Building Our Own Home Part One: Choosing the Land and Floor Plan

I come from a family of construction workers. My dad, his brothers, and my grandpa have all built their own homes. Additionally, my father-in-law has built a home and my husband helped build two houses while in Building Trades in high school. Because of this, we were fairly certain we would have the resources we needed to build our own house one day.

The opportunity to build came sooner than expected, right after we got the itch to move. We loved our little starter home but it was right on a busy highway and didn’t give us much room to breathe. I grew up on 20 acres that was passed down from my grandpa to my dad. It has a large hill for sledding in the winter, a pasture for the 4H dairy feeder calves we had when we were kids, and a beautiful woods. My dad started talking to us about buying 3 acres of the woods from him and suddenly the wheels were spinning.

We picked a lot of land in the back corner of my parent’s property that would be surrounded by trees, giving us the privacy we longed for. Our driveway would be around the corner from my parent’s on a quiet dirt road which was a dream come true. We could imagine setting up our greenhouse, a playground, and a chicken coop and we were sold.

Building our own home part one: choosing the land and the floor plan
Standing in my parent’s backyard, you can see the house through the trees. When summer comes and leaves are on the trees, we won’t be able to see it anymore.

It took several (almost 8) months for us to meet with enough professionals to decide for sure that we could build in the low, wet land we had wanted. My husband spent that time clearing land for us and I was focused on creating the perfect floor plan.

I started by browsing Pinterest for hours and hours to get ideas. We were planning for a house around 1800 square feet and we went back and forth between building a ranch with a basement or a two story home without a basement. After morphing and editing several plans we came up with this one.

Building our own home part one: choosing the land and the floor plan

It’s a 1915 square foot ranch with a full walk out basement. Here’s a break down of why we love it.

Bedrooms Close Together

One thing that was really important to me was that the master bedroom was near the other bedrooms because I wanted to be close to my little ones at night. So many floor plans are split, meaning the master bedroom and the other bedrooms are on opposite sides of the house. This automatically eliminated most of the options out there and helped me to focus in on a couple. This floor plan has three bedrooms on one side of the house which I love.

Three Bedrooms, Two Baths

At the very minimum we needed a three bedroom, two bathroom home with one of those bathrooms being in the master. Ideally, I wanted room to build more bedrooms as our family grows and with a big unfinished basement, we have that in this plan.

Building our own home part one: choosing the land and the floor plan
A sneak peek of our master bathroom almost complete!

Main Floor Laundry

I feel so spoiled with main floor laundry but as a cloth diapering mom who sucks at keeping up with laundry, I think this will make life a little easier. I’m so excited!

Mud Nook and Entry Nook

In our old home, we didn’t even have a coat closet where we or our guests could hang their coats and put their shoes. So having designated spaces for that was a huge priority for me. We are using the closet space by the garage as a “mud nook” for us and the space beside the front door as an “entry nook” for guests. I can’t wait to put those cozy corners together.

Play Room

I really wanted a space that was separate from the living room but still close by that was designated for the kids to play and hang out. I’m so excited to not have a living room taken over by toys. Eventually this room could become an office or we may close up the wall and make another bedroom. We will see!

Building our own home part one: choosing the land and the floor plan

Open Concept

Our living room, kitchen, dining and playroom are all open to each other. I love that I can stand at my kitchen island and see what my kids are doing in their playroom. It feels so cozy, connected and most of all, convenient.

Three Car Garage

My husband has lots of tools and he wants to buy even more. We need a place for him to store them as well as do the beautiful work that he’s always doing for us. In my mind, he can build anything we need and I’m thankful we have a place for him to stretch out and be creative.

An Unfinished Basement

We have a full, unfinished basement which gives us plenty of room to grow. At this point we will have one room used for workout equipment and one room used for storage. These both have the potential to be bedrooms one day if needed. Our ping pong table will be down there and we will also eventually have a bathroom, a small kitchen for canning, and another living space. I’m looking forward to that project but I am just fine taking a break from construction for right now.

Building our own home part one: choosing the land and the floor plan

Our floor plan was constantly being tweaked until the day we put in permanent walls. Even though it was somewhat stressful to keep thinking up changes, each suggestion made the home a tiny bit more functional. I can’t wait to get all settled in and really live out the benefits we built into this plan.

Building your own home is a ton of work and the mountain load of decisions you must make is truly overwhelming. However, the satisfaction of knowing you chose every little detail of your home is so worth it and every day I’m so thankful we have this opportunity.

What I Did to Attempt to Prevent Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a complication in pregnancy characterized by sudden high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and severe swelling. It affects around 5-8% of pregnancies and most often occurs in first time moms in their third trimester [source].

Preeclampsia is a dangerous condition and the only real cure is to deliver the baby. Consequently, most preeclamptic moms are induced as soon as they can be.

At this point, doctors do not know exactly what causes preeclampsia, therefore we cannot accurately predict or prevent it. However, there are several things we can do to attempt to avoid preeclampsia and many women who have had it in the past are willing to do whatever it takes to ward it off in the future.

In my first pregnancy, I developed preeclampsia very suddenly at 41 weeks. I was induced right away, had my baby 39 hours later, and then developed HELLP syndrome, which is an even more serious condition. It was certainly a rough process but fortunately, my baby was unaffected and healthy and I recovered a couple weeks later.

Going into my second pregnancy, I was so determined to do whatever I could to avoid preeclampsia and I am relieved to say, I did! I was able to experience natural birth in a birth center which was amazing and I went home 6 hours after delivery which was a huge contrast from the 5 nights I spent in the hospital with my first.

Maybe it was because this was my second pregnancy and I had the same partner, which lowers the risk of developing preeclampsia again. Or maybe it was because of the long list of other things I did. I will never know exactly why I didn’t get preeclampsia this pregnancy but nevertheless, I will be doing all of these things in any future pregnancy that I have.

Here they are:

1) I took a Baby Aspirin every day.

