About thejoyouspath

I am a soon-to-be first time mother. I am a writer and an adventurer in all things homemade, creative, educational, and thrifty.

On the Morning of My Ultrasound

When I was pregnant with my first, everyone I talked to was anxious to know what I was having. I had decided near the beginning of my pregnancy that no one outside of immediate family should know the gender of my baby  before the baby shower–lest I be showered with gender-specific clothes and not receive any of the essential items that I was hoping others would buy for me instead.

On the day of our mid-pregnancy ultrasound (about 19 weeks), my husband came with me and he held my hand. When we were asked if we wanted to know the gender of our baby, we adamently answered in unison, “Yes.” I was pleasantly surprised when the technician revealed that our Little Moore was actually a girl. Somehow, I had imagined that she was a boy and didn’t think I would have a girl until a subsequent pregnancy. Perhaps it was the lack of morning sickness that led me to think that it couldn’t have been a girl, but all of those thoughts faded with a smile when I realized that I would be the mother to a firstborn daughter. I had also prayed that God would allow me to have both genders as a mom, but especially that He wouldn’t give me all boys (there is nothing wrong with all boys, but I am totally the mom of a daughter!). As an excited mother-to-be, I had already picked out her name long before I knew who she would be: “Layne Blythe” or “The Joyous Path.”

Layne at 19 weeks in August 2012.

Layne at 19 weeks in August 2012.

 

Flash forward nearly two years to the day (today!) and I am going to another maternal/fetal medicine office to get a mid-pregnancy ultrasound. This time my husband is unable to get the time off of work to come with me, so my mom is coming to watch my daughter and offer support.

Before I became pregnant with this baby, I decided that I didn’t want to know the gender during my next pregnancy. There are so few surprises in adult life (and I am rarely surprised), and I want to know what it feels like to be able to meet my child for the very first time on the day of his or her birth. When Layne’s birth was disappointing (not Layne, but the birth itself), I vowed to do whatever I can to avoid another c-section in the future. I changed to a midwife who supports women who want a vaginal birth after caesarean, I started to revise my birth plan and I have prayed and prayed not to go through that experience again. However, I know that birth is its own animal. I can do everything right and still face a situation that is completely out of my control. I want to know that on the day of my son or daughter’s birth, if I am wheeled down the hall to undergo another painful surgery, that I have a surprise left to enjoy. I want my husband to be able to announce to the room and to the parents, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” I genuinely want to be surprised.

However, ultrasounds are a glimpse into the womb not afforded to my parents’ generation. It is like a movie trailer with the most interesting topic I have ever seen. It is like watching the future unfold inside me–a sneak peek into the rest of my life.

I desperately want to know if I am having a boy or a girl. I want to know that God is giving us a boy so that I will be assured that our family isn’t all girls. I want Caleb to have a little buddy to follow him around. I want a little man to dress in mini-man clothes and learn about all things boy.

I want my daughter to have a sister only two years younger than her so that they can share playmates, clothes and little league teams. I want another little girl to wear the hundreds of adorable girl outfits that I packed away with tears in my eyes as my daughter outgrew them. I want a “second daughter” much like I am the second daughter.

Short of twins (which I am not having), I will not get both of these with this pregnancy. God already has filled one of the above scenarios, and most likely it is way more in depth than I have summarize above. Knowing the outcome brings excitement, relief and months of planning. Not knowing, however, brings wonder, hope, and anticipation.

Today I may not find out the gender of my baby (unless it is unavoidable on the screen), but I will learn that my baby is healthy and growing according to schedule. This is all I can hope for as a mother. God has the rest all planned out.

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The Passage of Time is Bittersweet

The passage of time is so bittersweet.

Most mornings, my child sleeps in. If I can get my act together, I have the opportunity to spend an hour or so with a strong cup of coffee and my laptop–getting some of my “work-from-home” work done to the soundtrack of ocean waves on the baby monitor.

This morning, I decided to do something that I have been putting off for some time: backing up my photos from my iPhone to my computer so that I could execute the long awaited software update. Last time I had attempted this, I hadn’t chosen to delete any of the photos after transfer and had (SOMEHOW) managed to upload a bunch more from my computer to my phone. Needless to say, I had long run out of room on my phone for updates and videos.

