Our Sweet Summer Wedding

I can’t believe today marks 4 years since Kevin and I got married. So much has happened since then and yet, it feels like yesterday.

Our first year of marriage was all about learning to handle finances and adult responsibilities as we welcomed our first child. The second year was about finding our groove as new parents. The third year was spent working in our greenhouse and dreaming of more children and more space. And this fourth year was jam packed with designing and building a new house and bringing our second daughter into the world.

There have been so many challenges along the way and we’ve had to work through our own selfishness, anger, pride and disappointment. We are both 9s on the enneagram so handling conflict is not our strong point but it feels like we are making progress and learning more about how to be a team. Marriage is not easy but it’s full of rewards and I feel so grateful to have Kevin as my husband.

Today, I just want to take myself back to our wedding day and remember not only the fun details of the day, but also the emotions I felt as I embarked on this journey.

Orange and pink wedding centerpieces

We got married in my parent’s backyard just a short walk through the woods from where we live now. I envisioned a beautiful summer day with green grass, blue skies, and a hot sun.

Outdoor wedding set up

Unfortunately, rain kept us from having the outdoor ceremony I had hoped for and we ended up having to move the chairs to the tent and switch our plans. It was a bit sad for me, HOWEVER, the rain falling gently on the tent made the most romantic sound and it ended up being really cool.

Backyard Wedding Reception Tent

I will always be someone who loves color so we choose hot pink and orange as our colors. A friend of ours helped us with flowers and decorations and she did a wonderful job balancing hot pink and orange with white so that the color wasn’t too overwhelming. I loved how everything turned out!

Head table back drop

My summer wedding would not be complete without a couple of cheesy Napoleon Dynamite references, a watercolor theme, and popsicles. My sister-in-law did calligraphy on our name cards, our lemonade bar instructions, and our unity ceremony board. She did an amazing job! More on her work later.

Watercolor popsicle stand for an outdoor summer wedding

Flavored Iced Tea and Lemonade Bar for a summer wedding Unity Ceremony Ideas for a Wedding. A cord of three stands is not easily broken.

Dress shopping was so fun! I knew from the beginning that I was looking for a trumpet shape with a sweetheart neckline. I fell in love with this one after a few different trips. I never want to plan a wedding again but I would definitely go dress shopping another time.

Wedding dress hanging from a tree. Wedding photography ideas.

Christina Dinehart at Sweet Bliss by Chris did our cake and Stephanie Debolt was our photographer who took all of these pictures. They both were so great to work with!

Orange and Pink Watercolor Wedding Cake

We took all of our bridal party pictures beforehand and did a tear-filled first look. I loved doing it this way.

Wedding Party PhotosWedding Party Photos

First Look PhotosFirst Look PhotosWedding PhotographyWedding Photography

Bride and Groom, Flower Girl and Ring Bearer

We had a quiet moment together right before the ceremony started which was so sweet. Instead of dealing with the pre-wedding jitters alone, we had each other’s company and comfort, knowing that our lives were just about to change forever.

Wedding Photography

Our wedding was on a Friday night and started at 7:30 pm. I loved the idea of an evening wedding and we wanted to have Saturday to travel so this worked best. Our ceremony lasted about 30 minutes and included vows that we wrote together. They were personal, meaningful and were a true promise we made to each other. But neither of us wanted to take the mic and make a speech so we still repeated them after the pastor like traditional vows.

Wedding Photography

To celebrate our 4 year anniversary, I asked my sister-in-law Karen to write our vows on a sign to hang above our bed. Of course, she did an amazing job and we are obsessed. To see more of Karen’s work, visit her site here.

Wedding Vow Calligraphy for Bedroom wall Art

“I promise to love you, putting your needs ahead of mine and giving to you without restraint. I will cherish who God made you to be and value our differences. I will be honest, faithful, and trustworthy and I will give you my best as we seek and follow Christ together throughout all the days that I am given.”

It’s so humbling to see these vows again and do a real heart check. Am I doing these things I promised to do? Am I putting Kevin’s needs ahead of mine, valuing our differences, and giving him my best? There’s definitely quite a bit that I need to work on.

Wedding Photography

After the ceremony, we wanted to have a quick reception. As a play on the phrase “short and sweet” we used #SchwartzAndSweet as our wedding hashtag and that’s where the name of this blog comes from! We were able to greet our guests, eat, have dessert, do toasts, dance, watch fireworks and leave by 10:30 pm which meant everything took 3 hours in total, a success in my eyes!

Father Daughter Dance Wedding PhotographyFirst Dance Wedding Photography Wedding Photography

My mom and I spent hours making platters for our shrimp and antipasto skewers by gluing pink lace over a foam circle and then gluing the foam to a charger plate. It was so much work but I love how they turned out! We also had cheeseball, a dessert bar, and a s’more station.

Kabob Presentation for a WeddingKabob Presentation for a weddingFruit Kabobs for a weddingWedding Photography

Overall, my goal was to make people feel full of love, romance, and fun. These pictures bring me so much joy and I’m so thankful to have them.

Wedding Photography Wedding Photography Wedding Photography

Wedding Photography Fireworks at a wedding

Our Wedding day was so special and it’s so fun to remember it all again. Most importantly, it’s a reminder to keep putting in the work for a beautiful marriage. It’s truly a treasure that is worth it all.

Thank you, Kevin, for putting up with 13 months of wedding planning and every difficulty we’ve faced. You’re the best and I love you so much! ♥️

Our Sweet Summer Wedding

Advertisements

Why I Quit Hormonal Birth Control: 42 Women Share Their Reasons

In a recent survey of over 2,000 women, 70% of those who had been on hormonal birth control said they had either quit taking their medication or had thought about quitting it in the last three years. That’s an incredibly high disapproval rate if you ask me.

A week ago, I posted on social media that I was interested in hearing the reasons why women are ditching hormonal birth control (HBC) and since then, I have chatted with 42 women who have shared their stories with me. It has been such a joy to connect with them. (Side Note: Most of these women are bloggers as well. Click their names to check out their blogs!)

Almost all of these women are millennials and they attributed their decision of quitting HBC to logistical reasons, physical and mental health reasons, moral/spiritual reasons, and to the wonderful non-hormonal alternatives they have found.

