Tag: family

His Encouragement: 2 Thessalonians 3:16

His Encouragement: 2 Thessalonians 3:16

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible passage and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Encouragement

“Now the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all.” — 2 Thessalonians 3:16, KJV

It is hard when you cry out to the Lord and it seems as if — at least for the moment — the Lord is slow in answering your plea. It can be discouraging and confusing, especially if you are in the midst of a turbulent trial.

Earlier this week, we received the official confirmation regarding my mom’s health crisis. It is, indeed, advanced Stage IV Breast Cancer that has metastasized to bones in her spine. The doctors were grim, implying without actually saying it, that really all they can do at this late stage is to make Mom as “comfortable” as possible.

My mom just turned 57 in March. Six months ago, she was living a vibrant, active life. She loves to go hiking with my dad, and not short little things but long hikes along the various desert trails within an hour’s drive of the Phoenix metropolitan area. She is also healthy and has been living a well-balanced plant-based diet since 2010. Two years ago, she completed certification to be a wellness coach and a very prestigious plant-based cooking course.

She is a godly woman and very active in her church: director of the Pathfinders Club, juniors Sabbath School teacher, playing the flute for a small ensemble, and singing in the choir. Over the years, she has given one-on-one Bible studies and she has lead out in powerful prayer sessions. She and my dad together are the spiritual rock of our family.

There is no history of cancer of any kind in our family. Heart problems… sure. Dementia… Yeah. Cancer? Nope. Not a trace. The last three weeks since Mom’s visit to the ER has been a whirlwind. We have prayed like we have never prayed before, and we trust the Lord completely.

But there is still the heart-wrenching question: “Why, God? Why?”

Sometimes we might find ourselves asking the same question the disciples asked Jesus: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Only, in our case, it goes more like: “Lord, who sinned that s/he has developed cancer?”

And I imagine the Lord Jesus looking at us with sad eyes and saying: “No one specifically sinned. Cancer is a symptom of a world contaminated with sin. This is not how it was intended to be.”

It is not fair. Cancer is never fair. It is not fair that a friend’s precious six-year-old is battling an aggressive form of a rare cancer. It is not fair that another friend’s dad has stage III cancer. It is not fair that my husband lost a childhood friend to this horrid disease in their mid-twenties. There is hardly a person today who has not known someone or knows someone who knows someone who has been touched by it.

If you are struggling with a devastating diagnosis, of yourself or a loved one, I know what it is like to cry your heart out to the Lord and feel that He is not answering or, even worse, His answer is “No, my precious one.”

We cannot see with the eyes of God. We do not know the end from the beginning. He is more than able to heal, but perhaps there is something much greater than us going on. A bigger picture that only God can see.

And it hurts. Yes. It is tears your heart up into pieces. You may say: “Lord, I just don’t understand.” And there will be things this side of heaven we will not understand.

But know that in the midst of your storm — even if the answer to your prayers is the dreaded “no” — the Lord offers a peace. This peace does not mean it does not hurt. This peace does not mean you won’t cry and grieve. This peace means that even so, Lord Jesus, I trust in You.

Beloved, may you have this peace. The Lord be with you.

May the Lord give you peace at all times and in all ways. 2 Thessalonians 3:16.

Now it is your turn! How does today’s verse encourage you? What verse or passage is blessing you today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday as well:

Are you a blogger? If you would like to join us every Thursday, please contact Trisha or Nicole.

Survival Guide for Parents with a New Baby

Survival Guide for Parents with a New Baby

You just had a baby or adopted a newborn. Congratulations! This is a momentous occasion and a life-changing event. You may have anticipated the bonding experiences with your baby, those quiet moments of cuddling and cooing, singing and playing. The first time he or she smiles or laughs will warm your heart.

All babies are unique. Some are mellow little cherubs content to eat, sleep, and snuggle with very little fussing. Others may be more of a handful, perhaps due to a more sensitive nature or physical challenges like reflux. Still others can make the first month or so a nightmare, with unconsolable crying for hours on end, barely sleeping for longer than 45 minutes, or being awake for hours during the night.

The first two months, though filled with lovely and wonderful moments, can also be quite difficult for parents. Here is my practical guide for surviving these tough times. If you are new to motherhood or fatherhood, this survival guide will help! (Dads, there is a special note at the bottom just for you.)

1. Sleep!

I know, I know. Everyone tells you about the importance of sleep and to “sleep when baby sleeps”. You are probably thinking right now: “Sure, it is easy to say but I can’t sleep when baby sleeps or nothing would get done.”

Perhaps baby is nursing every hour or you have to pump on a rigid schedule. Maybe just when you close your eyes to rest, the baby starts fussing or your older children demand attention. Maybe baby has finally fallen asleep but it is almost time for dinner and all of your dishes are dirty in the sink. I know how you feel. I have been there. 

But let me also remind you of something you already know: sleep is vital to our physical and mental health. Two to three hours a night, broken up into ten minutes here and twenty minutes there, is not sufficient sleep. The days and weeks after childbirth are already challenging, but if you do not get enough rest, you may unintentionally contribute to postpartum depression.

I was there. I experienced this with my second child. We had an extremely fussy/needy newborn and an 18-month-old who was teething at the same time.

