Retaining my right to jump rope

I have been in need of an outlet for some emotions and this is long over due.  To the point where I am not even sure where to begin, because what I see in hind site is so different than what I felt being “in” it. My little man is now four months old and it is crazy how I feel so changed since I wrote his birth story just a few months ago.

Being a mom is hard.

But being a mom is also one of the BEST feelings I have ever felt in my life. I love love my job, but if we could afford it, I would quit in a heartbeat to stay home with my babies. We planned for both of our children, they were very much wanted and are very much loved. However, nothing could have prepared me for the level of hard that would come with having two kids.

A toddler + a newborn + a husband in mid season of coaching varsity baseball = one overwhelmed mama.

Looking back, there is no doubt that I have been dealing with some sort of postpartum depression/anxiety. Fortunately I feel like I saw it coming. Having dealt with a past in anxiety, I was more aware and already had some tools in my pocket; However my primary tool was not presently available to me…exercise. At least not at the level I felt I needed. Let me back up a bit.

What you need to know about me for the purposes of this post…

I am a pretty Type A personality, in that I like to stay busy. I am competitive (mostly with myself), outgoing, and I like to be on the go and really get after things. I have a hard time slowing down. But I have taught myself how to slow down. Mostly out of necessity and past health issues.

I love to lift weights and I love being strong. I was never good at sports in school and finding this made me feel like I finally found something I could do well. It is a huge outlet for me and for my health…the health of my body and my head!

I don’t keep big emotions or struggles or challenges inside. I can’t. I’ve tried. All I got out of that deal was IBS/increased anxiety and more. Enter blogging.

After this recent birth of my son, what would have been easy for me is to get back into the gym and attack things full force. Working out is truly medicine for me, the best I have ever found. And without it, I feel restless and anxious. But I learned from my first birth that rushing was not a good idea. I ended up with some injuries and had to take many steps backwards. It was about a year after my first child that I found Birthfit. This gave me the words and the knowledge to understand what I already kind of innately knew…that pregnancy is not a condition, pregnant women are STRONG! That unnecessary pressure is put upon a postpartum woman to return to her former glory. It  basically confirmed just how backwards our society had pregnancy and postpartum. I wanted to do it right this time.

I wanted to be kind to my body and take it slow. To give myself the space and grace to heal. I started with yoga and some light kettle bell work. I did the Birthfit postpartum series… yet even at this slow pace however, there were things in my body that were not feeling quite right. I was also not willing to accept the fact that I could no longer control my bladder. If I have learned anything over the years, it is that common and normal are very different things!

So I took some of the best advice I have ever gotten and took myself to a pelvic floor physical therapist. (Yes this is a real thing. I had that thought the first time I heard of this too. And in hindsight this is extremely sad and frustrating.)

Because I left that first appointment so angry. Not with her, or even so much with my diagnosis. But with the fact that I had just had my second child and it was the first time I had heard something like this existed. I can remember asking her, how the hell was this not standard of care for women in this country? Then I learned that there were SEVEN pelvic floor PTs on staff at just one of the two major hospitals in the area. This floored me. (pun intended).

Overall I really do consider this visit one of the best decisions I have ever made. Because what I have been learning over the past couple of months has taught me more about myself than I can recall learning in a long time. And I feel like I do a pretty good job staying in touch with myself.

TMI alert…She found that I have a mild prolapse of my uterus and bladder. In short, the little basket of tendons that holds up the pelvic floor organs took enough stress and strain that they are no longer holding things in the right place.

It took me a few weeks after this diagnosis to realize the magnitude of time that was actually coming with this healing process. I was so damned focused on getting back into the gym that I forgot to focus on healing. I was going through the motions of the rehab thinking “just a few more weeks.” “Maybe in another month.” But things were not getting better. In fact, I felt they were getting worse for me. More and more out of my control, which was making it hard for me to determine what I was actually doing incorrectly.

I went to a bit of a bad place for awhile. It got magnified when I found I was indeed doing a few things wrong. So after weeks of feeling more setbacks than progress, we dived deeper and figured some stuff out. I ended up with a super strange set of feelings…as I left this appointment feeling both hopeful, and yet discouraged.

I had originally entered this step in my life with the determined thought that I was going to retain my right to jump rope. It has become so much more! Because the amazing mind/body connection is so profound, especially when centered around the pelvic floor. The amount of emotions and security that are involved with this area of the human body are vast and very real. I can feel this experience changing me at my core. Because this experience has taught me something I did not realize about myself…

I did not realize how much of my self-worth I had wrapped up in my physical strength.

So I finally truly surrendered. I sat my butt down in the grass next to my little man and I surrendered. I prayed. I cried. I asked God to send power and energy from his amazing earth into my body to help me heal. To better trust Him and release my own agenda.

Emotionally, I felt better almost immediately. Crying is truly amazing. It literally releases your stress hormones. Then over the next 5-7 days I felt physically different… almost like things shifted, not unlike right after birth, accompanied by some cramping. But then, I felt BETTER better. Like I was not having to struggle to hold myself together (literally) anymore. I found I could carry my kids without discomfort. Then at my next appointment, 10 weeks after my first appointment, I confirmed that things had finally improved.

I still don’t know what all of this really means and there are days when I still struggle, physically and emotionally. Especially in my work setting when all I want to do is a burpee (or 50) with the rest of the class. But I find I can also step back and appreciate the fact the I WANT to do burpees!

And I will be able to again. Because SLOW is FAST.  These words from my friend Erica and Birthfit are written on my mirror, my notepads and the back of my brain. Why am I writing all of this? Because if just one mama reads this and feel empowered or inspired, then it was all worth it. Because it is NOT normal to not be able to control your pee. It is NOT normal to feel heaviness/pressure/bulging after babies. And you CAN heal yourself…if you are willing. Because our little ones are worth it, and so are you!

Linken’s Birth Story

“Don’t measure your energy level against the challenges ahead – the issue is not your strength but mine, which is limitless.” ~Jesus Calling

It never ceased to amaze me how totally different my two pregnancies were so it makes sense that the birth of my babies would also be different. My daughter was a bit early so I think I half expected this baby to be early too. That, coupled with some extreme end-of-pregnancy discomfort, made me more impatient than I care to admit at the end. I had also started feeling some changes happening a couple of weeks before Linken made his journey earth-side. About a week before he came, I had a solid 3 hours of steady contractions in the middle of the night and thought “this is it!” But then around 2 am, someone must have ordered a cease-and-desist because things totally stopped. My honest first thought at that point? “Crap, now I have to go to work…”

10 very long days later, it finally happened…

It was around midnight when I began having surges that were difficult to sleep through. Nothing severe, just uncomfortable enough to prevent me from getting a solid rest. I called my midwife, Tavniah, to give her a heads up. She was about an hour away and our plan was to let her know ASAP since this was baby #2 and things could move faster. I did some pacing, some coloring and some cat napping in the early hours of that morning. I sent a text to my friend and doula, Erica, so she would know when she woke that it was baby day. When my husband, Kevin, got up I told him we needed to change our plans for the day, it was time to have a baby instead. Our daughter, Charlie,  was pretty geared up for a farm tour we were planning on attending that day, so Kevin took her out to run some errands and get her out of the house for a bit.

Those couple of hours of being totally alone in my house (not something that happens often!) sticks out in my mind as one of the most peaceful moments I have had in years. The sun was shining, but not too bright, just enough to cast a dusky glow on the spring green in the back yard. The birds were singing and the breeze was blowing these awesome wind chimes I have hanging. I was able to surrender and just lay there breathing, praying, and talking to my baby.

Tavniah had arrived to check on me early afternoon and since things were holding pretty steady, she left to run some errands. We later sent Charlie to her grandmas to nap for the afternoon, as things were gradually starting to get more intense. I had originally hoped to have her there for the delivery and am now glad she was gone. I think it was probably around 3 or 4 pm when I noticed things really picking up, and I had to give more attention to the surges. Erica and Tavniah had both arrived to stay somewhere during this time.

The order and timeframe of things gets fuzzy for me…

What I do know is that things started happening FAST. One of the things I remember with Charlie’s birth was my ability to settle into each different phase and get myself into a rhythm. As the next phase would come, I would adjust and settle in. This time the changes happened too fast and it was all I could do to keep breathing and stay focused on moving things down…Down…Down. It was like a chant in my mind with every exhale.

I spent a lot of time at the foot of my bed, using the edge of the mattress to push into the top of my uterus during the surges. It helped with the pressure. I remember taking a bath. That felt SO nice but was hard to get comfortable. Erica had me try sitting on my Squatty Potty and that was hard for me as it seemed to make things so much more intense and open. I heard myself say this out loud to her and may have then actually laughed out loud as I said it…realizing that this was exactly what I wanted to happen, to be open.

I remember my husband’s strong arms around me holding me up during several intense surges. I remember him resting his hand on my back just letting me know he was there. I remember being back on the Squatty Potty with Erica supporting me for a time. I remember getting SO tired all of the sudden and wanting to sleep. Which is how I ended up in a child’s pose of sorts on my bed for awhile. Apparently baby didn’t want me to rest, because this is where I was when my water broke and things started getting intense in a whole new way. This was around 7:30 p.m.

