Tag: children

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

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!

Raising children on the principle of love

Raising children on the principle of love

My husband and I are Christians, meaning we are followers of Christ Jesus and strive to live according to His teachings. We both grew up in Christian households that shared similar foundational principles and, as a result, our beliefs have shaped our worldview, guide our thought processes, and influence our actions on a daily basis.

Before getting married — and long before children entered the picture — my husband and I talked about our overarching ideas and plans for raising any future children we might be blessed with. But, as when many things, parenting styles, goals, and philosophies tend to be more abstract until a little one is actually present.

Then it becomes real.

Since becoming parents to our son, we have had numerous discussions on how to parent. Not just the when and how to discipline conversations, though it is very important for both parents and any additional caregivers (like grandparents) are all on board with the decided methods of discipline. No, we began talking about the far-reaching results — some might even say consequences — of certain parenting styles, attitudes, behaviors, etc. Then we compared our childhoods and our parents’ parenting styles with all of the positives and negatives we could recall.

Every time we had one of these deep, self-evaluating discussions, we found ourselves circling back around to very simple but crucial questions:

  • How do we want to raise our children?
    • What kind of childhood and home environment do we want to provide for them?
    • What character traits do we want to nurture in our children?
    • What kind of people do we want them to grow up to become?
  • What parenting methods would achieve these goals?

In continuing my exploration into the idea of a heavenly home, I will attempt to share some of our answers to the above questions.

First and foremost, the type of childhood we desire for our children is one of joy, love, laughter, and learning in a home environment that is warm and nurturing.

To achieve that goal, we decided that we want to raise our children on the foundation of love. Deep, self-sacrificing, understanding, patient, resilient, courageous, unconditional love as modeled by Christ Jesus.

Out from this foundation of love grows other important character traits, such as respect for oneself and respect for others. We want our children to grow up with an understanding that, in spite of their flaws and mistakes, they are precious, valued, and loved for who they are as uniquely individual human beings.

Their worth and self-esteem is not based on what they do, how well they do it, how much they succeed or achieve, nor based on the opinions of others. That does not mean we will not have expectations for them, but we want to give them realistic expectations that encourage them to be the best version of themselves that they can be.

By extension, we want to instill in them a respect for others as precious individuals. We want to demonstrate this love and respect every day in our interactions with each other, with our children, and with those outside our family.

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8, ESV

We want to raise our children with the knowledge that God is love. We believe in a loving Creator who originally created this world perfect and intended for humanity to live perfect lives in peaceful harmony with Him, each other, and the nature around them. Because He is love, He did not create us as robots pre-programmed with a specific set of directives that must be followed.

He gave humanity the freedom of choice: free will. Because of free will, we each have the freedom to choose whether to love God and obey Him or not.

It is our hope that our children will come love God as we have but not out of fear or obligation or tradition. We desire for them to have an intelligent faith of their own and love God as a personal response to His love for them.

 “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19, ESV
From this love, they will choose to follow His example and apply His teachings in practical ways in their daily lives. All of the teachings of the Bible can be summarized in these two principles:

“And he [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”” Matthew 22:36-40, ESV

Next time I will share some of the specific character traits and values we hope to instill in our children.

Join the discussion

What are the principles that guide your parenting style and philosophy? What type of childhood are you aiming to give to your children?

Rug pads make a difference

Rug pads make a difference

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission when you click through and make a purchase. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog.

I have moved eleven times so far in my entire life (not counting the two summers I studied abroad), and most of the houses I have lived in had fully carpeted rooms with hard surfaces in designated areas like kitchens and bathrooms. Perhaps that is why I have not given much thought to rug/carpet pads… until recently.

Our current rental house has tile flooring throughout, which is nice in the hot, desert summers but not so nice in the cold winters. I like that the tile floor is easier to clean but it is a bit hard when standing for a long period of time (like when washing dishes at the kitchen sink). When I moved in on New Years 2014, a large area rug to warm up the living room was at the top of my must have list (along with a new TV console that had a built-in electric heater).

