Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ephraim's Birth Story

I discovered I was pregnant just a few short weeks after moving across the country from Utah to Tennessee.  We had just relocated our little family so that my husband, Nathan, could attend graduate school at Vanderbilt University.

We had been wanting another child for a little while, and I knew that I wanted to do things a little differently than I had with my pregnancy with my daughter. I had a very traumatic emergency C-section with her, and I really wanted to try for a VBAC delivery, hopefully free of medications.

The first thing I wanted to do was to hire a doula.  I was concerned that in moving away from Utah I wouldn't be able to find someone I was comfortable with hiring. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the wife of our Bishop just happened to be a doula, and also a very active participant in the birth community in Nashville.  She helped me to find a clinic of midwives at Vanderbilt that were supportive of my VBAC, a monthly c-section support group called ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network), a breastfeeding conference, the Empowering Fearless Birth conference, and also a Hypnobirthing instructor in the area.

I did everything I could to try and make my VBAC happen. However, when I reached 40 weeks with no dilation, my midwives were getting a little wary.  My previous C-section and subsequent NICU stay for Evelyn had been caused by a bad reaction to induction drugs, so I was not willing to go that route and the midwives agreed.  However, because they are associated with Vanderbilt Medical Center and are overseen by the OB's there, they are only allowed to let you wait until 42 weeks without intervening. I was doing everything I could to kick start my labor, even to the extremes of castor oil and 45 minutes on the stair climber at the gym at 41.5 weeks. Even after all of that I was barely 1 centimeter dilated.  The midwives recommended considering either another induction (no way!), or a scheduled c-section.

The morning of May 20th, 2014.  42 weeks pregnant.
We are very fortunate that Vanderbilt Medical Center offers something called a family-centered c-section.  With this option you get to watch your baby be born through a window in the draping, two minutes of delayed cord clamping, and you can have skin-to-skin contact immediately while still in the operating room. As long as baby is doing okay, you don't ever have to be separated.  These were all of the things that I wanted because it was all of the things I didn't have with the birth of my daughter. She had ended up in the NICU, and I didn't even lay eyes on her for 7 hours after she was born. She was on a respirator and wasn't allowed to try to nurse for several days. Because of this she never really took to breast feeding and it was such a struggle. I didn't want that to happen again.

We decided to go ahead and schedule the family-centered c-section for May 20th, the very last possible time my providers would allow, hoping that I would go into labor on my own before then.  It didn't happen, though.

Nathan and I checked into the hospital at 11 am that morning and our doula Rebekah met us there. She was really supportive and helpful, even though it wasn't the traditional birth we had been hoping for.  I got changed for surgery and they checked me one last time, just to see if I had progressed at all.  Nope! Still shut tight and not even effaced a little bit.  The c-section was still on.

I had a lot of fear I had been trying to process over the previous nine months. I believed I had made peace with much of it, but I still had a fear of being left alone in the event of something going wrong with the baby. I didn't want Nathan to leave my side for even a moment. If he had to leave to be with the baby I wanted Rebekah there, so she dressed in surgical clothing just in case we needed her as back-up since we were only allowed one support person in the operating room.  They wanted Nathan stay back while they prepped me and did my spinal block in the O.R., but I begged and pleaded with everyone I talked to to let him stay with me the whole time. After a lot of asking and approving we got the OK for him to stay with me.  They wheeled me back to the operating room.

They have a really special nurse at Vanderbilt named Lacey who's whole job is to attend to the parents during the surgery and make sure that all of the "family friendly" guidelines are followed.  She also takes great pictures for you in the operating room. She stood by my head the whole time and told us what was happening.

Before we started, everyone was making guesses as to how big the baby was going to be. The surgeon guessed 8 pounds, Nathan guessed 10 pounds 6 ounces, I guessed 10 pounds even.

The anesthesiologist is the person in charge in a c-section, and is really important in the operating room. Our anesthesiologist was named Dr. Chestnut and the resident anesthesiologist under him told us that he literally wrote the textbook on labor and delivery anesthesia.  I felt so lucky to get him. He also was the one who said it was okay for Nathan to stay with me during the spinal block.