The sleep deprivation contributed to my own postpartum depression, which did not resolve itself until about five and a half weeks postpartum when baby was finally sleeping for two to four hours stretches so I could sleep, too. I was too prideful to admit that I had a sleep problem. I was determined to fix it on my own, but I needed to ask for help. My husband was a lifesaver. He would watch the kids while I napped or drop the toddler off at his parents for the afternoon.

To be able to function, you need to consistently get 5 or more hours of sleep within a twenty-four hour period of time. Have your spouse watch the baby while you take a nap. Ask family to come over to watch the baby. Do what you have to do to get some sleep.

2. Eat healthy and eat often.

With the craziness that a newborn brings, you might find yourself skipping a meal here and there or grabbing a less-than-nutritious snack instead. If it only happens on a rare occasion, you are probably fine, but this can cause problems if it becomes a common occurrence.

You just had a baby so your body is in recovery and you may be breastfeeding as well. Your body needs proper nutrition to fuel recovery and to make the milk your baby needs. If you skip too many meals, your daily caloric intake may drop too low too fast. This can negatively impact your milk production and might even contribute to health problems for you.

Make sure you eat well-balanced meals throughout the day.

You may find that you need to eat a little less but more frequently (like when you were pregnant). Even if you do not feel hungry, eat something healthy. (Oats are good for you and aid in milk production!) Or maybe you have discovered that you have a ravenous appetite and you are afraid you will either gain more weight or not lose the baby weight so you are trying to put yourself on a diet.

Firstly, it is too soon to go on a diet. Your body is already going through so many changes right now, don’t make it have to work even harder. Secondly, if you are breastfeeding, some women find that they have to have a little extra weight to maintain a healthy milk supply. (I am one of them.) Thirdly, it took nine months to gain the weight, allow yourself at least a year to lose it.

If you eat healthy, snack healthy, and do moderate exercise on a daily basis, you will gradually slim down.

3. Shower at least every other day, but everyday if possible.

You may find yourself hyper-focused on caring for the new baby’s needs that you neglect your own most basic needs. Showering not only keeps you clean, but it can help you relax and deal with stress. Find the time to take a shower.

Whether it is in the early morning before the baby wakes up, mid-morning when your mom or sister or best friend comes over to watch the baby, the middle of the afternoon when baby is napping, after your husband comes home from work in the evening, or late at night right before bed. The when does not matter. Just do it. You will be glad you did!

Perhaps you are alone. Maybe you are a single parent, your spouse works long hours or is away from home for days at a time, or you have no family nearby to help. Maybe baby is crying hysterically even though s/he has been fed, burped, and changed.

My advice is to put baby down in a safe place (crib, bassinet, rock ‘n play, etc.) and take a quick five or ten minute shower. Hard though it may be to listen to, it is okay for a baby to cry a little. It is better for baby to cry in a safe place for five to ten minutes while you take a much needed emotional break then for you to become overwhelmed and, perhaps, lose your temper.

4. Understand that some housework won’t get done for awhile.

Dishes may pile up in the sink, toilets may not get cleaned for a week or two, vacuuming may go undone, clothes might pile up in the basket. And it is okay!

If you gave birth, remember that you just gave birth to a human being! Not only do you now have this precious little bundle to care for, but you are also physically recovering from a very physically demanding and sometimes traumatizing event. In the immediate days and weeks after childbirth, your body will be flooded with various hormones as your body shifts from pregnancy-mode to post-pregnancy-mode.

You will be bonding with your newborn, experiencing your milk coming in, figuring out breastfeeding via nursing or pumping, possibly figuring out bottle-feeding, barely sleeping, and so much more. Your body is going through many changes (not all visible) and this can wreck havoc on your emotions.

If you have adopted a baby, you now have this precious little bundle to care for and many of the baby-related things I mention above also apply to you! Bonding with your newborn, figuring out feeding, barely sleeping, emotional rollercoasters, etc. It is okay if the house is not spotless.

5. Ask for help!

Bottom line, Mamas, you have a lot to cope with in the first two months. And if you have older children, it will be that much harder as you navigate caring for your baby and your old children, too. So give yourself grace. Focus on what is most important: your child(ren) are fed, clean, and loved and you also are fed, clean, and rested.

If the mess really bothers you and causes stress or anxiety or you cannot get enough sleep or you need a break, ask for help. From your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your friends, your neighbors. Do not allow your pride to cause you to suffer in silence. It is not good for you, not good for baby, and not good for your family.

Be specific in what you ask for: please watch the baby while I do dishes, can you make us a meal, would you be able to clean the bathrooms, can you babysit the older child(ren) for two hours, etc.

 

Remember, you are amazing! You gave birth or adopted this precious little one. The first two months can be heavenly if you have a more mellow child, very challenging if you have a fussy newborn, or anywhere in between.

Sometimes your newborn maybe quite contented and then, suddenly, s/he cries hysterically. Go through the checklist first: fed, burped, changed, held; and repeat if necessary. Most babies cry for a reason, but it might be hard to pinpoint the exact reason in the heat of the moment. It is okay to feel confused and overwhelmed.

You may or may not know that many babies become more fussy during growth spurts (physical and developmental). After all, baby’s main job during his or her first year is to grow, grow, grow! These growth spurts tend to happen between Weeks 1-3, Weeks 6-8, three months, six months, and nine months. (But all babies are different so yours might hit a growth spurt sooner or later.)

If you are still not sure what is going on with your baby or concerned about a symptom (perhaps excessive spit up, unconsolable crying for hours every day), ask your pediatrician.

As my mom always said, “Motherhood is hard enough on its own, don’t make it even harder on yourself.”

Some women experience a beautiful, storybook newborn stage, and that is wonderful. However, many of us will face challenges, often outside our control, and we have to navigate those challenges carefully.

Do not expect every newborn to be the same. Just because your first was an angel who slept through the night within a week and hardly ever cried, does not mean your second will be the same, and vice versa. Do not compare yourself with other moms or your baby with other babies. Take advice — from people, books, and the internet — with a grain of salt. Do what feels right to you, but always keep your baby’s health in mind.

And, above all, remember that God chose you to be this precious child’s mother. Trust your instincts. If something feels off with you or the baby, get help. You do not have to be superwoman. You do not have to do this alone.

And if you need help, do not think any less of yourself or think you are a failure if you cannot do things perfectly. The fact that you recognized your need and sought the right solution (whatever it may be) means that you are absolutely amazing.

Yes, you are AMAZING.

 

Side note to fathers:

Dads, your wife just had a baby. Were you present during her labor and delivery? If so then you realize just how physically demanding giving birth is, and the recovery time can be weeks or even months, depending on her unique situation. If not, just take my word for it.

If you are the kind of guy who normally helps out around the house, then you are already ahead of the game. I want to thank you on your wife’s behalf for being awesome. Keep doing what you are doing and know that you might have to do a little extra for awhile until your wife is feeling better.

If you are not used to helping and have always relied on your wife to maintain the house, then we need to have a little chat. Your wife just had a baby. (I know I already said that, but it needs to be said again.) Her body is recovering. She will be uncomfortable, exhausted, and might even experience pain. She might have difficulty doing things she normally can do. Her emotions might be on a rollercoaster of highs and lows, she is also severely sleep deprived, and if you have older children, she will probably be even more exhausted.

Now is the time for you to step up and be her hero.

Make a meal (it does not have to be fancy), tidy up the kitchen, throw in a load of laundry, watch the crying baby for an hour or two while your wife naps, anything that you can do, now is the time to do it. Sure, you may have no clue what you are doing but you are smart, you can figure it out. And don’t do it for the recognition, do it because you love your wife and you want to help her recovery.

 

To recap: sleep, eat healthy, shower, don’t fret over housework, and ask for help when you need it. This is my survival guide for parents with a new baby. If you are a mom or dad, what tips helped you survive the first two months? Share your experiences in the comments below!

His Encouragement: Psalm 30:4-5

His Encouragement: Psalm 30:4-5

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Encouragement

“Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” — Psalm 30:4-5, ESV

Have you ever had a week in which your entire world was turned upside down? Where the events of your days feel surreal, like a nightmare that you just want to wake up from? That is what my family is experiencing right now. Just this last Saturday, my mom was diagnosed with metastatic disease of the spine. It is most likely Stage IV Breast Cancer with metastasis to the spine, though we would need more thorough tests to confirm. It provided answers to some of the questions that we had, especially after my mom injured her back in December and the pain kept getting worse instead of better, but it was definitely not the answer we were praying for.

It is times like this that our trust in God is tested. We may not be able to understand the why, but we know our God is greater than cancer. He is the great Physician, the Almighty Creator. He is ABLE to heal! More than able. And that is our earnest prayer.

But sometimes in His wisdom and mercy the answer is “no”. So (like the three Hebrews said before Nebuchadnezzar) if not, we continue to trust Him and take solace in the blessed hope of Christ’s return. I chose today’s verse for my own broken heart. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” I have done a lot of crying the last few days, but I know that no matter what happens, we WILL be rejoicing. “Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.”

My family is doing all we can to raise the funds to provide my mom with an alternative, more holistic treatment option. You can learn more at Help Lynne fight cancer. We are asking all our family, friends, and connections to join us April 25-29 in giving just $10 one time to help us reach the goal we need so she can start the treatment.

Most importantly, we are asking for prayers. Prayers for healing. Prayers for pain management. Prayers for sleep. Prayers for comfort.

It is times like these that our faith is tested, because we often cannot see the why. However, no matter the outcome, we have to decided to trust in the Lord. We do not grieve as the world grieves, because we believe that Jesus died and rose again, conquering death and the grave, and He will return victorious. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) And that there will be a future with no more sorrow, no more tears, no more pain. (Revelation 21:4) So if you, too, are processing world-shattering news, there is hope, a blessed hope. Cling to it, cling to the Lord, and He will help you overcome.

My mom, my sisters, my niece, and me at Thanksgiving last year.

Now it is your turn! How does today’s verse encourage you? What verse or passage is blessing you today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday as well:

Are you a blogger? If you would like to join us every Thursday, please contact Trisha or Nicole.

His Encouragement: Jeremiah 31:25

His Encouragement: Jeremiah 31:25

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

“For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.” — Jeremiah 31:25, ESV

I was exhausted. Our second child is now nine weeks old, but the first five weeks were challenging beyond my expectations. He was a fussy newborn, at times unconsolable, and he had his days and nights all mixed up. On top of that, a short time after he was born, his big brother began getting his molars. For almost a month, if one was not crying at night, the other one was. I had never been so sleep deprived. I barely was able to get 2-3 hours of sleep a night, and even that was interrupted sleep! (Five minutes here, ten minutes there, etc.)

My mom can relate. In December, she injured her back badly, and while on a walk around her neighborhood in January, she was bitten by a dog on her leg. Trying to relieve one injury and ease aching muscles caused the back pain to worsen. Since then, she has been in severe pain every day. Often unable to sit or lay down, she, too, gets less than three hours of sleep most nights.

Anyone who has experienced severe sleep deprivation over days and weeks (or even months!) understands firsthand that it is not good for our bodies or our minds. Not only are we physically wiped out, but our minds start… doing unusual things. We also start behaving like a completely different person, a stranger, whose emotions are hard to control. Some of us may even start thinking things we never would have thought if we were well rested or without pain.

It can be very hard when you yourself or someone you love is in severe pain over an extended period of time. Sometimes it might feel like you (or they) are going through this experience all alone. Perhaps you (or they) even begin to question their faith. We may not be able to see or understand why the Lord allowed our situation; however, we should not give up faith or hope. Even during these hard times, the Lord promises to always be with us. The Lord has promised: “I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”

Let us grab hold and claim that promise!

 

Jeremiah 31:25 super-imposed over a calming waterfall.

Now it is your turn! How does today’s verse encourage you? What verse or passage is blessing you today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday as well:

Are you a blogger? If you would like to join us every Thursday, please contact Trisha or Nicole.

Breastfeeding Challenges, Round Two

Breastfeeding Challenges, Round Two

Disclosure: One of the links below is an affiliate link, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission when you click through and make a purchase. I use this product myself on a daily basis. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog.

For those familiar with Our Breastfeeding Journey, you already know that we experienced some challenges breastfeeding with our first son Peanut. It began due to his tiny size at birth (only 4 lbs 11 oz) and a very severe tongue tie. To provide breastmilk for him, I pumped from day one and during his growth spurts we had to supplement. He was able to finally nurse on his own by thirteen weeks old, though I continued to primarily pump because I was working full time. I was able to provide breastmilk until my supply dried up on its own at ten months, right around when we conceived our second son.

Our adorable son, Pickle, is now two months old!

I wish I could tell you that this time our breastfeeding journey was easier, but in some ways it was even harder. The first week and half went great. Pickle latched and nursed right away, and his latch was good. Yet when he was a week and half, we started noticing that he would spend 45 minutes on just one breast, fall asleep often during nursing, and would cry hysterically when awake as if he was still hungry. At our two week appointment, we discovered Pickle had not gained any weight. He was born 6 lbs 10 oz, but at two weeks old was 6 lbs 3 oz. The pediatrician was concerned because he had not even regained his birth weight.

We had to start formula feeding right away, and the pediatrician wanted to see him in two days. Two days later, he was 6 lbs 13 oz. We were relieved!

But I was also devastated… again.

Because Pickle latched and we thought he was nursing well, I had allowed myself to believe that this time I would be able to breastfeed and would only need to pump to build a freezer stash for when I returned to work. Unfortunately, Pickle was not draining the milk. This caused two problems: he was not getting the fatty milk to gain weight and my body was getting the signal to make less milk because there was “extra” being left. At two weeks, when I started pumping regularly, I barely was getting 2 oz a session. My supply was almost non-existent!

Baby Pickle at one month old.
Our adorable little Pickle at one month old.

I tried every trick in the book to increase my supply. I pumped long, I pumped frequently, I drank herbal teas, I drank tons of water, I ate foods with oats (and I absolutely detest oatmeal, but I forced myself to start eating it), I even began taking fenugreek tablets and adding milk thistle to some juice. Exhausted and sore, I was still barely getting 2 oz a session. Then I started getting dizzy spells and, after researching, discovered I must be one of the very rare individuals who experience side effects when taking fenugreek. I stopped taking it.

With Pickle not even a month old, I broke down and nearly gave up completely. At this time, Pickle was 90% formula fed and I was pumping so little milk that I came very close to just quitting. Was this torture worth it? Nothing I was doing seemed to be making a difference, and pumping takes so much time and was painful.

You might be thinking: “Why don’t you just let the baby nurse? If he is hungry enough, he’ll figure it out.” When we were forced to introduce bottles, Pickle completely refused to nurse again. I tried many, many, many times, but he completely stopped nursing. Putting him to breast only resulted in him shaking his head from side to side violently and crying hysterically. It was heartbreaking. For my own sake, I had to stop pushing.

In addition to the stress of a low milk supply and him not wanting to nurse anymore, Pickle was not an easy going newborn. He refused to sleep at night and often cried unconsolably for long periods of time. Usually these crying sessions were between 8pm and 1am! And when he did finally fall asleep, he would sleep for only an hour or hour and a half. At the same time, our older son Peanut started getting his molars and was also not sleeping well. There were many days where I barely managed to get 2 or 3 hours of sleep… and not in one nice deep sleep. Oh, no. It was ten minutes here, twenty minutes there, etc.

Due to the lack of sleep, the stress of an unconsolable newborn, hardly producing any milk, a teething toddler, and a few other stressors, I was quickly spiraling towards postpartum depression. But more on that in a future post!

We managed to push through with many tears thanks to the prayers of our family and closest friends and also a shipment of breastmilk from Bradley’s cousin-in-law, whose own baby is a few months older than Pickle. He still needed a little supplementing with soy formula at night, but her generosity ensured that Pickle was getting the benefits of some breastmilk during the crucial early weeks when I was hardly making any at all. Since then, we have gotten a second shipment. We are so grateful!

Then I found a method of pumping that replicates a baby’s cluster feeding before and during a growth spurt and encourages the body to produce more milk. I also ate lots of oats every day in the form of Nature’s Path Gluten-free Oatmeal, General Mills Cheerios, and a new probiotic almond/cashew milk with oats by Silk. (Mind you, oats and I have a love-hate relationship. I have to eat them for milk production, but oats cause me considerable digestive discomfort.) Very slowly, day by day, half an ounce here and there, my supply began to increase.

Pickle at two months. Photo by Jacquelyn.
Pickle at two months old! He tends to be a very serious-looking baby.

At almost nine weeks, I am now pumping 19-20 oz a day on average, though I am still trying to get more since Pickle is eating 35+ oz each day now. At a little over two months old, Pickle eats everything I pump, about 8-10 oz of frozen milk from our cousin-in-law, and 5-10 oz of soy formula a day. During growth spurts, he gets more formula. My prayer and goal is to continue pumping whatever I can until he is ten months old (the same age Peanut was when he weaned), but we just have to take it one day at a time.

So it seems that pumping — as tiring, frustrating, and sometimes painful as it is — is our normal.

Being completely honest, there are times when I want to just throw in the towel altogether. Pumping is not fun, it is time consuming, and it is not convenient.

First, you need to buy a heavy duty double electric pump if you don’t already have one. I personally use Medela’s Pump-in-Style (Tote) but there are many other pumps on the market. You lose precious sleep to pump during the night, and during the day you have to plan every little task and activity around your pumping schedule. Need to run an errand? I have to pump right before leaving and right when we get back or I have to pack up the big double electric pump and find 15 minutes to hide in a bathroom to pump for 15 minutes. Delaying or missing a pumping session immediately affects my milk supply, which means I have to pump twice as long the next time to compensate or risk a blocked milk duct and engorgement. (This is extremely painful!)

So… Yeah. I, unfortunately, am one of those women who has to pump if I want my babies to get any of my milk. I just have to remind myself that it is ok and every little bit helps.

Mind you, this is not an anti-formula post. Pickle gets at least one 5 oz bottle of formula a day, sometimes two during growth spurts. I understand even better now the very valid reasons why some women must or choose to formula feed their babies. Not every woman can produce enough milk on their own, or perhaps they have to return to work at three or six weeks, or maybe their workplace is not accommodating for pumping moms. Some women dislike breastfeeding, it can be painful or emotionally challenging for them.

What I am saying is that all reasons are valid reasons and you are a wonderful mother no matter what path your journey takes. You need to do what is right for you and your baby.

For me, I always wanted to breastfeed so not being able to do so with both of my children is disappointing. A dream has been completely shattered and it takes time to sort through the pieces. What truly matters, though, is that the children are well-fed and well loved. Breastfeeding challenges are not talked about often in our society, but they are actually fairly common around the world! I decided to share the details of our personal struggles to let other women who may also be experiencing challenges know that you are not alone, it is ok whatever route you take to feed your baby, and you are an amazing mother.

Our Breastfeeding Journey

New Beginnings: Our Birth Story, Baby #2

New Beginnings: Our Birth Story, Baby #2

It has been seven weeks since our second son, I am calling him Pickle here, arrived into this world. He was born Tuesday, February 6, 2018, at 8:43am. He was 6 lbs 10 oz and 18 inches long.

For those interested, this is our birth story.

During the two weeks leading up to his birth, I was experiencing prodromal labor, or more simply put very real contractions that would not progress. Some days it would last for a handful of hours, other days it lasted all day long. Sometimes the contractions were mild and other times they were fairly strong. However, every time I thought: “Hey, we might be getting close…” the contractions would either slow or stop completely.

At our last check in with my doctor, she suggested we give Pickle the weekend to decide if he would come on his own and, if not, schedule to be induced early that next week. By this time, I was exhausted and agreed. So the induction was scheduled for 8am on February 6th, which happened to be my younger sister’s birthday. We went home and made all of the plans we needed to make. My in-laws were going to come over to watch our son, and my parents were going to meet us at the hospital.

Everything seemed all nice and neat, but I was praying all weekend long that Pickle would still come on his own. I tried whatever I could to encourage him. I bounced on the exercise ball, I raked our front yard, I did housework… Monday I really thought he would come. The contractions were more intense but never stayed at 5 minute intervals for a full hour. When I went to bed, the contractions stopped altogether. That night I had the best sleep I had had for quite a long while.

Proud Dada with our second son!
Proud Dada with our second son the day after he was born.

I awoke suddenly the next morning and happened to be checking the time when the first powerful contraction hit. The clock said 5:43am. I slipped out of bed, suspecting it might be labor, and decided to hop in the shower very quickly. It was the fastest shower I have ever taken in my life and I had two more contractions while in there. It was clear these contractions were only about 2-3 minutes apart and growing in intensity. I woke Bradley up and told him we needed to get to the hospital. Since we were already scheduled to go to the hospital that morning, he asked: “How long do we have?”

“We need to get there as fast as we can,” I told him. He jumped in the shower while I called my parents. Then I dressed and he called his parents. We did not have time to wait for the in-laws to get to our house so we decided to take our son with us to the hospital and they could pick up him there. We grabbed the hospital go bag, loaded up the car, and were on the road. The contractions were getting stronger each time. Thank the Lord, the hospital is only five minutes down the road from our house. Bradley stayed in the car with our son, as he was sleeping, and I went inside to check in.

A very short time later, I was in the triage room getting ready for the initial examination. Bradley joined me there and, though my water had not yet broken, I was in active labor. The nurse helped me into a wheelchair and I was whisked off to a labor/delivery room. My parents were able to join us there. It was nice to have my mom there. Like with my first, I decided to labor without pain medicine, but since Pickle was bigger, it was a little harder. I also had quite a bit of back labor that made pushing more of a challenge. In that moment, I completely understood why most women get pain medicine and even epidurals. I was a bit dehydrated since we had come directly after jumping out of bed, and I had the worst uncontrollable shakes the entire time. (I did not have that with Peanut!)

Exactly three hours after I felt the first contraction, Baby Van Sant (Pickle) was born! He was immediately laid on my chest and we snuggled for quite awhile. During my labor and delivery, the hospital’s computer system went down so the staff had to chart everything old school. That meant we were able to stay in the L/D room a lot longer than usual before being moved up to the recovery ward. My older sister, who was working that day in the Emergency Department, stopped by for a quick visit. After such a fast and intense experience, it was nice to relax. I ended up with a second degree tear and quite a few stitches and even just the thought of the wheelchair ride was painful.

Proud Mama holding our little Pickle.
Proud Mama holding our little Pickle before we were discharged from the hospital.

Eventually we were moved upstairs to a nice private room. My parents helped us settle in, gave me some food to eat, and then left to let us bond with Pickle and rest. The peaceful atmosphere did not last long. The nurse came in to help me use the bathroom and check my postpartum bleeding. I passed a rather large clot and the volume of blood was enough to concern the nurse. She brought her supervisor in to have a look and they decided to call my doctor back to the hospital. (Her office is, fortunately, two minutes down the road.) By now, both Bradley and I were getting worried.

My doctor arrived quickly and proceeded with a physical exam. It was the worst pain I had ever felt in my entire life… and mind you, I birthed two babies without even a tiny bit of pain medicine. I remember screaming and crying. It was decided that the best course of action was to send me to surgery, be put under local anesthetic, and have a full examination to find the source of the excessive bleeding. Though the word was never mentioned by anyone, the first thing that comes to mind when you hear about postpartum bleeding is hemorrhaging and that is often life-threatening.

In tears, I grabbed Bradley’s hand and asked him to call my parents. He did and then called his parents to let them know what was happening. Then he held my hand and said a prayer. Pickle was taken to the nursery.

Peanut being introduced to his new baby brother.
Peanut being introduced to his new baby brother. He kept shouting: “Baby! Hi, Baby!”

I was helped into a wheelchair (yet again) and wheeled back downstairs. It was all very surreal as the doors to the surgery ward opened and I saw the medical team waiting for me. Everyone was very nice, friendly, and smiling but at the same time there was a certain quickness to their actions and words that was serious. Bradley gave me a kiss and then I was taken into the operating room. I admit, I had many thoughts flash through my mind, some of which went like this: “Dear Lord, I don’t want to die. I’m not ready and I cannot leave Bradley to raise Peanut and Pickle on his own.”

I was given a local anesthetic that numbed me from the waist down (aka epidural!) but left a tingling in both feet. It is the weirdest sensation, and once I was lying on the table in that very cold room, the uncontrollable shakes returned. The team was very professional and nice. Someone got me a ton of warm towels and covered me thoroughly from the waist up. Besides the shakes, which had my teeth chattering badly and my arms flopping around, it was actually quite pleasant to be all wrapped up in those warm towels. I could feel the examination but it was a very light pressure and there was absolutely no pain. I am not sure if they ever found the source of the excessive bleeding. I do know the doctor removed something from my uterus, put a few stitches in my cervix, and re-stitched the outside some as well.

When it was all said and done, I was taken to a temporary recovery room for the anesthetic to wear off. Bradley, my parents, and my older sister rushed in as soon as they were allowed to. I know I was a little out of it… Kind of loopy and having a slightly hard time pronouncing my words. I was just relieved to be out of surgery and praying everything was alright. My dad said: “Don’t you ever do that again!” And my older sister was quite upset at me, too.

In that moment, I knew, looking at the mixture of worry and relief on Bradley’s solemn face that this experience was terrifying for the both of us. Praise the Lord, nothing serious was wrong but it easily could have been. I was glad to be taken back upstairs and reunited with our little Pickle.

Pickle… our most beautiful and amazing little gift from God. Our wonderful blessing, born on his aunt’s birthday.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:13-14, ESV

 

New Beginnings: Our Birth Story

His Encouragement: 2 Chronicles 15:7

His Encouragement: 2 Chronicles 15:7

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” — 2 Chronicles 15:7, NIV

Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by your circumstances that you just want to give up? Have you spent hours crying, thinking about, and praying over a situation and still feel as bewildered and uncertain as you were at the start? Does it seem like your problems are multiplying without any resolution?

Maybe you are even going through this right now. I wish I had some kind of great words of wisdom to share with you today that would make it all better, but the truth is: this is where I am at the moment, too. I am tired and just want to give up. Why bother trying anymore?

So I turned to the Word of God for encouragement, and I found 2 Chronicles 15:7. I do not usually read from the New International Version (my personal preferences are the King James, the English Standard Version, and the Complete Jewish Bible), but the NIV spoke to my hurting heart today: “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”

This is the final sentence of a prophecy by Azariah to King Asa of Judah, encouraging Asa to get rid of the false idols and idol worship that had taken hold in the kingdom under previous kings. The Bible continues: “When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded the prophet, he took courage. He removed the detestable idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns he had captured in the hills of Ephraim. He repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the portico of the Lord’s temple.” (2 Chronicles 15:8, NIV) This was no easy feat, and Asa even had to remove his own grandmother, who was promoting the worship of false gods (2 Chronicles 15:16). Talk about family drama with the fate of an entire nation at stake!

If the Lord can guide King Asa in what seemed to be a impossible undertaking — bringing the kingdom of Judah back to the worship of God alone — then He can surely guide me through my daily troubles. And you, too! We just need to “be strong and do not give up”!

Now it is your turn! What verse or passage is blessing you today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

6 Practical Gift Ideas for Families With New Babies

6 Practical Gift Ideas for Families With New Babies

The birth of a baby is an exciting time. Whether it is the family’s first child or sixth, there is an air of anticipation and celebration when the little one arrives. In the weeks immediately after a child’s birth, there may be visits to see the new baby and gifts given to the parents.

While all gifts are wonderful, after having two children of my own, there were a few practical gifts that I absolutely loved and appreciated very deeply. So I am sharing these practical gift ideas with you. If there is someone in your life who is expecting a new baby or recently gave birth (or adopted!), these are great ideas to bless the family and provide help during a time that can be challenging.

1. Homemade meals

I cannot thank our parents enough for helping us with meals the first few days after giving birth. Homemade and delicious meals, especially that provide easy-to-reheat leftovers like soup and stew, were life-savers. My mom’s delicious tomato soup and quinoa waffles, my mother-in-law’s vegetable stew… It may seem simple but when a woman is recovering from the physical trauma of childbirth, homemade meals are a very important gift.

Tip: Be sure you ask ahead of time if there are any foods or ingredients that need to be avoided due to allergies or sensitivities.

2. Housework

Washing the dishes, vacuuming the floor, cleaning the toilet… Sure, this is definitely not the most glamorous of gifts but all it costs is a little bit of your time. Especially during the first two weeks home from the hospital or birthing center and depending upon the woman’s recovery, the gift of housework is extremely precious. Most of us probably would never have the courage to ask a family member or friend to do such chores, but if you were to offer and insist in spite any feeble protests, it just might bring tears of relief to the new mother.

My mother-in-law swept and mopped the floors in the main living area both times I was in the hospital, and I must say that it was wonderful coming home to a clean house.

3. Diapers

Going to visit a family with a new baby? Ask them what brand and size diapers they are using and grab a package on your way over. Babies go through diapers very quickly and it is never fun to run out or stress about how to get to the store for more. Does the family have multiple children in diapers at the same time? Grab a pack for the newborn and for the older sibling, too, and the parents will be forever grateful with your thoughtfulness and generosity!

4. Gift cards

Not quite sure what to get for a family with a newborn? You cannot go wrong with a gift card, especially to a store they will go to on a regular basis to buy diapers, formula, and other last minute or unexpected items. Our first son, Peanut, was unable to breastfeed due to a severe tongue tie and though my parents bought an electric pump for us, we suddenly had the unexpected need for bottles, a bottle brush, drying rack, special soap that cuts through the breastmilk residue, and pump parts. With our second son, Pickle, we now have two kids in diapers and are going through diapers and wipes quickly!

Gift cards to Target or Walmart make an excellent gift for the routine expenses. Cards to specialty stores like Babies R Us or BuyBuyBaby also make a good gift to help alleviate the cost of bigger items like high chairs, strollers, etc. that may not have been purchased or gifted earlier.

5. Babysitting

Whether it is an hour watching baby while the mother showers or naps or taking the older child(ren) for the afternoon, many parents would love the offer to babysit in the weeks immediately after a new baby’s arrival. Granted, you have to be comfortable with newborns and young children and also be close, trustworthy family member or friend.

6. Re-gifting

If you have older children and still have some of the items you used for your newborn lying around, you can re-gift them. Whether it is newborn clothes, a baby carrier or wrap, an outgrown high chair, an unused stroller — whatever you no longer need nor anticipate needing in the future. It is good to know that these items are going to a family member or friend who can put them to good use.

These are six practical gift ideas to bless a family with a new baby. Do you have more ideas? Was there something someone did for you that you really appreciated? Please share in the comments below!

His Encouragement: Isaiah 26:3

His Encouragement: Isaiah 26:3

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” — Isaiah 26:3, ESV

It has been a little over a week since we experienced a day full of conflicting emotions: exhilaration and joy followed by uncertainty and fear followed by relief and exhaustion. It was one of the happiest days of my life but also one of the scariest yet through it all, I felt the peace of the Lord with me. I will go into more detail in a future post, but the shortened version is this:

A little over a week ago our second child (pseudonym Pickle) was born after a fast yet intense labor and delivery. I felt the first strong contraction at 5:43am and he was born exactly three hours later at 8:43am. He was 6 lbs 10 oz and 18 inches long. Other than a rather painful second degree tear (Ouch!) everything was great. Pickle was nice and healthy and we were able to spend a few hours doing skin-to-skin and he practiced nursing.

Then, about four hours after delivery when the nurse was checking on me, she became concerned with my level of bleeding and the size of the clots I was passing. She called her supervising RN for a second opinion and they in turn called my doctor. After an extremely painful physical exam (the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life and I have birthed two children without pain medicine!), my doctor had me rushed down to surgery. Though the words were never spoken, everyone knew what the concerns were: possible postpartum hemorrhaging.

I had my husband call my parents to come back to the hospital and then he said a prayer over me. Pickle was wheeled off to the nursery and I was wheeled downstairs to the operating room. My doctor kept reassuring me that she did not believe anything was seriously wrong but she needed to make sure. I kissed my husband goodbye and said another prayer as the thought “I could be dying. I might not see him or my children again.” flashed through my mind. But the peace of God was over me and I was so very calm. The procedure was long, and unknown to me, dozens of our family, friends, and church members were praying.

The doctor could not find a source for the exceeding bleeding. She preformed a minor D&C, added more stitches, and did a full internal examination. Afterward the whole procedure and by the grace of God, the bleeding lessened to the normal amount for post-birth and I no longer had any large clots. The experience was surreal, but the whole time I was on the operating table and later in recovery, I was talking with the Lord and felt no fear despite the uncertainty of the situation.

The words of Isaiah 26:3 says: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” And that day, a day filled with celebration and concern, I experienced that promise firsthand. No matter what you are going through, when you trust in the Lord, He will give you His peace.

Now it is your turn! What verse or passage is blessing you today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: Week 37, 38, or 39?

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: Week 37, 38, or 39?

With all of the false contractions I have been experiencing this last week, this very well might be our last pregnancy update.

How far along: 37 or 38 or 39 Weeks

Sooooo… As I may have mentioned previously, we were originally given the due date of January 28th, which would make our little Pickle 39 weeks as of now. At our first ultrasound, the tech discovered he was measuring a little small so the doctors decided to push back the due date to February 10th, which would make him now 37 weeks. That is a two week difference, and when it comes to fetal development, that is a huge difference.

Then at our doctor’s appointment yesterday, she mentioned that the ultrasound office had put down in my file “38 weeks” after our most recent two ultrasounds.

*sigh* Apparently, no one can agree with how far along we are. We could be 37, 38, or 39 weeks. I’m going to go with the middle and just say 38 weeks. I have been 1cm dilated and 50% efaced for a week now with no further progress, so — as long as there are no sudden changes — it looks like we just might have another week to go before our little Pickle decides to arrive.

Size of baby: 5 lbs at last ultrasound so he is, hopefully, about 5.5 lbs now. After taking our first son’s lower birth weight (4 lbs 11 oz) also into consideration, the doctors determined that it is probably genetic: we just make smaller babies. But in a society where “average” babies are now being born in the 8-10 lb range, I am more than happy to have smaller babies! I, myself, was around 6 lbs when I was born.

Movement: Except for the hour or so in the middle afternoon when he is napping, this little Pickle seems to be moving all of the time. He especially loves to kick and stretch as his home is getting rather cramped for him. At my last check in, he had already shifted and was in launch position: head down.

Sleep: Much, much better! I think part of it is because he has shifted down so the pressure on my diaphragm and organs have been relieved some, allowing me to breathe easier. Another reason is that we splurged on a memory foam mattress topper for our bed. It supports the belly so nicely when I lie on my left side and removed quite a few pressure points, allowing me to sleep much better with less aches and pains.

Workouts: None. I am not supposed to be doing anything strenuous — not even walking — but I still do more than I should just helping to get the kids’ room ready, the regular chores around the house, and going into work.

Maternity clothes: I am literally wearing my largest pants (jeans) and pairing them with the nicest shirts I can for work, and I change into lounging clothes when I get home. Comfort is the only thing that matters at this point.

Symptoms: Pretty much every single normal late pregnancy symptom that I missed on out experiencing with my first, including muscle and joint aches, Braxton Hicks/false contractions, false labor, bloating, gas, swelling of feet/ankles, tingling in legs below the knees, pain in the right hip upon standing, frequent trips to the bathroom, fatigue, etc.

Cravings/Aversions: Now that Pickle has shifted down and I can eat more than tiny meals (like just a bowl of cereal), I find myself ravenous, especially at dinner. No real cravings, just hungry! The batch of strawberries we just picked up are amazingly delicious, especially with some coconut yogurt (diary-free), but my husband has said the same thing so I would not could that as a craving. Well, I might be craving popcorn, but I have not given in yet because when I eat too much corn, I end up with a headache.

Missing most: Being able to walk and move without pain and being able to play with Peanut again.

Preparing for baby: We just need to re-assemble the bassinet that he will sleep in and find that bin with all of the newborn clothes…

Cannot wait for: Pickle to come!