Wednesday, November 22, 2017

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Warmest Thanksgiving Wishes

'Tis the day before Thanksgiving, and I want to wish y'all the very best of holidays. Whether you're going to be with family, or making your own traditions, or serving at a homeless shelter, I wish you a very wonderful day of giving thanks to God and enjoying your loved ones. For those of you grieving during the holidays, you're not alone. May God give you peace.

God's love endures forever, not matter what. Let's thank Him! I'm thankful for many things, but here are some on the top of the list:

--my wonderful husband, who inspires me, protects me, cherishes me, encourages me, and helps my walk with the Lord.
--my family, from my grandparents to my parents to my siblings. I love them all so much. Their support and love mean the world.
--my church and all the blessings that come from being apart of the body of Christ.
--friends who love, exhort, encourage, and care.
--my doggies. My boys. My obedient, tenderhearted little Licorice and my naughty, fun loving little Pumpkin, who both keep me so busy.
--my baby Grace, whom I love so dearly and cannot wait to meet in heaven.
--the Chattanooga Rescue mission, the wonderful ministry we are so blessed to be apart of.
--all of you readers who enjoy my books and my blog. I couldn't do it without you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

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And Love Goes On

I don't know how to even start. 

Several years ago, my friend Erynn went through a terrible loss. I remember appreciating her transparency, her realness during the time. I remember being grateful that she put her story on her blog so we could pray. During this last week, I've looked back on her story and been even more grateful that I had her story to refer to. 

Now I want to do the same. It hurts to share our story and it hurts to be real. There is a hole in my heart--in our hearts--that will never heal. But I'm fine with that. I'm okay with realizing that we'll never be the same. 

Samuel and I believe that every life is precious. We believe that life begins at conception and that a child is a child no matter how small. When we shared our news on our blog and with everyone we know and love, we wanted to give you a chance to love our baby too. I'm glad we did. I'm glad y'all got to know our little baby in just a tiny way before it was time to say goodbye.

Last Saturday, I remember feeling a strong urge for Samuel to just put his hand on my tummy. I don't know why. He did. And it was the last time we both got to experience that beautiful moment when the father of a baby places his hand on the place she's nestled in.

Sunday the 29th started like any other Sunday, except, if possible, crazier than ever. We picked up the shelter guests from the rescue mission, took them to early service, I played the piano, we sang in the choir and I played the offertory for the second service, then I taught Children's Church--all the while feeling very sick and pregnant. But by the time I got home, I was bleeding. 

It's a very normal part of pregnancy for many women. I knew that. But I knew it wasn't for me. That night, while Samuel was at work, I knew my baby had died. I don't know how I knew. It was the most awful feeling in the world to be alone and know that the little life I wanted more than anything was gone and I couldn't stop it or save it.

I had done everything right. I had taken my prenatal vitamins for three months before conception. I had cut back on caffeine. I was eating protein. I was drinking orange juice and cut out essential oils and strenuous exercise. I had done everything right. We had prayed over the baby. We wanted that baby so bad. But I knew Sunday evening that she was gone.

Getting into a doctor was a challenge and yet so much easier than it could have been.

I had not had my first prenatal visit yet. We literally walked into the OB-GYN office of Erlanger hospital and requested an emergency ultrasound. Within 2 hours, they had established me as a new patient, confirmed my pregnancy, and got me an ultrasound. 

The tech left after my ultrasound and came back with two doctors and some nurses. I had two more ultrasounds and the doctor confirmed that my baby was dead. It was nothing I already didn't know, but I was not prepared to be told that I needed surgery. In total, three doctors looked at me and said that my lining was three times thicker than it needed to be. They said I was full of big blood clots, some the size of the pregnancy sack. They said that my body was not likely to go into labor for at least a month--if not longer--and was not likely to expel everything. And that I was likely to hemorrhage if the process started naturally. And, even then, my body might not finish the job and fully recognize the loss of my baby. 

It was really scary for me to realize I had such huge blood clots and that there were abnormalities that are not usually in a 8 week pregnancy. I knew that DNCs were something that were normally not done until 10-12+ weeks and for them to detect so much tissue that should not have been there was unnerving. They had no answers for the stabbing pain I've had or why my lining was three times too thick. 

And, so, another doctor visit later (one that included a LOT of blood being taken and my passing out), my surgery was scheduled for Friday.

I'm not going to even pretend that the DNC was easy. Frankly, it was the scariest, most painful thing I've ever experienced. It was scheduled for 1:30 PM; I showed up at 10:30 AM after experiencing the confusion of hospital valet parking and trying to figure out where the surgical services even was. 