This was recommended to me by the OBs who worked with my midwives. One baby aspirin a day has been shown to lower the risk of preeclampsia by about 24% [source]. Better yet, there have been no instances of side affects for neither moms nor babies. This is certainly something to talk to your care provider about if you’re concerned about preeclampsia. I was especially faithful with this one.

2) I took a homeopathic called Sulphur once a week.

This is a more natural solution that was recommended to me by my midwives. Just ten pellets once a week is said to help maintain a healthy blood pressure. It’s a great idea to seek out a holistic care provider who can guide you in the use of homeopathics because I was so thankful to have this tool in my tool belt.

What I did to attempt to prevent preeclampsia

3) I made sure to eat as much protein as I could.

Protein is extremely important for maintaining healthy blood pressure in pregnancy. Because of this, nearly every meal and every snack all pregnancy long included protein. I ate a bunch of eggs, nuts, meat, beans, and Greek yogurt. If you want more information on this topic, check out the Brewer’s Diet. Although I could never consume as many calories as suggested, I felt it was still a good guide as I meal planned this pregnancy.

4) I exercised as often as I could.

I am definitely someone who needs regular exercise to stay sane, but this pregnancy, I was even more motivated to work out. Not only does it majorly reduce my stress levels, but I could clearly see a drop in blood pressure when I kept active, especially in those last few weeks of pregnancy.

5) I ate a lot of cucumbers and grapefruit and drank lime water.

Cucumbers and lime water both help reduce swelling which really had a positive impact on my mental game because swelling made me so nervous. Furthermore, grapefruits are said to reduce blood pressure almost overnight [source]. Any time I started to feel a little too swollen or a bit worried that my blood pressure was rising, I would load up on these three things and I’m so glad I did.

In the last month or two of my pregnancy, I ate a whole cucumber most days. Sometimes I filled a whole pitcher of lime water and drank it throughout the day. Grapefruits were my favorite bedtime snack and I made sure to always include them on my grocery list. I truly could tell a difference in my swelling and my blood pressure after eating and drinking so much of these three things.

What I did to attempt to prevent preeclampsia

6) I kept up my magnesium intake.

Magnesium is so important for maintaining healthy blood pressure. In fact, when I developed HELLP syndrome after my first pregnancy, I was put on a 24 hour magnesium drip through an IV to make my blood pressure go down. This time around, I was determined to use magnesium as a preventative rather than a treatment.

The recommendation is to supplement with around 350 mg a day [source] so I specifically picked out a prenatal vitamin that had some magnesium in it. Additionally, some days I would take an extra calcium-magnesium supplement, some days I would apply a magnesium lotion, and other days I would take an Epsom salt bath with atleast two cups of Epsom salts. Overall, I felt like the magnesium lotion made the biggest impact because I usually didn’t have any calf cramps the nights that I applied it. I will certainly have it on hand constantly in future pregnancies.

7) I took a Vitamin D supplement.

Finally, I took 2000 IU of Vitamin D each day which has recently been shown to help prevent preeclampsia [source]. It’s interesting to note that there are more cases of preeclampsia during the winter than there are in the summer months, which could possibly be due to the vitamin D we get from the sun [source].

Indeed, my first pregnancy was during the winter and early spring. Even though I spent so much more time outside and in my greenhouse during my second pregnancy, I still felt it was important to take a Vitamin D supplement, especially in the early fall months of my pregnancy. I am confident that it could have had an impact on my blood pressure.

Who knows which of these things, if any, helped me to prevent preeclampsia this time around. Sometimes I felt like I took an outrageous amount of supplements and precautions. However, it was all completely worth it to me and I would definitely do it all again ♥️

Have you had preeclampsia in any of your pregnancies? What have you done to try to maintain a healthy blood pressure since then?

Myths Moms Believe About Daily Devotions That Keep Them From Doing It

All Christians know that spending time in the Word of God is a must but many of us have a hard time actually doing it. As a mom of young children, this task can feel even harder.

Truthfully, it took me a long time to find my groove when I became a mom a couple years ago and devotions were really not part of my life. But then I listened to Risen Motherhood’s Episode “She Reads Truth: God’s Word Everyday, in Every Season” with the founders of She Reads Truth, Raechel and Amanda. They talked about some of the common hangups that moms face when trying to get in a “quiet time” with the Lord each day and the episode really opened my eyes to a new way of approaching devotions.

I was blown away by some of the myths we believe and since busting them, I’ve slowly started to be able to make reading the Word a routine part of my day again. So here’s a rundown of the myths moms believe about daily devotions that keep us from doing them.

1. Devotions must be in the morning…

I get it. It makes sense that we should start our day off in the Word of God. It sets our focus for the day and helps us to wake up filled with joy and grace.

But for moms of young kids, mornings can be truly crazy. Toddlers often hit the ground running and everyone needs breakfast and clothes right away. To top it off, many moms are up half the night with a baby which means they need to sleep as much as they can to face the day.

For these reasons, daily devotions first thing in the morning felt impossible for me.

But because I believed the lie that I must do them in the morning, I ended up skipping them all together rather than doing them later in the day.

Once I gave myself permission to do my devotions at different times of the day, so many more opportunities suddenly popped up and it felt so much easier to make time in the Word a priority in my day.

2. We must do devotions when we’re all alone…

The second myth we believe is that we must do our devotions in solitude. I think this probably comes from Matthew 6:6 which says,

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

This instruction was meant to keep us from trying to impress others with our prayers and fellowship with God so we’ve come to believe that it’s good practice to do our devotions in private.

Unfortunately, most moms do not have much alone time so we often feel like we don’t have a chance to read the Word.

I would argue however, that it is vitally important that our kids see us reading the Bible and praying to God. Simply telling our kids that devotions are important is not enough. They have to see it to believe it.

So don’t worry if your kids are watching you or even sitting on your lap while you read and pray. It’s good for them to see and so much better for you than to not do any devotions at all.