After they had done the spinal block (the scariest part for me!), they draped everything and I felt quite relaxed.  I had had a moment of panic right before the spinal block, but that passed and I was feeling very relaxed.  The operating room filled with people quickly.  Vanderbilt is a teaching hospital and so there were many people who were simply there to watch.  I mostly closed my eyes and held Nathan's hand while the smell of cauterizing and the tugging sensations began on the other side of the curtain.  I teased the surgeon (who was a resident) that my last c-section had healed really well, so the bar was set pretty high.  Things were relaxed and happy.  It was such a different feeling from my last c-section.

When they were ready to birth the baby, they opened the window in the draping.  It was angled upward so that I could not see my own body, only the space directly above it.  We watched through the window as Ephraim was born. He came out screaming, and it made my heart so happy to hear that sound! I cried and cried as I could very clearly see that he was healthy and fine. That was the first of many prayers that was answered. Everyone kept saying how big he was! They stretched two hats over his head to keep him warm, and they held him close to the plastic window.  Someone set a timer for two minutes, and we waited for the delayed cord clamping.  Delaying the clamping of the cord benefits the health of the baby, and I had never in my wildest dreams believed they could do that in a c-section. For two minutes I talked to and kissed my baby through the plastic sheeting. As soon as he heard my voice, he quieted and opened his eyes. It was magical.

At the end of two minutes they cut the cord and the pediatric team gave him a clean bill of health.  They quickly weighed him and everyone gasped as the scale read about 5000 grams, or 11 pounds 1 ounce!  Everyone was floored! Lacey said he was the biggest baby she had ever seen born in her time as a nurse.  Everyone kept asking if I was diabetic, and I assured them I was not!  The nurses said that if we had tried to induce, there was no way he would have come down. He was enormous!

After weighing him, Lacey placed him right on my chest for skin-to-skin.  As soon as she put him there, he began looking around for food, and with a little direction he latched on and began to suck.  He continued to breastfeed for the entire 45 minutes I was still in the operating room being stitched up. This was the second big answer to my prayers. I had feared breastfeeding would be difficult to initiate, but here he was doing it on his own!

They took him from me for a minute to get all of his stats while I was transferred back to my bed.  They placed him back on my chest for the ride back to labor and delivery.  As they wheeled me through the halls I felt so happy and peaceful. This birth was not what I thought I had wanted, but it was still perfect and lovely. I had gotten everything I had wanted. I felt like a queen on a float in a parade, waving and smiling at everyone we passed, who cooed and awwwed over my beautiful boy.

When we got back to our room, Rebekah was there waiting. She helped a little to make sure Ephraim was latching correctly and nursing well, and she stayed with us until we were settled over in our room in the mother/baby unit.

Vanderbilt has a rooming-in policy where no babies are kept in a nursery but rather stay with their mother's in their room at all times.  So from the very first moment he barely left my side except for his hearing screening and a few other tests over the next two days, but even then Nathan stayed with him. They watched his blood sugar closely just to check for diabetes, but just as I had assured them we were both healthy and definitely not diabetic.  He is just a really big baby!!  Nurses would stop in just to take a peek at this unusual child.

We were able to leave the hospital after only two days. We took our precious Ephraim Nathan home with us very happy and healthy.

Every single day for nine months I had prayed to have a vaginal unmedicated birth.  Every day I had prayed that my labor would start on it's own or that my water would spontaneously break on its own.  I trusted that Heavenly Father would answer my prayers.

What really happened was so completely different than what I had prayed for, but it just shows me how well Heavenly Father really knows me. He knows me so well that he gave me exactly the things that I had wanted (healthy baby, skin-to-skin, immediate breast feeding, delayed cord clamping, not to be separated from my baby) in a way that I can only trust was best for me. I do not know exactly why my body didn't go into labor on its own, or if it would have if we'd had more time, or whatever else.  I did not know that I could have a beautiful birth with all of the things I wanted in any other way, but I did.  I had prayed for the means that I believed would give me what I really wanted, but he blessed me with a different way to get those exact same things.  I really believe that part of the reason we were supposed to move to Nashville was to deliver Ephraim here in this remarkable hospital.