Logistical Reasons

The most popular form of HBC is the Pill which is usually supposed to be taken once each day at the exact same time of day. If it is taken even a couple hours late, it is considered ineffective for the next few days. This can, of course, be a huge inconvenience for many women.

And for some women like Amanda Krieger, who admits she was “terrible at remembering” to take her pill, it can quickly mean a surprise pregnancy.

But the pill isn’t the only form of HBC that can result in an unplanned pregnancy. Joy Davis got pregnant on birth control “not just once but three times… once on the pill, second on the NUVA ring, and third on the Mirena.”

For these women, quitting HBC is simply a logistical decision in an effort to find something more effective.

Why I Quit Taking Hormonal Birth Control: 42 Women Share Their Reasons

Physical Health

A huge percentage of the women I talked with cited something related to physical health as their reason for quitting HBC.

Keep it Natural

We live in a culture where it’s very common for people to try to be as natural as possible. In her blog, “How I Don’t Use Hormonal Birth Control,” Ronni Peck writes, “It’s common for people to be concerned about using BFA-free products, and eating only organic, pesticide-free and hormone-free food, yet they completely gloss over the realization that they are likely consuming higher levels of hormones through birth control than they are avoiding by avoiding those products. If you’re legitimately concerned about hormones in your food, it’s probably also worth being concerned about the hormones in your birth control.”

Eliza Donovan echoed this idea saying, “tampering with hormones is dangerous. It’s one thing to have to take them when prescribed for medical reasons and another to consciously meddle with one’s hormone levels without a medical reason.”

Furthermore, Angel Coleman mentioned that taking artificial hormones felt too risky for her “natural body’s rhythm.”

For these women, keeping nature how it was created to be is a high enough priority to ditch HBC all together.

Weight Gain

Atleast seven of the women I spoke with mentioned weight gain as a side effect of birth control that they no longer wanted to deal with. Urwah Ammar told me that she gained weight quickly after starting birth control pills and she “didn’t feel comfortable in [her] body anymore which led to not wanting to be physical with [her] husband because [she] was so insecure.” She quit HBC, got a non-hormonal IUD and was able to lose the weight and regain intimacy with her husband.

Low Sex Drive

In addition to weight gain taking its toll on sexuality, the hormones in birth control often diminish a women’s sex drive completely which is an ironic side effect considering most women are on HBC to enjoy sexual freedom. But for some women, ditching birth control has been a great decision for their relationship as is the case with Aimee Mielke who told me that she “actually had a sex drive for the first time” after quitting HBC which was “much better for [her] marriage than never being in the mood like [she] was before.”

Risk of Breast Cancer

Though the risk of developing breast cancer due to HBC is low, it is still a high enough risk for five different women to mention it as a reason for ditching birth control. Kalynn Joyce‘s mom had breast cancer so Kalynn simply said she “is not willing to chance it.”

Impact on Fertility

Because HBC works by changing the body’s reproductive hormones, it is not uncommon for things to take awhile to regulate after stopping the pill. This means that it may take a bit longer to get pregnant than desired after being on HBC. Paige Martinek “dealt with infertility for three years before having [her] son via IVF” but then she was able to naturally conceive her daughter soon after her son’s birth. She told me that she was afraid HBC would make it hard to get pregnant again so she’s “chosen to stay off of it.”

Miscellaneous Side Effects

Migraines were mentioned a couple of times as an unwanted side effect to HBC.

Taylor Foley experienced “stomach issues, cramping, mood swings [and] increased heart rate.” These started out mild but got worse overtime until her “heart palpitations increased, [her] stomach issues were unbearable, and [she] ultimately reached a point where [she] could barely stand up.”

Jenn Schultz tried the NUVA Ring but experienced “lower back pain so intense it kept [her] up at night.” She also had heart palpitations, chest tightness, and shortness of breath so badly that she went to the ER. She stopped using the Ring after that.

HBC Was Not a Good Fix

Many women are prescribed birth control medication to fix a different hormonal issue they are experiencing, regardless if they are sexually active or not. This may be for acne, PCOS, or irregular cycles, for example. But for some women, like Jamilyn Lambert, using HBC in a situation like this is “just a bandaid for a more permanent issue.” She had much better luck going to a homeopathic doctor “who found the root of [her] hormonal imbalance.”

As with any healthcare decision, it’s so important that women consider all benefits, risks, and alternatives to any plan, procedure or medication they are taking.

Why I quit hormonal birth control: 42 women share their reasons

Mental Health Reasons

Just as common as issues regarding physical health, HBC seems to take a huge toll on mental health.

Sara Lynn told me that when she was on HBC, it made her “feel like a different person” which is a phrase I hear all the time regarding HBC.

On the other hand, Renita Lewis said quitting the Pill was what finally helped her get “back to [her] cheerful self.”

Depression

Depression was mentioned several times when I talked with these women which unfortunately is not a surprise. In a study of over one million Danish women, researchers found that women who start birth control (estrogen and progesterone combined) were 23% more likely to be prescribed antidepressants for the first time. Women who started the mini pill (progesterone only) were 34% more likely to be prescribed antidepressants for the first time. Women who were on the Patch were TWICE as likely to develop depression and those using the Ring were 60% more likely to develop depression. These risks are even higher for teens and young women.

Fortunately, many women are realizing that depression is not something they just have to accept as a side effect of their birth control and they are choosing to quit HBC instead. Rebecca Crosby told me, “Once I stopped taking birth control, I was able to stop taking the antidepressants within 6 months.” She said she’s “been off them for 6 months now and feels amazing.”

Anxiety

Anxiety was also cited several times as an unwanted side effect and a great reason to quit HBC. Alexis felt a huge difference in her mental health after she stopped taking birth control medication saying, “I was on it for 6 years straight and I felt like my emotions were wacky and I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I have been off any birth control for 6 months! Best thing I ever did. I’m more relaxed, less anxiety… I tell all my friends to just ditch it. [It’s] not worth the pain and suffering.”

Miscellaneous Moods

In talking with these 42 women I heard lots of different words describing how HBC made them feel including angry, unstable, grouchy, irrational and aggressive. Many of them talked about intense mood swings as well.