5 myths moms believe about daily devotions that keep them from doing it

3. Our daily quiet time must be an uninterrupted 30 minute chunk…

We often feel like our time in the Word is supposed to be a certain length and we must be able to do it all in one setting. I’m not sure exactly where we get this idea from other than it helps us to know we’re “doing enough.”

But for many moms, finding a time of day where they can sit uninterrupted is difficult which stops them from trying at all.

Since busting this myth, I’ve resolved to simply start my devotions each day. I leave my books and my Bible out on the couch and even though I have to stop to grab my toddler a snack or nurse my baby, I try to just keep coming back to my reading until I’m done.

I’ve found that not only do I spend time in the Word this way, but I think about what I’m studying for longer because I’m reading little by little all day long.

4. Daily devotions must be a quiet time…

Another synonym we use for time spent reading the Bible is “quiet time” with God. So in our minds we often picture sitting on the back porch with a coffee cup in hand and peaceful nature sounds all around.

But when this luxurious quiet time is hard to find, we end up skipping out on devotions all together.

I completely understand that we can focus a little better and dig a little deeper into scripture when we’re in a quiet room but we can’t focus on the Word at all if we aren’t taking the time to open up the Bible in the first place.

Full disclosure, I often read my Bible while my toddler is watching TV. I truly think it’s worth the screen time and I’ve learned to just tune out the background noise.

5 myths moms believe about daily devotions that keep them from doing it.

5. This season is just too hard…

And finally, the last myth we believe about our time in the Word of God is that it would be easier to do in a different season of life.

We remember the pleasant old days when we were free to do whatever we want whenever we wanted or we daydream about the day when we can drop all the kids off at school and come home to a quiet house.

We tell ourselves that we would be so much better at reading our Bibles in those seasons than the one we’re currently in.

But the truth is, making our daily devotions a priority is always hard. Life is busy and there will constantly be other things that try to take up our time. Furthermore, it takes discipline to read the Word because the sin inside us is constantly telling us we don’t need to abide in Him.

So truthfully, it won’t be any easier in the next season of life. In fact, the only way to make it easier is to simply start now. The more we read His Word, the more of a habit it becomes and the more delight we find in Him.

Even though there may be plenty of reasons why doing daily devotions is difficult, there are even more reasons why it’s actually a great idea, especially in this tough season of motherhood. So mama, go ahead and pick out a new devotional, grab a fresh notebook, and get in the Bible. Your “quiet time” may not be uninterrupted, private, or quiet at all but His Word is still living, active, powerful, and perfect for today ♥️

My love for you is limited but the love of our Father God is limitlessIf you liked this post, click the image to read more about how a mother’s love compares to God’s love.

Why I Breastfeed in Public

Here’s the thing: I value modesty. You won’t catch me in a super low cut shirt because I prefer not to show cleavage to the whole world and it’s important to me to dress in a way that is respectful of those around me.

But I also value breastfeeding. It’s the number one tool in my motherhood toolbox. My babies nurse around the clock whenever they’re hungry, thirsty, overwhelmed, tired, in pain, sick or scared and that’s totally cool with me.

When I had my first child, I had no idea how to reconcile these two values when I was in public. On the one hand, I wasn’t comfortable with the thought of being at all exposed and on the other hand, I felt helpless as a mom because my go-to trick was unavailable. It was the middle of the summer and the thought of using a cover was unbearable for both me and my sweaty baby so I mostly spent my time frantically searching for private rooms or bathrooms to feed her in.

Fortunately, by the time I got pregnant with my second daughter, I had learned how to discreetly nurse in public using the “two shirt method” and a full repertoire of nursing friendly clothing.

Secondly, I had invested in a couple great nursing covers for those situations where I just felt better fully covered.

And finally, I had also become a doula and I learned so much about the many struggles new moms face with postpartum and breastfeeding. It is always my goal to do my part in making this transition easier for women.

So even though I still try to be as modest as possible, I feel strongly that I should be breastfeeding in public. Here’s 4 reasons why.

1. Because Seeing Someone Breastfeed is the Best Way to Learn How

Our culture struggles with breastfeeding. At this point, most women attempt to breastfeed but many do not continue past the first few weeks or months. A good latch is hard for us and countless women worry about their supply.

Part of the reason for this difficulty is that most girls grow up without ever having seen someone nurse a baby. In general, we don’t know what a good latch or a comfortable position or modest breastfeeding looks like because we’ve never seen it. And we’ve certainly never seen a woman nurse while cooking or putting on makeup or playing mini golf or whatever else her day may bring.

Consequently, breastfeeding remains a mystery and it feels too hard to master.

This is the first reason I feel it’s important to nurse my baby in front of other women and girls. I want them to know that breastfeeding can be comfortable, it can be enjoyable, and it is possible to live life while doing it. When they can see that this is true with their own eyes, they’re more likely to have confidence when it’s their turn to nurse a baby.

Breastfeeding in a minivan is all too common because breastfeeding in public is difficult, inconvenient, or shamed upon.
Breastfeeding in a minivan is all too common. Also notice how I can nurse without actually exposing anything. It is totally possible to nurse modestly in public. 🙌🏾

2. Because Something So Good Should be Normalized and Easily Accessible

Breastfeeding has tons of benefits. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to be obese, breastfeeding mothers are less likely to develop breast cancer and the immunity factors in breast milk change depending on what germs are around so it’s always the perfect medicine for the baby. I could go on and on about all of that but the point is, breastfeeding is so good and healthy for all involved.

Why then do we have to make it so hard for women to nurse their babies?

We need to make a change. We need to welcome and encourage the breastfeeding mother. We need to accept the fact that breasts were created for nurturing babies and allow them to fulfill that purpose.

When I breastfeed in public, I am helping the world around me to get comfortable with something that always has been and always will be a beneficial aspect of raising the next generation.