My husband, who was my fiancé at the time, helped me rug shop and, after trips to numerous stores, I finally settled for something that had colors and patterns I could live with. Though it helped warm the room, it was not a very lush carpet and provided little to no extra padding underfoot. We bought it, rolled it out right away, and have been content with our choice.

For the next few years, I did not give the living room rug much thought.

Then we had our first child, and the first time he fell and hit his head hard on the living room floor, I was horrified. Our area rug provided no extra padding, and it was as if he had bumped his head on the tile itself! We bought a cute head protector (similar to this one) for when he was learning to crawl. That definitely helped save his precious noggin during more than a few tumbles but did not solve the real problem.

Around the same time, we bought a gorgeous area rug for our master bedroom that was thicker and softer, and I realized just how unpadded the living room rug really was.

Our little Peanut is 13-months-old now and he is now learning to walk. Three weeks ago, he took his first steps on his own, and he is now walking quite a bit. He likes to kneel, take one knee, or even sort of belly-flop onto the floor. He also loves to sit down, lean back until his head bumps the floor, kick his feet in the air while laughing, and then roll around.

And in another four months (give or take), we will have another little one who will also pass through the crawling, tumbling, walking phases!

If you have been following this blog for even a little bit of time, you know that we live on a budget and when making larger purchases, we try to find good deals. We will often save up for our purchases and then wait weeks or months more for a good sale or deal. This time, we had to take into consideration the urgency of this need for our son’s safety.

So with some extra money from one of my freelance projects and taking advantage of free shipping, we bit the bullet and purchased a pad to go under our living room rug. (We eventually decided on this one from Amazon.) It should be arriving any day now, and we cannot wait to lift the rug, roll out the pad, and see how well it works at cushioning our feet and softening our son’s… tumbling.

Update: 2 October 2017

The rug pad arrived promptly last Friday, the exact day it was scheduled to. At first, we thought they sent the wrong size as the roll was only about 4 foot wide, but we quickly realized they had folded the pad over before rolling it to make it easier to ship. Sunday my parents came over to help us do a few improvements around the house, and one of the projects was to roll back the living room carpet and put the pad down.

It was actually more challenging that it sounds. Our living room is a bit tight and we have a 8’x10′ rug to maximize floor coverage. One side is tucked under our couch and the opposite site is beneath our heavy TV console (with a built-in electric heater, shelving, and a large flatscreen television). We knew we could not get the pad under the TV console; it was just too heavy to try to lift up.

As it was, it took three of us to lift the couch, pull back the carpet, lay down the pad, straighten the pad, put the carpet back, and smooth out the lumps. Then my dad took a straight edge and trimmed the carpet pad where it was showing.

We are so happy with the result. The 3/8″ thickness provides just the right amount of cushion on our feet (and our son’s head) without raising the carpet edges too high, thus preventing a tripping hazard.

One takeaway from this whole experience, it is easier to cushion area rugs and carpets when you are first moving into a residence (before the large furniture is brought in). Ideally, we should have bought a pad when we purchased our area rug. It is possible to add a rug pad later, but it is more of a challenge and may require additional helpers for lifting and re-arranging furniture. If you live in a house with hard floors, this is something to consider.

How much of your current home is carpet or hard floor? Do you use rug pads under your area rugs?

The idea of a heavenly home

The idea of a heavenly home

The title of this blog is A Heavenly Home, and I chose this name because of the hope and inspiration that it gives. If we are all honest with ourselves, I am certain that each one of us desires to have a warm, loving home that resembles a small piece of heaven on earth.

In our hectic, busy modern world, such an ideal home environment can seem hard — maybe even impossible — to achieve. Sometimes our best laid plans go awry or life circumstances force us to be flexible in ways we had not intended.

Our home is no different.

Is our house always tidy? No.

Do we have more clutter than we should? Yes.

Do we always put away our clean laundry? No.