India Longo said, “when I was on the shot I swear I felt so crazy. I couldn’t take feeling that way anymore.”

Similarly, Jenny Welsh told me that she struggled with feeling paranoid while on HBC and “had a hard time trusting [her] own instinct and reading people.”

For these women, quitting hormonal birth control was worth it to feel more stable and even keeled.

Suicidal Thoughts/Actions

For a couple women, HBC affected their mental health so seriously that they became suicidal. Crystal told me that she was put on birth control for PCOS as a high school freshmen but when she was on a family vacation she realized she “had to get the Nexplanon (arm implant) removed or [she] was going to kill [herself].”

She continued saying, “hormonal birth control is NOT my friend. I have tried so many different kinds of pills, implants, shots. It ends the same way every time. Mental breakdown, self-mutilation, to suicidal thoughts.”

She then said, “Now I don’t use any kind of birth control… My mental health is more important than birth control.” Many of the woman I have connected with this week would say the same thing.

Why I Quit Taking Hormonal Birth Control: 42 Women Share Their Reasons

Moral/Spiritual Reasons

About five women I talked with mentioned moral and/or spiritual reasons to ditch HBC.

Krissy shared with me that her decision was due to the fact that all forms of HBC have “a secondary effect of diminishing the uterine lining to prevent a fertilized egg from attaching.” She continued saying, “I didn’t want to take that risk since I believe life begins at conception.” Two other women told me the same thing.

One verse that is often quoted in regards to family planning comes from Psalm 127:3-5 which says “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”

For Carissa, this means that “children are always, always a blessing and that to limit the amount of children that the Lord chooses to give us or the timing of when He chooses to give them to us is playing the role of God and refusing blessings that He desires for us.” Because of that, she has chosen to quit using HBC.

Naomi is another friend of mine that has been convicted to ditch birth control. She shared several verses with me including Romans 12:1 which says “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice — the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”

For this reason and so many more, she feels compelled to live completely surrendered to God. She explained “I said God could have control of my life, yet I was taking a pill to control life.” She no longer uses birth control and is placing her trust in God to do their family planning.

Why I quit taking hormonal birth control: 42 women share their reasons

Non-Hormonal Alternatives

Many of the women who ditched HBC mentioned being satisfied with their non-hormonal options. For many of them, this meant condoms or the copper IUD.

Fertility Awareness/Natural Family Planning

At least ten of the women I spoke with said they now practice the Fertility Awareness Method or Natural Family Planning as their form of birth control. Contrary to common belief, these methods are NOT the same as the Rhythm Method which goes by the calendar. Instead, these women have learned to become very in tune with their own individual cycle. They use Fertility signs such as basal body temperature, cervical fluid and cervical position to be able to accurately identify when they are in the fertile phase of their cycle, which for most women lasts somewhere around 5 days. Once they are comfortable understanding their own unique cycle, they are able to have unprotected intercourse when they are safely outside of the fertile window. Inside their fertile window they either abstain from intercourse or use a barrier method such as a condom. If they correctly abstain, these methods are arguably as accurate as HBC. If they use a barrier method, FAM/NFP is as accurate as the barrier method chosen.

In her blog, “Why I Stopped Using Birth Control“, Kermilia White says, “I know it seems like a lot but after about two months or so, I was pretty comfortable tracking and became well acquainted with what I should look for month-to-month. So far, natural family planning has been working for us for a year and counting.”

Some criticize NFP/FAM because they say it will not work for women with irregular cycles. However, because these methods rely on fertile signs and not on the calendar, they are actually completely doable even if cycles are crazy. I would argue that practicing FAM is even more important for women with irregular cycles so that they can more accurately decide what is happening each day.

Ayesha Schroeder has tried “the pill, the Ring and a copper IUD” but “all had horrible side effects.” She switched to Natural Family Planning and “LOVES” it. She told me, “Even with my irregular cycles I can tell when I am fertile and am much more in tune with what is happening with my body.”

Britta Roberts uses NFP and says she has been able to plan her pregnancies as she wants them. She told me, “Even through cancer, a major surgery, and tons of health problems, we have managed to use NFP to prevent pregnancy.”

And finally, many couples are wary of using Fertility Awareness Methods because they do not want to have to abstain from intercourse during their fertile window. However, it’s important to remember that just because unprotected intercourse is not an option during those days, intimacy is still allowed. In fact, rather than burdening the relationship, NFP may actually help it. Jennifer Widera said, “interestingly, learning to find other ways, when intercourse wasn’t an option, really sparked our sex life.”

These women have found satisfying alternatives to hormonal birth control which is partly why they ditched HBC all together.

[Side note: If you are local to North Central Indiana and are interested in learning the Fertility Awareness Method learn more about my class here. If you aren’t local, I hope to reach you soon. Let me know you’re interested in the comments below.]

So if you’re on hormonal birth control and dissatisfied with it either logistically, physically, mentally, or spiritually, I hope this post shows you that you’re not alone. I also hope it gives you the knowledge that there are other options out there, it’s not worth it to keep taking a medication you hate, and your whole health is important. I would love to hear your story regarding HBC. Leave it in the comments below!

Why I quit hormonal birth control: 42 women share their reasons

Why in the World Would Anyone Ever Want a Natural Birth?

Recently I was asked the question, “Why would anyone want a natural, unmedicated birth? What’s the point?” And I have to say, I was caught off guard and couldn’t gather my thoughts quickly enough to give a good reply.

I completely understand the question. I mean if you can bring life into the world in pain and exhaustion OR numb and rested why would anyone choose the pain?

It seems absurd when you put it like that and yet many women are striving for a medication-free delivery. So what’s motivating them? There are lots of great reasons but first, let’s discuss a not-so-good reason for natural birth.

Don’t Do it for the Cookies

Many women who want a natural birth are discouraged by naysayers who tell them there are no special cookies or trophies for women who birth unmedicated. They are told not to try to be a hero and they are reminded that it doesn’t make them a better woman or a better mom.

And they are correct.

Fortunately, most moms who choose to give birth naturally are completely aware that there will not be a special prize waiting for them at the end. They know there’s no badge of courage and that motherhood will still be full of challenges no matter how they give birth.