3. Because Feeding in a Bathroom is Gross

It’s true, sitting on a toilet in a public bathroom while nursing a tiny child isn’t sanitary, comfortable, or necessary.

Can we all just stop pretending that this is a good option for breastfeeding moms?

I did this with my first baby but honestly, this is where I draw the line this time around.

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

4. To Empower the Isolated Mom

This last reason is probably the most important and what really drives the need to breastfeed in public home for me. There are too many new moms out there who don’t want to leave their houses because finding a private place to nurse their baby is too difficult (and a public restroom is too gross).

As a result, they end up feeling trapped and alone in their home.

Or there may be moms who do go to social gatherings but they wind up breastfeeding alone in someone else’s bedroom and their heart aches because they are missing out on conversation and festivities with their loved ones.

Both of these situations leave new moms feeling isolated which is extremely important to note because isolation and Postpartum Depression go hand in hand.

As a society, we must make it easier for women and babies to get out of the house and this starts by getting comfortable with breastfeeding.

So I’ve resolved that I have to do my part. If just one woman sees me nursing my baby in public and this helps her feel more confident in leaving her home, getting fresh air, and feeding her baby then it’s worth it to me.

The bottom line is this: both breastfeeding and the entire postpartum period are down right hard. But for so many reasons, not being able to feed a baby in public just makes it harder.

So as a doula, a breastfeeding advocate, and a woman, I know now that it is my responsibility to nurse in public in support of my fellow moms and I hope that others will do the same ❤️

4 Reasons Why I Breastfeed in Public

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The Epic, Beautiful, and Unexpected Birth Story of Jesus Christ Told as If I Were Mary’s Doula

Note: This is a piece of historical fiction. The Bible only gives us a couple key facts about the birth of Jesus which leaves the rest to the imagination. As I reflected on the coming Christmas Season, I started thinking about what it would be like if I attended Jesus’ birth as Mary’s doula. This is simply the story of what I presume I would think and feel and see as I witnessed the virgin birth, and is not supposed to be regarded as fact.

If I were Mary’s doula, the story might have gone like this…

There’s a young, unmarried girl named Mary who has been causing quite an uproar. Recently, she disappeared for three full months and no one had any idea where she went. Later, rumor went around that she fled to the hills to visit her elderly aunt who is supposedly pregnant. Now that she’s returned, her secret is out: She’s clearly pregnant too. But what’s really bizarre is that she claims she’s still a virgin! Of course, no one is really buying it and she continues to be slandered everywhere she goes.

This whole story is all very strange to me and yet I can’t help but feel for her. I don’t believe a virgin could conceive and yet my mind can’t stop thinking of her. She must be scared, she must be confused, and she must feel overwhelmed as she navigates this new world of pregnancy and motherhood without anyone who believes in her. As much as I don’t want to associate myself with the drama, I just want her to know she’s not alone.

I couldn’t believe it when I saw her in town that day. We happened to cross paths and I instantly felt conflicted. Should I talk to her?

“No,” I thought, “just keep walking.”

But then, as if I didn’t have control of my body, I approached her.

She’s hesitant at first. Clearly she is used to being ridiculed, shamed, and disregarded. But I introduce myself and ask her to tell me her story. She slowly starts to open up. She explains that an angel came to her and said she would conceive the Son of God through the Holy Spirit. I desperately try to hide the whirlwind of emotions I feel as she tells me this: the fear, the doubt, and the teeny tiny bit of illogical hope that it’s true. Mary knows she sounds crazy, she knows it’s hard to believe, and yet I sense a quiet confidence in her. She does not doubt what has happened inside of her and with wonder in her eyes, she repeats the angel’s words, “nothing will be impossible with God.”

I’m stunned.

“How God?” I think to myself. “How could this happen and why would you do something that’s so hard to believe?”

Several months had passed and though I hadn’t heard from Mary, there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t think of her. I constantly wondered what she might be feeling. What would it be like to carry a baby who she believed was the Lord? What goes through her mind as she feels Him kick? Would she be full of more anxiety than usual knowing the Son Of God is in her womb or would she be completely at peace, knowing that God’s plans do not fail? I couldn’t stop playing through every possible scenario in my mind. Like I often do, I dreamt about the birth. If this truly was the Lord, surely the labor would be wonderful and smooth and the delivery would be perfect. A King should have the most glorious entrance into the world after all. I hoped so badly that I could be there.

I was shocked when she came to me that day, her belly fully round.

“Joseph and I are headed to Bethlehem for the census,” she told me.

I couldn’t believe she was willing to make the journey at this point in her pregnancy but I knew she didn’t really have a choice. When she asked me to go with her I very nearly fainted. She knew her time to deliver was coming. Of course, I packed a bag and was ready within minutes. I wouldn’t pass up this opportunity for anything.

I did what I could to make the trip easier for Mary but at this point in her pregnancy, there wasn’t a lot of hope for comfort. While traveling, Joseph told me the story of an angel visiting him as well and confirming that what Mary said was true. I still wasn’t sure what I really thought about the situation and yet I wanted more than anything to believe them. The hope, the peace, and the confidence they had was so beautiful and I longed to feel that way too.

When we arrived in Bethlehem there were swarms of people everywhere. There were no rooms available anywhere and I knew Mary needed to rest. Finally, we found a measly stable to stay in and settled in for the night.

Of course, as fate would have it, Mary’s contractions began. In a burst of nervous energy, Joseph quickly left to seek out a local Hebrew midwife. I could tell that despite the increasing pain, Mary was excited about what was to come. All that the angel told her would soon be accomplished.

Joseph returned with the midwife and then he waited outside because we knew the time was near. I cleaned up the place as best as I could but this was nothing like the glorious entrance I was planning in my mind.

Why would God allow His Son to be born into such humble conditions? It didn’t make any sense to me and yet there were no other options at the time.

Mary’s pains began to get harder. She went from breathing deeply through them, to moaning, to full out roaring as she got closer to delivery. Labor was as tough as any other birth I had been to. It certainly wasn’t the smooth, easy delivery I had pictured.

I supported her as she leaned and swayed and then finally, we reached that moment of relief and excitement as she naturally began to push. A bit later, those little pushes turned into strenuous burst of power. With all her might she fought to birth this little baby, the one she believed to be the Son of God. As her strength increased so did her fear, those all familiar moments of panic, the worry that she might not be able to accomplish her mission. She said it felt impossible, but had no choice except to press on, pushing harder and harder, stronger and stronger.

With the next contraction, she didn’t know what else to do but yell in anguish,

“COME JESUS IMMANUEL!”

She called Him by His name, as many mothers do at this stage. And with that, He was born.

It was the Holiest moment, the Earth was quiet in reverence and we all knew that phrase she yelled would be uttered countless times by millions of people throughout the rest of humanity. Men and women everywhere would find themselves in low and humble places, dealing with the pain and agony of this world and their solution will be nothing less than calling on the Savior Jesus Christ. Asking Him, begging Him to come and live with them. To completely change their life like He changed Mary’s that day. It was a chilling, profound moment, and it was then that I believed. God has sent his Son to deliver us all.

After Mary nursed her new sweet babe, she swaddled Him, and placed Him in a manger because that’s all we had. I always sleep well the night after a birth but on that night, because of what I had witnessed, my Soul could finally rest in a way it never has before. The Son of God has come to Earth the way all humans do. But because of Him, the way we live and leave this Earth will be forever changed.

Where To Give Birth In Elkhart County

As a doula, one of my biggest goals for my clients is that they are completely aware of all of their options surrounding the birth of their baby. Because choosing a care provider is one of the first decisions you make after finding out you’re pregnant, the place you plan to give birth is also decided quickly. Fortunately, we have a plethora of options right here in Elkhart County so planning for the birth you want is definitely possible! Let’s explore all the local birth places as well as different things you need to consider as you make your choice.

THE NUMBER ONE FACTOR

When choosing where to birth, I always tell people that the number one factor is deciding where you will be most comfortable and feel the safest. This is because labor cannot progress well when the mother is tense and afraid. Fear is a sign to your body that now is not the time or the place for a baby to born. Unfortunately, for many moms this fear turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. They are afraid birth won’t go well so their body slows the process down and guess what? Birth does not go well. So finding a way to eliminate fear is step number one.

Are you someone that will only be able to relax knowing that you’re in a hospital, right down the hall from the operating room should an emergency happen? Will your support team be tense enough to stress you out outside of the hospital? If you answer yes to either of these and you’ve done your research on the safety of birth, then the hospital may just be the best place for you to labor and meet your baby.

On the other hand, will constant beeping from the monitors and people continually coming in and out of your room stress you out? Will you be intimidated by all the wires and the equipment and will the knowledge of an epidural distract you from your natural birth plans? Can you truly feel at home and comfortable on a twin bed and small couch? If these questions raise a concern, consider a birthing center with a homelike atmosphere and a peaceful environment to labor in.

Finally, does the idea of quickly packing your bags and driving to your birth place while having contractions seem chaotic to you? For some, it’s enough stress to disrupt the flow of labor, at least temporarily. Would you be most comfortable in your own home, in your own bed, knowing that as soon as baby is born you can start to settle in to your new life? If this sounds like a dream, why not try for a home birth?

With all of these options available locally, I encourage you to truly consider each one. Take tours of both maternity units and birth centers. Ask your friends about their experiences. Does one option stick out to you more than the others? What does your gut say? Your instincts may know more than you think.

MIDWIVES VS OBSTETRICIANS

Another big factor to consider when choosing a birth place is if you want your birth attended by a midwife or an OB. In Elkhart County, there are different midwives who attend home births, birth center births, and hospital births but obstetricians only attend hospital births. So what’s the difference between the two? Obstetricians are qualified physicians who have gone through many years of schooling. They are well trained in the various complications of pregnancy and are able to use different medical tools during birth such as the vacuum extractor, forceps, and cesareans. Conversely, midwives typically have less years of schooling but are well trained in healthy, normal, low risk pregnancies and birth. Though they do not have the license to treat serious complications, they are diligent at screening for any and all issues that may arise and they follow specific protocol for when to refer a client’s care to an OB if necessary. Therefore, if you are someone who is in good health and you view birth as a normal, physiological process that women have been navigating for centuries, you can be confident that you will be well taken care of by a midwife both in and out of a hospital. On the other hand, if you are high risk or issues arise during your pregnancy, you will likely be cared for best by an OB in a hospital.

COST

Another factor to consider when choosing a birth place is the financial cost. Though money should never be the main reason you choose to birth at a specific location, it is nevertheless, important to consider. In general, a home birth is your least expensive option, followed by a birth center birth. A midwife attended hospital birth will be considerably more expensive and a birth with an OB costs the most. However, you must factor in your health insurance with counting costs. Some insurance companies do not cover home births or birth centers which means you might pay the least out of pocket if you give birth at a hospital. Other health sharing ministries cover home births, birth centers, and midwives at a higher percentage because they bring the overall cost of health care down. Every insurance company and plan is different, so be sure to thoroughly consider your options as you choose where to give birth.

LOCAL OPTIONS

So now that you have an idea of what you might be leaning towards, let’s go a bit more in depth about your specific options in the area. In Elkhart County, Indiana, we are fortunate to have two hospitals, two birth centers, and several home birth midwives. Of course, looking just outside of the county presents you with even more options but for today, we will stick to these five.

ELKHART GENERAL HOSPITAL

The Elkhart General Center for Women and Children is a Baby Friendly Hospital meaning that it values bonding and breastfeeding and follows specific protocol to support those processes. This includes allowing babies to room in with their parents 24-7 and constant support from lactation consultants. Furthermore, nurses will never give a breastfed baby pacifiers or formula without the parents consent. Elkhart General Hospital’s facility is also equipped with an in-depth security system to keep your baby safe and a level 2-B NICU should you need it.