I left the hospital feeling an emotional healing that I didn't know could happen from another c-section.. and I am so grateful.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

It's fun to stay at the YMCA

There were two really difficult sacrifices I had to make when we decided to leave Utah.  One was my favorite grocery store, WINCO, the other was leaving behind my gym.

I have worked out at the new Pleasant Grove recreation center since it opened a few years ago, and I was in love with it. It was part of my routine. There were so many benefits! Close to home! Family friendly! Inexpensive! Clean! New!  You can see why I was struggling with the thought of leaving it behind.

As we now know, when we do what Heavenly Father asks us to do (move away from our beloved grocery store and gym), we know he is going to give us something better.  I guess I had my doubts that he would know how important this was to me, and I was just going to have to suck it up and cut my losses.  Silly me.

Just a few minutes from my new house is the most beautiful gym I have ever seen. Looking from the outside you would think it was a fancy-schmancy health club, but turns out, it is the Bellevue Community YMCA.  When I asked a few people in the ward where they worked out, they seriously gushed about this place. Being from Utah where they don't have YMCA's, I had no idea how great it could be. I have heard that not all YMCA's are this awesome, but this one definitely is.

After looking into it, it is quite a bit more expensive than the PG Rec, but what isn't more expensive out here? Oh yeah, nothing.

Boy oh boy, though, you get what you pay for!  It is AMAZING!  The best part is that you can have up to 2 hours each day of FREE childcare while you work out!  The daycare area is also BEAUTIFUL! It is separated into 3 different areas by age, they have lots of friendly staff, an outdoor fenced play area, and a very secure system of making sure your kid doesn't go home with someone they don't belong to.

The other perks:
- Tons of machines, so there is always one available. Each machine has it's OWN TV attached. (This is huge because the best way for me to power through a 50-minute workout is to watch a good show.)
- Great family-friendly indoor pool
- Physical therapy & massage therapy on-site (for additional cost, of course, but still it's available!)
- 3 studios with different classes going 14 hours each day! (I can't wait to try Danceblast, Balletone, yoga, spin, and ballroom dance!)
- All-natural juice bar on-site
- It's not just a gym, but a community center where people come to take music classes, spend time together, etc.
- There are SCRIPTURES on the walls. Seriously.

I could go on and on... but let's just say, I'm not missing the PG Rec at all anymore. :) 

I went to work out there for the first time last week and it was so great. We had toured the facility on Monday night when I signed up for my pass, and we spent some time at the childcare center.  Evelyn had loved it then, so when I brought her back she couldn't get in there fast enough! She ran to the lady in charge (who had shown us around on Monday), and didn't even bother saying goodbye.

After my AWESOME workout, I went to pick her up and she was totally dirty and totally happy. She loved every second of it. Meg, the lady in charge, told me she had played for almost the whole 90 minutes outside (hence being sweaty and dirty), and was perfect the whole time.

I could have broken out in song I was so elated.

I can foresee many good times for Evie and I at the YMCA. The song is right. It is fun.

Evie's happy, dirty face after playing at the YMCA.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Me and the Missionaries

Something cool about living outside of Utah is that I have had a lot more interaction with the missionaries than I did back home.

Our ward has their own set of SISTER missionaries!  This means that the relief society sisters in the ward get to be even more involved! Going on splits, feeding them, etc.  It's exciting! We are the closest member family to their apartment, so if they need anything they call us first, pretty much.

One of our sister missionaries, Sister Johnson, injured her back a little over a week ago. I guess it was an old injury that she re-injured, but apparently it was very severe. She was in the ER weekend before last, and then has been pretty much flat on her back ever since then. This means that they need even more help than usual.  On Tuesday I was asked to take them to the chiropractor in the afternoon. I had already signed up to go out visiting with the un-injured sister (Sister Munafo), that evening so it wasn't a big deal at all.