Trust me, moms who attempt a natural birth are not looking for a reward and they aren’t trying to prove that they are, in any way, better than the mom with the epidural or scheduled cesarean.

Why in the world would anyone ever want a natural birth?

So why do they do it??

Natural birthings mama’s do so mainly because they have done their research. They know that one intervention usually leads to another and each intervention carries risk. Not only that, but they know that the body’s natural process of giving birth includes many benefits of its own and they truly want to experience all of it.

Cascade of Interventions

The Cascade of Interventions is a term used to describe the concept that one intervention often leads to another.

For example, what may start out as a simple membrane sweep to induce labor could quickly turn into prelabor rupture of membranes without contractions, which could turn into heading to the hospital for Pitocin, which could turn into fetal distress, which could ultimately turn into a cesarean section, a major abdominal surgery.

Epidurals specifically can be a huge player in the cascade game. Many first time moms are unaware that getting an epidural often means getting a bladder catheter which increases their risk of bladder infection. Secondly, epidurals often weaken contractions and Pitocin is used to strengthen them. Furthermore, due to the fact that epidurals numb the body from the waist down, laboring women are stuck in bed. Because movement is key to progress, labor is usually longer, often the pushing stage is longer, and episiotomy, forceps, and vacuum extraction are more likely to be used.

While of course, none of those things are guaranteed and often interventions work beautifully, natural minded mamas prefer to stay as far away from this cascade as possible. They would rather not introduce anything into the labor process that may overcomplicate things unnecessarily. By letting their body dictate what and when things happen, they are hoping to experience a relatively smooth and straight forward labor.

Risks of Interventions

Beyond the fact that one intervention leads to another, every pregnant woman needs to know that each intervention carries inherent risk with it. For example, narcotics given to decrease pain often lower the baby’s heart rate and he or she is more likely to have low APGAR scores at birth and slowed breathing [source].

Epidurals carry many risks that are often not fully discussed with a laboring woman who is ready for pain relief.

As mentioned before, epidurals may prolong the pushing phase of labor and forceps or vacuum extraction may be necessary. Severe perineal tearing is more likely because of this.

Secondly, epidurals often lower blood pressure which may make the mother lightheaded and lower the baby’s oxygen level. This event may warrant an emergency cesarean.

Next, women with an epidural are likely to develop a fever. Because it’s unclear if the fever is simply a side effect of the epidural or the result of an infection, both mom and baby will usually need antibiotics after delivery.

Additionally, around 1% of women who receive an epidural will endure spinal headaches after delivery. These are often debilitating and may require another procedure to fix. Because the first few weeks postpartum are already full of challenges, spinal headaches can be an unwelcome hindrance.

Furthermore, the mother may become drowsy, experience slowed breathing, become extremely itchy, or have an achy back. She may get an infection at the injection site and need to be treated with antibiotics.

Between 10-12% of laboring women will not receive adequate pain relief from an epidural. Sometimes they only go numb on one side of the body but continue to feel contractions on the other.

Finally, serious complications from an epidural include nerve damage, paralysis and seizures, but these are extremely rare and death by epidural is almost non-existent.

For a full review of the benefits and risks of epidurals click here.

Of course, these risks are low and many women have no issues with epidurals at all, but because there is always a chance, many women choose to opt out of medical pain relief and aim for a natural birth instead.

Why in the world would anyone ever want a natural birth?

The Beauty of the Natural

Besides the risk of intervention, natural birth is also full of benefits. Because an unmedicated laboring women can feel everything happening, she is often able to be more in tune with her body. This allows her to instinctively know which position she should move into to help baby descend and continue progressing and she has the mobility to get into any position needed. She is able to push in a variety of different ways including standing, squatting and on all fours. She can feel exactly when and how to push so second stage of labor is often shorter and more effective. She is less likely to tear because she can feel the pressure of her baby moving down allowing for a more gentle descent. Putting all of this together, her recovery is often quicker and she is comfortable walking around independently before a women with an epidural has even gotten the feeling back in her legs.

Because natural birth is an uncomplicated process, labor can happen in an environment that is more conducive to progress. Fear, distraction, and mental stimulation all inhibit the body’s ability to labor effectively. Bright lights, beeping monitors, frequent interruptions and hospital intake questions can all contribute to stalled or slowed labor. On the other hand, the absence of interventions means a woman can labor at home or in a birth center where she is more comfortable, uninterrupted, unhindered, and in greater control of who she has in her space. She is more relaxed and less afraid and her body can labor on. Because of this, the natural birth process often works more smoothly than when interventions are added in without medical necessity.

Though we have made it clear that there is no trophy or special cookies for a natural birthing mama, she may receive a “hormone cocktail” after delivery that leaves her feeling energized and exuberant throughout the beginning of the postpartum period. This is because the body makes Endorphins in response to feeling pain that decrease discomfort and increase positive sensations. When women endure labor unmedicated, they will receive endorphins at full force as well. Cheers to the natural birth high!

Finally, many women find the process of giving birth naturally to be very empowering. Labor is an incredible feat and nearly every woman reaches a point in delivery where she thinks she cannot continue. But when she presses on, she finds out that her body was created to do difficult and powerful things and she discovers new determination and courage that she never knew she had. Women who strive for a natural birth see the beauty in the process and they want to experience it fully.

Keeping it in Perspective

In summary, natural birth is something to plan for because it is less complicated, less risky and it often works beautifully. However, it’s important to keep things in perspective and hold a healthy view of any birth plans a woman may have. Labor is unpredictable and try as we may, there are always factors we simply cannot control. Serious complications do arise and women must be prepared to meet medical intervention with gratitude when it is truly needed. While natural birth might be the goal, healthy birth is the ideal and sometimes medicine is the best way to achieve that.

Related: To the Mama Whose Natural Birth Plan Fell Through

As with any decision, every pregnant woman must do her own research, weigh the pros and cons of each option, assess how much risk she is willing to carry and then decide what is best for her. This looks totally different for different women and that’s completely fine. But I hope this gives you a better understanding of why anyone would willingly want to give birth unmedicated. As always, if you have further questions about this concept, feel free to reach out! I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Why in the world would anyone ever want a natural birth?

