Encouragement, Monday Motivation

Unfailing Love

I like to start off my Mondays with a great thought, something to meditate on and live out during the week ahead.  It is so easy to dread Monday when we let ourselves get overwhelmed with to-do lists for the week, things we need to get done, places we need to go. . . I think it is so important to take a moment every day to find quiet time to read the Word, pray, meditate, and THINK.  Some of our best thoughts and greatest intentions are born in moments like this.

This week, I want to talk about God’s unfailing love-a love that sustains us and revives us-and praise, thankfulness for all that He has done.

O God, you are my God:
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
Psalms 63:1-5

Have you ever just felt empty?  As if you spend all your time and energy pouring yourself into others that there is just nothing left?  I think as a mom, we probably all feel this way sometimes!  We pour ourselves into our children every hour of every day, we pour ourselves into our husbands, family, and friends as much as we can-oftentimes neglecting ourselves.  And when we come up dry, with nothing left inside us, we wonder what went wrong.  We feel empty and frazzled and weary and dry and parched. . .  The truth is, we need to be filling our hearts and lives with the unfailing love that God wants to give us.

I love how this psalm started out with the believer searching earnestly for God.  They were thirsting for and longing after Him.  They knew God, they had visited Him in His sanctuary.  They had a relationship with God, and they recognized their need for sustainment through His love.  Not only did they celebrate God’s love; they also saw the importance of praise.

Praise and worship is a by-product of an intimate relationship with God.  Satisfaction and fulfillment is a by-product of praise and an acceptance of God’s unfailing love in my life.  A heart in-tune to God will naturally want to praise and worship Him, and will be filled with His love.  Once we drink deeply of this love God offers, we then will have a love worth offering others, a heart full of praise, and a life of satisfaction and contentment.

If you are feeling empty, like you are at the end of your rope-like there is nothing left inside yourself for you or anyone else-I challenge you to reach out to the God who abundantly loves you.  The God who offers unfailing love.  Let His love fill you to the brim, and then some; because when you do, you will be overflowing with love and grace and goodness to give to others.

sean (1)

Baby, Favorites

4-5 Month Favorites for Baby

*This post contains affiliate links.  This means that if you choose to use these links, I may get a small commission for connecting you to the source.  I only share links to products I love and use, and that I believe will benefit you.  Thanks for supporting my little growing nest.*

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It’s time for another favorites post!  I decided to combine months 4 and 5 because not much changed between them, and the products we were using were relatively the same.  Avary did change a lot during these months, though!  I think the biggest change was that she started sitting up independently!  This definitely changed the way she played.  My little baby does not want to be a little baby, so any products and toys that allow her to play independently or be a “big girl,” she loves.

Chicco Bravo Trio Travel System, Lilla.  When we were registering for baby items when I was pregnant, I knew I wanted a travel system because of the convenience of them.  I also wanted something that was safe, good quality, but also affordable.  We love our Chicco travel system, and we purchased it in the Lilla print, which is gray with small little polka dots.  I think it is cute and definitely neutral enough to reuse for another baby.  Around 4 months, we started going on walks daily because the weather was gorgeous (not to mention Avary loves walks!), and I love love love my Chicco stroller!  It can be really windy where we live since we are by the ocean and the Chicco system is so adjustable, I can cover Avary completely with the canopies.  This is also great when she is napping!  If you’re looking for a travel system with a base, car seat and stroller–I highly recommend!

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Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder.  Avary started teething at 4 months old (crazy, I know!).  As a mama, when your baby starts teething, you really feel at a loss for how to help them!  I didn’t feel comfortable just pumping Tylenol into her-especially during the day-so I looked up some natural ways to help relieve her pain.  We had frozen teethers on hand, but she didn’t seem to like them.  I don’t think she liked holding that cold, frozen thing in her hand (poor baby!).  Nursing typically solved all problems, but while she was teething, the sucking was painful for her little gums!  I found the idea to make “breastmilk pops,” and she loved it!  All I did was freeze some breastmilk in an ice cube tray, pop it out and put it in our Munchkin fresh food feeder.  It helped to numb her gums and also gave her the comfort of mama’s milk!  The gripped ring on the feeder was large enough for her little hands to hold onto, so it was perfect. Look out for an upcoming post all about my baby teething essentials!

Baby Einstein Activity Jumper.  I couldn’t wait to try out Avary’s jumper with her!  I know a lot of babies love to bounce, and I was hoping she would, too.  Not only because it would help mama get another task or two done, but it is just so darn cute seeing a baby bounce away!!  Avary loves her Baby Einstein jumper, and it entertains her for quite some time.

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Fisher Price Shape Sorter Blocks.  Around 5 months old, we really started to notice that Avary was getting bored with her toys.  She just needed something new and a little more challenging!  We bought her this little block (super inexpensive!) and she loves it!  She obviously doesn’t know how to actually sort them-she will figure that out later-but she loves picking up the bucket and dumping them all out.  Also, we will stake them all up for her and she likes to knock them down.  These have definitely been one of her favorite toys lately.

Taggies blanket.  When we started transitioning Avary out of being swaddled (somewhere near the beginning of 4 months), we knew we wanted to replace the security of swaddling with a “lovey” item.  Someone had given us this blanket as a baby shower gift so we tried this first.  She LOVES it!  She loves having something soft to hold onto when she is falling asleep, and she loves rubbing the silky fabric tags.