Before going to the chiropractor, I took them to the post office to pick up a package, and while they were there, Sister Munafo dropped their cell phone in the parking lot. She didn't realize it until after we were at the chiropractor and by the time we got back there, it was gone.

I sent a text message to the phone, and a kindly gentleman had picked it up, and he gave us his address where we could come and get it.

I made some quick salads for dinner, and we dropped sister Johnson off at a ward member's house for the evening.  Sister Munafo and I went to visit Pete, the man who had picked up the phone. In the car, Sister Munafo told me that she was going to give this guy a Book of Mormon and see if he would visit with us.

He turned out to be a very nice older gentleman, and both he and his wife were very gracious. We did talk to him a little about the church, and left them with a Book of Mormon.  It was a good experience. 

Sister Munafo hadn't made any appointments because of the unpredictability of Sister Johnson's injury, so we just dropped by several investigator's houses, hoping to find someone at home. After trying three different places, we ended up visiting a very interesting woman named Lee.

I think Lee may have been part of a religious cult in the 70's... and she had a lot to say about religion in general. She was very warm and kind.. and like I said, had A LOT to say.  She also is a professional Colon Hygienist and has written several books about spiritual connections to colon cleansing. It was pretty...enlightening?  We left there with free copies of her books, and our heads pretty much spinning, but she did commit to read one chapter of the Book of Mormon, and she told us that she didn't have any problem believing that it was the word of god. She also told us that a TV evangelist was a prophet... so yeah.

Today I took them to Trader Joe's and the farmer's market for groceries. Thankfully, Sister Johnson's back is doing a lot better after a week of rest, so she was up for walking around quite a bit.  It was their p-day, so they took their time and enjoyed the day. They loved the farmer's market. They are such great girls. I really enjoy spending time with them.

On Wednesday they are coming over for dinner and then we are going out on splits again.

Hopefully there will be more interesting stories to come :)

Leafing through these has proven to be very entertaining.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Making Friends

I am sure that 99% of you know that I am Mormon.

I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  I believe in Jesus Christ and his teachings. I try to live my life in harmony with those teachings. I go to church every week and I pray and read every day. I love it.

When we decided to move to Tennessee, it was completely because we felt directed to do so by God.  We had absolutely no other reason to choose this place, and in fact we almost didn't.  We prayed and prayed and prayed...  And we knew that this would be the right place for us.

We moved here without knowing anyone.  The one person we knew here was moving away before we got here, and so I can say that right at the beginning we felt pretty friendless.

I am a social person. I thrive on social interaction. I need friends not only for fun, but also for my sanity.  It is just who I am and I have always been this way!  The first week here was a little hard for me, but then we went to church.

Our ward (congregation) here is wonderful!  I have made so many friends.  There are many many women in the ward that are in the exact same situation as I am, and they do things together several times per week.  They have welcomed me with open arms and helped me feel at home. I can honestly say that if it weren't for these incredible women, I think I would probably be in complete misery here. Feeling like I am a part of this wonderful group has made me feel like I belong here, and that this is truly my home now. I feel busy and fulfilled, and almost all of these opportunities to be involved directly relate to the Relief Society in my ward.  It is wonderful.

I am sure you will hear more about them in the future... since it is my whole social life. :)

I'll just leave it with this:  Heavenly Father is good. He knows exactly what we need and when we do as he directs, he blesses us abundantly. He knows how difficult it was for me to leave behind cherished friends and family, and he has given me even more people in my life to cherish.  He is good.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Choosing Vanderbilt

Nathan decided a couple of years ago that he would like to go to graduate school.  I come from a very education-centered family and have always been supportive of that.

Last fall when working his way through his final year at BYU it was finally time to start addressing that desire.  Nathan took the GRE and received a very good score.  We started hearing from schools, inviting him to apply and waiving application fees.  Three of these schools were Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, Notre Dame in Indiana, and Vanderbilt here in Nashville.  