Whoa that was close! — How close calls can fill us with peace instead of anxiety.

I remember that day so clearly. I was working outside in the greenhouse while my two year old napped inside. It was hot, the birds were chirping and the wind hummed a peaceful tune.

I have a special place in my heart for summer days like this one. There’s just something about being outside with your hands in the dirt that makes you feel fully alive. Top it off with a toddler sleeping safely in the house and a new baby nestled inside my belly and all felt right in the world.

Whoa that was close. How close calls can fill us with peace instead of fear.

We lived on a half acre lot on a busy highway right next to a bean field. My daughter loves being outside as much as I do but we always felt a certain amount of anxiety in our yard because of the traffic constantly zooming past our house. We had a porch swing and a fire pit along the West border of our yard right beside the bean field. Though I never let our daughter out of my sight, I had grown comfortable with letting her play around the swing while I worked in the greenhouse. Occasionally however, she’d let curiosity get the best of her and wander over to check out the beans. We had firm rules against this but she simply couldn’t stay away.

I don’t remember exactly what I was working on in the greenhouse that day, I just remember that I was very focused and blissfully unaware of the world around me. The air felt quiet, safe and peaceful when all of a sudden my attention was turned to a huge crop sprayer tractor tearing through the field right past our swing and exactly to where my toddler often snuck off to.

Whoa that was close. How close calls can fill us with peace instead of anxiety.

Instantly, I was filled with anxiety. Visions of what could have happened consumed me. What if my daughter had been awake? What if she had been playing over there? Would the farmer have seen her? Would I have been more aware of our surroundings and seen the danger coming? Would I have been able to react and save her soon enough?

Along with those questions, a stubborn resolve quickly set in. I would no longer let her play far away from me. I would keep her close and safe and I would not let my guard down. The world is a scary place so I would need to be more careful.

But almost as quickly as those fears consumed me, a still small voice breathed peace down in my soul. The Holy Spirit whispered,

“I perfectly orchestrated these events this afternoon. I planned for the farmer to work in the field while your daughter was asleep inside. I am in control and I am watching out for you.”

With that, anxiety dripped out of me and comfort settled in. In the past, close calls such as this one had always been perceived as a WARNING sign flashing neon red lights.

Whoa that was close! How close calls can fill us with peace instead of anxiety.

But things completely changed for me that day. Now, whenever I’m frightened by the “what ifs” of parenting, I am immediately comforted by God’s protection. Every time there is a close call it is simply a reminder of His grace and His perfectly orchestrated plan. When something bad almost happens, it no longer has the power to fill me with anxiety if I don’t let it. Instead, I can let it build my faith in the God who has complete control. He knows. He’s watching. We don’t have to be afraid.

In John 14 verse 27 Jesus tells us,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

In Isaiah 40:11 we learn that

“God tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart.”

Just like the Psalmist in chapter 23 verse 4, we can proclaim that

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.”

And finally, let Psalm 91:4-5 speak to you.

“You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.”

Everywhere we look in Scripture we are reminded that we do not have to be afraid. Like little lambs, God holds our children close to His heart. Even though they will walk on scary paths and inevitably face danger, God will be with them everywhere they go. He is ready to protect them with His rod and His staff at any moment. Consequently, we do not have to fear any of the things our culture tells us to fear.

Whoa that was close! How close calls can fill us with peace instead of fear.

Practically Speaking…

I told my husband what happened during nap time and we did decide together that we needed to be more careful about where our daughter goes in our yard. We learned a practical lesson that day in addition to the spiritual lesson.

I will always be a believer in keeping a close, watchful eye on my kids. That is my mothering style at my core. But the difference is this: I know now that God is the only one who can fully protect my children and He makes it part of His full time job.

I could be the most protective helicopter mom on the planet and still my humanity could fail them. Scary things can and probably will happen to my kids. We will have close calls and I will be attacked by “what ifs”. But each and every time they happen now I will choose to let that event remind me that God coordinated it perfectly. Because of that, anxiety has no place and peace can settle in. What a huge weight taken off of me!

So if you’re reading this, I pray that those words the Holy Spirit spoke to me will permeate your heart as well. I pray that His peace will consume you. I pray against any anxiety that might try to imprison you. I thank God that He is coordinating every step you and your loved ones take. His kingdom come and His will be done, on Earth, just as it is in Heaven.

Amen.

Click the image to learn more about how perfectly God loves our little ones.

35 Things To Do In Early Labor

Many expecting moms are shocked to find out that early labor can take anywhere from several hours to a couple of days. In this phase of childbirth, contractions are random, usually mild, and may start and stop. Most women can be easily distracted in this phase and can continue walking and talking during contractions. If they do pause during the contraction to take a couple breaths, they can usually pick up right where they left off once the contraction passes.

Because early labor can take so long, it can often be a discouraging and confusing time for a pregnant woman who is ready to meet her baby. Additionally, she may wind up going to the hospital too early and either get sent home or be hit with unnecessary interventions.

Therefore, it’s important to have an early labor plan full of things you can do at home or out of the hospital. Start thinking now about some activities you can do when contractions start that will relax you, distract you, and get your body ready for active labor and then write them down. To help you, here’s a list of 35 things to do in early labor, beginning with the most important thing.

1. REST

If you only do one thing in early labor, RESTING should be it. If it’s during the night, lay in your bed, close your eyes and sleep as much as possible. If it’s during the day, nap when you can and at least lay down if you can’t sleep. If you get up to do a different activity that’s fine, but rest again afterward. Conserving energy for active labor is the name of the game so never push your body when it’s telling you it’s tired.

35 things to do in early labor

2. Stretch

There’s nothing I find more relaxing for my body than to do gentle stretches and work out any tension I may have in my muscles. What a great way to start out the laboring process!

3. Spinning Babies

SpinningBabies.com has great information and exercises for optimal baby positioning both in pregnancy and in labor. Particularly if early labor has been going on for quite some time or it has lots of starts and stops, it may be that baby is in a funny position and needs a little adjusting. For early labor I generally recommend the side lying release and the forward leaning inversion. Make sure to thoroughly read the instructions and have a friend help you do them.