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Fisher Price Smart Stages Laugh & Learn Puppy.  Avary loves this thing!  I don’t know if it is the fact that it sings (she loves music) or if it is the face (she loves toys/dolls with faces), but she laughs every single time we get it out.  It is also fun watching her try to find all the different buttons to press to play the music.

sean (1)

Encouragement, Monday Motivation

Monday Motivation: Living Loved

It’s Monday!!!  Isn’t it crazy how quickly the weeks pass by?  As a mama, the days are long and weeks and years are short!  Today I wanted to share with you another “Monday Motivation.”  If you are feeling a little empty and your past week was long and hard, if you need a little inspiration and motivation, hopefully you can find some truth within these ramblings.

I don’t know about you, but every time I spend quiet time with God, I leave feeling so refreshed, rejuvenated and on fire!  I feel God impress truth onto my heart and I want to share it.

What I love about the message of Jesus Christ is that it is completely and undeniably centered on love.  The theme of the Bible, of the life of Jesus, of our calling as believers is LOVE.

“Long before He laid down earth’s foundations,
He had us in mind,
had settled on us as the focus of his love,
to be made whole and holy by his love.
Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into His family
through Jesus Christ.
(What pleasure he took in planning this!)
He wanted us to enter into the celebration of
His lavish gift-giving
by the hand of His beloved Son.”
Ephesians 1:4-6 MSG

Wow. . . that love just blows me away.  Before I existed, before the world was even formed-we were on His mind.  We are the focus of His love.  And at the center of this love is the theme of adoption.  He chose to adopt us into His family.  The word adoption literally means ‘to choose.’  God’s love and acceptance of me as His child was not and is not dependent on who I am as a person (He had me in mind before I was a person), it is not dependent on what I have done or what I do (His love makes me whole and holy), and it is not dependent on where I have been or where I’m going (He has adopted me from an old, neglected life to a new, lavish life).  God’s love for me is a fierce, unselfish, holy, identity-giving, life-altering love!  God’s love is the very essence of adoption-to choose someone as your own, to love someone before you even know them and to give someone a new life and identity.

And with this knowledge, with this promise, I am able to live loved!  I can live in the overflow of God’s love for me.  I can live in the knowledge that I will never be neglected.  I have a Father who wants to pour blessings into my life, who wants to give me more than I can fathom, who wants to prove Himself holy in my life.  As I am the focus of His love, I can, in turn, love others well.  I can live wildly, freely, abundantly. . .

If you are living a tame, safe life and questioning your purpose and identity, if you are living as if you are an orphan instead of a child of the King, grab hold of God’s promise that you are on His mind, you are the focus of His love, and you are adopted into His family.  And start living, loved.

sean (1)

Encouragement, Monday Motivation

Monday Motivation: When You Face Troubled Waters

I wanted to start a little series on my blog called “Monday Motivation.”  (I know today is now Tuesday, but my computer has been on the fritz and I have to buy a new one!) My Monday Motivation series will feature a short, hopefully inspirational post about what I am learning in my quiet time with God.  It is kind of like a daily devotional!  I know that sometimes Mondays are hard, the start of a new week, the end of the weekend.  But Mondays are just that-a fresh start!  So this is to help your Monday get off on the right foot!

When troubles of any kind come your way,
consider it an opportunity for great joy.
For you know that when your faith is tested,
your endurance has a chance to grow.
So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed,
you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
James 1:2-4 NLT

None of us want to experience trouble, am I right?  None of us want to go through hard times.  It’s challenging, uncomfortable, difficult, hard. . . But to God, experiencing trouble is a lot like conditioning for a sport.  I’m sure we all have been watching the Olympics lately (Go #TeamUSA !).  We all know that those athletes didn’t just go out on their fields or arenas and just perform at the level we see, right?  Absolutely not!  They spent hours, days, weeks, and YEARS preparing for this ultimate challenge.  They spent this time conditioning their bodies-preparing it, getting it ready for the biggest event of their life.

If you have ever played a sport, you know that conditioning is not fun.  It is not fun, but it is absolutely necessary.  Conditioning is long and tiring and hard, but it develops endurance!  Without it, you would likely be unprepared and fail when the time of competition comes because you wouldn’t have the endurance necessary to complete the task.  Proper conditioning will go above and beyond what you will actually face.

In life, sometimes troubles come our way-our faith is tested, our resolve is shaken, our strength is weakened. . . While it is easy to think that troubles happen to make us fail, they happen to make us stronger.  Trouble comes to bolster our confidence in what God has done, to reveal the strength of our faith, to grow our resolve, to absolve our doubt. . . To cleanse us, to perfect us, to make us whole and complete, to give us the opportunity to experience great joy.

God sometimes takes us into troubled waters-
not to drown us,
but to cleanse us.
-Unknown

It is in the midst of trouble that our true selves our revealed to us.  When we are tested and pushed to the limits of what we think we are capable of handling, that is when we usually find another ounce or two of courage, motivation, inner strength, stamina, and the ability to go on.  Or if we find we are at the end of ourselves, that we have nothing left to give, that we are in over our heads, that we have no more strength to move on, let yourself be washed in the flood of God’s grace, love and protection that promises to make you whole and complete-even in your troubles.

When you face troubled waters, God will not let you drown, He will not leave you broken.  He will cleanse you, care for you, grow you, and make you complete.  Don’t be scared to face the waves today!

sean (1)

Motherhood

The Truth About Being a SAHM

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I want to preface this post by saying that this was very hard for me to write.  I feel so vulnerable sharing these thoughts with you all, but I felt compelled to share them; in hopes that one of you mamas realizes that you are not alone in your thinking, you are not a bad mom and that what you feel is normal.