Do dishes sometimes pile up in the sink? Yes.

Does our home look like a glossy magazine spread or a bright photo op on a fancy home blog? Absolutely not.

At the moment, I work full time outside the home with some freelancing on the side while my husband stays home with our one-year-old son. This was not our original plan, but it is where we find ourselves at this time. My amazing husband keeps our household running by not only caring for our son but also taking on a large share of domestic duties, including but not limited to laundry, vacuuming, tidying, yard work, taking care of the aging dog, etc. I appreciate everything he does so I try to pitch in and ease his burdens when I can.

We had a fairly good system working for us before we discovered I was pregnant with Baby #2 back in May and the first trimester all-day-every-day sickness struck. Around the same time, our little Peanut began to teethe… badly. Everything quickly dissolved into barely manageable chaos. For a little while there, it was a struggle. Then we realized that stage of our life was merely temporary, and it was ok to let the less important things slide for awhile.

Do not misunderstand. I do believe having a clean and tidy home tends to make the home more inviting and is more nurturing for those who live there.

However, the physical house is only part of what makes a home feel like a little bit of heaven on earth. To create a home that is a welcomed retreat from the cares of the outside world, warm and inviting, you need more than simply clean rooms.

A heavenly home is built on love, courtesy towards those who live with you, quality time spent together, and laughter.

My natural tendency at times would be to stare at the three days’ worth of dirty dishes piled up in the sink and feel like a failure for being too exhausted (and sick!) to do them. There were times I had to remind myself: “At this moment, cuddling with my little son who is crying for “Mama” because a new tooth is working its painful way through his gum is far more important than some dirty dishes.”

When times became challenging, we chose to focus on what is most important. For our little family it was spending time together as a couple, spending time with our son, and doing what was best for our health. For me that also meant extra sleep!

Since then, things have begun to even out again. (Praise the Lord!) I am no longer feeling sick, and my energy has returned to normal. We are now in a place where we have a handle on the weekly housekeeping duties again and can also re-start some of the projects we had to put on hold for those couple of months, such as what I like to call “the big purge”. (More on this later.)

A clean house is important for physical health and a tidy house is good for mental health, but never forget that what truly transforms a house into a home is the people who live there and the atmosphere you cultivate.

“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” Proverbs 2:3-4, ESV

Our home and family is built on the love of Christ. If we keep Christ as our focus and His love in our hearts, everything else falls into its proper place. Our home becomes a warm, inviting, nurturing place full of the most important riches: love, selfless service, and grace. We know what is most important and are able to be flexible when circumstances change.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to explore a little bit more into the idea of a heavenly home and share some of our plans for improvement.

Join the discussion

What does your home look like? What does a heavenly home mean to you? In what areas do you need improvement?

Peanut is getting a promotion…

Peanut is getting a promotion…

About two weeks ago, our little Peanut celebrated his 1st birthday. He is not really a little Peanut anymore. He is such a big boy now in many ways. He wants to feed himself, he is playing with toys more intentionally, he will find his favorite books for us read, and he loves to talk! (Sometimes it is words we can recognize!) He even took his first steps last week all on his own!

We actually had to postpone his 1st birthday party because he came down with his very first cold, which caused an ear infection. Poor little guy! In the end, he unintentionally gave his cold to me, both of his grandmothers, and even one grandfather and his dad had a few days where they were a little under the weather (though not nearly as sick as his grandmas and I were!).

Around the same time we were celebrating Peanut’s birthday, we also began sharing the news that he is getting a promotion to big brother!

Yes, that is right. We are having another little one!

The due date is still a little up in the air. We originally thought it was around January 28, 2018, but a recent ultrasound may suggest closer to February 10th. However, Baby #2 was not very cooperative during the scan so the tech was unable to get the full measurements that they like to have. We are going back in a few weeks for another try. I do not mind one way or another, because as I learned with Peanut, babies come when babies are ready to come.