4. Pamper Yourself

Early labor is a great time to do a little pampering. Whether it’s your nails, your hair, a sugar scrub, a facial mask or your makeup, it can be a soothing and distracting activity and it may give you a boost of energy as you progress. Of course, no one is going to care how you look in active labor but if it’s a fun way for you to spend early labor, go for it!

5. Listen to a Hypnobirthing track

Hypnobirthing is a method of childbirth that relies on positive imagery and guided relaxation throughout labor. Listening to a track will help you visualize your upcoming birth and mentally prepare for a calm, relaxed labor.

6. See a chiropractor

A chiropractor who is certified in the Webster Technique can help align the pelvis, and adjust the tailbone and pubic bone so that the birth canal is easier to navigate for the baby. This can lead to quicker, easier birth and is certainly worth your while. So if you can, see a chiropractor once a week from 36 weeks on and ask them if it would be ok to pop in when early labor begins if it happens to be during business hours. They are usually more than willing!

7. Pack your bag with last minute things

Whether it’s your phone charger or toiletries, there may be a few things you still need to put in your hospital bag. Early labor is a good time to gather everything and set it by the door so that you’re ready to go once things pick up.

8. Drink red raspberry leaf tea

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea is said to be a uterine tonic which allows contractions to be more effective when labor begins. Drinking it in early labor may give your uterus a boost and help the rest of the process to go more smoothly.

35 Things to do in early labor

9. Look at your Calendar

When contractions begin, you may wish to take a good look at your calendar and take mental note of any appointments or events you have coming up in the next couple days so that you can quickly cancel them if labor picks up.

10. Go for a walk

Walking is so good for baby positioning because it keeps the pelvis moving, allowing baby to find the best fit. It is also one of the best ways to bring on longer, stronger, and more frequent contractions. So whether it’s at the mall, at a favorite park, or just around your home, it’s certainly something that should be included in your early labor plan.

11. Prayer

If you’re a believer, prayer is a great way to spend time in early labor. It will allow you to labor in peace and not in fear, knowing that God has perfectly planned out the birth of your baby and is with you every step of the way. Consider listening to the Childbirth in the Glory CD to guide your prayer time.

12. Watch a movie

If you can’t sleep during early labor, you can at least lay down and distract yourself with a favorite movie to pass some time. Be sure, however, that it’s a light hearted story that will boost your mood and keep you relaxed rather than a drama that may introduce fear or sadness.

13. Go out to eat

Sometimes you just need to have a little fun in early labor and going to your favorite local restaurant is a great way to do that. You can take your mind off the contractions and enjoy being served a meal with nothing to clean up afterwards. It’s a perfect way to pass the time.

14. Yoga

Yoga not only relaxes you, but it also helps open your hips and pelvis and teaches you to breathe through discomfort, a skill you will soon be using! There are so many great options on YouTube for late pregnancy yoga. Find a couple favorites and have them ready for whenever early labor starts!

15. Date night

Early labor just might signal your last chance for a date night for awhile, so take the opportunity while you can. Soak up as much time together as possible and truly enjoy the person you will be parenting with. Your lives are about to change forever after all!

35 things to do in early laborEarly labor started on my due date in my last birth. We were able to sneak in a date with some shopping and dinner! Click the image to read the whole story.

16. Clean

One of the best ways to work out the nervous energy that often comes with early labor is to clean and it can give you peace of mind knowing that your house is ready to bring baby home to. Just remember that golden rule we talked about earlier; conserve your energy and rest when you can!

17. Go shopping

Doing a little shopping in early labor is a win win. You are given a nice distraction from contractions but you also get a good walk in. And maybe you have a few last minute things you want to grab for yourself or your baby before the birth. It will be awhile before you head to the store again.

18. Miles Circuit

The Miles Circuit is another great tool for baby positioning. If contractions don’t seem to be progressing, they stop and start, or they are very close together but mild, try going through this circuit and see if it makes a difference. Once baby is positioned correctly, active labor may begin.

19. Eat!

Even if you don’t go out to a restaurant, it’s still vitally important to eat and drink in early labor. You may not feel like eating a whole lot when you’re in active labor but you will need the calories to undergo the hard work of childbirth so if you’re hungry, eat! Focus on good proteins and carbs and shy away from fatty or processed foods that may upset your stomach later.

20. Do a puzzle

Puzzles are a beautiful way to let your mind run as you process everything you’re going through. Bonus points if you sit backward on a chair while you do the puzzle to keep your hips open which gives room for baby to move down.

21. Finish any last minute projects

Maybe you were really hoping to organize the junk drawer, update your new budget, or learn how to set up the baby’s pack-n-play before the birth. Early labor is a great time to check a few things off your list if they are occupying your mind. Of course it’s not the time for anything too in-depth or physically tiring but small tasks here and there can be wonderful.

22. Stairs

Going up and down the stairs opens the pelvis asymmetrically which can aide in baby positioning and bring on stronger contractions. Take two stairs at a time or go up and down sideways alternating which leg is leading for some variation.

35 things to do in early labor

23. Laugh

There is no better way to naturally reduce stress than laughter and because stress can delay, slow down, or even stop labor altogether, laughter truly can be the best medicine! Be intentional about laughing, tell jokes, or listen to a funny podcast. Active labor may be just around the corner!

24. Bake cookies

Baking cookies can be such a yummy distraction and if you happen to begin active labor before you eat them, your birth team would love for you to bring them along. Trust me 😉

25. Dance party

Dancing is a fun way to exercise, it’s a big stress reliever, and it’s a great way to get baby positioned properly for birth. And if you have toddlers or older children, having a dance party with them can be a sweet memory to make before they meet their new sibling.

26. Lunges

When you have a burst of energy in early labor, doing lunges is a terrific way to use it. Side lunges, forward lunges, reverse lunges, lunges on a chair, whatever kind of lunge you want! They all open the pelvis asymmetrically which you know by now is the key to optimal baby positioning.

27. Intimacy

It’s true. The same thing that got the baby in there can get the baby out. Cuddling, kissing, and sex all help increase the production of oxytocin which is the love hormone AND the labor hormone. So as long as your water hasn’t broken, intimacy is a great idea especially since it may be the last chance you get for a couple months.