After almost three hours of waiting, they got me in and took me back for surgery. About then, the computers went down. They told Samuel I was in surgery when, in reality, I was waiting alone in a very cold pre-op room. I waited there for two hours, alone, no glasses, no phone, no Bible.

Nothing but waiting for them to take my little baby away. 

Samuel told me later that he was panicking because my surgery was supposed to take less than an hour. They took me away before 1:30 and I did not get back from surgery until 6:00. 

The doctors, nurses, surgeon...everybody was so sweet, so professional, so kind. They took my family history seriously and even prepared me with a blood band to be ready to do an emergency transfusion and had all the medicines ready to go--something they don't do with every patient. But the DNC was still the most painful thing I've ever endured.

Two of my friends who had DNCs experienced no pain. But my body didn't respond that way. However, some of my friends who have had abortions have described their pain as being out of this world and, as the two procedures are similar, I was not completely unprepared for it. I woke up to the worst pain I've ever felt and they ended up giving me morphine. I normally do well with pain, but not then. I think the combination of having never delivered a baby, my cervix not being ready, and the anesthesia all played a part in why it hurt so bad. I don't know. I do remember thinking back that I would never have wished that kind of pain on even my worst enemy. Not on anyone.

I'm thankful to Samuel's friend and boss for coming to sit with him. It meant a lot. 

I don't know what the physical recovery is supposed to feel like, but I suppose it's been normal. High emotions, crashing hormones, dizziness, pain, the feeling of everything moving around inside me as if it's going back to normal, headaches, disorientation. From everything I've read, it feels like I'm recovering well. 

I know this all seems so matter of fact. But there are no words -- even for a writer -- to explain what last week felt like and what we feel like now. Words have dried up. There is no way to eloquently explain gritty things like surgery, what it feels like to carry a dead baby for days, or physical pain. There is no way to explain a loss like that of someone you loved with all your heart but never got to meet.

I saw a drawing of a woman with a hole through her body. That's what it feels like. 

There were so many dreams centered around our little baby. We were planning a nursery. I already had a few baby gifts. There were so many prayers, so many wishes, so much love. 

It kills me to wonder if she had pain. That she died and I didn't even know. That it might have been my body that rejected hers. That we had to say goodbye before we even got to say hello. 

When we came home from the first ultrasound, God spoke clearly to my heart that my baby was a girl and that her name was Grace. That wasn't the name we had picked out for her. But it was the name God wanted her to have. 

My pregnancy verse had been Psalm 84:11-- "The Lord God will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." Grace fits in with that. But it's so hard to explain the rest. It's so easy for me to believe the lie that God snatched my baby away from me because I somehow wasn't "upright" enough. That it's somehow my fault. It's taken a lot of prayer for me to realize that Grace was still God's blessing and His best for us. I believe in my heart that Grace is a blessing--that God did not withhold a blessing, but, rather, that He gave us one.

It's just a blessing that's waiting for us in heaven.

I've never been mad at God before, but I was in the days before the surgery. I know four months is not a long time to try for a baby, but it felt like an eternity to me. And then I carried Grace for two months before losing her. I really struggled with wondering why God would let me get pregnant only to take my baby away again. At first, I was convinced that I'd rather not have gotten pregnant at all.

The surgery was rough because I didn't feel that God would protect me. I honestly didn't feel that I would even wake up. None of the Scriptures I turned to comforted me. There was zero peace, zero comfort  before the surgery. It was the strangest thing for me. I am normally so close to Him, so able to hear His voice.  But in this case, I almost felt as if He wanted me to rely on the faith I knew to be true rather than the faith I could feel.

When I woke up from the surgery, I felt peace. I was in horrible pain, but that was the first time I felt peace. It was as if God wanted me to trust Him when I could feel no comfort, feel no assurance. 

For some reason, it changed everything.

Not that it's been any easier. I cry every single day and I probably will for the next year...or ten. I cry every night at bed and wake up every morning "holding" a baby that isn't there. I can't look at babies in the store or at church, and I'm torn between feeling so happy for my 6 friends who are all due around the time I was and feeling so broken that my baby is gone. There are no words to describe loving someone so much and knowing you will never see them on this side of heaven. 

A miscarriage is not just a loss of a baby you never met. It's the loss of all the hopes, dreams, wishes you had for that baby. It's the loss of every single birthday party, every smile, the first lost tooth, reading books together, every moment of life. For me, it's even a loss of direction in my life, since so many of my plans for myself were centered around the little life I expected to join us.

But I'm grateful now. 