While I was pregnant with our baby girl, Avary, I knew that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom.  I was working as a childcare provider at the time, and–while I loved my job–I didn’t want to care for someone else’s child while missing out on my own.  I always wanted to be a mom, for as long as I could remember.  I fantasized about all the amazing things I would get to do as a stay-at-home mom–dress the baby in the most adorable clothes (that would somehow never get dirty), breastfeed the baby peacefully, clean the house, get a workout in with the baby, take the dog for a walk with the baby, do the laundry, go shopping with the baby; oh, and start all those cute DIY projects I pinned from Pinterest, bake delicious pies and cookies like the Pioneer Woman, and have a scrumptious dinner waiting for my husband when he got home every night.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that I truly thought I would be able to accomplish all of these things as a stay-at-home mom because I thought I would have so much “extra time.” Well, and, all those mama Instagram feeds I stalked showed women with their perfectly dressed children playing or sleeping peacefully on their white furniture, while the mom-in full glam makeup and spit-up-less clothes-was knitting, or doing something so gloriously homemaker-ish.  Soon after being a SAHM, I realized that all these things were not a reality for me.  But what I am beginning to realize is that what I see on Instagram and on blogs is not the reality of someone’s 24/7 life, but just snippets–just a tiny glimpse of their everyday life.  Just like a new movie puts out previews–showing all the best scenes–you have to remember that social media is much the same.  It is so easy for us moms to get sucked into this vicious cycle of comparisons-whether it be to other SAHM’s, WAHM’s or working moms-vying for the title of whose job is “the hardest” or “the easiest.”  Instead of being united in motherhood, united in the understanding that being a mama is one of life’s hardest roles, we feel discontent because we want to be like ‘that mom.’  When the truth is, you are the very best mom your babies need.

Being a stay-at-home mom is hard.  It is the hardest thing I have ever done.  And it is a full-time job.  Except with this job, you don’t punch in or out, and you don’t get a lunch break.  This is a 24/7 job.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my baby girl, but I have days where I get burnt out. . . Sometimes I get jealous of working moms who get to leave the house and actually have adult conversations/interactions during the day; because, what no one tells you about being a SAHM is how lonely it can be.  It can be so lonely and isolating.  Because of my husband’s job, I spend 48-72 hours alone with Avary.  On these days, I don’t get a break at all.  I feed her, change her, entertain her, play with her, love on her teach her, bathe her,  put her to bed.  I do it all, and it is exhausting some day.  I would feel such a huge sense of mommy-guilt on these days when I would find myself thinking, ‘I just want a break!  I just want 5 minutes to myself!’  But the truth is, we all feel that way sometimes!  We all need a break sometimes.  I never realized how big of an investment motherhood was going to be.  I say an investment; because, for (at least) 18 years of your child’s life, your job is to invest in them.  Our job, as mothers, is to pour everything ounce of ourselves into our children to nurture them, teach them, motivate them, and raise them to be independent, inspired seekers of truth and followers of God.  Wow, what a monumental task!  So, when put in perspective, it’s OK to get burnt out.  To be able to pour yourself into your children, you have to nurture yourself by filling up on God’s truths, by setting aside alone time, by getting out of the house with the girls so you can adult for a little bit!

When you feel lonely and isolated and the only ‘person’ you have talked to all day is a 6 month old or a toddler, call a friend!  Talk on the phone, take a walk, go to the park and talk to another mommy, set up a mommy/baby playdate, go to storytelling at the library, Facetime your mama or your husband, read the Word. . .  I’ve found that I have to intentionally create moments that I am engaged with something or someone to combat the loneliness.

When you feel inadequate and “less-than,” when you’re covered in spit-up or your toddler’s lunch, when you still have on the yoga pants and sweatpants you wore to bed, when you’re having a “family potty party” because you have to go but the kids are always in tow, when you don’t think you can sing one more nursery rhyme or listen to “Let It Go” again, when you’re tired of nursing, feeding, changing, wiping, playing, entertaining, and-parenting. . . Remember that to those precious little faces, you are more than enough!  To them, you are superwoman!

We all have good days and bad days, that’s life.  But try to focus on the good ones.  Some days, I feel so tired of nursing and just want my boobs to myself!  But usually Avary will look up at me and smile a big grin with milk trickling down her mouth, and I feel so grateful that I even get to feed her!  Some days, I feel so discouraged that Avary won’t sleep, but then I feel so lucky that she still wants me to rock her to sleep.  Some days, I get jealous and discontent that my house is my “cubicle,” but then I remember the countless women who would give anything to be in my shoes, and I feel blessed.

Don’t let being a SAHM isolate you or depress you or minimize you or discourage you.  Your job and role as a mother will have a lasting impact, and it truly matters.  My desire is to embrace this season of motherhood to the fullest-with all its flaws and shortcomings; because, it’s just that-a season, that is so fleeting and will be gone before I know it.

No, being a stay-at-home is not at all what I thought it was going to be.  It’s long and taxing and tiring, emotionally-draining and physically-exhausting, but oh so very sweet.  The truth about being a stay-at-home mom is that you’ll love it, and you’ll hate it.  And you won’t want to change a single thing.

sean (1)

 

 

Encouragement

Invest in YOU

Hi lovely friends!

I’m not sure who is reading this–maybe someone who knows me, maybe someone I have never met, or maybe someone who accidentally stumbled upon my page.  To anyone who is reading this, though, I wanted to take this time to just be real with you and to share what is on my heart.  This post may be a compilation of jumbled thoughts-so I apologize in advance-but I felt impressed to share it.

I started this blog as a creative avenue of expressing myself, as a way to capture the fleeting moments of motherhood with my baby girl, as a way to encourage myself to live a little more-soaking in ordinary moments, but also experiencing big ones.  I started this blog because I wanted to share encouragement on marriage, my experiences on motherhood, my perspective on being a military wife, the spiritual things that move me and inspire me.

I want this blog to be refreshingly honest, encouraging and inspiring to all of you who read it.  After starting, I haven’t uploaded posts consistently.  I was having trouble figuring out what I wanted to write about.  Words generally come pretty easy to me, so I was really frustrated with this writer’s block.  I took some time to examine myself, and what was in my head and heart.  Life changes so drastically after you have a baby and in a way that you really cannot prepare for.  In the midst of gaining the new identity of ‘Mom,’ I definitely lost my identity as ‘Faith.’

Things that I had time for before I had a baby, were not so easy to do after having a baby.  I’ve realized that if I want to be productive and truly get things done, I have to plan out my day.  I have to be intentional with my time and create a list of priorities.  Avary has and always will be my priority, but in those first several months, I was neglecting myself.  I stopped reading my Bible, I didn’t pray consistently, I didn’t write or journal anymore. . . I had stopped taking time to just be quiet, reflect, think. . . If I took spare moments away from Avary, I felt a sense of guilt.  I thought, ‘I’m a stay-at-home mom, I’m home all day with my baby.  I’m so lucky.  I shouldn’t need to take a break.’  But that thought cannot be farther from the truth.  Being a stay-at-home mom is no less a job than the one my husband leaves home to do.  Not to mention, it is a 24/7 job.  I did need time to myself.

So within these last few weeks, I have recognized the importance of making time for myself.  Even if it just a few minutes here and there.  When I take time for myself-when I fuel my heart and my mind-I have so much more to give.  I am not only a better mom, but a better wife and a better person.  I am prioritizing time with God, first, because without that, I am a mess.  Taking time to read a devotion, read my Bible, and journal my thoughts is where I will find clarity, strength to make it through baby-filled days, and inspiration to write here to all of you. . .

This morning I started writing in a new journal I picked up from Marshalls, (guys, I have a serious journal-fetish problem!  I find a cute one and I have to buy it!  And Marshalls never lets me down) and it had a Bible verse on the top of the page and it was Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”  I’ve heard that verse a million times, but I was sure that God wanted me to see that verse today and was speaking hope and truth into me.  God placed a passion and a desire inside my heart to share my life in a blog, and I believe he has great plans for me and my future!

I say all that to let you know that I’m going to take you along this journey with me.  I want to be honest, genuine and authentic with all of you, and if that means baring my heart, that’s what I’ll do.

I just want to encourage you that if you are in a place where you feel like you are pouring all of yourself into something or someone or someone(s), take a step back.  Remember to invest in yourself so you have the energy and strength and grace and love to invest in others.  And don’t forget that God has big plans for you, too!

sean (1)

Favorites

3 Month Favorites for Baby

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*This post contains affiliate links.  This means that if you choose to use these links, I may get a small commission for connecting you to the source.  I only share links to products I love and use, and that I believe will benefit you.  Thanks for supporting my little growing nest.*

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It’s that time–another favorites post!  I have to admit, when Avary turned 3 months old, everything started changing!  Developmentally she was doing so much more, she was more awake and alert, and I think the biggest change was that she finally wanted to play!  My list of favorites this month features a lot of items for an active, playful baby.

Bumbo.  We started putting Avary in her Bumbo seat when she turned 3 months old.  She had great head and neck control and always wanted to be sitting up so she could see what was going on.  I put her in the Bumbo under her play gym so she could grab her toys, on the bathroom floor while I showered, while I cooked dinner, outside while we had a picnic. . . I love our Bumbo, and I’m sure I will keep using it for awhile longer!

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Infantino play gym.  I was so excited when I got to take out Avary’s Infantino play gym!  I couldn’t wait to watch her explore and enjoy her toys.  I loved this play mat because it was easy to set up, take down, and wash.  Also, I loved that it came in girly colors!  Avary would spend quite a bit of a time on this playmat batting at the toys.

Tula baby carrier.  I am a big advocate of babywearing, I just love it so much!  When Avary was a tiny newborn, I loved using my Moby wrap because she could be all snuggled up against me, and she loved falling asleep that way.  As she got to this age, she didn’t want to sleep anymore–she wanted to look around and see what was going on!  I borrowed a friend’s Tula (when I took a flight with Avary by myself) and fell in love!  So I purchased one of my own, and I couldn’t be happier!  I loved the support it provided, it never hurt my back, and Avary loved being able to see everything!  Not to mention, the come in the cutest prints!  I also purchased the newborn insert; because, without it, Avary sat too low in the carrier.  I don’t regret spending the extra money on the insert because even now at 5 months old, she is only around 14 pounds and it just provides her more support and lets her see better.

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O Ball.  At 3 months old, Avary was still working on hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, of course.  She always wanted to try to grasp and hold onto her toys.  We got her an O ball and she absolutely loved it! (still does)  The openings make it so easy for little, learning hands, and I could tell she felt so accomplished when she grabbed hold of it and could swing it around.  I actually think this toy helped develop her coordination to move on to grasping other things successfully.  I definitely recommend trying an O ball out–such an inexpensive toy that baby will love!

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Bright Starts Lots of Links.  These were another one of Avary’s favorites.  We used these links all the time to entertain her.  We would strand several of them together and hang them from her carseat and it would entertain her the whole ride!  Most of the time she would fall asleep holding onto them (too cute!).  We also would use them to extend her toys hanging from her play gym to make them more in her grasp.  What else can I say?  They are cheap and loved!

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Infantino Topsy Turvy Soft Foam Puzzle Mat.  Because we have hardwood floors, I knew I needed some kind of foam floor mat to cushion the area I was letting baby play.  These Infantino foam squares work perfect!  Avary rolls back and forth and does tummy time on them every day.  I think she likes how colorful they are, as well.

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Lamaze Classic Discovery Book.  This crinkle book is seriously one of Avary’s must-haves!  It is a soft fabric book with crinkle pages, as well as a squeaky page and a rattle page.  It has lots of different fabrics and textures on it, and it is great for little, discovering hands!  I clip it on the carseat, take it in the diaper bag, put it on the bouncer–this little book really keeps Avary interested, engaged and happy!

These are the products that I loved during Avary’s third month of life.  What did you love, mommies??

sean (1)

 

 

Favorites

2 Month Favorites for Baby

 

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Since I previously did a post on my Newborn Essentials  for our baby girl, I decided I wanted to do a series of favorites for baby, featuring products I am loving every month!  I know that I love looking at what other people are loving for their babies during different ages and stages, so hopefully this can help you, mamas, too!

My 2 month baby favorites for Avary may be a little basic, but at this age, she still was in that newborn face of not doing much besides eating, sleeping, and. . . well, you know!  These are the products that we used the most.

  • Carter’s sleep gowns.  I can’t tell you how much I LOVE LOVE LOVED sleep gowns for Avary in those early months!  For one, they are so unbelievably cute and precious, but for late night diaper changes–they were essential.  I didn’t want to have to fumble around for snaps or unswaddle her all the way to change her diaper.  (We used the Halo sleep sacks I posted about in my Newborn Essentials, so you can just unzip from the bottom without unswaddling baby)  The gowns allowed me to just pull it up, change her diaper, and get back to sleep.  Carters always seems to have the cutest prints, as well.
  • Dr. Brown’s bottle & pacifier wipes.  I think every mom (especially new moms) are a bit like “germ-freaks” when it comes to a new baby.  For me, I obviously didn’t want my baby putting something dirty in her mouth, but no one has the time to steam sanitize all day long!  I loved, and still love, using the Dr. Brown’s bottle and paci wipes to sanitize.  They are made with all-natural, plant-based cleansing ingredients, like xylitol (keep away from your dog), and they come in a little wipe pouch so they are easy for on-the-go.  These came in handy when I flew with Avary when she was 8 weeks old.  I was by myself so I inevitably was going to drop something, and I wanted to be able to cleanse it easily.  If you are interested in my tips and tricks for flying with an infant, let me know in the comments down below!
  • Aveeno baby calming comfort bath & lotion.  I try to use as many natural products I can in our home and with our baby as I possibly can.  I love Aveeno’s products and I trust them on Avary’s delicate skin.  Once we got past that one month mark, I began realizing that I needed to get Avary into a routine–especially for bedtime.  Part of our bedtime routine is a bath and a massage with lotion.  I love that calming smell of lavender at nighttime, and I truly believe it helps Avary know it is time to relax and wind down.
  • Honest Co. diapers.  Because we want to use natural products on Avary and save a bit of money, we decided before she arrived that we were going to cloth diaper.  We bought her a stash of cloth diapers, and we love using them! (If you are interested in the products we use to cloth diaper, our setup, and routine, let me know in the comments!) We didn’t want to deal with cloth when we went out or overnight, though, so we were still in need of a good disposable diaper.  During her first month, we used some of the Pampers swaddlers–assuming they must be good because that is what the hospital uses!  However, Avary would break out in a rash from them almost every time!  We tried a variety of different brands until we finally settled on the Honest Company.  These diapers are so gentle on her bottom, they fit so well, and of course they have the cutest prints!  They were the perfect option for us, and we now use lots of their household or personal care items, as well.
  • Infantino go-gaga spiral car seat activity toy.  By 2 months, Avary was interested in looking at dangling toys and would try to touch them.  We bought her this Infantino toy and used it on her carseat, stroller, even her playmat, and she loved it!
  • Honest Co. soothing bottom wash.  Okay, let’s be honest–newborn poo is sticky and gross.  Breastfed baby poo is yucky, as well.  I love how durable the Honest Company wipes are, but I found they are not very wet and I like a little bit more moisture when I am wiping the baby’s bottom.  I want to know that she is getting super cleaning.  I tried out their soothing bottom wash and absolutely love it!  Again, it is organic and there are no harsh chemicals in it, and it smells amazing!  I just give a little spritz, wipe, and baby is super clean!  Also, if you use cloth wipes, this would make a great wipe solution!
  • Graco pack n play “cuddle cove”.  So we got a Graco pack n play play yard, and it came with the removable “cuddle cove” seat on top.  The cuddle cove seat rocks and vibrates and is so handy because you can easily carry it around the house.  In month 1 and 2 of Avary’s life, she did not want to sleep anywhere except on me or right next to me.  However, we started putting her in the cuddle cove with the vibration on and she absolutely loved it!  We would swaddle her up, turn it on, rock her back and forth, and she would fall asleep!  We would use it downstairs for naptimes so we could keep her close.  I do not believe it is recommended for overnight, unsupervised sleeping.  It was so helpful to me, as well, when Matt had to go back to work.  I would put her in it when I had to shower or go to the bathroom, and she would be perfectly content!  I love that it was included in the pack n play purchase, and we didn’t have to buy something extra.  She stopped fitting in it around 3 months old.