According to the Leap Frog Group, 17.4% of first time, low-risk, full term mothers will have their babies via cesarean section at Elkhart General Hospital putting them well below the natural target (23.9%). Additionally, 2.5% of moms receive an episiotomy here which is better than the national target of 5%.

There are several different obstetricians who attend births at this hospital and the Beacon Medical Group OB/GYN employs a couple of midwives who manage births there as well. As far as pain relief options go, every labor and delivery room is equipped with a shower and most of them have tubs as well for labor, though water birth is not an option. Of course, narcotics, epidurals, and even low-dose epidurals are available as well.

GOSHEN HOSPITAL

The Circle of Caring Birthplace at Goshen Hospital is also a recognized Baby-Friendly hospital that values the family unit and moms are given ample resources to support breastfeeding. They are also armed with a security system to make sure you and your baby are never separated.

This hospital did not report its cesarean or episiotomy rate to the Leap Frog Group.

Fairhaven OB/GYN employs a team of midwives who attend births at Goshen Hospital as long as they are not currently at a birth in the Goshen Birth Center, discussed in the next section. Of course, there are many different doctors who work at Goshen Hospital as well. The Circle of Caring Birthplace has one inflatable tub that can be set up in a women’s suite on a first come first serve basis for use during active labor. However, water birth is not an option in these tubs.

GOSHEN BIRTH CENTER

The Goshen Birth Center is a beautiful, out-of-hospital option for local women seeking a natural birth. Equipped with 3 birthing rooms and comfortable queen beds, the Goshen Birth Center is designed to feel like home. Big, jetted tubs allow for water births and provide much needed relaxation before and after birth. As birth approaches, the midwives began baking fresh bread which fills the Center with a wonderful aroma. Extended family can enjoy the cozy living room as they wait for the newest addition to arise.

Women who see the Fairhaven midwives and who are experiencing a low-risk, healthy pregnancy have the option to birth here. While there are no narcotics or epidurals for pain relief at the Goshen Birth Center, they are one of the only facilities to offer Nitrous Oxide to take the edge off of the pain. Nitrous Oxide provides the women with a self-controlled, temporary feeling of relaxation during the peak of contractions. As the contraction fades away, the laboring women stops breathing it in and returns to a normal, calm state in between contractions. Nitrous Oxide has no effect on the baby and can be extremely helpful in managing transition or active labor.

After the birth, new moms are treated to a soothing, herbal bath and get to enjoy freshly baked bread and whatever else they may have brought to prepare in the center’s kitchen. Families are discharged within 4-8 hours after birth and a nurse visits and checks up on the mother and baby in their own home twice within the first 48 hours.

Furthermore, the Goshen Birth Center is state-licensed and the Midwifes follow clear protocol for when a transfer to the hospital is necessary. Ambulance drills happen routinely to ensure a quick transfer and the hospital is just three right turns away. The midwife goes with the women to the hospital and remains her primary care provider. While transfers are never fun, these aspects help to make the process smooth and safe.

BLESSED BEGINNINGS CARE CENTER

Located in Nappanee, Blessed Beginnings Care Center is another out-of-hospital option for women. They have 7 rooms equipped with a queen bed, a shower, and a jetted tub in each room. Additionally, they have one room with a whirlpool tub for water birth. Clients also have access to Nubane and anti-nausea medication to help ease pain, if needed. Certified Nurse-Midwifes with their own individual practices attend births here. Usually these midwives do not have hospital privileges so, in the event of a transfer, a hospital doctor takes over the care and the midwife becomes part of the support team. Clients are allowed to stay at Blessed Beginnings for up to 72 hours. Call 574-773-7755 for a current list of midwives to schedule your prenatal care.

HOME

Many of the same midwives who attend births at Blessed Beginnings also attend home births. Birth tubs are available to rent if needed and the midwife brings all necessary equipment for a safe birth. Because birth happens in the mother’s home, the environment is set up exactly like she wants it and she never has to worry about accidentally forgetting to bring certain items since they are already there. Immediately after the birth, the new family can settle in with their sweet addition. Usually the midwife does home visits after the birth as well.

Elkhart County truly is equipped with multiple options for new, local mothers which allows for most pregnant women to find the perfect fit for them. Feel free to reach out if you have more questions about any of these options. I would love to help you find the birth place that is right for you ❤️

Third Trimester Mocktail

It’s the Holidays and you’re pregnant so you have to skip the alcohol but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your drink. In fact, with this “Third Trimester Mocktail,” your taste buds will be happy and your uterus will thank you. That’s because it contains red raspberry leaf tea and dates, both of which are said to have positive effects on labor and it includes spearmint, fresh raspberries, lemon juice, and honey to create a yummy concoction. This makes it a perfect drink to sip as the ball drops on New Year’s Eve or in the morning for breakfast, or anytime you want to give your body a boost in preparation for childbirth.

Ingredients

Red raspberry leaf tea

Dates

Red raspberries

One lemon

Spearmint leaves

Honey to taste

Ingredients in a Third Trimester Mocktail: Dates, Red Raspberry Leaf Tea, Spearmint Leaves, Lemon, Raspberries, And Honey

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

Red raspberry leaf tea is the base of this drink and has been said to have numerous benefits for all women, pregnant or not. It is rich in vitamins and minerals to support the immune system and is said to lessen menstrual discomfort, ease nausea, lower high blood pressure, and aid the reproductive system to name a few. In pregnancy, red raspberry leaf tea strengthens the uterus so that when labor hits, contractions are more powerful and effective which may make labor shorter and less painful. It may also make the amniotic sac stronger which reduces the chance of waters breaking before labor and it supports a healthy breastmilk supply.

Red raspberry leaf tea is not without controversy, however. Lack of testing means this herb is not exactly scientifically supported and care providers widely vary their recommendations toward it. While some believe the tea can be safely taken throughout the entire pregnancy and may even help protect against miscarriage, other midwives and doctors may advise that it not be taken until the second trimester, the third trimester, the 34th week or even later. As always, consult with your care provider before you start drinking red raspberry leaf tea. If you decide you’re not ready for it, simply substitute green tea in this recipe. It will taste just as good!

Dates

Dates are said to have an effect on the uterus that is similar to oxytocin (the labor hormone). They are a natural laxative and may stimulate uterine contractions. A 2011 study compared the labors of 69 women who ate 6 dates a day starting in their 36th week with the labors of 45 women who ate none and found several significant differences between the two groups. Those who ate the dates had a much easier latent stage of labor lasting an average of 510 minutes compared to 906 minutes in those who did not eat dates. Only 28% of date consumers needed Pitocin compared to 47% of non-date consumers. Furthermore, 96% of those who ate the dates went into labor spontaneously while only 79% of those who did not eat the dates went into labor on their own. Finally, when they checked into the hospital/birth center, date consumers were an average of 3.52 cm dilated and 83% of them had intact membranes while non-date consumers were an average of 2.02 cm dilated and only 60% of them had intact membranes. To read the whole the abstract of the study, click here.

Of course, like most things, the use of dates in pregnancy isn’t supported by everyone and it’s important to do your own research and check with your care provider before consuming a large number of dates. They are high in sugar so if you have gestational diabetes or are closely watching sugar intake, it may be best to avoid dates. The women in the study did not start eating 6 dates a day until they were in their 36th week but a few dates here and there before that time is most likely just fine. However, if you’re uncomfortable with the idea, simply leave the dates out of your Mocktail. No harm there!

Directions

To make your Mocktail, start by bringing 12 ounces of water to a boil and pouring it over your red raspberry leaf tea and a couple spearmint leaves. Add in honey to suit your taste or avoid it all together if you don’t want the extra sugar. Let it steep for at least 5 minutes and then chill in the refrigerator or freezer if you’re in a hurry. Don’t forget to enjoy the sweet little quotes on the tea bag. I just love this one!

Third Trimester Mocktail: Start with Red Raspberry Leaf Tea(Reminds me of my other true love, my greenhouse 🌺♥️ Click the image to learn more)
As the tea chills, wash your red raspberries and purée a large handful of them in a food processor, saving a few for garnish. Add in a couple of dates (up to six if you’re in your 36th week or later) and a couple more mint leaves. Juice at least half a lemon or the whole lemon if you like tart drinks, add it into the mixture and purée some more. Once you’ve got it nice and smooth, you may wish to strain out all the seeds and chunks of raspberries if you don’t like that in your drink. Skip the straining if you don’t mind them though!

Third Trimester Mocktail: Next, purée the raspberries to bring a fruity kick to your drink.
Finally, mix the purée and tea together, give it a good shake, and add in more raspberries and mint for garnish if you desire. Now you’re ready to enjoy your “Third Trimester Mocktail.” I hope you find it easy, delicious, and effective in helping you labor along. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Mama!

Combating Anxiety with Thankfulness

Anxiety has been a part of my life for as long as I remember and I constantly see it in other people. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural issue or if it’s just something humanity has always struggled with but it’s not something we have to accept. For years I have dwelt on Philippians 4 as a practical way to combat anxiety and have always intended to write about this passage but it never made it on my to-do list until this morning. So tonight, on Thanksgiving Eve, I sat down to reread this passage and I am completely in awe at God’s timing as I find that really, the key to fighting anxiety is thankfulness.

This idea is touched on several times throughout the passage starting in verse 4. “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again — rejoice.” I’m always amazed when I read this verse because I’m reminded that joy is not an option. We are commanded (twice in one verse!) to be happy. Anxiety tells us to fear all that may go wrong but thankfulness lets us rejoice in all that is right. Therefore, our first step to crushing anxiety is to intentionally choose to focus on the good. The good that is God, the good He has done, the good He will do.

Verse 6 continues with this theme as it commands us not to “worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” We are to completely reject the temptation of anxiety by reminding our brain to be thankful. God has been good to us! If we do this we “will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand” (verse 7). Anxiety naturally leads us to a crippled life but thankfulness leads us to supernatural peace.

Paul reiterates this idea one more time in verse 8 when he tells us to focus “on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” When we let our minds feel anxious, we are thinking about things that haven’t happened yet, that are false, that dishonor us, that are wrong and evil and ugly and undesirable. We are consumed with terrible thoughts. But when we choose to fix our thoughts on things that are worthy of praise we are filled with thankfulness which leads us to peace and true joy.

So tomorrow, on Thanksgiving Day, as you go around the table and talk about things you’re thankful for, I pray that it starts something new in you. May you discover the power to choose what your mind is dwelling on so that the spirit of Thanksgiving crushes the foothold of anxiety in your life. Just like Paul, may this teach you “the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or with little” (verse 12)and I pray this marks a season of true peace and joy in the Lord for you.

Happy Holidays ❤️❤️

To The Mama Whose Natural Birth Plan Fell Through

You spent countless hours throughout your pregnancy dreaming about your birth. You researched all your options thoroughly and decided you wanted to labor as naturally as possible. Maybe you picked out a midwife for your care, maybe you hired a doula, maybe you chose a birth center or home birth. You started practicing prenatal yoga to learn how to control your breathing. You drank gallons of red raspberry leaf tea. You saw a chiropractor and did all the right exercises to get your baby in an optimal position for birth. You carefully made your birth plan and you were oddly looking forward to labor. You were prepared.