28. Take a bath/shower

Hydrotherapy is a brilliant labor tool. It’s relaxing and is a great way to manage pain. You may find getting in the shower allows you to labor at home a bit longer so that when you get to the hospital or birth center, you are further into the birthing process and you’re also nice and clean!

35 things to do in early labor

29. Write a letter to your baby

I can’t think of a sweeter thing to do in early labor than to write a letter to the baby you’re about to meet. Not only will this make an awesome gift for your child one day, but it will also remind you why you’re excited to go into labor in the first place. Yes, childbirth is difficult but it’s also the most worthwhile thing in the world. Giving life to a new baby is such a gift!

30. Bounce on an exercise ball

Anytime you want to sit down for a bit in early labor, sit on an exercise ball instead of a couch or chair. This forces you into an upright, forward-leaning, open pelvis position which, you guessed it, is great for baby positioning! Additionally, it’s often the most comfortable place to sit in late pregnancy and it’s so much easier to get on and off of than a couch.

31. Eat dates

Current research shows that eating six dates a day in the last month of pregnancy can lead to shorter labors, fewer inductions, and a reduced need for pain medication. This may be because dates can have an oxytocin-like effect on the cervix which helps prep for an easier labor. Eat them on their own, include them in a protein ball, or mix them in your smoothie. If nothing else, they’re a yummy, nutritious snack!

32. Talk about your feelings

Many women experience a whole host of emotions in early labor. From anxiety about labor to excitement about the baby to a hesitation about becoming a mom, there’s a lot going on. Particularly, if you are feeling discouraged about how long early labor is taking, it’s important to vocalize those emotions with a trusted member of your birth team who will validate and encourage you. Believe it or not, these difficult feelings can impact labor so it’s essential to process them fully.

33. Play a game

I always carry a deck of cards in my doula bag in case I find myself supporting a client in early labor. For the most part, this is a relaxation and distraction technique but a little healthy competition is always a great way to bond with the people you have invited to be with you in labor.

34. Do a normal day

If contractions are still random and mild, your best option may just be to carry on with your day as normal. Go to work, go get groceries, keep your evening plans, and pretend early labor isn’t happening. This can keep your spirits up and allow you to continue waiting patiently for active labor to begin.

35. Keep it quiet

And last but not least, consider keeping the news that you’re experiencing early labor a secret from people who are not on your birth team. The more people who know that things have begun the more texts you will receive asking for an update. And if things haven’t picked up when they ask how it’s going, you may feel tempted to be disappointed and they may make you wonder if something could be wrong. In reality, early labor is a process and can take awhile, so there’s no reason to add other people’s negative input to your plate.

Early labor can be emotionally taxing but remember, you are doing such a great job mama and your body knows exactly what to do! I hope this list helps you visualize a relaxing and sweet early labor phase and empowers you to wait patiently. When active labor begins, you will have had so much practice and you will feel prepared and ready to meet your sweet baby. You’ve got this mama!

35 things to do in early labor

How to Give a Breastfed Baby a Bottle in 7 Easy Steps

Giving a baby a bottle may seem like a straightforward process. You simply fill the bottle, put it in the baby’s mouth and hold it there until it’s gone. Easy right?

Actually, nature’s design for feeding infants is more beautifully complex than that. A breastfed baby receives his milk slowly and a little at a time. He is fully in control of when he latches and unlatches and he can change his sucking pattern so that he can comfort nurse without receiving any milk.

Because of this slow and controlled eating pattern, the breastfeed baby perfectly masters portion control at a young age. He becomes very familiar with feelings of hunger versus satiation and he has time to recognize when he is full in order to stop the feeding before he eats too much.

How to give a breastfed baby a bottle in 7 easy steps

On the other hand, when a baby is bottle fed, he has less control over when the nipple is put in his mouth and he cannot control the flow of milk. If he sucks, whether for food or comfort, he will be fed and he may continue to eat past satiation for as long as milk comes out.

This may be part of why a breastfed baby is less likely to be obese in adulthood than a bottle fed baby.

It is also why a baby who is breastfeeding may gulp down a bottle immediately after nursing. This is NOT a sign that the mother has low milk supply but instead a good indicator that baby needs a bit more comfort at the breast. (AND if baby is going through a growth spurt and wanting more milk, the fastest way to boost supply is to continue nursing until baby is satisfied.)

Likewise, the inability to control portion size from a bottle is part of why a breastfed baby may drink much more milk from a bottle than his mother is able to pump for him while she is at work. Unfortunately, if this continues, she may not be able to keep up and will find herself needing to supplement if she wishes to continue working which can further hinder supply.

Therefore, it’s important to try to mimic the breastfeeding process when feeding a breastfed baby a bottle. Not only is this beneficial for the baby because he develops healthy eating habits, it is also vital to the breastfeeding relationship because it protects the mother’s supply and avoids any nipple confusion or preference.

So if you are given the privilege of feeding a breastfed baby a bottle, follow these 7 steps to bottle feeding and you will greatly benefit both the baby and his mama.

How to give a breastfed baby a bottle in 7 easy steps

Step 1: Choose a bottle with a slow flow nipple.

When breastfeeding, a baby has to work to get the milk to flow. The letdown doesn’t happen immediately and milk doesn’t always flow at the same speed. But in a bottle, the flow is regulated by the hole in the nipple. Therefore, choosing the slowest flow will keep him from gulping down the bottle so quickly that he doesn’t have time to recognize feelings of satiation.

Step 2: Put an appropriate amount of milk in the bottle.

The average baby eats about 25-30 ounces a day and feeds between 8-12 times. That means the average baby eats anywhere from 2-3.75 ounces per feeding. Therefore, this is an appropriate amount of milk to put in a breastfed baby’s bottle. Putting more than that in at one time may lead to overfeeding.

Step 3: Hold the baby upright.

It’s important to hold the baby in an upright position rather than holding him flat on his back. This way, he has more control of how much milk goes into his mouth because he has to work against gravity to get it there.

Is breastfeeding an effective form of birth control??? The answer is YES, IF you follow these 7 principles. Click the image to learn more

Step 4: Let the baby draw the nipple into his mouth.