Those were my favorites for Avary while she was 2 months old!  Every baby is different so what works with one, will not always work with another.  I would love to hear what your favorites were for your babe at 2 months.  Let me know in the comments!

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The Birth of Avary Layne

 

Here it is.  The story of how our baby girl Avary Layne made her way into this world. She is hands-down my greatest accomplishment and my biggest joy.

To give a little background, I was 22 years old when my husband and I found out I was pregnant. Having just celebrated 2 years of marriage, we were so excited to be adding a baby to our little family! I had such an amazing pregnancy! Despite the nausea at the beginning and the fatigue and swelling at the end, I had little to complain about. I remember entering week 39 of pregnancy and feeling like it was NEVER going to end. I thought for sure Avary was going to stay inside me forever.

That week, I had my routine prenatal appointment. My husband, Matthew, was there with me–something that did not always happen because of his work schedule. I sat there on the little table with the stupid crinkly paper as the nurse put the blood pressure cuff on to take my blood pressure. I waited. After the cuff released its pressure, I looked up at the nurse, whose face seemed rather concerned. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me that my blood pressure was rather high and that the doctor was going to have to check it. I really thought nothing of it and waited for the doctor to come in. As soon as she came in, she took my pressure again. It was still high. She also went on to tell me that my urine sample came back with elevated levels of protein in it. She explained that high levels of protein in my urine coupled with hypertension could signal preeclampsia–a disorder that, left untreated, could mean a stroke for me and serious complications for the baby. She told me that she wasn’t trying to scare me, but that they have to take this very seriously and told me to go to the hospital right away so they could monitor me and the baby. In her opinion, she thought they would most likely induce me. After she left the room, I just looked at Matt and started crying. I was so confused! There I was, 39 weeks and 5 days pregnant, having had a completely healthy pregnancy up until this point, being told that I had this serious, life-threatening complication. I was definitely in shock. Matt reassured me that everything was going to be okay, and I calmed myself down. This was not a part of my “plan,” though. I had wanted to have a natural, unmedicated, water birth, and I was just told I would most likely have to have an induction.

Matt was supposed to go back to work after the appointment, but he called and explained what was going on. We drove home to get our hospital bags just in case we did have to stay, and then headed off to the hospital. When we arrived, they put me on a fetal monitor, took my blood pressure several times, did some blood work, and collected more urine. After a couple of hours of monitoring and tests, they told me that all my organs were functioning fine, the baby sounded great, and my blood pressure had gone down some. There was still protein in my urine, so they sent me home to do a 24 hr urine analysis. If you don’t know what that is, basically, they give you this huge orange jug and a plastic urine catch and you have to collect your urine for a whole 24 hr period. I was then supposed to return it to the hospital the next day. This was on Friday, January 22nd. Leaving the hospital, I felt like everything was okay. They hadn’t mentioned anything else about induction and they sent me home so I assumed that was a good sign.

Once we got home, Matt had to go back to work. I really didn’t want him to leave me after the stress of the day, but he had to. I also didn’t want him to leave because they were forecasting us to get a blizzard the very next day when I was supposed to return my urine to the hospital (which was a good 40 minutes away). Matt promised he would come home and get me and drive me to the hospital. Super pregnant lady + huge blizzard= not a good idea. So Saturday (the 23rd) comes and we get hit HARD with this crazy snow! Matt finally makes it home and tells me that the roads are horrible and that he really doesn’t think it is safe to drive all the way to the hospital. I call the hospital and explain my situation and how I cannot make it to drop off my urine. The midwife on-call did not seem very happy with this and explained that “my tests did not come back perfect” and something was still going on. She strongly urged me to watch out for any symptoms like headache, vision changes, elevated blood pressure, swelling, etc., as these could be signs of preeclampsia that could become a stroke or other complications. She told me to monitor my blood pressure, as well. When I got off the phone, I was scared out of my mind! At the hospital the day before, they had made me feel as if everything was okay and then this midwife made me feel like I might die! There was nothing we could do though because there was no way to safely get to the hospital in the weather we were having. Matt tried to keep me calm, but I was feeling very uneasy, nervous, and afraid for our little baby. That night, I contacted anyone I could think of to see if I could borrow a blood pressure cuff. No one had one. So the next morning–Sunday–Matt took me to CVS so I could check my blood pressure on one of those machines. My blood pressure was 151/90! I looked at Matt with a horrified look on my face and told him we had to get to the hospital. I called the hospital in the car and they told me to come in. We swung by the house and grabbed our bags and all the baby stuff–AGAIN–and headed to the hospital. At this point, I knew something was wrong and that they were going to induce me. . . I didn’t care about my “plan,” I just wanted our baby to get here safely. I didn’t know what to expect, though, because I hadn’t read much about induction at all.

After arriving at the hospital and running much of the same tests they did on Friday, they told me they were going to induce me. They explained that since I was now 40 weeks pregnant, the baby was big enough and healthy enough, and it was safer for her to get here than to be inside me any longer. They explained that the only way to resolve preeclampsia was to deliver.

So on Sunday, January 24th around 4pm, they began the induction process. They opted to begin by giving me Cytotec, an oral pill that was to be taken in 3 hour increments that helped to soften and dilate the cervix. Before they began the process, I was only 1 cm dilated. After they gave me a pill, I had to spend 1 hour in the hospital bed on a fetal monitor and a blood pressure cuff so they could monitor me and the baby’s reaction to the drug. They explained that they could give up to 7 of these pills and if this did not help induce labor, they would have to move on to different medical/drug options. So, I received a pill at 4pm, 7pm, 10pm (Sunday), 1 am (Monday), 4am, 7am. . . By this point on Monday, I was feeling contractions. In the morning, they weren’t very strong and were still coming inconsistently, but it was progress!

As the afternoon rolled around, my contractions started coming more consistently–about every 5-7 minutes. They started getting more uncomfortable so I began doing my relaxation techniques and different techniques to try to get comfortable. Since I had planned on having a natural birth, I was listening to my hypnobirth and labor music, I labored on the birthing ball, I labored in the shower. . . I will tell you that, for me, the shower REALLY helped my labor pain. My hospital had those removable shower heads and I just pointed it at my back or my abdomen when a contraction came on and it helped get through the discomfort. The birthing ball was also an amazing pain relief for me, but NOT sitting on it! Sitting on it seemed to intensify my contractions because it opens up your pelvis. I did do it just to help move her down, but I liked bending over at the waist and leaning on top of the ball and swaying my hips back and forth during contractions. That helped alleviate some of the pain.

Even though I was induced, my hospital allowed me to walk around and labor how I wanted to. They would routinely have me get in bed to monitor the baby and my blood pressure, however. As afternoon became early evening, my contractions were coming exactly every 5 minutes and were strong. I had talked to my doctor earlier in the day and she had said I could still do my water birth, but she recommended I don’t get in the tub until my contractions were very close together. While I was being monitored in the bed, they informed me that my blood pressure was going up again. This was a huge concern because at the time the induction started, they had also been giving me blood pressure medication. My doctor came in and told me I had to stay in the bed lying on my left side for the remainder of my labor. That was the only way to keep my blood pressure down and make sure the baby was okay. I cried. Laying in that stupid bed and trying to make it through contractions is near impossible! It was SO incredibly painful to lay there because the position only intensified my pain and there was no relief. After enduring this for an hour or two, I was screaming and crying every time a contraction came. At one point, Matt started crying because he hated seeing me in so much pain. Finally I told Matthew and my mom that I wanted the epidural. The epidural was not in my plan, but neither was being stuck in the bed for my whole labor. I knew pushing was so far off, and I didn’t feel like I could make it in this kind of pain until that point. I told my doctor and she thought it was a good idea. She told me that she knew it wasn’t in my birth plan, but the epidural would actually help lower my blood pressure (the pain of labor was also elevating it) and it would allow me to finally sleep and get some rest before pushing.

I was pretty nervous about getting the epidural because there are so many horror stories, but my nurses kept assuring me that the anesthesiologist was wonderful. They prepped me and the room and told us that he preferred no one else be in the room with me, so when he came in, Matthew left the room. Some new nurse came in with him, and I did NOT like her. I was expecting her to coach me through what I was supposed to do and be encouraging, but she was not. She barely said anything to me! There I am in the heart of labor, having crazy contractions, sitting cross-legged on a horribly uncomfortable hospital bed, with my back arched like a cat, waiting to get stuck with a huge needle and the nurse said nothing! The anesthesiologist began pushing on my spine–which is fine and normal–but he was taking a long time doing this, which I found odd. I asked him if everything was okay and he said yes. I then feel him stick the needle in. It really doesn’t hurt, but for me, it was the most disgusting feeling! When he stuck it in, I felt him wiggling it around which was making me feel sick. Then he started pressing on my back again and preceded to ask me which side of my spine I felt the needle on. Honestly, I was trying to not pay attention and I told him I didn’t know. I really couldn’t tell, all I could feel were my contractions! Then, I feel him take the needle out and I’m thinking I’m almost done when he sticks me again with the needle! I literally yelled, “What are you doing??” He didn’t reply and neither did the nurse. He did the stupid wiggling thing again, and at that point, I felt like I was going to pass out. I told the nurse in front of me and she literally said, “You’re fine.” I said, “NO, I’m really going to pass out. I’m getting sick. I’m. . . I’m. ..” My speech began slurring, I couldn’t hold my head up, my eyes wouldn’t stay open, and everything was going black. I’ve never passed out before but I thought that is what was happening or that maybe I was just dying. That’s what it felt like. I was crying for the nurse to help me and she was like, “Just breathe.” and began slapping me in the face! Legit, slapping. I then felt the anesthesiologist stick me for a THIRD time with the needle and I screamed, “What are you doing?! I want you to stop! What is wrong?” He then finally told me that I had a slight curve in my spine and he had trouble getting it in the right spot. I was so mad, tired, sick by the time it was over, and I was scared that I was going to end up paralyzed or that the epidural wouldn’t even work. When Matt came back in the room, he knew something was wrong. I explained it to him while crying, and he felt really bad for having left the room. It took a while for the epidural to kick in and actually make my legs numb, but when it did, I could not feel my legs AT ALL. When the nurses had to move me, I kept trying to help, and my legs were doing nothing (haha). I don’t know if it is a side effect of the epidural or if my body could just finally relax, but I got soooo sleepy. I couldn’t keep my eyes open even when I tried. I got some good sleep overnight.

After realizing how numb my legs were, I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to push because I couldn’t feel anything. They give you this button with your epidural where you can increase the dosage if you need more pain relief. By early morning, I stopped pressing the button altogether because I wanted some feeling back in my legs for pushing. As the morning wore on, I could feel the epidural’s strength wearing off. I could feel my legs better and I could feel my contractions again. They came and checked me that morning around 7 or so and I was 8 cm dilated. It wouldn’t be long! They told me to call them in when I felt like I absolutely had to push. Around 9:40 AM on Tuesday, January 26th., I felt so much pressure and knew I needed to start pushing! My doctor came in, as well as a visiting doctor, my nurse, and a nurse for the baby. My husband and my mom were also in the room. When they went to check me, they looked and they said, “Wow, her head is right there! I need to get my gear on!” Once they were ready, I started pushing. My mom, Matt, and my nurse helped hold my legs. As I was pushing, they were all saying, “Faith, she has your hair! She has dark, curly hair and there is so much of it!” I was so excited because I had hoped she would have hair. I asked if they could get a mirror so I could see. They wheeled in a big mirror and I saw her head full of hair. I felt like crying, I was so excited! Being able to watch in the mirror gave me so much motivation! Matt was so encouraging to me and so excited throughout the whole pushing process. He even touched her head! After a couple pushes, her head was so close to crowning. Everyone kept encouraging me, and I knew I could do it! Once her head crowned then came out, her body came out so quickly! I got to help catch her.

I immediately started crying when I saw my baby girl. She came out, eyes wide open, staring at me and her daddy. It seemed like she hardly blinked, she wanted to take it all in. She barely cried at all. She just stared at me. Everyone says you can’t describe the feeling you get when you meet your baby for the first time, and they are right, you can’t. It’s euphoric. Exhilarating. Empowering. Emotional. Overwhelming. Waiting to meet this little person you’ve had inside you for 40 weeks, then finally getting to meet them. . . There is nothing like it. The love is instantaneous. I was in awe that this was my baby, that me and Matt made her, and that my body just delivered her. She was and is perfect.  When I think back to the way Avary came into the world-quiet, interested, mellow-it is exactly how her personality is.

In a lot of ways my birth was traumatic: developing preeclampsia, dealing with a 3 foot blizzard when I had to get to the hospital, getting suddenly induced, having a horrible epidural experience. . .  Months after having Avary, my mom told me that at one point during my labor, my blood pressure got as high as 190.  I was on the brink of something really scary.  And I’m surprised my doctors didn’t end up doing a c-section.  But I am so so thankful that God watched over Avary and I and saw us through that delivery.  Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat!

 

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Clarity in the Midst of Confusion

Silver Linings

I am sure you have heard the saying, “Every cloud has a silver lining.”  The saying seems to suggest that despite negative circumstances that may appear dark and cloudy, there is positivity and clarity that can be found in the form of sunshine and light.  Having experienced my fair share of ups and downs in life, in faith, in marriage, in friendships, in work, in education, and really every facet of life–I have found that you truly can find clarity in the midst of confusion.  In fact, I think it is in the darkest nights that we become most enlightened, or on the cloudiest of days that we truly recognize the sun.

I believe that life is the most unique ride any of us will travel.  It is full of highs and lows, mountains and valleys, darkness and light.  We each travel our own path and experience these at different times.  For me, I was recently going through a valley–confused about where my life was headed, feeling not content with my work situation, wondering if the degree I was pursuing was what I was supposed to do, and questioning whether my God cared. . . Let me just say this–valleys are a struggle for me.  I am the type of person who wants to plan out my life.  I want to know every detail and have it organized in perfect place.  I like things to be done in my timing.  I guess you could call me a “control-freak.”  It is just really hard for me to relinquish control of “my” life and my plans to someone else.

What I have realized though, is that the valley is when God is trying to remind me that I cannot manage my life on my own.  I cannot be content within myself if I am not content where God has placed me.  I think the valley is God’s way of pushing us to see the light.  It is easy to think that God is “punishing” us with things aren’t going the way we want, but God doesn’t work like that.  A friend once told me, “I know that God is my loving Father, not a “dead-beat dad”, “alcoholic father”, or absentee, or punisher.  We are His daughters and are seated in heavenly places through Christ.  We are covered in His precious blood.”  Because God is a loving Father, He wants to pour out blessings on our lives.

I used to think that God’s blessings were somehow dependent on what I did–whether I was good or bad, but that is not the case.  God’s blessings are dependent on His love for us, and what He accomplished through the cross.  “Every good gift and every prefect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17, ESV)  Because of God’s unchanging nature and His constant love for us, He blesses us.

When I opened up myself to the idea that God wants to bless me, not punish me, and that it was all about Him and not me, the blessings He began to pour into my life have overwhelmed me!  The Bible says, “I will open the windows of heaven for you.  I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” (Malachi 3:10b, NLT)  I know what it is like to live life in darkness–surrounded by negativity and sadness and confusion–but if you can just remember that God is not the author of confusion, nor the creator of darkness, but a loving Father ready to bless you and provide you with clarity and contentment, that valley won’t seem as bad or as long, the mountain top will be just around the corner, the light will be right at the end of that tunnel, and the sun breaking behind the clouds.