I didn’t expect the simple transfer of photos to be an emotional endeavor. I suppose I should have known better with my hormones all out of whack, but I didn’t.

As the photos transferred from my phone to iPhoto, I saw nearly two years of my life fly by in pictures, in chronological order. It was glib, almost, to watch 1600 photos fly by my eyes. Occasionally, one would linger on the screen for ten seconds or more as if to ask, “Do you remember me?”

I did. I did so well it hurt.

I remembered the first time my daughter was placed in my arms when I was wheeled back to my hospital room.

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I remembered every little smile and frown she made for the first several months of her life as they passed by on my screen.

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I remembered taking her to my grandma’s house, and later to the hospital and rehabilitation centers as her time grew shorter and shorter with us.

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I remembered the joy on my daughter’s face as she jumped in her rainforest jumper for the first time and how enthralled she was with the fenced-in “play area” I made her when I started to babyproof the house.

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The bitterness is in the tears I shed, but the sweetness is what made them fall.

As I watched her teeth seemingly pop out of her gums as the pictures passed, I also realized the ways that I have grown as a mother in 19 months. I have picture proof of many ways I have grown and changed as a first time parent: learning the reason for her non-stop screaming in the first few months of my daughter’s life, examples of incorrect carseat usage and our switch from disposable diapers to cloth.

Nineteen months is merely a snapshot in the timeline of motherhood. It has passed too quickly, but every moment was cherished. I have never, ever wished for any life circumstance that would not have included these first 19 amazing months with Layne (first two screaming months and all).

The path to motherhood is joyous. But with the joy, comes tears.

A Spending Freeze. Why not?

penny photo

With Michigan in the midst of one of the snowiest and coldest winters that I can recall, my husband and I have decided to enact a spending freeze. Truthfully, the two have nothing in common besides pain and heartache…lost hopes and dreams….

Okay, so I am being a bit dramatic, but who wants to “enjoy” a spending freeze? I certainly would prefer to spend money at a store and look at my receipt to enjoy how much I have saved! However, with unexpected car repairs and a small mountain (or at least several tall hills) of debt in credit cards and loans, it is looking more and more responsible to just stop spending altogether.

What does this look like?

Well for starters, we aren’t going to stop paying our bills. This is the whole purpose of the freeze: to be able to cover our bills and whittle down our debt faster than otherwise.

No longer allowed are my wandering trips to Target, with glorious hauls of clearance treasures. When shopping for limited groceries, I am no longer permitted to visit the baby section at Meijer to peruse the discounted toys and clothing. No more spontaneous trips for coffee, ice cream or Sunday lunches after church (unless paid for with giftcards from Shopkick*). The freeze also stops our “I don’t feel like eating anything in this house, so what do you want to get for dinner?” nights (These are not as common, but definitely add up faster than anything else).

It isn’t all bad, though. Not spending ANYTHING would eventually prove to be counter-productive, as my stockpile of groceries can only carry us so far. Moderate grocery spending is okay, but I have stopped to think, “Do we really need this right now?” with everything before it hits the bottom of my cart. I also signed up for an every-other week delivery from Door to Door Organics** of fresh (and sometimes local) organic produce. The grocery stores around me (Meijer and Kroger) do carry various organic produce, but the selection is random and sometimes the quality is questionable. Although Door to Door Organics isn’t cheap, I can customize my order with up to five substitutions on the weekly list. This means that I get exactly what I want, for the recipes I plan to make with the ingredients I already have at home, and I don’t have to scour the produce sections of multiple stores to come up with that much healthy food. This, as a result, presents less opportunity for me to wander the other aisles of the stores in search of clearance items that we don’t need.

Kroger has been a godsend to us over the last several months, as they regularly reduce natural and organic items in their Nature’s Market section. Sometimes these items are marked down well before their “Use By” dates and other items can be frozen until we need them. The only problem, however, is that a trip through these aisles sometimes results in more items than we can truly afford. By not visiting them as often, I am positive that we will save money and only get just what we need, when we need it.

We are blessed.

