybody else needing to worry about keeping their voices (or the tv/music volume) down.

Ps.  Most of these items we got from garage sales, Craigslist, hand-me-downs from my older sisters, or we borrowed them.

Things you really don't need:

1. Wipe Warmer
Um, why would you want your baby to get used to having warm wipes?  You can't take a wipe warmer and plug it in when you are out and about and gotta change a stinky...so, you use a cold one, and they pitch a fit.  Very unnecessary.  Cold wipes grow character!  They put the hair on baby's chest!

2. Shoes for an infant.
Unless your baby is a prodigy and walking around at two months, there's no need!  Socks, my friend. And while we're talking baby shoes, they don't EVER need expensive shoes.  Ever.  Toddlers either.  (I have gotten all of mine second hand, at a thrift store or a garage sale.)  They wear each pair for like two months, then they're out of them.  Let other people spend $30, then drop off the little Nikes at D.I.....where you'll be waiting.  And you'll pay $3 for barely worn shoes.  Bwahahaha!  Suckers.

3. Church clothes for tiny infants.
Seriously, just leave them in their pjs!  Nobody will think they are inappropriate.  And, half the time, they just stayed swaddled in your arms and in their car seat anyway, so nobody even sees what they are wearing!  Now, be sure to put your foot down when your husband also wants to wear footie pjs to church.  Sorry, hon.

But, Oh my gosh...I can't deny the absolute sweetness of a an older baby all dressed up fancy!  See how he's showin a little leg?  Scandalous.  He's such a tease!

4. Full-sized standing high chair
Now this is just a matter of preference, but we've used this booster seat since Hayden was eating solids (5ish months) and he still uses it!  (He's 2.) When he was smaller, we used the tray (which can be adjusted in and out and taken off completely) but now he just sits in the seat up at the table.  It doesn't take up any more space than a regular chair, cause it attaches to one.  The straps make it adjustable, so we can strap it on any chair...we've even strapped it to a folding camping chair!  Since it folds down and is SUPER portable, we take it on every out-of-town trip, (relatives often don't have a high chair on hand) potlucks, parties, dinners with friends, and even picnics.  (We've even just set it on the ground for him to eat in!)  This little chair has been perfect! :)  Plus, it's nice that there's no fabric to clean...sometimes, we just take it outside and hose it down.  Once, when Hayden puked all over during dinner we just unstrapped the seat from the chair underneath and carried it, baby and all, to the tub.

If you still prefer the full-sized standing chair, this style of a seat would be handy to keep in addition to your regular high chair for trips and outings.  It's also a good gift for grandparents, cause they can fold it down and keep it in a closet to pull out when grandkids come!

Hayden's first birthday!  He's so dang sweet, all serious and focused.  :) 

This is with the tray off...now he just eats right up at the table!  Or lounges at the table.  Ha!

5. Fancy Crib Bedding.
Get several fitted sheets and just swaddle your baby--they'll be safer anyway.  People will most likely give you blankets as gifts, so just use those when baby is a little bigger!  There's no need to spend a fortune on the frilly stuff, especially crib sets that come with puffy quilts that you won't use.  But, ya know, that's just my take on it. :)

Alright, now that I spouted off all of my opinions, what do you think?  Anything you totally disagree with?  Anything I missed?  And, please don't be offended if you LOVE your fancy baby bedding or faithfully warm the wipes...to each his (or her) own!  :)

Also, I'd love your take on the following products: I know many mommas think that swings were life-savers, but Hayden wanted to be bounced up and down---that calmed him--but the swing didn't, so I didn't use the one we were borrowing very much.  Did you love having a swing?

Oh, and I never ended up getting a Bumbo, but I think Hayden would have liked one.

And how about Boppys?  If your read my breast-feeding post, you know that nursing was a bust for me, but I loved using the homemade boppy pillow my mom made me when Hayden started sitting up!  Just plop his little bum down in the middle of it and he could tip over in most directions and not even get hurt!  Awesome.

Have any of you used the bassinet that hooks to the side of your bed?  They look pretty darn nice.  If you did, what did you think?  Like this "Mini Co-sleeper" bassinet?  I love that it keeps baby so close for night-time feedings (I hope that I can nurse my next!) but I wouldn't have to be paranoid about rolling over my baby all night, like I would be if I tried to co-sleep with him IN our bed. (I am a very deep sleeper and a thrasher.)  I'm thinking about trying this co-sleeper with baby numero dos!  But, I'd need to try to get it on sale...a little spendy!

SO friends, at the end of the day, this is what I found worked for my son.  Ever baby has their own preferences, and I'm sure my next babe will probably have a lot of differences from what worked with my first!  SO, figure out what products work for you and your babe...but, remember...you are not required to buy every fancy gadget on the baby market!  :)  Some products can really be lifesavers, and others end up being unnecessary crap that adds to the clutter.

Again, I'd love to hear your input!  What would you add to either list?  And, if you found this helpful, please Share or Pin for other new mommas!  Thanks. :)  If you're new to SOM, Welcome!  Like and Follow to join the party!  I swear, we talk about more around here than baby products. :)

March 27, 2014

The Secret Life of an International Model

By Amy (Interview with Andrea)

So, I have a cousin who is an international model...NBD.  :)

(*photo sources: all from Andrea, with a couple by me.)

Andrea is a couple years younger than me...I grew up hangin out with her and her older sister, Melanie,
playing in my family's treehouse, having sleep-overs, eating delicious food at Grandma's house, and dance partying!  Andrea always let me do her makeup (I LOVE doing other people's makeup!!) and then pose her in ridiculous clothes to take pics, so I have the distinction of producing her first photo shoots...haha! :)

I took this in my family's treehouse!  Isn't that vest awesome?!  Hahaha

Ice Princess! (before Elsa.) A fancy photo shoot with my dramatic makeup...oh my gosh, the blue tear lines kill me! :)
Last November/December Patrick, Hayden, and I stayed with her family for 6 weeks while Patrick had a clinical in Utah.  My son was constantly wandering into her room looking for "Andwia!" and I got to try yoga for the first time, since Andrea is an avid yogi. (I still can't believe I did yoga with her for an HOUR AND A HALF!...I thought I would be bored out of my skull, but it was actually both relaxing and challenging!)

Andrea had her birthday while we were staying with them...
See, it's the world traveler birthday cake!  I frosted the continents!  Haha...did you know that I majored in art and minored in Geography?! 

When we were across-the-hall-roommies, I loved asking her about all of her modeling adventures, since that whole scene is pretty much a mystery to me.  (I don't usually read fashion magazines since they often promote photoshopped, unrealistic versions of beauty, therefore, I'm pretty clueless about the fashion industry!)  It was pretty intriguing to get her "behind the scenes" stories.  Parts sound super fun, but other stories made me totally cool with not being "model material." (in other words, I am not 6 foot and size zero...which Andrea naturally is!) :)  As Andrea told me, modeling is not all good and it's not all bad.  There are many who demonize everything about it, and generalize that every model is anorexic and sick (which isn't true.)  However she is quick to say that the industry isn't all glamourous and that there definitely are some unhealthy expectations.  

After hearing all these intriguing stories, I thought it would be fun to interview Andrea so I could share her thoughts with you!  Here she is!

How did you start modeling?

Being a long skinny girl my whole life, people would always tell me I should be a model.  Only in my dreams did I think it would ever actually happen.  A boy who grew up across the street from me became a photographer and asked if I would model for him.  After that shoot, I knew I wanted to pursue it.

So, how does it work?  Who hires you and how do you get jobs?

I have a different agency in every country I work in.  Companies/clients contact agencies, then hold castings to decide which girl/girls they want to hire.

Are most models part-time?  Cause you take breaks...like right now, you're working at an elementary school, right?

There are many different types of models.  Personally, I am based out of Utah but don't work as a model here.  Right now, I'm working as an aid in a cluster unit at an elementary school.  I am also a shoot director/stylist for an online retailer.  I usually hire myself as the model too!  When I go to a country to model, (I pay for my airplane tickets) it's full time for 2-3 months at a time.  Some weeks I could work 7 days, some I could work only 3.  It all depends on how many jobs I book.

Where have you traveled for modeling?

I have gotten to work in Korea, China, Indonesia, Mongolia, Australia, Singapore, and Spain.

What do you love about modeling?

I love getting paid to travel around the world!

What do you dislike about modeling?

I don't like when I get told I need to "lose some inches".  I don't like living in an apartment with a bunch of other models.  I don't like people doing my hair and makeup and dressing me all the time.  It may sound glamorous but when it happens multiple times a day it gets really old.

What are the surprising details that people wouldn't know about modeling?

I like to say that being a model is being half celebrity half slave.  Sometimes you have a nice job where you get pampered and treated like a queen, and sometimes you are treated like an animal. ( Usually in Asia)

Wait, what do you mean by "treated like an animal?" 

You are expected to work all day long with no breaks, water, or food.  People constantly talk about you and your flaws, right in front of you, as if you are an object or not in the room.  While they are doing your makeup, they will grab your face roughly and move it around.  They will yank clothes off of you, without caring if they are hurting you.

Yikes.  Anything else surprising?

Something people may not know is that in some countries we get paid to go eat dinner at certain restaurants and party at certain clubs to attract more customers.

Hahaha...oh my heck, that's awesome!

Oh, and it's cool to live with people from all around the world and learn about their cultures.  But, in many model apartments it's crowded and you have different schedules so that makes sleeping difficult at times.  When I was in Indonesia I shared one bathroom with six people... it was interesting.  In Korea I lived in a tiny studio apartment with three girls, I slept on the top bunk.  But the floors were heated, so that was cool!

Do you want to continue modeling? 

NO!  Haha.  It was my ultimate dream to become an international model and I have been doing it for the past 5 years!  I love the experiences I've had but am ready to move on to my next dream.  This year I plan to go on my last few trips and then retire as a model for good!

Thanks Andrea!  Pretty interesting, huh?  And, so you know, Andrea definitely is not just a pretty face...she is an extremely talented violin player and every little kid in our family adores her, including my son.  She nannied for several years, and is basically a baby/kid magnet.  She also kept a blog for several year about her modeling adventures...check it out!  Her writing is fun and there are lots of cool locations and pics!  (moredrei.blogspot.com)

Thanks Andrea for telling us about what you do and giving us a little glimpse into such a mysterious job!  I love to hear about women with all their diverse careers, dreams and goals..it's cool to see my cuz fearlessly achieving hers!

Now, here are pics for days...but they are cool, indeed. :)

At the Gucci show in Jarkarta, Indonesia.

Fun pics, huh?  So, what do you think?  Would you enjoy modeling if you had the chance?  I personally would prefer to be the makeup artist, cause I would love doing all that dramatic makeup (it's a work of art!)  And, I am quite jealous of the traveling. :)  But, I wouldn't last long if I was a model, cause I'd probably sock someone in the face if they told me I needed to lose inches...then I'd be fired.  And I'd go eat oreos.  Ha!

March 20, 2014

What Momma REALLY Wants.

By Amy

Hey friends!  So, I got an interesting invitation in my inbox last week from the peeps at Raise.com.  Ever heard of it?  It's a new marketplace to buy and sell gift cards on the web.  (I LOVE gift cards by the way...takes the pressure off those of us who are really sucky at thinking up gifts for others.  I'm talking about me.)

Anywho... right now at Raise.com, they are running an interactive campaign called, “Give Yourself a Raise.”

In their words, this campaign is about: "...The importance of rewarding yourself for all the hard work you put in every day.  We know how much work being a mom can be, and we want to focus on the importance of taking time out for you!  Whether it be something as simple as indulging in your favorite dessert, or buying a new pair of shoes, we want to hear about it!"

"Ok, cool!"  I thought, "Hmmmm...now, how do I reward myself?"

I thought for a minute. "Oreos.  No that's dumb.  What else?"  Then I thought, "Starburst Jelly beans.  And, if something realllly big happens, Papa Murphys."

Ughhh, seriously?  I reward myself with treats.  So, the same way you would motivate a potty-training toddler.  Or a dog.  I am so pathetic.

Oh, these jelly beans are evil.  They always give me a stomach ache, but I CAN'T...STOP...EATING...THEM! 
But as I thought about it more, I realized there's actually a different reward that I would give up all the Oreos and Hawaiian Pizza in the world for: getting to disconnect and veg out my brain.  That's what momma REALLY wants.  Chocolate, flowers, meh...just give me a few uninterrupted hours to zone out. (Sounds a bit depressing, but hear me out...)

I am a very social person--not much of an introvert.  As a kid, I never shut-up.  Even in college, a professor yelled at my friends and I in a huge art history lecture class for talking!  Ha!  Yeah, that was mortifying.  Basically, I've always craved being with people.

But having a child made me suddenly realize just how much alone/me time I had before...and how much I missed it.  Suddenly my time was not my own.  Like, none of it.  Peacefully snoozing in the middle of the night, sitting on the loo, right in the middle of something (everything!) --it was all fair game for this angry, red-faced little human to start hollering at me.  As a new mom, I started craving time where I could just disengage and not be meeting anybody else's needs.  Time when I could just relax.

Well, nowadays, I jealously guard his naptime and bedtimes, cause they mean "my time."  I will push myself to finish the dishes, clean up the house, finish my blog post, or prepare a lesson for one of my art classes, if the carrot dangling in front of me is the chance to chill.  Cause during the day, unless it's nap time, I can't 100% shut-off.  Toddlers need constant supervision.  (Or you end up with a half gallon of house paint on your living room carpet. *sob* True story.)  All day, I'm interacting.  I read books, wipe lots of snot and bums, sing songs, do crazy dances, answer questions, prevent disasters, kiss owies, avert tantrums, tell stories, set limits, repeat myself a million times, enforce time-out, make decisions and pick battles, laugh, coax, and listen.  Even in the car, when I used to veg out to music or just be quiet, now I'm talking to my son, singing, pointing out the "BIG truck!" and rocking out with him to the radio.  (His loves "Royals" ...he goes ca-ray-zyyy!  It's pretty freakin awesome.)  I genuinely enjoy (most of the time) spending my days with my fun, sweet, goofy son.  We're BOTH much happier than we were when he was a screaming infant, hallelujah!  It's just...when it's 8:00 pm and he's nestled in bed with a bink and a blankie...I'm spent.  My level of interaction is maxed.

Which, by the way, makes it that much more amazing that many women do it alone!  I'm lucky--my husband is an awesome, hands-on dad.  He takes care of our son when I teach art classes, and when he's home from school and work he always pitches in with dinner, clean-up, bedtime and playing with our son.  I can't imagine how spent single moms must feel at the end of the night!  My hat goes off to you ladies for all that you do.  Seriously.

So, after the magic hour of 8:00 when my baby is safely snoozing, I become super lame.

I either want to read a book, peruse blogs, watch Netflix, or cruise Facebook, Pinterest or Houzz (if you haven't heard of it, it's like Pinterest, but just for homes...SUPER addictive.)  Some nights I blog, but most evenings, writing my own blog post is next to impossible cause I am just maxed out, stupid, and the words don't come.  Thankfully, Patrick is naturally more of an introvert and is totally cool with just relaxing.  Apparently he doesn't mind that he married a lame-o.

It still kind of throws me off that I no longer want to party-it up every evening.  Back in the day, when I'd get a killer grade after working for many grueling hours over an art project, I'd go with my friends for a rowdy night at Taco Time.  (We'd take WAY too much of their delicious pellet ice and Pico de Gallo from the salsa bar.  Yeah, we were pretty wild kids...at a religious college in Small Town, Idaho...ha!)  Even a small achievement, like mustering up the courage to talk to the cutest guy in Geography 120, resulted in a long ice cream fest with friends to relive every delicious, awkward detail. When my husband and I were first married, we hung out a lot with other couples.  We'd go to a movie and the cheap theater and dinner at Costa Vida to celebrate triumphs, like when he was accepted into Grad school.  Or we'd just celebrate making it through a particularly rough week.  (Life was a bit stressful: he was a full-time student WHILE managing a restaurant and I was trying to survive my first year of teaching Jr. High, while pregnant and exhausted.)

But now, after a day full of "So THIS is what 'the terrbile twos' means." moments with my toddler, or when I try to do a cooperative group project involving 10 little art students and paint, I crave my sweatpants and the couch.

Don't get me wrong.  I still need/love a girl's night out, I adore going on a hot date with my hubby, and I enjoy having friends over for dinner...but I don't really want more than one or two of my evenings filled up in one week.  Cause I want my veg time.  It's ok, though...I've realized and accepted that I am lame.  It's fine!  Now and then I still get out and party it up, but right now, the real party is watching a show on Netflix, cuddling my hubby, and savoring a fist full of jellybeans.

So, there's the answer--I reward myself by doing a whole lotta nothing.  Revelling and basking and wallowing in the joy of accomplishing diddly--and feeling blissfully un-guilty about it.  

Cause it doesn't mean you don't love your life and family if you need a little time to escape every day.  It means that mom is a human too. :)

Allright ladies, I admitted my reward...now it's your turn! :)  I'd love to hear...how do you reward yourself?  I'm so curious!  And, am I alone in my desire to veg out?  (Watch, you'll say "Working out is my favorite reward!" or "Scrubbing the bathroom helps me unwind!" and I'll feel like such a moron.  Haha!)

Also, don't forget to "Like" or "Join this Site" (buttons up on the right side) to party with us here at SOM....We have so much fun it's stooopid! :)  And if you liked this post, please Share!  

March 13, 2014

Our Pregnancy Story

By Hannah 
Introduced by Amy

Hi friends!  Here is Part 2 of Hannah's story.  (Read Part 1 here--"To My Friend Battling Infertility") And, just so you know, if you haven't had kids yet, before you read this and decide, "I'll stick with dogs."...pregnancy usually goes muuuch smoother than this.  :)  And, as I'm sure Hannah would tell you, even with complications (for her that word is quite an understatement) the result (a beautiful baby to love!) is worth the sacrifices.  It was so cool to hear that all was well in the end and they have their healthy little girl!  What a warrior of a momma. Thank you, Hannah!

Our pregnancy story is not like most. Even in the beginning is was a struggle. I have Polycistic Ovarian Syndrome, which makes getting pregnant very hard. I am categorically infertile. Much like my biblical namesake, I cried to God for years to give me a child. I educated myself out the process - something much more complicated than "birds and bees." We used the medicine Clomid to aid us. Clomid causes menopausal symptoms as it "tricks" the body into producing extra hormones and hopefully ovulation. It is stressful on body and spirit and relationships, and can only be used under careful observation of an OB/GYN because it carries a risk of ovarian hyperstimulation.

After eight months of Clomid, we were scheduled to take a break from fertility treatments. That's when I had my first miscarriage: January 2008. Needless to say, we were devastated. But Anthony found a good job, we moved out of our student apartment, and got our dog Ajax. Having a dog, we thought, was a lot like having a child, and we doted on Ajax. I quit work and became a stay-at-home "dog mom," mostly to reduce any outsides stresses and focus on fertility treatments and appointments.

That summer, we resumed Clomid treatments. I got pregnant again. At the first appointment, around 10 weeks, the ultrasound showed no heartbeat--a blighted ovum. Two days later I miscarried: August 2008. This time was worse. The physical pain had me doubled-over and in tears for 24 hours before we decided to go to the ER. Recovery took well over two weeks, and I was forced to confess to family and friends what we were struggling with.

 It was so hard to watch my siblings, my friends, and everyone at church get pregnant and have babies like it was nothing. I couldn't understand why God would punish me like that.

That Christmas, the recession hit hard and Anthony was laid off. By March, we'd moved to Texas to live with my brother. I found a full-time job, but Anthony was not so lucky. It was hard to live with our niece and nephew and not feel constantly the pain of our own infertility. When my parents wanted us to house-sit while they served a mission, we agreed happily. It was wonderful to have privacy again, even if the house wasn't ours. Anthony found work again, I taught Seminary, and we called Ajax our "substitute child."

But the heartbreak was real and constant. We shared so many tears over dreams that seemed lost. I received a blessing which reassured me that I would be a mother and that Anthony would be able to provide handsomely for our family.

We continued to wait, putting away a little money each month for a "baby fund." Still, it seemed hopeless until our first pregnancy miracle occurred: with my sister's help and encouragement, my younger brother and hi wife donated enough money to cover the cost of our next fertility treatments: gonadotropin injections. For a week in April, every evening I would sterilize and fill a syringe with gonadotropins, plunge it into my pelvis, and cringe as I pushed the burning fluid into my body. My right ovary produced five viable follicles (we freaked out a little at the idea of quintuplets), and on April 27, 2011 we got pregnant, luckily with only one baby.

We hardly dared announce it, but all our family were waiting to hear, and soon it was impossible not to tell because by May I was in the ER. I couldn't stop throwing up, though we'd expected that part, and I had a pain in my abdomen so intense that I couldn't walk or stand. It was the worst physical pain I'd ever known, but it was only the beginning. My right ovary, which had worked so hard to create a baby, was hyperstimulated. Three of the five follicles remained on the ovary as cysts, and as they grew and filled with fluid the pain increased. But due to the delicate nature of my pregnancy, there was nothing to do but wait.

And so we waited. I loaded up on Zofran for the nausea and Vicodin for the pain, and somehow kept teaching Seminary until June, although I couldn't wear my usual heels and had to dart to the bathroom a few times to puke.

As summer came, the sickness got worse. I was throwing up at least six times a day, I couldn't keep food or liquid down, and it hurt to walk. So I spent most of my time in bed, keeping the trash can nearby and attempting to distract myself with reading. I used an early ultrasound picture as a bookmark to remind me why I had to suffer.

Can you see Yoda?
I was identified as a high-risk pregnancy, so we had a lot of doctor's appointments and ultrasounds. We got to see the baby's heartbeat as early as May - a single glashing pixel on the ultrasound screen. that meant life. The first picture we have is so tiny and blurry; when we looked at it just right, we saw what looked like Yoda, so that's what we nicknamed the baby .

Soon we had a collection of pictures showing Yoda's face, and every ultrasound showed my ovary was even bigger. It grew to 8 cm - a normal ovary is only 2 or 3 cm, and supported three large cysts. I got frequent comments from ultrasound techs like, "That's the biggest ovary I've ever seen!" and, "Wow, that must hurt."

My first OB finally showed concern when I finished the first trimester weighing only 85 pounds. He suggested I drink milkshakes. I scowled at him. He said if we couldn't bring my weight back up we'd have to hospitalize me. I knew how expensive that would be, so I did my best to drink and keep down Ensure for a couple weeks. Anthony could only feel my ribs when he held me, but I gained just enough weight to keep me out of the hospital for a time.

In July, Anthony got a new job which had much better health benefits. It was just in time, because my next ER visit resulted in a hospital admission. I couldn't even drink water without throwing it back up. They tried different anti-emetics and pain-killers and sent me home. I was wheeled back in the next day literally vomiting every five minutes. They tried new things for a few days, sent me home, and saw me come back only a couple days later.

They tried putting me on steroids and Reglan next - a perfect recipe for a CRAZY Hannah. I had panic attacks ALL.THE.TIME. I couldn't calm down, I couldn't think logically. I was dramatic and crying, worrying over nothing, and suddenly desperate to be not pregnant. I was in constant, excruciating pain.

Finally, they assigned me an OB: Dr. Leigh. Our eighteen-week ultrasound finally came--the big one. Dr. Leigh told us that the ultrasound technician would take pictures of every organ they could see and the doctor at the lab would look it over before sending us home. She said if everything looked good, we'd go home right away; otherwise, we'd have to wait while they figured out what was wrong.

Anthony took a long lunch break so he could be there to see the baby and its gender. Yoda was a girl! That actually wasn't much of a surprise, since we'd both felt as much from the beginning of the pregnancy. Still, we were excited to see her little fingers, toes, and various parts in the ultrasound. I remember being so relieved when the tech focused on Yoda's spine--despite the poor nutrition I'd been getting, everything looked perfect.

Anthony had to go back to work, so I waited on my own for the all-clear to go home. Except the tech came back in and said she needed more pictures. Then she left, only to come back with a different tech to take more pictures. Something was wrong. Eventually, they told me to go home and expect to hear from the doctor.

Dr. Leigh did call, and told me not to worry (of course I was terrified); the placenta was growing in front of the cervix (placenta previa), which only meant I'd need a c-section if it hadn't moved by the time I would deliver in January.

She also said the ultrasound gave good pictures of my ovaries. My right ovary was the particular problem. Likely due to the fertility treatments, three large cysts had formed on the ovary. It was 15 cm long now - five times normal size - and in danger of twisting. She recommended a laperoscopy to drain the cysts. How did tomorrow sound? There was a 5% risk of miscarriage with the procedure, but it should relieve the pain and resolve the hyperemesis, too.

We went back to the hospital for the surgery. I was scared--for me, and for the baby. I didn't want to lose her. The day before surgery was the first time Yoda deliberately kicked me--just two really hard kicks, as if to say, "I'm here, Mom. I'm gonna make it. We'll be fine," I cried, and felt such hope from those kicks.

I was still scared about the surgery but everything went fine. I woke up with the worst sore throat I've ever had from having a breathing tube down my throat. I also had two small scars from the laperoscopy incisions. We spent our 7th anniversary taking walks of slightly increasing lengths around the maternity wing. But Dr. Leigh promised I'd feel better in no time.

When they sent me home, I was as sick as ever. Throwing up everything that crossed my lips. At 19 weeks, I weighed 12 pounds less than my pre-pregnancy weight. Dr. Leigh was concerned that it might be afftecting the baby, so she recommended TPN ("Total Parental Nutrition"), an intravenous fluid to provide all the nutrition I needed but couldn't eat myself.

Another hospital visit - the nurses all knew us by now - and I had a PICC line inserted into my left arm. Starting near my elbow, it was an IV tube extending all the way to my heart valve. Every night for the rest of the pregnancy, Anthony would help me assemble a big bag of smelly, white fluid that would be pumped into my heart over 18 hours. I carried a backpack containing the fluid and a pump everywhere, covering the whir-click-whir noise with a pillow to try to sleep at night.

Meanwhile, Dr. Leigh recommended I see a perinatologist at St. Vincent's about the placenta previa. He was not very talkative, but over several visits, I learned that what I really had was vasa previa: the umbilical cord attached to the placenta directly in front of the cervix. If I started labor, the baby's head would push on and rupture those membranes and she would bleed to death in a matter of minutes. That meant to avoid labor, I'd need to be hospitalized early and have a c-section at least one month before my original due date.

Thus our baby was scheduled to be delivered on 12/20/11. The best news I'd received all pregnancy: I didn't have to do 9 months!

The weeks that followed were torturous and slow. Over time, the TPN helped me regain minimal strength. I could walk to the bathroom on my own - but it hurt. Mostly, I was forced to sit all day (vomit bag close at hand) and try to pass the time. Mentally, I wasn't doing too great. I think my mind decided the only way it could survive the pregnancy was to temporarily vacate the premises - though sometimes I wondered if it had gone for good.

The cysts on my ovary had not gone away, but almost immediately refilled, leaving me in the same condition as before the laperoscopy. I simply couldn't think beyond the physical pain and discomfort. There was only pain. My entire world was pain. Nothing else matter but making that pain stop. Anything to make it stop. Literally anything. Throwing myself down the stairs, slipping in the shower, taking an entire bottle of painkillers - anything. Those thoughts were real and forceful; it was the most frightened I have ever been and I was frightened of myself. Except it wasn't me. The drugs and steroids and primitive survival mode my brain were in had turned off all the parts that made me me. I was terrified that I would be stuck that way permanently: always in the darkest abyss, never able to feel happy or light, or breathe deeply again. I lived with that terror for months. I clung desperately to Anthony's company. He couldn't get anything done because I would beg him to stay close to me. He was the greatest comfort I had.

At one point, I remembered a Seminary lesson I'd taught about the power and influence of righteous music. Since my thoughts were so dark, I thought singing hymns might help drive away the demons. It did! Amazingly, I felt dark presences leave, and peace and comfort fill their place. That's not to say I was suddenly bright and optimistic, but I was noticeably better. Anthony, again my hero, agreed to add hymns to our bedtime scriptures and prayers. We'd sing until I felt safe, or until my ambien kicked in and I could sleep; some nights took longer than others. Anthony developed a unique skill: he could sing in his sleep, He spent my pregnancy as exhausted as I did, and he would eventually drift off to sleep as we sang our 20th song that night. I always knew when I'd lost him because the words he sang no longer made sense. But he always sang with me, to help me feel better.

Meanwhile, Yoda had discovered that she liked to kick. The stronger I got, the stronger she got, and she was enthusiastic! Non-stop, day and night, she'd kick my ribs, my bladder--anything she could reach. And she could spin around so fast that she could reach anything. She learned how to stick a foot or an elbow out - visibly an inch - from my belly and slowly slide it across the front of my stomach. I felt like I belonged in a science fiction movie. Anyone who watched me would see my hands constantly on my belly, pushing parts of Yoda back into place. When I tried to drink soda, she would flutter with glee. When I threw up the soda, she would stomp and punch as if to say, "Hey! I wanted that!"

Just before Thanksgiving, the severe pains I'd been having in my ovary got worse. A LOT worse. We decided I had to go to the ER again; this time to St. Vincent's. After way too long in triage, I was admitted so the perinatologist could see me and decide what to do. While the doctors ran tests and ultrasounds and deliberated - all day - I was writhing in pain, nearly breaking Anthony's hand, repeating, "It hurts so bad!" and "Help me!' Worst pain of my life!! They gave me an IV and a morphine pump: "Just push the button until you feel better, honey," I mashed that button for all I was worth, but couldn't mute the pain.

Finally, at the end of the day, the on-call doctors changed. The lead doctor on the new shift came straight to my room and explained. My ovary had twisted and lost blood supply; the organ had died and it needed to be removed quickly before it became toxic. There was a chance the baby would need to be delivered, and at 7 months gestation, that meant a chance she wouldn't make it. But if we left the ovary in - well, things would be worse. Did I want to do the surgery? ("Hell, yes! Get that thing outta me already!") Things went fast then. We barely had time to call a few family members and ask them to pray for us before I was prepped and in the OR. Anthony would have to wait in the lobby.

Waking up from anesthesia was much different this time. I was still in the operating room; I could see a clock on the wall; and I couldn't breathe. Not at all. My body, having been so weakened over the past 7 months, couldn't shake the paralysis from operation. I remember the anesthesiologist pulling a mask away from my face and telling me to breathe. I couldn't. I couldn't move my lungs. I couldn't move any part of my body, even my eyes, to indicate that I was suffocating.

Just as I started to black out, the mask was returned and precious air was forced into my lungs. Only to be removed again with a stern, "Hannah, breathe." I don't know how many times we repeated the exercise (later the anesthesiologist said he tried for two hours). Enough for me to wonder what it was going to feel like to die. Enough for the anesthesiologist to give up, sedate me, put a breathing tube in, and send me to the ICU.

When I finally woke up again, I had three questions. I couldn't ask any of them efficiently - my voice was blocked by a breathing tube and my hands were tied to the hospital bed lest I panic and try to remove the tube. But a very sympathetic, tired nurse with purple hair understood me.

Why did my throat feel funny? They hadn't removed the breathing tube yet; they would soon.

Was the baby okay? Yes. (I couldn't help the tears that overflowed with that news.) Yoda had done fine. The nurse - Brandi--had been there all night just to watch Yoda's heartbeat in case anything happened. Although everything was prepared, my baby would not be delivered that night.

Where was my husband? He had been pacing the lobby for me all this time. All he knew was that I was in critical condition. Maybe once the tube came out he'd be allowed to see me.

So I touched my belly softly and thanked God and the angels that Yoda was alright. Then, for some random reason, I began counting backwards from 9, repeatedly, until they took the tube out. The first words I squeaked were, "I want my husband." I must have sounded like a broken record, because eventually Anthony was by my side, holding my hand. Honestly, I've never been so happy to see him. I'd almost died; he was the person I wanted to cling to in this life.

When they transferred me back to the maternity wing on Thanksgiving morning, they had me hooked up to a morphine drip, a magnesium drip (to prevent contractions), and a blood transfusion. Actually, one transfusion wasn't enough, I needed two. I remember they removed my catheter and, stubborn me, I refused to use a bedpan. So the nurse brought a bedside potty chair over and she and Anthony helped me slowly get out of bed. As soon as my feet touched the floor and I shifted my weight onto them, I collapsed in their arms. It was ridiculous how weak I was and how many days went by in a blur before things got real again.

But I healed. Slowly. They'd removed my entire right ovary, claiming it was as big and black as Anthony's head. It took away a lot of pain. But now I had new pains: recovering from major abdominal surgery (a 6-inch vertical slice down my belly) while a growing baby stretched and kicked the incision from the inside. When I could finally walk (just around the maternity wing) I felt like my belly might just split open and let everything fall to the floor. But the stitches and staples held. Anthony spent every other night with me, sleeping on an uncomfortable window seat, being my strength.

We started a countdown on the small whiteboard in my room: only X days left!

December 20th finally came. Anthony got all suited up in white OR clothes. They unhooked my IVS and we walked down the hall to the OR.

The spinal took no time at all. Behind the blue tent between my face and my lower half, I could hear the assistants ask, "Should we mark her?" (Normally a sharpie is used to mark where the surgeon will cut.) The doctor just laughed and said, "She's already marked." We were ready.

Yoda was transverse. The doctors had to push to get her head down. It hurt so much I thought they were going to crack a rib! And I wasn't supposed to be able to feel anything.

Finally, the doctor popped to the side of the curtain and said, "Look over here!" where he held a tiny, purple, rather perplexed baby. Lana. She hadn't cried yet. But knowing my Lana, she was just getting her bearings first, wondering why in the world we'd want to remove her from her comfy spot.

She did eventually scream. I cried. I kept saying, "It's too much! It's too much!" Which, I guess, might be interpreted as "I'm overwhelmed by happiness." What I really meant was directed at the anesthesiologist: "I can't handle any more, just put me to sleep already!"

Lana was born on 12/20/11 at 12:51 pm. She weighed 4 lb. 14 oz. and was 18 1/2 inches long. She seemed perfectly healthy - ten fingers and ten toes.

We loved every perfect part of her.

Looking into her eyes for the first time all I could say (and still say) was, "Thank you. Thank you for being my daughter. Thank you for being strong enough to fight through that hell of a pregnancy with me. I'm so happy you're here. Thank you."


Wasn't that an amazing story!?  I am so inspired by this couple faith and by Hannah's strength.  

If you found this post inspiring too, please Like/Share It! :)  If you want to read more stories by awesome, everyday ladies (like you!) be sure to follow along by hitting the "Like" and/or "Join This Site" buttons on the side of this blog.  

We'd love to have you! :)