I'm very grateful to be a mother. I'm very grateful to have a child. Even with all this horrible pain, I would not go back and wish that I had never gotten pregnant. Not any more. I'm glad I did now. I'm a mommy. Samuel is a daddy. And we got to love a little life that we created more than anyone will ever know. We still love her and always will. We are parents and we have a child. She's just waiting for us, that is all. 

People talk a lot about the love of a mother for her child. Not a whole lot of people talk about the love of a parent who has to give her baby back. It's a very special kind of love that cherishes someone you've never met and can never touch, never hold.

Love hurts. It always has and always will. That's why there is so much selfishness in relationships. People are afraid to get too close. They're afraid to love because they might get hurt. But you miss out on so much when you guard your heart against loving. It hurts us so much the more because we loved her so much, but it also comforts us to much to know that she never knew anything but unconditional love. 

Not only that, but she never knew the pain of this world. It may have been the best gift anyone could give a child--to see Jesus and heaven first and bypass all the suffering the rest of us have to go through. Not that I would have chosen that. I wasn't exactly jumping up and down to volunteer for this pain. But it does help that, for some reason, God wanted to spare her from life down here. I'm not sure why God needed her more than me, but it's definitely true that heaven is sweeter for her being there.

Today I pictured my Aunt Lydia and my Papa Sam holding her. I'm pretty sure Aunt Lydia was first in line to hold her. She would have wanted to be. This is my Papa Sam's first great grandbaby to make it to heaven. He loved me so much--I know he is loving my baby too. And Grace is probably playing with all my brothers and sisters who are in heaven. 

I'm not going to pretend that I don't struggle or won't in the future. Grateful as I am for the blessing of carrying Grace and just for the time we had with her, I do struggle. The media stories of parents killing their children, the abortions, the girls who get pregnant with children they don't want and can't provide for, the mothers screaming at their kids in Walmart... A lot seems very unfair and will probably always feel very unfair to me. I feel like God has enabled me to still be happy for my expecting friends, but I occasionally do feel singled out for a trial I can't handle.

I struggle with the comments about how we can get pregnant and have another one -- as if another one will ever replace our firstborn child and the unique, beautiful, special person she was. I struggle with wondering if I will ever get pregnant again and, if I do, if I will lose that one too. I struggle with the hospital bill that seems so high and so unfair when it was all for a dead baby. I struggle with the empty room that was going to be a nursery, but realistically may not be filled for at least another year. I struggle with my heart telling me that I'm a failure when I still KNOW that it wasn't my fault.

We're going to struggle for a long time. 

I say all this because it will help someone someday.

It will. 

We can't allow our trials to encourage someone if we refuse to be real about them. And I know that one day, somewhere, a grieving mother is going to read this blog and be encouraged to know that she is not alone. Maybe someone else will read this and get a glimpse into the pain and be better equipped to be a comforter. 

I've had SO many friends be there for me. Our church provided meals (oh my goodness, churches, do this for friends who miscarry. You'll never know what a blessing it is.) We've received such sweet cards, flowers, and words from people who loved our baby. I've had friends text me all during this, praying for me and encouraging me as I went into surgery and checking in on me during the moments I needed it most. Some of these friends I've never even met, but they cried for me and felt my loss. You know who you are.

Friends, I'll be there for you too. I know someone is going to read our story and need to talk. We're here. Everyone's loss is different, everyone's pain is unique. We won't pretend to say that it all feels the same to everyone. If it comforts you to talk about the past or the present, share your story on this blog (or in a private message.) Tell us your baby's name. Not everyone is willing to talk about their baby because it hurts so bad, but if you care to share your story or anything at all, feel free to share. It may comfort someone else someday. I know the stories I've heard have helped me. It really does help to know that other women understand this pain, other men have cried and been brokenhearted over the loss of their baby, other babies have beautiful names. Some people have never had the opportunity to talk about their baby. They're holding in a lot of hurt because they don't feel that anyone ever cared. We do. God does. And you can share it if you want to.

Pray for us. We're praying that God lets us see the beauty out of the ashes one day. 

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Friday, October 27, 2017

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I am an The Honest Company affiliate. My links are affiliate links. While I am paid per purchase you make, I 100% stand behind their products and would not endorse a product I have not already tried and LOVED myself. Thank you for supporting this blog with your purchases. The Honest Company does not endorse or provide the product for this giveaway. It is my own giveaway, given at my own expense. 

Hey, y'all. In honor of me becoming an affiliate of The Honest Company, I am hosting a giveaway! 