But then along the way things got a little tricky. Maybe your baby was breach. Maybe your water broke but contractions would not start. Or you were two weeks past your due date. Your blood pressure spiked. Your baby was estimated to be quite large. Maybe contractions came on strong and 2 minutes apart when you were only 3 centimeters dilated and they never slowed down. Or you stopped progressing at 5 centimeters. Maybe you were just not ok with how out-of-control your body felt at 7 centimeters. Maybe your contractions stopped altogether at 9.5 centimeters. Or you pushed for hours and the baby did not descend. Honestly, maybe the pain was just way too much and you simply couldn’t do it anymore.

So you transferred to the hospital, you were given Pitocin, or they broke your water, you took narcotics, or you got an epidural, an episiotomy, or you delivered your baby via cesarean. You experienced first hand the dreaded cascade of interventions and your natural birth plan fell through.

At first, you’re relieved that it’s all over. You made it through, you’re holding your baby, you fall in love and just as they said you would, you forget all the pain. It becomes a distant memory. But then you start to wonder if it was really that bad. You start to think about everything you could have done differently. You question the decisions you made and you start to grieve for the loss of the birth you had been dreaming about. It’s the happiest day of your life and yet you feel sad at the same time.

When you open up to people about these feelings they recite that overquoted line: “All that matters is that you have a healthy baby and a healthy mom.” And then you feel guilty because that’s not all that matters to you. You aren’t content, even as you hold your perfect newborn that you love so much. You had a dream but you didn’t achieve it. And it hurts.

In this picture, I am in a hospital, dressed in a gown, hooked up to continuous fetal monitors, on Pitocin and an IV. The lower half of my body is numb and immobile due to an epidural and I am being coached on how to push while laying flat on my back. None of this was in my plan that I literally spent years dreaming up and yet its all part of my oldest daughter’s birth story. I know those feelings, mama. And I’m here to tell you, it’s ok.

It’s ok that you didn’t birth according to your plan. But it’s also ok that you feel the way you do. A healthy baby may be the most important thing, but it’s not exactly all that matters. Your feelings MATTER. The fact that you’re grieving right now MATTERS. Talk through these emotions with someone who will listen because your well-being MATTERS.

We put so much pressure on ourselves to master a process that we will only actually experience a handful of times in our life and there’s no way to truly practice for it. Be gentle with yourself. Remember that you sacrificed your desires to get your baby in your arms which is really what mothers do day in and day out. Maybe you need to reframe your mind to be grateful for medical interventions that got you through. And while natural childbirth is usually safe and it’s totally valid to continue to desire a natural process, maybe you need to remember that without many of these interventions, there were women and babies who died in childbirth. Interventions have a rightful place. Maybe you need to take this experience and use it to better prepare for a natural labor next time. We live and learn and grow and evolve and there’s nothing wrong with that.

There are women all over who are experiencing the same grief that you have. Reach out to them, let them encourage you, and build them up as well. Help them see that women are not defined by how they give birth. You will move on from this. Remember most of all, you matter and you are not alone.

Did your birth experience go differently then you had planned? Did you have trouble dealing with it? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!

My Love for You is Limited

I started dreaming about you long before you were even a possibility. The moment I found out about you I couldn’t wait to meet you, to know what you look like, and to see who you become. I spent nine long months preparing a place for you, a place where you are loved and safe and cherished. Now that you’re here I am obsessed with knowing the exact moment that you fall asleep and I listen closely for you to wake up. I choose to be with you as often as possible so that I am there when you need me. I cannot go more than a couple minutes without thinking of you and my entire day is planned around you. The hair on your head is of special interest to me. I look at it daily, trying to decide if you have any more than the day before. Every morning I delight in dressing you in the cutest clothes and I absolutely love to feed you all day long. I keep diligent track of your preferred routines and schedules so that I will know what you need even before you do. Everything in me is filled with joy when bits and pieces of your personality shine through because I can’t wait to know you. I love you simply because you are you and really, I can’t imagine how I could ever love you more.

However…

I had no idea what you looked like until the day you were born and you continue to change so much that I really don’t know what you’re gonna look like a month from now. The home I have prepared for you is only moderately safe as I cannot guarantee that there won’t be intruders. Sometimes you fall asleep and even wake up without me having any idea until you decide to cry out for me. It’s impossible for me to never leave your side because I have other obligations and cannot be two places at once. My mind is full of many to-dos and my entire focus just can’t always be on you. I have no clue how many hairs are actually on your head and I could totally be fooling myself into thinking that you’re growing more. Sometimes I let you stay in your pajamas all day long and my minimal fashion sense means you aren’t always dressed the best. There are times when I have no idea what to feed you or how to prepare food so that it both nourishes and pleases you. And despite my best efforts at getting to know you, there are still days when I am clueless as to what you need. Because even though you have my heart I am still only human. I can’t peer into the womb, completely ward off evil, watch you without ceasing, count hairs, feed and dress you perfectly, or read minds. And unfortunately, I know as the days go on I will fail you plenty of times. My love for you, though it feels overflowing, is limited.

However…

There is a God whose love for you is literally limitless. He knew you completely before he ever formed you in my womb (Jeremiah 1:5). He has prepared a place in heaven for you where love is complete and evil is no more (John 14:3). He knows exactly when you’re awake and when you are resting (Psalm 139:2-3), he will never leave your side (Psalm 139:7-12), and his thoughts about you are innumerable (Psalm 40:5). God knows the exact number of hairs on your head even though that number changes constantly (Matthew 10:30). You never have to worry about having something to wear or something to eat because he promises to always clothe and feed you (Matthew 6:25-31). And he knows you so well that, unlike me, he knows exactly what you need before you can even put it into words (Matthew 6:8).

Trust me, little one, you cannot fathom how much I love you. You are the light of my life. But you have to know now that I will come up short, I will make mistakes, and you will question my love. This is devastating to me but it is my desperate hope and prayer that my imperfect love points you to the Source of Love himself, our Father God. He will never let you down. May you always look to him as your ultimate provider, healer, protector, guide, and love. I am limited, my dear, but our God is completely limitless.