We start this spending freeze with so much more to fall back on than most. Thanks to We have a freezer full of stockpiled venison, pork, and Costco-sized bags of organic green beans and corn. We have shelves full of canned applesauce, pearsauce, pickles, jams, apple and grape juices, salsa, and cinnamon pears from last fall. We are so blessed that it seems ridiculous to think about complaining, but it sure is easy when I am used to spending the little money we have.

For the next three weeks (to start), we will squelch the urge to spend in hopes of getting a bit further ahead this year.

I wonder if anyone else is taking on a similar challenge?

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

New International Version (NIV)

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

I would probably add:

“a time to spend and a time to save.”

*To sign up for shopkick with my referral link, click HERE.

**I do not make any money from you signing up for Door to Door Organics, but if you would like to get a 50% discount on your first box, please send me a message.

Redefining The Joyous Path

Layne's First Birthday Party

Layne’s First Birthday Party

To my few readers who have intermittently read my spaced-out posts, I apologize. I hardly would label myself a “blogger” in the traditional sense, but a writer through and through.

You see, while I wasn’t writing in this blog, I was learning. I was soaking up lesson after lesson in motherhood and tucking it away for…a rainy day? Perhaps. But with no rain in sight and with my daughter and I on day three of being home with no car, I find myself reunited with one of my first loves: the chronicling of this mom’s joyous path.

What is this joyous path? It is the growing collection of heartaches, triumphs, adventures and lessons learned since I day I discovered I was to become a mother.

And so, apologies aside, I would like to start where I left off with true determination and a better sense of organization. The blog opens again…

A City With Broken Down Walls

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A year and a half ago, I was working in children’s church while we studied an important lesson. It was January, and in the spirit of New Year’s Resolutions, we learned the following verse:

“A person without self-control is like a city with broken down walls.” -Proverbs 25:28

At the time, the verse stood out to me. My husband and I had decided to (try to) have our first baby that year. In order to make that happen, I would have to get my blood sugar under control and then keep it there for many months.

I was up for the challenge. We joined a local gym, I sourced an old elliptical machine from my local freecycle group and I carefully planned our meals to best accommodate my goals.
In a short time, I was successful. I had dropped about 4-5 pounds and had excellent blood sugar control. The first time that I saw my a1c at 5.1 I burst into tears. It was proof that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to with God’s help.

I was pregnant as of April (a little earlier than I had thought it would happen), but my doctors were supportive. Throughout my pregnancy, my blood sugar was uncharacteristically low. I found myself checking and re-checking until my fingers were calloused and sore. I took walks at every possible break while at work and would get on the elliptical machine for at least 10 minutes after dinner every night.

After Layne arrived, I was in a sleepy haze of feedings, dietary changes to accommodate her milk/soy protein intolerance, trying to keep my sanity….I stopped checking my blood sugar regularly because it wasn’t my focus anymore. Layne was my entire focus, every minute of every day.

Then last night, while feeling a little “off,” I decided to check my postprandial blood glucose (measurement of blood sugar 2 hours after the start of a meal). It was 186. I must have checked it 4 times, after washing my hands and testing the meter for accuracy. Humbling. My blood sugar should have been about 120 at that point.

I jumped on the elliptical machine again to bring it down before bed. I made a high-fiber, high protein breakfast this morning and I tested my glucose two hours afterward to find it in the normal range again.

When I don’t take care of myself, I leave my body much like a city without walls. I invite infection, disease, lethargy, weight gain, etc. into my life. I invite those ills into our family as well. It is not good to give my daughter everything now at the expense of her having me around as she grows up.

Much like I did a year and a half ago, I am placing my focus on rebuilding my walls. On having self-control with my diet. On being self-disciplined with my exercise.

Giving Up Doesn’t Mean Giving In: Discovering Motherhood Through Sacrifice

Proverbs 31:15a NIV

“She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family.”

It was a natural process–becoming a different version of myself with the birth of my first child. Getting up to rock and feed my baby at all hours of the night was not bothersome to me (even when it really should have been). Listening to her scream nearly every night for two months because of digestive issues became less annoying and more concerning as the weeks passed and I found myself gaining a patient spirit. My child could do no wrong because she didn’t know better; I became her advocate, her keeper and her comforter.