We had never really considered going out of state for school.  Nathan had already started working in a research lab at BYU under a really wonderful professor, and we just assumed he would stay on there.  Then, one day Nathan came home from school and said, "What do you think about going out of state?"  He thought I would be totally against it (not sure why...), but my response was, "Sounds cool to me.. let's see what happens."

Nathan submitted his applications to those three schools, plus BYU just in case.  We heard back first from Rensselaer - no.  Then, we waited for months and months.. no word from anywhere!  During that time we both had a very special feeling about Notre Dame.  We decided that it was our first choice, and if we heard back from them with a yes, we were going. Second choice was BYU, and third choice was Vanderbilt. The reason being that we didn't know anything about Vandy, we knew it was pretty hard to get into and we didn't even think it was a real possibility.

We heard back from BYU with a yes, which was expected.  Then we heard back from Vanderbilt that we were on a waiting list.  We didn't want to bank our lives on a waiting list, so that was out.  Then, we heard back from Notre Dame with a no.  We were pretty surprised, and it caused us a lot of stress. Suddenly we had to reevaluate. We decided to wait until BYU's acceptance response deadline and if we hadn't heard back from Vanderbilt, then we were staying in Provo.

One week before the deadline, Nathan got an unexpected email from a professor here at Vanderbilt. She was interested in him, and wanted to talk to him on the phone.  They set up an interview on the phone for the following Monday, just days before the deadline.  The evening after speaking to him, she sent an email stating their intent to offer him acceptance with benefits. Vanderbilt is also a prestigious school, which could help Nathan later in his career, especially if he ever wanted to be a professor.

At this point, we didn't know what to do!  We were so conflicted.  We had been praying for months about getting into ANY graduate school, and now we were forced to make a choice in only a couple of days that would greatly affect our family in the long term.  Nathan sought the advice of his professors at BYU, who were very vague.  His research professor offered him a fellowship (additional money) if he stayed, and promised that he would be done in 4 years instead of the 5 at Vanderbilt.

It began to seem obvious that the greater benefit would be to stay at BYU.  I honestly felt quite let down that we were going to stay, but I was trying to be supportive of Nathan and his choices, and so I told him that if he felt we should stay, then we would stay.  It made logical sense... so let's do it.

After one day of having decided on BYU, Nathan sat me down and told me something wasn't right. He didn't feel like BYU was the right choice and he felt like the spirit was making him feel unsettled about it.  I told him, "Why don't we decide on Vanderbilt and see how that feels for 24 hours, compared to our BYU decision?" 

We knelt together in prayer and told Heavenly Father that we had decided on Vanderbilt, and asked Him to help us to feel peace if this was the right decision.  The difference in the way we felt over the next 24 hours was very significant. We both felt peaceful, and the next evening we sat down together, looked each other in they eyes, and said, "It's supposed to be Vanderbilt."

Nothing about coming to Vanderbilt made logical sense.  Yes, they offered us scholarships, benefits, stipends... but so did BYU.  We knew it would cost us thousands to relocate our family. We knew it would be inconvenient, hard, possibly isolated.. but we both knew it was what Heavenly Father wanted for us.  So we did it.

Here we are after A LOT of effort and money, and looking back I can already see the blessings unfolding for us.  We have only lived here a month. I can only dream of what wonderful things Heavenly Father has in store for us. He truly does take care of us.

Three nights ago, Nathan and I were talking about the path that lead us here to Tennessee.  He was lamenting that he never felt he had a good mentor in his education. Someone that had done it all before, was unbiased and could guide him where he should go and what he should do.  I reminded him that despite lacking such a physical figure, look where we are!  We have the ultimate mentor guiding us. By relying upon Heavenly Father, we have come all the way from the beginning of Nathan's college career at UVU to BYU to Vanderbilt, with really very few setbacks. He has blessed us and guided us in everything. He watches over us and if we listen carefully, he does tell us where to go.

That is the best kind of mentor you can have.