So we could be anywhere between 18 and 20 weeks along, but I am showing much earlier with this pregnancy. (To be honest, this time around I feel and look huge.) Granted, this pregnancy has been extremely different from our first. With Peanut, I had the occasional nausea and some fatigue during the first trimester. This time I was sick all day long, from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep, for a little over three months! The fatigue and aches and pains have been a bit challenging, as well.

Fortunately, I have been doing much better the last three or so weeks. I have gotten a lot of my energy back and am starting to exercise again. Nothing strenuous, but I need to get into decent shape to prepare for Baby #2’s arrival. I lost some weight during the first trimester when I could barely eat anything, but now I feel like I’m gaining a little too quickly. I’m already at the weight I was when Peanut was born! (To be fair, he was only 4 pounds 11 ounces at birth.)

So I’m gradually increasing the number of times I climb the stairs as work (I’m on the fourth floor), trying to walk more (I want to get back to a mile a day), and standing at my desk more (alternating that with propping my feet up!). I think these small changes will help.

We do know the gender of Baby #2, but I will save that announcement for next time.

If you have had multiple pregnancies, how have your pregnancies differed? What was similar between them?

Our children are watching: a response to hate

Our children are watching: a response to hate

Personal note from Jacquelyn: I have written and re-written this post a dozen times over the last few days. It is time to share it. I know this post is imperfect and, in spite of my humble efforts, cannot hope to grasp the entirety of the situation. Many books can and have been written on this topic! However, this is the coherent part of what has been weighing on my heart and mind over the last few days. (I have been a bit sleep deprived due to a teething baby.) My only hope is that it provides comfort and encouragement to those who need it and prick the hearts of others to take time to seriously re-evaluate their opinions and beliefs.

A response to hate

The violent and tragic acts of hate groups in recent days have deeply sadden me. It has taken me time to be able to put my thoughts into words. First, let me start by saying that my heart goes out to the family and friends of Heather Heyer, who was murdered by a man filled with hate and evil, and all of those who were injured in the same attack. Heather gave her life standing up for what she believed in: that all people are equal and should be treated with respect. I also pray for the family and friends of Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M. M. Bates of the Virginia State Police killed in a helicopter crash while responding to the situation. They gave their lives while serving and protecting their community, fulfilling their duty and serving with honor.

Let me be very clear: anyone who embraces ideology steeped in hatred, intolerance, and violence is NOT patriotic. White supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazis… these people are pathetic COWARDS, filled with hate and fear — fear that they displace on others. Their contemptible words and vile actions reveal to the world that they have embraced evil.

We need to stand firm against hatred, fear, and intolerance. We need to stand for justice, equality, and freedom. However, remember that the world, the country, and our children are watching. We need to resist the temptation to return hatred for hatred, violence for violence, fear for fear. If we behave as they do and commit our own acts of violence against them, we become no better than the very groups we condemn.

We need to rise above knee-jerk, anger-filled reactions. The emotional response of anger itself is not necessarily wrong, but anger needs to be controlled or it will control us. We need to take the high road. Hard though it will be, we need to show compassion for hatred, peace instead of violence, love and unity in response to fear and division. Let us put aside arrogance and superiority, and start to esteem others as equals. Let us win with our words and actions, through our voices and our votes. Let how we respond lift up those who are downtrodden, encourage the discouraged, seek true justice, and show mercy towards the poor and vulnerable.

Our children are watching.

You CANNOT be a Christian (a proclaimed follower of Christ Jesus) and harbor hatred for others, especially whole groups of people based on arbitrary or imagined differences (skin color, ethnicity, religion, etc.). Let me repeat myself: you cannot be a Christian and a racist.

The Bible is very clear: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8, NKJV)

Christ Jesus Himself said: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27, NKJV)

And He also admonished His followers: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…” (Matthew 5:43-45, NKJV)

Our children are watching.

The Declaration of Independence, though written by flawed men, states a truth that is vital to be reminded of, especial at times like these: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

And I would like to add that among these unalienable Rights endowed by the Creator is the right of ALL people, especially those who have historically been marginalized and greatly mistreated, to respect and being treated as a valued human being. Native American, African-American, Hispanic-American, Asian-American, Arab-American, certain minorities among European-American have all experienced turmoil in our country’s history (including recently), though some groups (such as the Native Americans and African-Americans) have born more atrocities, persecution, degradation, and disenfranchisement than others. Sadly, to this day many communities still struggle with the aftermath of bias government policies and social prejudices.

We need to admit that our country is not perfect and has made many mistakes… Some downright and absolutely horrible, such as the removal of native people from their lands, the enslavement of Africans, the internment of American citizens of Japanese heritage, and more. We need to stand firm on the side of Truth and Justice for ALL and move forward together to fix what is broken in our country.

Hatred and violence is learned. So is peace and compassion. Let me repeat: We need to resist the temptation to return hatred for hatred, violence for violence, fear for fear. How about we try leaving the world — or even just our small piece of it — a better place?

Our children are watching. What are our words and actions teaching them?

Our children are watching. What are our responses and reactions to times of great upheaval saying about our hearts and our characters?

Our children are watching. What legacy are we leaving for them?

Our children are watching.

Weaning at ten months

Weaning at ten months

Our son is about ten and a half months old, and we have recently weaned. If you are familiar with Our Breastfeeding Journey, then you know some of the challenges we faced with breastfeeding. I pumped exclusively for the first few months and, even after he was able to nurse, I still pumped most of the time to ensure he was getting enough.

A few months ago, I noticed my supply was slowly decreasing in spite of all of my efforts to keep it going strong.

At the very beginning of this journey, I prayed we would make it to ten months. It was almost exactly at ten months when my milk began to dry up. I know that it is recommended to breastfeed for the first year, but I will not complain.

We made it to ten months!

That is a huge accomplishment in light of all of the difficulties and challenges we had. I praise the Lord we made it.

Now let me say that this weaning was not because our little one no longer wanted to nurse. He still comfort nurses when he is tired. The fact of the matter is my milk has dried up on its own. It happened rather quickly over the last two weeks. After a few days of pumping three times throughout my work day and hardly getting even two ounces, I knew we would have to begin weaning.

So I decided to stop lugging the double electric pump and all its parts to work. (I have a Medela Pump-in-Style Tote but with the amount of walking I do on a daily basis, I wish I had gotten the backpack one instead!) Our little one would still nurse right before bed and during the overnight/early morning hours, but it was clear he was not getting enough. The first few days were hard. I did wake up about 3am two mornings to pump just to relieve the pressure, but even then the milk expressed was not significant. After about a week, the hardness and pressure eased.

It is now about two and a half weeks since we started weaning. He still comfort nurses when he is sleepy, but there is no milk at all anymore. Our son is eating more finger foods, baby foods, and mashed up versions of whatever I am eating. He also is getting more soy formula to keep up on his nutrition. Two weeks ago he had a visit with the pediatrician, and he is going great. Since he was born so small, the pediatrician is very please with his growth.

The process of weaning was far easier than I thought it would be. I simply stopped pumping at work but for the first week, I still nursed once in the evening and once in the morning. The first week was probably the hardest for our son, as he wanted to nurse but was not getting any milk.

As my milk dried up, we simply added more formula bottles to our son’s diet to ensure he was getting enough and I cuddled with him as he drank from the bottle to replicate the closeness that happens when nursing. With a little bit of time, he transitioned well.

Did I do the whole weaning thing the “right” way? To be honest, I did not bother to do any research or anything. I just did what felt right for us and our situation. I am learning how to trust my maternal instincts more now.

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission when you click through and make a purchase. I have used these products myself on a daily basis over the last ten months. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog.

3 Things I Did Not Expect Postpartum

3 Things I Did Not Expect Postpartum

When you are eagerly awaiting the arrival of your first child, there are many things that you anticipate and mentally prepare yourself for: sleepless nights, dirty diapers, cries and giggles, spit up and smiles, and so much more.

In the first six months after our little one’s birth, I discovered a few very interesting things that I did not expect postpartum. I can honestly say that these three things blindsided me.

Excessive Hair Loss

This first one you may have read about in pregnancy books or on mommy blogs, but I did not fully grasp what it would mean to me until it happened. Every lady is different, but for me, I had excessive hair loss between about Week 3 postpartum until Month 5. I am not talking about a few strands here or there; after all, everyone sheds on average 75-100 strands of hair a day.

No, I was loosing hair daily in the hundreds! My shower walls would be covered in hair, hair would stick to my shirts and sweaters, and I would have to carefully examine little Peanut’s fingers and toes to make sure none of my hair had gotten tangled around his little digits. My once thick, luscious hair was suddenly thin, scraggly, and pathetic looking.

So why do some women lose large amounts of hair after childbirth?

Hair has three stages: active growth, resting, and loss (shedding). During pregnancy, the raise in certain hormones slows down the natural life cycle of our hair so more hair stays in the growth or resting stages and less strands shed. This gives pregnant ladies that thick mane many people notice and comment on. Unfortunately, after childbirth when the pregnancy hormones decrease, all those strands start entering into the shedding stage – often at the same time. This can lead to excessive shedding and what seems like hair loss.

Be comforted that this phase is not permanent. It may take a few months, but your hair will get back into a normal cycle and the excessive shedding will stop. While I waited for my hair to stop shedding, I cut it to shoulder length. Previously my hair was layered so the thinning made it look scraggly and awful. Cutting it helped to give my hair a little bit of shape again.

Fortunately, by six months postpartum, my hair stopped the excessive shedding and began to regrow.

Severe Gas Pain

The first episode struck about 10pm on the sixth day after little Peanut was born. It was the first day I ventured out of the house – Bradley took us to visit my parents (twenty-minutes away). It was a day that was full of success and achievement, as I had finally been able to pump milk successfully and relieve my poor, engorged breasts.

Around 10pm, though, I began to experience a strange pain in the center of my chest, located directly beneath/behind my sternum. As the minutes passed, the pain intensified. I tried lying down but the pain radiated around my ribcage. It felt like I was being stabbed in the chest while, at the same time, all of the muscles of my core (abs, sides, lower back, shoulders) were completely frozen or locked in place.

A few hours later, the pain had worsened to excruciating, beyond even the pain of childbirth, and it was terrifying because I did not know what was causing it. I leaned against the bed, praying for relief and groaning, wavering in my mind on whether I should ask Bradley to take me to the emergency room or not. What if we did go – call my parents, pack up our six-day-old infant, drove to the ER – and the mysterious pain vanishes as we are in the waiting room?

Bradley was very concerned. Our little one was fussy that night. It was the first time he scream-cried inconsolably for hours, and I was in too much pain to move, let alone help with the baby. Just when Bradley was about to call my parents and take me to the ER, the excruciating pain suddenly – Yes, it was very sudden! – vanished. One moment I was frozen in searing pain and the next: Poof! It was gone. All that was left was a little ache in my muscles.

This debilitating pain in my sternum seemed to happen once or twice a week for the first month postpartum. By the third episode, I was terrified that something serious was wrong with me. I tried gas relief tablets, but they had a marginal affect on the severe pain. It was about a month postpartum that I discovered that the unbearable pain was gas getting stuck in the upper part of my large intestines and putting pressure on a nerve.

When the gas started to built up, I would feel a strange pressure in my sternum and middle back. I remembered what the nurses told me in the hospital about walking, re-enforced by advice from my mom. To my relief, I found that when I took some gas relief tablets and went on a long walk, the walking helped to move the gas along and prevent it was getting stuck in that spot.

Also, I had to overcome decades of training on appropriate and inappropriate lady-like behavior and allow myself the freedom to pass gas. My poor husband! And what an embarrassing issue to discuss in public, but I am bearing my soul in the hopes of helping some other new mother who might be experiencing a similar situation. It is better to “toot” then to feel like you are being torn apart from the inside out.

With the walking and passing gas, the excruciating, feel-like-I’m-dying, pain was avoided. By the end of the second month postpartum, I no long experienced the gas pains.

Difficulties breastfeeding

If you have read Our Breastfeeding Journey, then you know some of the challenges we faced breastfeeding. I will not repeat the entire story here but just the main points.

I was not expecting our little Peanut to be born small, with a severe tongue-tie, and be unable to nurse. For the first month, we tried unsuccessfully to nurse at least once a day and each time he could not latch, I felt like a failure as a mother. The whole time, I was pumping every 2-3 hours and there were a few times when he had to be supplemented with formula because I just was not making enough milk. Finally, at the end of the month, I had to give up trying to nurse for my own sanity’s sake and for the happiness of our little family. I had to realize that him might never be able to nurse and that it was ok, as long as he was getting food and growing healthy.

During month three, he latched very weakly. With some help from a pacifier to strengthen his sucking muscles, he was able to nurse a few ounces by month four. I began nursing him through the night. At seven months, he is now a nursing pro. I still pump every 3-4 hours, as I work outside the home and need to keep my supply up, but he is also eating baby food twice a day now and he gets a bottle of formula when needed.

I was not expecting challenges with breastfeeding and, I will be brutally honest, it was an extremely difficult hurdle to jump emotionally during a time when my emotions were already all-over-the-place (postpartum hormones fluctuations!). I made it through due to the love and support of my amazing husband and my parents, especially my mom. If I could go back and do those first month over again, I would. Because of my stress and self-deprecation, I did not have the energy to leave the house more, see friends and family more, and do those precious “memories” things with Peanut… like take infant photos and stamp his little hands and feet. I have no footprints of when he was 4 lbs 7 ounces except for the one foot stamped on the certificate the hospital gave us.

My advice to other moms who might be facing difficulties with breastfeeding is something my older sister shared with me when I was very low: Fed is best. A fed, happy, and healthy baby is best, no matter how you end up providing that nourishment: through breastfeeding, pumping and bottle feeding, or formula feeding.

While the first few days may seem to drag on, they really go by so fast. Do not waste that time with anxiety and needless stress over things beyond your control. You are amazing! You birthed or adopted this adorable precious little one so cherish every moment you have together.

Bonus: Just how much I love my little Peanut!

Okay, okay. When expecting a little one, most women are likely to be excited and eagerly anticipate the bonding that will happen between mother and newborn. However, what really surprised me was just how quickly this bonding occurred and how much I love my little Peanut. Even when he is crying and fussy, even after the fifth time he has woken me up in the middle of the night and I rolled out of bed, stumble to his room, and pick him up like a zombie, even when I find myself momentarily frustrated or overwhelmed, I just love him so much!

Baby cuddles, toothless smiles, little giggles, and the first time he said “Mom-ma” (even though he was crying and I’m pretty sure he did not do it on purpose) get me through the sleepless nights, the fits of crying, the explosive diapers that only the shower can wash away, the spit up all over my work clothes and the couch minutes before I was supposed to be walking out the door.

After all, who could not love this adorable little face?

Jacquelyn's baby on his third trip to the zoo!
Little Peanut and his daddy on his third trip to the zoo at six and a half months old.

I just love being a mom — especially his mom — and I would not trade this experience for anything.

So, in summary, when it comes to childbirth and its immediate affects, perhaps the old adage says it best: Expect the unexpected. In addition to these three things that blinded me, I also had some great experiences.

So remember this: no matter if you are losing your hair in clumps, experiencing severe gas pains, having trouble breastfeeding or whatever it might be — you just gave birth to a beautiful and precious little one. Cherish this gift that has been given to you. The other things will sort themselves out.