There were a few days, I admit, where my thoughts were consumed with all of the foods I couldn’t eat. Layne has MSPI, or a Milk/Soy Protein Intolerance. This means that (as her food source) I cannot consume any dairy or soy products. To fully understand the extent of this, you would need to pull everything out of your cabinets (including mixed seasonings) and fridge/freezer and then only put back the items that do not have any potential milk or soy ingredients. In case you are wondering how many products that really affects and don’t feel like tearing apart your kitchen, let’s just assume that 90% of processed foods (even organic ones) contain soy or milk derivatives or were manufactured on equipment that handles these ingredients. Other foods with milk & soy include some bakery breads, butter, cheeses, milk (obviously), non-stick spray, seasoning mixes, salad dressings, chocolate, yogurt, sour cream, tortillas, chicken and beef bullion, mayonnaise, most tunas (cut with soy!), hot dogs, anything fried at restaurants (in vegetable oil) and many lunch meats. That list is by no means complete!

After learning of Layne’s dietary limitations and cutting out these foods from my already limited diet, it took about 4-5 weeks for her to stop screaming. This was only after giving up coffee as well. The drain of those endless weeks could have left me without any steam at all. I could have chosen to focus on all of the negative things I was experiencing (and sometimes I did!), but God has continued to bring my focus back to what it means to be a mother.

Being a mother means that my life isn’t AT ALL about me anymore. My sole most important job for the rest of my life is take care of my children. On my birthday in February, Layne had probably her worst day of all. I spent most of the day praying for her to stop screaming. I cried a lot. I felt sorry for myself and opened my fridge an embarrassing amount of times to stare at its contents and sink further down the slippery slope of self-pity. By the time my husband came home from work, nothing could make me smile anymore. My head wasn’t where it needed to be to care best for my daughter and this realization made me feel even worse about myself.

By the time that evening hit, Layne’s screaming was so bad that I contacted her pediatrician to see if she thought maybe something worse was wrong with Layne and she would need to be seen. Flashbacks of seeing her hooked up the to the glucose drip in the hospital NICU and being poked and prodded made me dread the idea of taking her to the E.R., especially since I knew that it was possible that there was nothing more they could do for her and we couldn’t afford the bill either way.

After reassuring me that she didn’t believe Layne had any other underlying medical issue, the doctor suggested that I pick up a really expensive hypoallergenic formula and give it to her for the weekend to see how she would react. Retrospectively, I know that we never would have been able to afford the formula (it would run about $45 per 14 oz can), but at that moment, I was given the out I had been looking for. I didn’t realize it all along, but it almost felt that breastfeeding my child was expected of me. I had worked so hard to get Layne to latch in the beginning (it took about a month), only to find that my milk was hurting her. Then I sacrificed my comfort (my diet as I had known it) to try to fix the problem and was frustrated that nothing was changing! If I had a pro-breastfeeding doctor telling me that it was OKAY to give Layne formula because it would make her feel better, I had a really good excuse to take the easy way out.

I seriously considered the option for about 5 minutes. Then something inside of me emerged to the surface–a motherly instinct that had never shown itself so intensely as it did at that moment. No. NO. NO! There is no chance that giving my child man-made formula, even when offered by a doctor, could be a better solution than giving her what God intended when He created us with the ability to nurse our young. Something told me to hold out just a little longer and that Layne was going to be okay.

Three days later, after giving up coffee (revealed to me to possibly be another thing that was bothering Layne), she stopped screaming. She never screamed in pain like those first two months again.

At the heart of motherhood is the definition of sacrifice. To sacrifice means “to give up.” In my case, giving up didn’t mean giving in. It meant giving up focusing on me and my wants to put my child first. If I had given up breastfeeding that weekend and had tried the formula, Layne’s condition probably would have improved (just as it did only days later when I gave up coffee). I never would have learned the true definition of sacrifice and I would have lost the beautiful, sacred connection that I have with my daughter through breastfeeding.

In the end, it was really always up to me. But as a mother, we know that the choices we make really make themselves when we decide to put our children first.

Layne Blythe: The Birth of the Joyous Path

Sock Monkey

So what is JOY?

I have always associated the word “joy” with happiness. After all, it is hard to imagine anyone singing or talking about joy without being happy. Joy to the World is a happy song, right?

In my very short time as a mother, however, I have learned so much more about the true meaning of joy. Joy, in the biblical sense, is a feeling of purpose and fulfillment. Jesus’ disciples had true joy because they understood that their collective purpose was to spread the news about salvation to all people. When Jesus came to earth, the world received JOY because it now had purpose and its inhabitants could now find fulfillment in life.

My experience at the hospital was not a happy one. I was questioned repeatedly by nurses and doctors but my answers were disregarded. In fact, the birth plan that I took so much time to write and perfect was so far ignored that I shouldn’t have bothered. I was induced with a drug that I was hesitant to allow, I was told repeatedly that I had a “diagnosis” that I still don’t agree with, and I ended up having a ceserean section when my daughter couldn’t tolerate my contractions.

Following my delivery, the hospital staff once again disregarded my wishes to have my placenta encapsulation (despite a lengthy conversation with everyone WHILE I was in the operating room, half open) and someone threw it in a solution to go down to pathology. This ruined it. Upon returning to my room, I was hooked up to magnesium sulfate (without my consent) and I was not allowed to leave my bed or eat for 24 more hours.

That same afternoon, the nurses informed me that Layne had low blood glucose and that she would need to go to the NICU to be hooked up to a glucose drip. Of course, one of the reasons we liked this hospital was because they were adamant that nearly every newborn intervention could take place in the patient rooms, rather than down the hall in the NICU. Unfortunately, they were also in the process of cutting costs for staffing for the NICU, so it was temporarily relocated to the first floor (we were on the third).

When they came to take my baby, I was a mess. This wasn’t happiness. Women are supposed to feel accomplished and fulfilled after having a baby. I, on the other hand, felt a bit like I failed. Nothing was going right, I was exhausted, and I had now failed one more time by not being able to keep my baby from having to go away to get additional help. I told my baby that I loved her and watched them wheel her away from me while I sobbed. That night, my husband and I used FaceTime on our phones so that he could go visit her and feed her while I watched. I tried to be strong but tears just kept running down my cheeks. She was crying when he got there. I could do nothing about it.

My spirits lifted slightly the next morning, when I was allowed to get out of bed. My one last wish was for my baby to be breastfed. I was so determined to give her anything I could that I would pump constantly, even when nothing came out after 15 minutes. If I did manage to get some colostrum, I would proudly carry it with me in a syringe while my husband wheeled me downstairs to feed it to her. It became a routine for us to check her temperature, change her, have the nurse check her glucose, and then allow me to try to breastfeed with no success. We would then give her formula. The formula was necessary for her health, but it just felt like another slap in the face.

We would feed Layne every three hours. This meant that my husband would wheel me downstairs, we would do the above-mentioned routine (which took about an hour) and then I was supposed to go upstairs and rest. That “rest” time was usually spent having nurses and doctors check on me for a variety of medical and non-medical reasons. I developed anxiety about not waking up in time for her feedings so I wouldn’t sleep. For the duration of my stay in the hospital, I got about 5-6 hours of sleep (total). I was berated by the nurses for this as well.

Layne did make it out of the NICU in time to spend our last night in the hospital together. We left the following day in a whirlwind of confusion as our checkout day was misquoted, but I was very pleased to be leaving the hospital for good.

Nine months of planning and all of it (save my beautiful daughter) was destroyed in a few hours. I was too tired to be sad at the time and my body knew that I needed to keep moving to care for this new life. It took about a week to process the experience I had in the hospital and to start to grieve for what I lost. It was the moment when my world stopped spinning so fast after the holidays and I had my daughter in my lap staring up at me that it finally sunk in: I am inadequate as a human being and as a parent. My daughter has no idea how she got here but she thinks the world of me and that should be enough.

As time is passing along, I am weepy about all sorts of things….lack of sleep…..the rate that my daughter is growing…..the continued struggle (although almost success at this point) to get my daughter to breastfeed with no aids…..

But JOY is the one thing holding me together. Purpose. Fulfillment. Being a mother to an adorable baby with chubby cheeks who doesn’t see me as a failure or a diabetic patient with a host of made-up medical issues. To her, I am just Mom.

And this Joyous Path will continue to guide me through the grieving.

“Consider it pure joy [purpose, fulfillment] , my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2