Evelyn Explores Vanderbilt Campus

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Falling in Love with Tennessee

Hello friends,

Wow, it has been quite a long time since I have written a blog post.. and even longer since I've posted consistently.

Things change, though, and I am finding myself again in a phase of my life where blogging seems possible & meaningful. For quite a while I was very busy and just couldn't really find the time to write. My life had also taken on a more steady, predictable nature and I found that I didn't really have much to say.  But here we are again in another (very different) chapter of life and I think I have quite a bit to say.

In this post I am not going to try and catch you up on every detail of what has occurred in the last year (but especially the last 3 months), but I will give you the basic details with plans to share more later.  We relocated our family from Pleasant Grove, Utah to Nashville, Tennessee at the end of July.  My husband Nathan was accepted at Vanderbilt University to do his PhD in electrical engineering. He started his first day of classes yesterday, and will be done in approximately five years. Yes, five years. I know, it's a long time.  He is taking a straight-to-PhD route from his bachelors, though, so that is why it will take a while.

Despite how long it is going to take, we are comfortable here and very happy. He has a full-tuition scholarship with a generous monthly living stipend, and they also cover his health insurance, so as far as money goes we are doing fine.  Well, at least as well as we were when I was working as a poor, underpaid high school teacher... which brings me to the next great thing.

I quit my job, and I am now a stay-at-home mom.  I am the happiest I think I have ever been. I was afraid I would miss the validation that I get from working, but I am finding validation in other ways.  I am happy and content. And I get to spend all day with my little hunny-bunny, Evelyn.

What I hope to do with this blog over the next while is to share my experiences here in Tennessee so that friends and family back home (and anyone else who cares to read it), can see how we are and what we are doing here.  I also have dreams of starting a healthy food blog, and for now I think I will just share my healthy recipes here and aspire to grow that project into it's own separate blog.

I plan to update frequently, so please check back for more interesting stories regularly.  I have posts in the works that include some pretty entertaining stuff... like colonics, hot chicken, Tomato festivals, 6-legged cows and so much more.

Love you all.

Our New Home

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 Product Review

A couple of weeks ago, an online optical store called contacted me about reviewing one of their products. They offered to send me one pair of glasses for free in exchange for an honest review of their product.  So, here it is!  Nothing like free stuff to make me feel a little bit famous! :) Global Online Optical Store

For the last few days, I have been sporting some new glasses.  I decided to get some that were a little more trendy than I usually do.  I like to think of them as my "sassy librarian" glasses. Anyone who knows me understands my love of all things retro, and these definitely fit in that category.

The glasses on are very inexpensive, which makes it a little easier to choose something a little more trendy.  The glasses that I chose are only $28! That price includes the cost of the prescription lenses and the frames!  Amazing! They also sell non-prescription glasses and sunglasses (prescription and nonprescription), too.  I was able to obtain my prescription from my eye doctor, and the website gives you very easy instructions on how to enter in your prescription if that is what you need.

The service was really really fast. I had my glasses in the same amount of time (about a week or so), as it usually takes to get your glasses at a local store like America's Best.  I couldn't believe how quickly they arrived!  They also came with a really nice hard case, a cleaning cloth, a soft sleeve case, and a key chain eyeglass repair kit.

As for the quality of the glasses, they are quite lightweight - which for someone like me is a very good thing. If I have anything too heavy on my head for very long I get yucky headaches. So far, these glasses have only given me a headache on the first day that I wore them, which is normal for me. Today I have been wearing them all day (about 12 hours), and no headache at all. I also noticed that the prescription is perfect and there wasn't any adjustment period where I felt like I was looking through distorted lenses.  That being said, they are not the most durable glasses I have owned. They feel like they might easily break because they are so lightweight. But, considering the price, I definitely think they are worth what you pay - if not a bit more.

So are you intrigued? Would you like to try them out for yourself?  You are in luck! You can try some glasses yourself for free!* This company offers a first free pair of glasses to everyone! Click on this link to lead you to the website where you can choose your own free glasses. I would definitely do it if I were you.

*You pay minimal shipping charges.

You can also check out my video review here: