Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Birth of River Rae: A FAST Home Waterbirth

The birth of River Rae was a fast one. It was quick and beautiful. However, if you know me at all, you know of my ability to make short stories novels. This will be no different. Get a drink, maybe a snack and get comfy- here goes...

  I suppose I'll start by saying conceiving this baby was not as simple as we would have liked it to be. There were many pee sticks, lots of charting and plenty of tears when we learned, despite all my years of cycle charting, and after all my normal tests and blood work, I had "Unexplained Infertility". 
It took almost exactly one year, but we finally conceived! This pregnancy had so many ups and downs. I had morning (all day) sickness up until 38 weeks, Complete Placenta Previa that moved by 28 weeks (Thank God!) and one more surprise that would reveal itself at birth! Even though it wasn't the easiest pregnancy, and it was at times SO hard on my body, I made the choice to choose joy every day. And the truth is, I loved being pregnant! I loved that I had another chance to grow life and a chance to experience a peaceful home birth. 
With my firstborn, I was 40 weeks and 5 days when she made her appearance. It was my first pregnancy and I trusted my OB when she suggested a membrane sweep at 40+4. I labored 36 hours and had a whole lot of unwanted/unnecessary intervention -mainly because my OB who was on board with our birth plan- was just leaving a 24 hour shift when we were checking in. While I would never say Amelia's birth was awful or traumatic, it certainly was not what I had in mind. I wanted more control this time around. I wanted my body to start labor spontaneously. I wanted to birth at home under my conditions. Most importantly, I wanted those present to be fully supportive and respectful of my birth plan.
So, 41 weeks rolls around and my  Midwife asks if I want a sweep. We had thought for weeks that every day that passed was "The Day" but it wasn't. My midwife's protocol is home birth is safe until 42 weeks. I had time. So I chose to hold off on the sweep but did have her move my cervix under baby's head. Hopefully that would be enough to gently coax my body into doing what it was made to do! My cervix was very posterior because my baby liked to keep one arm by her face. She still does. This created somewhat of a pocket that pulled my cervix back behind her head. We had my biophysical ultrasound afterwards to confirm all was well with baby and it was safe to continue the pregnancy. Passed that with flying colors! Seeing our baby's sweet face all smushed in my pelvis made me so much more eager to meet him/her. (Oh that's another thing, we don't like to find out gender, it's such a huge surprise and SO worth it!).
Well we went home and I felt at peace with the choice I made to wait. I knew it would only be a few more days anyway. We did decide that if I was still pregnant at 41 weeks 5 days we would try to get things started with a sweep or castor oil shake to avoid hospital induction at 42 weeks. This was on Wednesday, March 25th. My daughter's 3rd birthday was coming up on the 29th. 41+5 would put us at March 30th. The only uneasiness I felt about waiting was that my kids might have to share their special day if baby chose to come on the 29th. Not a huge deal at all, just something that I had preferred not to happen. 
Well, the next few days were long. I was surprised at the amount of energy I still had and how amazing I felt. You know, despite being super pregnant and tired of waiting! I stayed active  this pregnancy, with an exception of 11 weeks in the middle where I was on pelvic rest due to the Placenta Previa. I made healthy choices, but totally had my In n Out when I wanted it! I basically listened to my body and intuition. Like I said, I really enjoyed this pregnancy! I was doing my best to enjoy these last days even though the anxiety of not knowing when and how was starting to get to me.
  Millie's birthday rolled around (41+4). I felt amazing! A little tired, but still happy and healthy. We had taken Millie out for a bit of fun to celebrate her the day before her actual birthday. Since we didn't know when our second child would arrive, this made the most sense to us. I'm so glad we did this! I'll never forget that day it was so special.
The night of 41+4 was ending and into the wee hours of Monday March 30th (the morning of 41+5) I broke down. I was in bed crying and I couldn't sleep. I was approaching that 42 week mark and knew at my appointment with Mary later that morning, I would be getting a sweep. It was my informed decision to do this. Now hear me out here- I'm all for giving your child the time he or she needs in the womb. I've done extensive research on this subject and felt like I was making the best decision to get a sweep in order to avoid the hospital. We had been on such a roller coaster; with the trying to get pregnant, finally getting pregnant, terrible headaches and nausea, pursuing a home birth midwife we connected with and trusted, investing financially in a home birth, finding out I had Complete Placenta Previa -being put on pelvic rest and therefore might not be able to have a home birth if the placenta doesn't move, to finding out that the placenta HAD moved and home birth plans were back on...to now being just 3 days away from the home birth cut off. I couldn't believe it! I never would have imagined I would be *this* pregnant with my second! Going to the 42 week mark wasn't even on my radar before! Now I had to make a choice to gently nudge things along or just wait. My husband consoled me that night and we decided that we gave this baby plenty of time. We waited patiently, but the stress of not knowing if I would spontaneously begin labor on my own before 42 weeks was not an added stress I needed. Especially because through all of the ups and downs I had remained so positive. Until that night. And I just lost it. 
Now, a membrane sweep is fairly gentle compared to other induction methods-sure. You may be wondering "What's this psycho freaking out about? It's a sweep! If it doesn't work, no harm no foul!" To be honest, it wasn't really the sweep. It was more about the trepidation I had regarding any induction methods at all. 
I completely trust my midwife. She's a very informed, very experienced woman who's been doing this since the 70's! I knew she wouldn't put me in any situation that was risky or made me uncomfortable. I know my fear was coming from a place of doubt that IF this didn't work...or if it DID work but gave me a long drawn out labor that would end up in the hospital anyway... 
But IF I had to go to the hospital, Mary would be with me. So I tried to shut these thoughts out. There are beautiful hospital births of course- just wasn't my plan this time around...
At any rate, we went in to Mary's practice on Monday morning, March 30th for the sweep. I was getting excited because cramps and pressure started shortly after. So I walked a lot, and bounced on the yoga ball, and talked to our baby, and crawled around on all fours, and sipped red raspberry leaf tea, and practiced my hypnobirthing techniques... And a few hours later...nothing. It completely stopped. All I really had to show for it was more chunks of mucus plug (I had been losing pieces for days). 

I felt really defeated and if the night before was hard, THIS night was MUCH harder. I was running out of time and options. Mary said to come in first thing in the morning. She would check me, reposition my cervix (our baby loved that hand by the face!) and we would talk next steps. I couldn't help but feel like I was "on the clock" -a feeling I hated while in labor with my first child. This feeling was something I was trying to avoid with a home birth. Yet there I was. It was rough!
Something Mary said a week or so earlier kept ringing in my head, "Out of every hundred women there's about 1 or 2 I can't get into labor before 42 weeks." And I kept hearing, "I'm that 1 or 2." And then I thought, "No! Don't let this negativity cloud your mind! I AM going to do this at home! I am healthy, my baby is healthy, I have planned for this, this is on mine and my husbands hearts, God has heard our prayers and He is with us. I will NOT choose fear! We will birth at home and it will be beautiful!" 
And then, I was 41 weeks and 6 days pregnant.

 I breathed deeply and let Mary reposition my cervix (again). She says, "I have no idea why you haven't started labor on your own yet, but I'm NOT worried about you." She told me to look at her as she repeated that. "I am not worried about you." 
She then proceeded to tell me I was dilated to a 5! I was dilated to 5 and my bag of water was bulging out of my cervix! She said she could break it with her finger no problem, or we could wait a few more hours, and start the castor oil shake first. I chose to do the shake as all my research told me artificial rupture of the membranes is 50/50 positive and negative outcomes. Again, I trust Mary. Completely. But something was telling me to do the drink first instead. So, we left her office and went to Whole Foods to get what we needed. It's important to stay hydrated when doing this method for obvious reasons. It's important to stay hydrated in any situation in Phoenix, Arizona but especially during labor time! So we bought some drinks and the ingredients for the shake.
 Before I made the drink, I needed to eat a buttery pasta- hey Midwife's orders! Since it was before 10am we waited for Babbo to open so I could at least enjoy my "last meal". 
We fast forward a few hours and I call my mom, let her know to head over about 2:00 because I would start my shake around then and she could be there to help tie up loose ends in the house while I um, did my business :). Joey and I were getting excited! My grandpa came to pick up Jake, our English Bulldog whom we love-but is so terribly gassy he just needed to not be there! Luckily my grandparents love him, so win/win.  My Brother-in-law and his wife took Millie for the day so she could be with her cousins. We had planned on Millie being present this whole time. We watched lots of birth videos together and she was so interested/excited-until presented with the option of going to her cousin's baseball game and potentially sleeping over instead. (It's amazing how these things work out. Looking back now, I think her presence would have been lost in the hustle and bustle.)
Well I made my shake at 1:40 and before things got started my husband and I rested in a quiet empty house. We took a nap together on the couch and it was yet another sentimental memory of our relationship I'll always hold close to my heart. Funny, there's so much to those small serendipitous moments. I just knew by the energy in our home, our baby was coming that day.

Generally, it takes a couple hours for the castor oil to kick in, contractions usually begin 2-3 hours after that. So we're looking at about a 5-6pm Go Time here...
Well the shake works it's magic at 4:15. Again at 5:30... only I don't have a single contraction. Not even much discomfort while I'm on the toilet. I kept thinking, "Well if this doesn't work, at least I won't poop myself during labor- I'll be all cleaned out!" 
Mary texts me to check in on any progress. Nothing. No contractions, not a single cramp. This was at 6:30. Her response was "See you soon!".
While I was a tad nervous about all the unknown events to transpire, I found solace knowing I would be in active labor at home within the next few hours. OR  I would be laboring in the hospital. Either way, we would meet our baby soon, because I decided to have Mary come to the house to break my water. 
It's nearly 7:20 when Mary and the assistant midwife, Elizabeth arrive. Mary follows me to my bedroom and says, "Now remember, if the water is green (meconium is present- more common with "late" babies) then we have to go in, ok?" "I understand." I turn to my mom who is standing in the corner of the room and give her a look that says, 'everything will be ok'. I take a deep breath...
I feel a light pop and warm trickle.
"All clear!" Mary says with a big smile. "Alright now I want you to get in the warm shower and tug on those nipples like you mean it!" I was starting the shower and overheard her telling Joey that she and Elizabeth would grab some coffee and be back in 20 minutes. I think it took five minutes of nipple stimulation to bring on my first twinge. After my shower, I leaned and rocked myself on the birthing ball to help bring on contractions.
Before she left she instructed me to lay down on my left side after I felt the first labor surge. This intensifies contractions and we didn't want to lose them! So there I was on my left side in bed. It was uncomfortable. But it was necessary. I'll never forget the chain of events to come...

 It started with my mom telling me Felicia wouldn't be able to get here by 7:30 because of a work schedule situation (Felicia has been my best friend/"sister" since 7th grade. She was going to be my birth photographer as well.) Since she wasn't there my mom offered to take pictures. I remember trying to explain my Canon to my mom and I was trying not to worry or think about photo quality. My mom had this job last time and I think I might have gotten one photo that was in focus/not completely blurry from shaky nervous mother hands 😏 Sorry Ma. Sorry for putting you on blast like that. Anyway, she looks at my husband and I nervously after I explain a super quick how-to, panics at the screen and says, "WORDS. I JUST SEE WORDS." Immense laughter ensues (because what else can you do at this point?) and then immediately afterwards:
Contraction One: 7:30pm, lasted one minute. Oh good, that one actually made me breathe through it! Thanks Ma. 
Contraction Two: 7:35 lasted one minute. Stronger. Good. 
Contraction Three: 7:40 lasted 2+ minutes. Very strong. I was breathing and using low tones through this one. I told myself these strong contractions help my baby move down & out the birth canal. And then I felt my baby descending! 
It was in the minutes between each surge that I would catch my breath and prep my mind for the next one. I noticed Joey had left to text or call Mary. Apparently he heard the urgency and very fast change of tones I was using to get through these surges. She told him she'd be back soon, to keep me on my side even though I said I wanted to move, and to turn up the water heater, start filling the birth pool. 
Contraction Four: 7:44 lasted 3 minutes. Feel baby moving further down. Oh my GOD I can FEEL MY BABY MOVING DOWN! 
I remember this one was hard because Joey wasn't there to hold my hand or breathe with me through it. I wasn't upset about this as I knew he was getting the pool ready. It just seemed harder without him by my side. My mom kept telling me I was doing so well. I thought to myself, "I don't know how much longer I can do this." Then I KNEW. These are transition contractions!  I used that to get me through the next one.
Contraction Five: 7:50 lasted 3 minutes!
Contraction Six: 7:54 lasted 4 minutes!! I remember thinking "Where's Mary? I can feel my baby descending I'm going to have to push soon!"
Contraction Seven: 7:59 I was primal moaning through this one, then I felt Mary go to check me, I grabbed her wrist, "No." I grunted.
She said quickly and sternly, "You're about to push, I need to see where the baby is at and if we have time to get to the pool." and she checked me mid contraction. She could feel the baby's head. I was at a 10. 
I went from no labor, not even early labor, dilated 5 to a full 10 ready to push in 29 minutes!! (Keep in mind here my water broke at home with my first and I went on to have a 36 hour labor!)
She pulled me upright to help me out of my bed and I heard Elizabeth call out that the water was scalding hot. Then I heard some rummaging in the kitchen and the entire contents of our freezer's ice tray being dumped into the water. 
"I have to poop." I say to Mary. (I remember predicting she was going to tell me it wasn't poop.) 
She starts to tell me that it isn't poop and I cut her off, "No, I do. Castor oil." (I'd like to add here that Mary is not a sugar coater. She is very matter of fact, but also has this peaceful energy about her. That's a hard thing to accomplish but she does it well. I connect with that and appreciate it. So while our conversations may seem frank as I write them out, it's actually how I preferred them to be.)
 I make it to the hall bathroom, get out the last of the castor oil shake, and I was trying to focus on not pushing at all. Because I knew how close my baby was. I had a contraction on the toilet and I used one arm to brace myself in the lip of the tub, the other on the counter- I was shaking. My baby was almost here!
She reminds me it's safe to birth on the toilet but says, "If you still want a water birth we need you in the pool now."
It's about 8:04 when they help me into the (barely) half-full pool. The water felt nice. I got comfortable and worked my way through another contraction. It was amazing how the water took away most of the pressure! Mary suggested I move forward and use my husband to brace my back. It was heaven to be embraced by him in the water. He whispered affirmations in my ear and made me feel so strong and beautiful! I gripped his hands and started to breathe our baby down. "You're doing it babe! You're doing great my love!"  His words gave me strength and peace. He would emulate my breathing to support my focus. Mary kept her fingers around my vaginal opening. I had a third degree tear with Amelia and was sutured so tightly afterwards that if she didn't stretch me as I pushed, I would tear again. This was not the most comfortable thing in the world, but it was necessary. 
Honestly, after the first few pushes I didn't feel her there. I recall a few silly details, I knew Patti (my mother-in-love) was there because I could smell her. I had my eyes closed for most of this. It helped me stay in my hypnobirthing zone. She has a very specific and beautiful scent. It's a combination of eucalyptus, Thierry Mugler Angel perfume and patchouli/cinnamon spice. She basically smells like Classy Christmas. Anyway, since my eyes were closed I didn't see her arrive, but I could smell her so I knew she was there.
Another snippet is when Mary requested someone go to my room and grab the flashlight from her bag. She explained a, "black Prada bag" and the moms were both a little frazzled- things progressed so quickly after all!- They couldn't follow direction and Mid moan I said, "Ma! Prada Bag!" To the tune of "Ma! The Meatloaf!!" So yes, even in pushing stage I had my sense of humor : ).
The last thing -which I almost feel badly about now- is Elizabeth told Joey to reach and feel baby's head and I quickly but firmly spit out, "Don't reach around me." Just really putting the kibosh on that suggestion. Typical shrew me. It wasn't that I didn't want Joey to touch our baby, I just knew the movement of him reaching around me would cause discomfort. So, I'm not really a shrew. I'm actually pretty awesome to be married to. I mean, I'd imagine. Glad we cleared that up. (Love you babe!).
Back to the story. 
Soon I was crowning, she told me to touch my baby-so much hair! I I whisper to our baby, "Come on, sweetie. I'm ready to meet you." She had suggested I take these final contractions slowly and to only breathe her out- no pushing. And that's what felt natural to me, my body did most of the work here on its own, like a reflex. Our bodies are incredible! I took a deep breath, exhaled slowly, releasing low tones, and with my chin to my chest I did it again. 
Then, I caught my baby! I brought that cheesy little body to my chest and couldn't stop praising God! Joe was holding me tight "You did it babe! You did great!" There was so much joy in the room it was tangible.

 Someone said, "Well? Is it a boy or girl?"  I held her up in front of me. I saw her and exclaimed, "River Rae! We have another daughter!" 
And just like that, at 8:30 pm River Rae was born at home, in the water, in an hour and a half.
I was ELATED and couldn't believe it was over! Then I saw Elizabeth clamping her cord. I said it was too early for that, but Mary said the cord was attached to membranes and she needed to birth the placenta now. Her face was so serious I knew something was up. The pool water was filled with blood, it was an odd state of being, because I was on such a high- but I saw the urgency in her face. She kept asking me if I was feeling alright-I was. The cord was clamped, cut and she had me hand River to Patti. She had Joey get out and get dried off. Then she told me I needed to slowly stand up and pass the placenta. I got a shot in the leg of pitocin to clamp my uterus down to stop the bleeding, then I gently birthed my placenta. It (thankfully) all came out in one piece.
 Remember that last surprise I mentioned earlier? Well, I had a very rare placenta. It's called Velamentous Cord Insertion. It's a 1% chance of occurrence in a singleton pregnancy, 9% in multiples.
Now, I felt God's presence during this labor. I told my mom and MIL afterwards how I felt the presence of angels and Holy peace...there was a spiritual part of me that seemed like it was somewhere off in the distance at total peace. So euphoric.
The thing about Velamentous Cord Insertion is that the cord attaches to unprotected membranes on the outside of the placenta. There is nothing coating them or offering a buffer between them and the walls of my womb. If they are too close to the cervix (say in the event of oh I dunno, a Complete Placenta Previa) these membranes could (and almost always do) easily rupture in early labor. This causes still birth and/or maternal hemorrhage & death. I believe that's why my body wouldn't start spontaneous labor. I believe it was Divine Intervention. I never experienced early labor this whole time! My body miraculously dilated to 5 without so much as Braxton Hicks! I had only 4 ultrasounds this entire pregnancy, one of them specifically for my placenta, all of them done by a highly regarded Doctor in the Valley and yet this still went unnoticed! When my labor finally started, it BEGAN in transition stage! When I birthed the placenta it all came out in one piece despite the multiple thick membranes and "branches" where her umbilical cord attached. Had this been diagnosed, I would have delivered via C-Section at 35 weeks to avoid the death of myself and baby. Had just one of these membranes ruptured during any time of this pregnancy, let alone early labor stage, one or both of us would not have made it. It was not only a miracle that my labor went as well as it did, but the fact that my pregnancy was as long and healthy as it was is truly something to be recognized here.
Seriously, Hallelujah! 

 After the placenta was birthed I got out of the pool, dried off and went to my bed to relax and nurse my beautiful girl. She latched on (forcefully!) and suckled for a while. I couldn't stop looking at this beautiful baby. I couldn't stop exclaiming she was here! I was in awe of the labor I had just had. I felt like such a badass! I felt peace, happiness, confidence...I felt so close to my husband, I felt like I had been anointed by the Holy Spirit. This intense high consumed me! 
I heard the midwives taking pictures and talking in the kitchen about my placenta. In this state of bliss I forgot to ask them to cut up a couple pieces for my smoothies the first few days while the rest would be dried and encapsulated. Not a huge deal- I just still can't believe I forgot to do this as I was looking forward to it for months! #Mombrain haha! I'm not sure how they would have cut it anyway, being that it was mainly membranes and so abnormal.
Elizabeth came back to the room to show and explain my placenta to me. Truly remarkable. It resembled a Tree of Life. 
They then checked me and the baby, weighed her, measured her etc. She was about 7lbs 2oz, 20" long. 
 Soon Millie was home to meet her sister. This was the most beautiful thing I've witnessed. Amelia said, "Hello River Baby! I Love you! I'm your big sister! Oh you're so cute! I'll tell you stories and kiss you and sing songs!" 
The family bonding time was perfect. And other than thirst, I hardly felt any discomfort! I didn't tear at all! 

River's birth was intense and fast. It was miraculous and beautiful. Everything I hoped it to be and more! I'll always be thankful for the supportive birth team I had in my husband, midwives and our mothers. Thankful to the women closest to me who prayed through my labor and gave me love and positivity throughout my pregnancy. Thankful to God for one more chance at growing, birthing, and nurturing new life. 
 Thank you for the chance to share this intimate journey with you all!
 I hope this story inspires other women to be confident in making their own informed decisions regarding their birth options, to trust their bodies, trust their intuition, and to Birth Without Fear!


Saturday, April 11, 2015

12 Tips to Help You Navigate Miscarriage

These tips are not meant to offend anyone, they are simply things that I found useful in the weeks after my miscarriage. Maybe they can help you, too.

1. Take It Slow
Miscarriage is a grieving process. Whether you were just a few weeks along or near the end, it was still a little person that you had hopes and dreams for, and that is all now lost. Knowing the 7 Stages of Grief, I found myself fitting right into them. I was actually amazed by how accurate they were. Because I knew this, I think I was more gentle on myself and my husband, because I knew we were just following along this journey until we found healing. I decided to basically stop life to let myself grieve, because I knew that if I didn't, it would come back stronger and harder later. I wanted to grieve the little life that I had wanted so badly- for myself, and for baby.

2. Your Husband May Grieve Differently 
In fact, it's probably a fact that he will grieve differently. Daddies have less connection with a baby during pregnancy and have their bonding time after birth. If you didn't have that time, your husband may feel very differently than you do. Do your best to not take your anger out on him or say something you'll regret, because BELIEVE ME, you need each other right now. In our case, my husband was in the middle of a busy season of working three jobs and basically had time to eat and sleep. He didn't have as much time to process as I did, so he has had to grieve differently because work always comes the next morning. Give each other grace, talk it out, and respect what the other needs during this time.

3. It Hurts Your Heart More Than Your Body
I won't lie to you, miscarriage can hurt physically. I went through a mini-labor to deliver my little baby. But that few hours compared to what I have felt in the weeks afterwards... nothing. Many friends would try to get me out of the house and distract me, which worked for a few hours, but when I was back home and it was quiet, the grief hit again like a wave. I hadn't acknowledged it earlier, so it came back with a vengeance! Distraction was bad for me. It was easier to wake up, face it, cry, talk through it, and then I could go on with my day. Ignoring it didn't help, only postponed it for a little while.

4. Every Miscarriage Is Different
 I miscarried at the end of March. My baby was 12 weeks along and I delivered it whole. I went to the ER with some bleeding and it happened 24 hours later. Less than 2 weeks after this, my little sister was told she is also miscarrying. She was 12 weeks along, but her HCG was still high. Her only symptom was a little bit of bleeding and her HCG decreasing. It's been over a week, and she is still waiting to miscarry. Although I just went through this, I feel like her situation is so different and I am finding myself Googling "how to comfort someone during miscarriage". How ironic. From the many women I have talked with, there are so many different experiences. Some with bleeding, some with a baby present, some with a D&C. For some it is painful, and for others it feels like a "light period". I put that in quotes because my sister and I have both now heard that, and mine was NOT a light period. I really wish I could tell you exactly what you will experience and how it will feel. I know you're afraid, and I know you don't know what to expect. All I can say is that you will be okay. You can do this, and most of the time our body knows exactly what it is doing.

5. Talk Talk Talk 
This one is debatable, because it may not be your personality. But for me, I needed to talk it out. Talking about it helped to get my tears out and helped to dry them. It made me feel like it was important, like I wasn't alone, and like other people cared. It made me feel loved and taken care of. And it gave me hope. It also opened up the ability for others to tell me their stories or to approach me when they also needed some encouragement. Everyone kept telling me that my words were raw and real, but I feel like that's just the naked emotion that was pouring out of me. There were moments I wanted and needed to talk, and other moments that I wanted to be quiet. If you are shy, jump on Facebook and find someone to message about it. We always seem to be more "raw and real" when we aren't face to face. But please, don't bottle it up. Talk through the emotions so that you can allow healing to come to your heart.

6. Words From People
I received many messages, cards, flowers, songs and bible verses. In the first few days, I glanced over them and filed them away for another day. That day, I just wanted to sit in bed and stare at my walls. But I knew I would want them another day. A few days later I took a bath in the middle of the day and looked up some songs that had been sent to me. It was a moment of grieving and peace I will never forget. A few days after that I needed a bible verse to dwell on- my heart needed some truth to hold onto. Now, you will also get people who say things to you that seem way off-base and may not be comforting but offensive. Try to remember that MOST people are not intending to hurt you, but they also don't know how to comfort you. Let these comments roll right off of you. You don't need to dwell on them, and they probably were not meant the way they were said. Ain't nobody got time for that.

7. Accept Help
If people offer to help you, TAKE IT. My Mama Tribe (who are awesome) had a meal train started within minutes of finding out and told me that they were feeding me no matter what I said. My sister dropped by a few times to pick up my daughter for a few hours. People sent us gift cards and gifts. If someone offers, they usually mean it, so don't turn it down. It was glorious to not have to worry about cooking a meal for 10 days! Or being able to take a bath and grieve in the middle of the day because my child was somewhere safe. People also stepped up to fill in activities that we needed to do, but just weren't ready for. Many times they would ask how they could help and what I needed, and I honestly couldn't tell them what I needed. I didn't know! But I made a metal note to call on them if I did need something. Never turn down a helping hand.

8. Workout
This one has a couple parts to it. First, I had to buy some transition clothes because I was already in maternity clothes. The thought of putting on my maternity pants dissolved me to tears, but nothing else fit. I wore sweatpants for 2 weeks. So I worked out a small budget with my husband to get a few things to get me through- physically and emotionally. Think maxi dresses and flowy tank tops.

Second, I started a workout/eating program about a week after my miscarriage- once I had stopped bleeding and some of my energy had returned (and all of the donuts were FINALLY gone). I am not saying you have to workout after a trauma like this, but what I am saying is that looking in the mirror and seeing my extra baby weight with no baby to show for it, killed me every day. I had to do something. I had to "get my body back". I am taking this slowly and trying to do it in a way to bring health and strength to my body, not just lose weight. I want to feel strong again. I want to push myself. Exercise it also a great outlet for all of the pent-up emotion. I was in a cycle class last week and it was dark and loud. My legs were just about breaking and I was so mad- mad that I couldn't push harder, mad that my body was failing me. I kept telling my brain "come on! You've done WAY harder things than this! A 4 day labor! Reconstructive surgery! A painful miscarriage! You can do so much more than this". This moment was good for my body and my mind. I am stronger than I have ever given myself credit for. Right there in a dark room full of people, I had a small turning point in my recovery process.

9. Make A Goal
As I stated above, I stayed in my sweatpants for about 2 weeks. I did go out a few times here and there, but I didn't wear makeup or get myself ready. I really felt like I needed the mourning on the inside showed on the outside, and I didn't feel ready to cover it up. Plus, I never quite knew when the tears would flow. One of the mamas in my Mama Tribe was schedule to have her Mother's Blessing a few weeks out. So, that was my goal. I wanted to grieve and heal enough to attend it and be happy for her, and also not draw attention to myself on her day. I wanted to use that day to finally get dressed, put on makeup, do my hair, and feel pretty again. It was 2 weeks away- I could do it. And I did. And it felt so good to feel 'normal' and celebrate life again.
 I also took two weeks off of church. I wasn't ready to worship or have pity glances. Once I finally went back, it was easier than expected. This weekend I will lead worship again for the first time since this, and it will be another step and another goal reached.
Give yourself something to look forward to, and a small ending point to work your healing further. And this leads into my next point...

10. You Are Not a Victim
This is another point that some may not agree with, but this is my side. I really hate that I can now be referred to as a "miscarriage survivor". I understand the term, but in my case, this was not life-threatening. Yes it was something that happened to me, but it does not define me. I believe that God allows circumstances to build and shape me into the person he has planned for me to be, and also to be a lighthouse for others who are experiencing the same thing (which I hope to be!). I am not a victim. I am not a survivor. I am simply a girl who had some yucky circumstances come my way, and I hoping to learn and grow from them to become a better ME. And in the beginning, your grief will be so big that you feel like a victim, that you are a victim. But you don't have to stay there forever. Feel it, and let it go (sorry...Frozen.).

11. Invest In Something Special
Immediately after deciding to call our baby Shalom, I felt like I needed the word on me; I needed it around my neck. It reminded me of Proverbs 6:21 that says " Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck". I needed the promises of this word on my heart and in a place that was close to me. I messaged a friend at 2:30am to ask for her to stamp out this necklace. She did it right away, and the next day I had my word "bound around my neck". It gave me relief. It made me feel like I was still carrying a piece of my baby. My sister has had the same feeling. She has asked for a necklace with her baby's due date, and has felt the same urgency I did. I also had a friend send me a sweet little nest necklaces with two eggs in it... I love feeling that heaviness on my chest! Let yourself find an item of comfort, and hold onto it.

 12. "Grief Changes Shape, But it Never Ends"
This quote that I read from Keanu Reeves has stayed in my head for the past couple of weeks. I don't feel like I fully understand it yet. My grief has absolutely changed in the last few weeks. Some days it feels so severe that I physically hurt. Other days I can talk about it without shedding a tear. Some days I forget about it for a few hours, and other days it looms over my head. From what I have experienced so far, it stands true. I can see myself in the future grieving again, in a different way, because I will never watch that baby kick a soccer ball. I can see my grief rising to bring comfort to others moms who experience miscarriage. I think that grief can stick with us, like a scar, to remind us of where we've been. But it doesn't always look so raw and it won't always be so apparent.

So as you navigate this process, just remember that there is no right or wrong way to go through it. Let yourself ride the waves as they come, and take each day, each hour, EACH MOMENT as it comes. You are stronger than you think.

 P.S. Please keep my baby sister Hahna in your prayers as she is just beginning this journey herself. The grief is so big right now.