Hold the nipple to the baby’s lips but then let him open his mouth and draw the nipple in. Do not push the nipple into the baby’s mouth uninvited. This gives the baby a say as to whether he is ready for a feed or not.

Step 5: Hold the bottle horizontally.

Much like holding the baby upright, it is also important to hold the bottle horizontally rather than vertically. This slows the flow of milk and gives the baby greater control.

Step 6: Pause the feeding every minute or two.

After baby has taken a couple sucks and swallows, lower the bottle a bit so he can take a break from eating. In doing this, the baby consumes the appropriate amount of milk (2-4 ounces) in the same amount of time that a breastfeeding session typically lasts (10-15 minutes). Once again, this gives the baby a chance to recognize feelings of satiation and stop the feeding before he gets overfull.

Step 7: Let the baby decide when he’s done.

Finally, it’s so important to let the baby be in charge of when to stop eating. If he falls asleep and stops sucking or let’s the nipple fall out of his mouth, let him be finished. While it may be so tempting to encourage him to eat the last ounce in the bottle, remember that he is practicing portion control which will have lifelong benefits for him.

So whether you’re a dad, a grandparent, a family member, a daycare worker, or just someone lucky enough to hang out with a baby, be encouraged that in feeding him this way you are allowing him to eat in a healthy manner that not only benefits him but also protects his breastfeeding relationship with his mother. That is truly something to strive for and celebrate.

Click the image to learn more.

10 Thoughts I Have as I Rock my Toddler to Sleep

Rocking toddlers to sleep can be a somewhat controversial subject. Our culture typically expects independent sleep at an early age which leaves many cosleeping and attachment style moms feeling inferior.

Because of this, in the twenty minutes or so that I used to spend rocking my toddler who had not yet learned to fall asleep on her own, I had so many mental battles and conflicting thoughts.

I originally wrote this list about a year ago and never got around to publishing it until now. Currently, I have a new little baby that I rock to sleep and we lay with my toddler as she falls asleep. So even though I’m no longer rocking a toddler, I still feel each of these emotions and thoughts reading back through. And while I’m grateful that I only rock one child right now, I am already so thankful that I took all of that time out of my day to hold my first daughter.

So if you’re a mama who is feeling conflicted about rocking your child to sleep, let me just say, I see you. I understand all those thoughts. I encourage you to do what is best for you and your baby and then move forward confidently. And just like everyone says literally all the time, this phase will be over before you know it, so soak in those cuddles today.

I hope as you read through this list you find that you’re not alone and there are many moms out there that you can relate to. So let’s get started with the ten thoughts I had (over and over again) during the countless hours I spent rocking my toddler to sleep.

1) I can’t believe we’re still doing this.

Sometimes I’m tempted to start counting up the hours I’ve spent rocking my child to sleep since she was born. It used to be three naps a day and bedtime. Even though she only takes one nap now, it’s still one nap and bedtime and takes roughly 10 minutes (or more) each time. So at the minimum, in two years, I’ve spent about 20,000 minutes (333 hours or 13.8 full days) bouncing, rocking, and singing my baby to sleep. Geez.

10 Thoughts I Have as I Rock My Toddler to Sleep

2) But it’s really not a big deal.

I mean what’s 20 minutes out of my day? Besides, I think it’s important to take time each day to do nothing except cuddle my child. It helps me slow down and unplug and really, I can do this.

3) And they’re only little once.

How many times do we hear this phrase? I know I’m gonna blink and she will be grown up and won’t need me to fall asleep anymore. Just like they always say, one day I’m gonna miss rocking her to sleep. I’m so thankful I have this time now.

4) Hmmm… what age will this independence happen exactly?

It seems like it would help if I knew exactly how much longer this will keep going on. Does 2 1/2 count as grown up enough to fall asleep on her own? Will she be 3? 4? Oh gosh, what if she’s in Kindergarten before we get there?

5) I should have sleep trained.

I should have listened to all those people who told me to let my baby cry it out. They have been happily putting their babies down to fall asleep independently for years now. I can’t even imagine a life like that. What could I be doing with my life now if I had those 333 hours to do something more productive than rocking my baby?

10 Thoughts I Have as I Rock My Toddler to Sleep

6) I’m so glad I didn’t sleep train.

As jealous as I am of my friends who are getting easy sleep, I know deep down that sleep training just isn’t for me. To each their own and I’m happy for those that can do it, but ultimately I know that the burden of rocking my toddler each night is easier to handle than sleep training would have been for me. I chose this route and I stand by it.

7. But this rocking hurts my pregnant belly

Oh yeah… I’m gonna have another baby. How exactly is it going to work when I have two children to put to sleep several times a day? I really need to figure this all out ASAP.

8. Let me cuddle all the babies!

But then a wave of oxytocin rushes in as I hold my sweet daughter and think of the new baby to come and I realize how grateful I am for them and for the chance to snuggle them each day. Suddenly, I don’t care about how uncomfortable my body feels or how much time it takes to rock them, I just want to hold all the babies!

10 Thoughts I Have as I Rock My Toddler to Sleep

9. She looks so beautiful as she falls asleep

I stop thinking for a minute and just watch my daughter as she starts to completely relax. She stares deep into my eyes and her body begins to rest in my arms. She looks so peaceful, so innocent, and just so beautiful. It’s always such a rewarding and completely fulfilling feeling when her eyelids start to get heavy and she finally feels safe enough to let them close. What a gift we have as mothers to help our children fully relax!

Blakely’s 4 Month Sleep Regression: What We Did to Get Through ItClick the image to check out our experience with the dreaded four month sleep regression!

10. Maybe tomorrow will be different but that was worth it for today.

As controversial as it may be, rocking my toddler to sleep tonight was so worth it. I’m glad I did it and I will keep doing it if needed. Maybe tomorrow something new will click. Maybe I will be more diligent in trying to help her fall asleep on her own, or maybe she will just wake up ready to be independent. But today I did what we needed in the present and I will continue to take this journey one day at a time. And getting to climb into bed now is such a sweet reward! I love this life of mine ❤️

How long did you rock your children to sleep?