If you've read any of my reviews, you'll know that I love their soap. It's very soothing, very long lasting (2-3 months of daily use), and the scent doesn't disappear after a use or two like some all natural soaps. It's a solid, triple milled bar. 

Click on the image if you want to learn more about the soap's ingredients and read reviews.

To Enter:

1. Comment which Honest Company product you'd love to try! (Mandatory entry.) Earn +1 point!

Additional entries:

2. Share this blog post on social media. Comment where your shared it and earn +2 points!

3. Ask a question about a product and earn +2 points.

4. Purchase any product through my links and earn +20 points. Comment stating you have done so.

5. Purchase any bundle plan through my links and earn +50 points. Comment stating you have done so. (Click on either of the following images to learn more.)

Extra $20 Off Your First Month's Diapers & Wipes Bundle at The Honest Company!

Best of luck! Happy entering! 

Giveaway ends November 3rd. Winner announced November 4th. Giveaway open to upper 48 USA residents only.
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Hey! Welcome to The Honest Company!

I am an The Honest Company affiliate. My links are affiliate links. While I am paid per purchase you make, I 100% stand behind their products and would not endorse a product I have not already tried and LOVED myself. Thank you for supporting this blog with your purchases.

Y'all! I applied and was accepted as an Honest Company affiliate! I am pretty excited. I've really fallen in love with their products and am super excited about sharing my findings with you. 

If you have not already, check out my review of MY FIRST BUNDLE. This review was written before I became an affiliate.

I'll be sharing special promotions, doing product reviews, and passing on all the deals they let me know about! Here is the first one:

Take 40% Off Your First Bundle and Free Shipping from The Honest Company is extended!! Use code: 40OFF Valid 10/16-10/24. 

Thank you! 

The Honest Company Affiliate Team

I recommend bundling. You save 35% and you can mix-and-match products. I get the Essentials Bundle, where I can mix-and-match hair, body, laundry, cleaning, and soap products. 

Not sure what to get? You can check out my review for a few ideas! 

In the mean time, I'll leave you with just a few of my favorite products for an idea. Click on the image to be taken to the product page on The Honest Company's website.

I love their bar soap! At first, I freaked out at $5 a bar, but then I got to see first hand how the bar lasts 3-4 MONTHS. And my hubby and I shower every day, if not multiple times a day (don't judge.) That soap LASTS. It's triple milled and it's SO gentle on my very finicky, auto-immune disease plagued skin. 

I cannot say enough about how much I LOVE this body oil! I have been using it on my legs every day after I shave and my legs are SO soft. I love how it's non greasy and absorbs quickly. Who wants to have greasy pajamas?! It's soothing, moisturizing, and non greasy. I'll be definitely using this on our baby! (And hubby and I already use it on each other for massages. It's great as a carrier oil for a drop or two of peppermint oil... Wink, wink!)

That's all I have to share with y'all today, folks! I recommend you read my reviews, head over to their website, and figure out what you want for your family! See yah around! And don't forget...

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Friday, October 13, 2017

My Review of The Honest Company

This post was written before I became an affiliate. I am now an affiliate; however, these links are not affiliate links. My opinions are my own and I am not paid to leave positive reviews.

A short while ago, I purchased my first Honest Company Bundle. Today, I'm reviewing my purchases for all of y'all who have been interested in signing up or purchasing some of their products. I'm not an affiliate, but I'm definitely a proponent of all-natural, gentle products.

I'm not exactly what some people call a "crunchy mama." I go all-natural where I can and when it's doable and not a strain on our budget. I have a lot of auto-immune problems that have been really eased by the Lord leading me to certain things like high quality essential oils, all-natural cleaning supplies, and a few all-natural skin care supplies. 

When we were first married, I could only afford dollar store cleaning supplies. SO, that is what I used. One year later and the stuff gave me horrible headaches and just became too much. I guess my system had enough. So six months ago, I switched to 99% all-natural. (Yeah, I still use bleach sometimes. But other than that, we're all-natural.)

I've been using Grove and highly recommend them, but you cannot get Honest Co products through them. So I took the plunge and got my first Essentials Bundle. 

My first bundle included the following:

Essentials Bundle

Laundry Detergent
Organic Body Oil
Bar Soap - Tangerine Vanilla
Lemongrass Hand Sanitizer Gel 2 Pack
Shampoo + Body Wash - Perfectly Gentle

I was impressed by all of the products, which is actually saying a lot. I struggle with a lot of all-natural companies, including big names like Burts Bees and Tom's. Their products literally eat my skin, cause rashes, and even make me go numb. So, I don't just buy from any company that is considered natural and I'm definitely a skeptic until a company proves themselves to me.

After all, natural does not always mean safe, gentle, or even for everybody. We all know what works for us as individuals.

With all that said, all of the products I received in my first bundle worked for me. 

Free and Clear Laundry Detergent

The Honest Co also has a baby detergent, but I can't imagine anything being gentler than this! Our clothes clean out fresh, clean, and odor free--even harsh sweat odors were gone. There was no lingering scent of detergent, however. If you are wanting your clothes to come out smelling strong, this is not for you. I personally am happy with the light scent. I hate it when I can smell the brand of someone's detergent when I just walk by them. (Hah, I could tell what brand folks used just by walking by their door at the apartments after they'd done wash. I have a strong sense of smell, folks.)

It's 70 loads for $12.99 if you buy individually. Or, you can bundle and save 35%. I've also seen it for $9 at Marshalls and TJ Maxx, but you may or may not want to run all over town to save $3--especially when there is no guarantee you'll find it there. I'd rather bundle and save. Online shopping is really becoming my thing.

Organic Body Oil

Oh my word, this gets my rave review. Really. You know how some oils are just so slippery and don't absorb and leave you feeling greasy for hours? I was so impressed by this oil!!! I've used it consistently for a month now and the bottle is still 3/4 full. A little goes a long way, yet it absorbs super quickly and gives lasting moisture all day long. My legs are SO soft now that I use it after I shave. I've also used it as a carrier oil for my essential oils, and hubby and I have taken turns giving each other back massages with it (yeah, we're both super into massage!) I just love that it's non greasy and child safe. If my baby ends up having some of the dry skin problems that run in my side of the family, I'm definitely turning to this oil.

Tangerine Vanilla Bar Soap

Soap is soap, right? Well, yes, but then there's all-natural soap. Most homemade or all-natural soap that I've tried just melts away into nothing within a few showers. It's super frustrating when you've paid good money for a bar of soap and it's the size of a nickel after you blink. 

I've used this soap for a month now and I take 1-2 showers a day. It's only about 3/4 gone and smells amazing. The bar is still plenty of big. Apparently, it's triple milled and cold pressed for a bar that lasts forever, but still has lather and still smells good. It's soft and gentle. $5 seems a lot for one bar of soap, but a bar that lasts 2-3 months seems pretty good to me. Sometimes it pays to buy something that will lasts a little longer and has higher quality.

One thing to note: the tangerine vanilla bar has clary sage essential oil in it. I was delighted when I first saw this because I have used clary sage for hormonal support in the past and it works amazingly well! But there is some caution about using clary sage during pregnancy. I don't think the small amount in a bar of soap can do anyone any harm, but it's worth mentioning.

Hand Sanitizer Gel (Lemongrass)

I was happy about this. It came in a two-pack, and I have one in my bathroom and one in my kitchen. I wash my hands a million times a day and sometimes want hand sanitizer to cut back on the amount of washing/drying. This is nothing to write home about other than it's an all-natural hand sanitizer. 

Shampoo + Body Wash (Sweet Orange Vanilla)

This is a dual purpose shower product--shampoo + body wash. I was happy with it for the shampoo purpose, not necessarily the body wash. I needed a good clarifying shampoo thanks to southern humidity and this fit the bill perfectly. It is gentle, but got the job done as far as removing product build up. I like the light scent. 

Now, for those of you who like a good lather, this shampoo has very, very little lather. That actually makes me happy, because lather in a shampoo is just an agent that can actually dry your hair out and add build up. Good shampoos don't generally lather up very much. So it makes me happy because I know that bubbles don't = clean. 

Glass and Window Cleaner

I added to my bundle ('cause you get another percentage off) and purchased some glass cleaner for my mirrors. It worked well. I can't say it's any better than Method or Mrs. Meyers (all of which work very well), but I did LOVE the spray pump. It's definitely the best pump I've seen on an all-natural product.

So there is my review of The Honest Company Essentials Bundle. You can follow my link if you sign up to save me $20 on my next order--and then you can share your own link with your friends and family to save you money!

I am looking forward to trying more products next month! I hope to try their detangling conditioner and all-purpose balm. Who knows? We may end up using their diapers and baby products too. ;)

Have you tried The Honest Company? If so, what were your thoughts? Are you likely to to try them?

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In Case You Missed It...

A wee little pumpkin pie is in the oven. :)

We're not very far alone, but we wanted to announce our news so y'all can be praying for us. Please pray for the health of our little one and that God grants us a wonderfully healthy, happy baby!

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