Feelings I still can’t properly articulate…

“Baby is not liking this position, you have to move,” Tavniah said. She and Erica helped me stand and move to the foot of the bed. The urge to push started creeping in and I can really remember having a hard time mentally making the switch from breath to pushing. I had been SO tired during my first birth at this point that I don’t really remember a lot of the feelings and sensations. I was VERY away of every sensation in my body at this time and everything about this birth was so strong and so intense. It was not frightening so much as it was overwhelming. I think I felt a bit out of control of it all. Erica was amazing at helping me reconnect, talking and touching me to get me to redirect breath, feel the sensations and then actually push. It felt like this went on for hours. I found out after it was around 20 minutes.

The atmosphere in the room changed…

Tavniah suddenly had me changing positions often. Something I did NOT want to do and it took a lot of effort for me. She started checking baby’s heart rate more frequently and at one point I think I heard her say something like “I think we are going to have to go to the hospital, baby’s heart rate is dropping too low.”

I heard “hospital” and thought “oh hell no, I’ll move wherever you want me to!” And move I did. With nearly every contraction I was changing positions, trying to find one baby agreed with. Kevin in the meantime had called 911 and Tavniah kept saying “baby has to come out now, baby has to come now.” She told me that she was sorry, we can’t wait for contractions, that I had to push and push hard. I couldn’t even hear the heartbeat on the Doppler at this point and focused all my strength and energy on pushing. I prayed. I pushed.

“…the issue is not your strength but mine, which is limitless.”

I remember 3 things that had to have happened in 60 seconds or less…I heard sirens, I heard the door, I heard the gloriously loud cries of my baby. I couldn’t even tell you what position I was in when he was born, but I remember looking over at him and thinking “Thank you God!”

I saw the paramedics at the bedroom door and they had a brief conversation with Kevin and Tavniah, then left. We had not found out the sex of the baby, but I had had a feeling. I remember asking around this point “is it a boy?” Erica heard me and took my hand and placed it on his little bum and told me to “feel this.” and I felt the confirmation of my intuition. “I knew it was you, my little Linken.”

I learned later…

…that there was a fantastic lightning storm going on during all of this. Seemed fitting.

I learned I had pushed him out from pretty much the top of the birth canal to totally out of my body in something like 6-8 minutes. I have the broken blood vessels in my eyes to prove it. I am thankful for so many things…my faith, my birth team…but also for squats. Mamas, please do all the squats!

I learned that what had happened was something completely unpredictable. His cord was being compressed somewhere with the pushing, and his heart rate was dropping down into the scary range of 40 bpm. Not being 100% sure what was happening at the time, the paramedics were called so they would then be there to transport if needed. Fortunately he came out hollering and tested 100% on oxygen levels. It was something that if in a hospital situation, he would have likely been suctioned out with a vacuum. I appreciated the ego boost from Tavniah when she said that she didn’t think that would have been any faster than how quickly I pushed him out. Mamas…do all the squats!

Tavniah later asked me if I felt any trauma from the birth and the way things happened. It took me several days to process the events but I knew enough at the time to say no. I truly didn’t. What I felt was empowered, supported, loved and strengthened by my birth team and I am forever grateful.

Year of Firsts

One of the things that stands out in my mind, after losing my dad 6 years ago, was how hard that first year was after his death. I refer to this in my head as the Year of Firsts. With both the approaching dates of our daughters first birthday, as well as the one year mark for when we lost our nephew, my family has once again found ourselves in a Year of Firsts. How bittersweet it has been. IMG_0235
There is truly nothing harder than that first year after loosing someone so close to you. Holidays especially hold a bit of an emptiness to them, as you find yourself going through the motions with nothing to fill the space where a loved one used to stand. Traditions change, lights remain dark, as we stumble around trying to find our new normal. I ran across this statement today, which sparked the urge to write this:

If we don’t transform our pain we will just transmit it.

How profoundly true, and what a hard truth. Everyone grieves and rejoices differently and needs to be allowed to do so. However, I know I am guilty of passing my junk on to the ones I love most. It has been a learning process but I feel I truly am on a path of learning to be at peace with who I am and where I am at. This is something we can all do and I fear that if we don’t, we are just going to continue transmitting the junk we have to others. This world does not need anymore junk!
We have in turn, been fortunate this year to have had to clear out some junk to make space in our lives for a new person. Charlie has kept me grounded and given me purpose over this past year; a year that has tested my marriage, my friendships and more. I am so grateful for her place in my life! She has filled a hole in my life that I didn’t even know was there. Her big heart and strong personality just flow from her little body.
I am also blessed to be in touch with my faith. To a point that I feel I can rejoice a bit in both my blessings and my sorrows. This is the season, so many years ago, when our Father sent his Son to save us all! To give us someone we could see and touch, to lay our path to heaven; where we we will be able gather as a whole family again. Where all of our lost loved ones are waiting. Where we can celebrate together forever as kings and queens. What a gift this is! The true meaning of Christmas is so often lost in what our society has become.
I invite you all to take a moment, regardless of your religious beliefs, and stop telling yourself that “you will be happy when….” To reflect on the giving you are doing this season. To stop seeking happiness in materialistic things and rejoice in the good that is in front of you. To take joy in your children, your spouse, your family and friends…the loved ones who are still here. For they might not be here tomorrow.
Take a moment to think about what you will want from your deathbed. Are you going to wish you had more time to spend on Facebook? Or maybe watch one more episode of your favorite show? Or are you going to wish you had put down your phone and read your child more stories? Or that you had slowed down and taken the time to hug your spouse? I already wish I had more time with my loved ones and I try to remind myself of this often.IMG_0890
So to all of you out there suffering or rejoicing in a Year of Firsts; May your hearts be open to see through the holiday stress to find peace and happiness in the moments that are right in front of you. To those of you who are specifically suffering a loss; I wish I could tell you that it gets easier. But that is not the right choice of words. I feel more like you just get used to it. You do find and settle into your new normal. And to those of you who are fortunate enough to believe in the wonderful Christmas gift our Father gave to us, then rest assured. You know you will see them again.



Charlie’s Birth Story

I spent most of my third trimester telling myself I was going to be late. Charlie is my first and I did not want to be impatient, I wanted this little girl to cook as long as she needed to! About two weeks before my due date I could feel some changes taking place and I then started to wonder if this little one would even make her January 22nd due date! Here is Charlie’s birth story.

newborn     What I remember…Phase 1: The flood of emotions

Around 5:30 pm on January 14th, I was in the kitchen on the phone with my mom, when I felt the completely uncontrollable stream of warm liquid running down my leg.

“Mom, I think my water just broke, I have to go!”

I called my midwife, Denise, right away and we had to laugh because there was a pretty good snowstorm going on and we had actually rescheduled a prenatal appointment that I would have been in at that exact time.

Once I got done making my phone calls, all that was left to do was wait. My husband, Kevin, wouldn’t be home for another hour or so and Denise had told me to try to rest. Yeah right. I moved from excitement, to fear, to anxiety, to tears…there had to be 20 emotions that passed through me in that hour before Kevin got home.

When he did get home he seemed more nervous than I was.  He stirred around the house and kept asking me “what next?” His nerves helped me calm down, as he aired up the pool and picked up the house. I remember getting him to sit for a bit and say a prayer with me.

I started some very mild contractions not long after my water broke, but it wasn’t until around 1 am that they became too uncomfortable to stay in bed. I moved downstairs about the time my sister got to my house from her drive here to be with me. She sat with me for a bit and we timed some contractions together before she went to try to get some rest.

Slowly throughout the morning of the 15th the contractions got more intense. I remember my sister mentioning that I was pretty talkative between them. The pool situation wasn’t looking good, as it had slowly started to deflate overnight, but I wasn’t too worried. I stayed in touch with Denise and she stopped by several times throughout the day to check on us and see how things were progressing. This little one was going to be about a week early but otherwise seemed in no hurry to enter the world. I should have suspected as much, as I felt like I already had to learn a lot of patience though out the pregnancy.

We suspected (hoped!) that after the arrival of my mom that afternoon, labor would speed up a bit. I was so happy that it looked like she would make it here for the delivery! This was not something we had expected and things were working out beautifully in this matter. Her arrival came and went, and labor progression remained on a slow steady track.

Alison (midwife #2) arrived at the house late that night and by then the contractions were intense enough to require my attention. I was starting to loose track of time and just remained focused on my breathing. I had made up a little notecard flip book of quotes and scriptures to reflect on during my labor and there was one verse that I found myself reverting to, over and over again.

2nd Corinthians 12:9

And He said to me, “My grace is enough; it is all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” I just let Christ take over. And so the weaker I get the stronger I become.

Late into the night, Denise and Alison talked me into getting into bed and trying to get some sleep. My body was already exhausted and active labor has not even started. The house was so still and quiet. Time is still a bit of a blur but I can remember waking between more intense contractions and I swear I could hear everyone in the next room breathing.

     What I remember…Phase 2: Time becomes lost 

The morning of the 16th brought time for a change. Once everyone was up and moving, Denise and Alison decided it was time to move to the birth center in Westby; hoping that the new environment would help move things along. As much as I had wanted a home birth, I knew in my heart this was a good decision. I didn’t hesitate to agree, although the thought of sitting upright in a car for half an hour terrified me. The contractions were super intense by now and I had horrible visions of having my baby in the car one the way up. Fortunately this did not happen.

Somewhere along this drive is about when I began to loose track of time. I think my eyes were closed almost the whole trip as I tried to focus on breathing.

I remember really just wanting someone to hold my hand each time a contraction came on, and my mom and my sister took turns at this from the back seat.

I remember having to stop on the stairs up to the birth center for one of the strongest contractions yet.

I remember the relief of finally getting into the pool, and then some fear of not feeling grounded enough when a contraction came. I labored there for awhile, clinging to the edge of the pool and feeling the cool cloths being placed on my neck and back, until I got too hot and had to get out.

I remember the fleeting moments of panic I would get whenever Denise or Alison asked me to move or try to go to the bathroom.

I remember the sound of my moms voice and Alison encouraging me to make low sounds just like her…move the sound down, let the pain come, that is what is bringing your baby.

I remember looking at my mom, asking her in amazement, “you did this three times?!?!”

I remember my husbands touch, his bearded face somewhere between an encouraging smile and worry for me, for pain he couldn’t fix. He told me later, that when I looked at him, I would either tell him I loved him or look like I wanted to punch him.

I remember being on all fours and hearing my mom tell them about the tattoos on my back. I am not sure how much later it happened, but sometime after Denise and Alison began to sing,

“When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom, Let It Be.”

These words are tattooed on my back for my father, Charlie. Words that were played at his funeral. If I had energy for tears, they would have come then.

I remember finding energy for tears at one point, coming back from the bathroom. I think it was because I knew it was almost time to meet my baby, but I am honestly not sure.

I remember sleeping in between the last of the contractions before the pushing came. After two nights of pretty much no sleep I had to be exhausted. I may have found labor land, but I am not sure. All I know is that I was ready to be done, but my baby had other plans. Again, a test of my patience. I wish I could say I embraced it but I feel like I fought it at times. Ran from the pain.

     What I remember…Phase 3: The power of creation moves through you

The final check came and I was dilated to 10.  It was time to think about pushing! I think I was honestly more scared than excited at this point. The biggest job, the hardest job yet, and I already felt like I had completed the worlds longest endurance race.

I remember the low relaxing light of the room and more of Alison’s words; It’s the hardest job you will ever do…All women find the strength. The urge to push did not come right away but the memory of that first push will never leave me. It was the most powerful and intense feeling I have ever had. There are no words to appropriately describe it.

I remember trying several different pushing positions…if the thought of moving before had scared me, it was downright terrifying now. I could tell my baby was getting lower and lower just by the position of the Dopplar each time Denise checked the heartbeat. Steady the whole time.

I remember only finding two positions that worked for me. One was seated backwards on a chair, bracing myself on Alison’s legs for a time, then switching to Kevin’s lap. I broke the top of that chair, fortunately not beyond repair. I was not be able to deliver in that position though, they couldn’t see the baby well enough. I found myself back in the other position that worked for me; lying on my side with one foot braced on someone’s shoulder and the other into someone’s knee. I am pretty sure almost everyone took a turn helping me here.

I remember when my husband finally came back into the room, as his voice stands out in my mind the most. I could feel the tears in his beard as he rubbed my back, held my hand and told me how great I was doing. I could almost hear the smile and anticipation in his voice.

I remember the might and power of my baby moving lower and lower as we worked together. I remember Alison telling me the sounds that worked the best when I would bear down and make the most progress. She told me when I could reach down first fam picand feel the baby’s head getting lower and lower as I pushed.

I remember getting scared again, running from the intensity. Even as the baby was crowning I remember feeling scared over excited. But I knew it was finally time to meet my baby! This unknown person who already owned my heart in ways I never though possible. I did find the strength, and the feeling of relief when I felt her head come out was insane. The next contraction brought my daughter into the world, complete with a set of lungs. The crying baby was placed on my chest and I think I may have asked about her little conehead before I even asked if it was a boy or a girl. She was perfect, my little Charlie JoAnn.

I believe it was around 12 hours of active labor and approximately 4 hours of pushing. I could not have asked for a better team of midwives or support. The whole pregnancy and on past the birth, Denise and Alison have surpassed all of my expectations and I am forever grateful. I will cherish these women for the rest of my life.