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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Mom of the Month - Amanda Pooler

I'm so happy ending 2016 with this super December Mom of the Month, Amanda Pooler! She has been through a miscarriage and learned some great advice to new moms. LOVE her advice! She seems so real and down to earth in love with being a mother. Hard working, doing what is important for her ADORABLE son, I'm happy to recognize her this month.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Amanda!

Images shared from Amanda Pooler

1. Describe your children in 3-5 words. How did you choose their names?
My son is curious, content and so happy. His name is Braden Oscar. We chose his name one day while driving in the car. We knew all along Oscar would be his middle name after my dad's middle name --- but Braden was just something my husband suggested and instantly I loved it!
2. How old are your children? How did you tell people you were expecting a baby? My son is 10.5 months old! We didn't do a big announcement with our families. Unfortunately our first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage and we had done a big announcement with them. So we were a little more guarded with this pregnancy until we heard the heartbeat! We did a very fun Facebook announcement!!
3. How would you describe your pregnancies? How was delivery, birth and labor for you? I had a very healthy pregnancy! I even went on a big vacation around 6m pregnant. We went to California and did every tourist attraction. I even enjoyed Disney in 102 degree weather!!
My birth story is a very adventurous one! My water broke at 35 weeks. Unfortunately my labor didn't progress naturally and I needed pitocin. My body just didn't progress like I wish it would have. After an epidural and medication to help soften my cervix I finally began progressing after about 24 hours of strong back labor. I was stuck at 9cm for about 4 hours and had to be rushed in for an emergency c-section after 38 hours! Braden had some trouble breathing and we spent about 10 days in the hospital together. But I would re-live every single second all over again and am so incredibly blessed to have him.

4. Describe yourself as a mom in 3-5 words. 
Amazed by him every day.
5. What type of mom do you hope your children think you were someday when they're old enough to tell you? 
I want to be the mom they know believed in them, supported them and encouraged them. I want him to know my love for him is beyond measure. I just hope he knows that I think he is incredible and capable of anything!
6. What things have you done as a mom that you're most proud of? Gave birth! Haha. It was hard and an amazing experience. Also just being capable of such a deep and unconditional love.
7. What have been the most difficult parts to being a mom? Going back to work. I miss him every minute I'm away. I stayed home with him for 8 months, but had to return to work. I know it's what's best for our family but I hate being away.
8. What is your favorite baby/child product(s) that makes your mom job easier? Rock and Play! Because Braden hated being swaddled, it was really helpful for sleeping. Also, baby carriers and/or wraps. I love having him close to me and even now at 10 months he still loves being carried around!
9. What advice about being a mom would you give to a brand new mother? 
You are amazing. You are capable and don't doubt yourself. Being a mom is hard, but that's what makes it so worth it. But don't forget to fill your own cup. Read a book, get a manicure or even just put a spa mask on your face at night. You can't fill others cups if yours is empty.

10. What is a typical day like for you?
Up at 4:30am. Get ready for work and get Braden ready for "school". My husband and I ride into work together. I drop him off, drop Braden off. Park for work and walk about 20 minutes in! It's a great time of my day. I get to enjoy a hot coffee and a brisk walk because working out is hard these days. I work as a chemist at a naval shipyard. Then my husband picks me up at work after picking up Braden. We get home. Eat. Play. Bed! All of us. Haha.
11. What 5 things would you like to do with your kids someday, if anything were possible and money no object? Disney. Take a ride in a hot air balloon. Buy a camper and explore lots of amazing, beautiful places. Fenway Park. Go on a tropical vacation.
12. What are your favorite things to do in December or holiday traditions? How do you spend the holidays? I am really embracing starting our own traditions as a little family. We have started doing new activities this year. But I love getting a fresh Christmas tree and decorating my home. Braden loves all the lights and excitement -- so we are trying to let him experience as much of that as possible. We went to LL Bean and it was incredible. I want to embrace family and time together. Gifts are lovely, but I want my son to remember fun times and memories he spent with his family. That's what's important.
13. Tell us a time where you felt like you failed at parenting... but then realized you truly had not failed, things worked out fine. Going back to work. I thought at first I somehow would be failing him. Some days I still feel like I am. But when he gets so excited to see me after work. I remember he is ok. He is growing and learning so much at his care facility and I am lucky we have found a place we like.
14. What makes you a strong mom?
Love. That little guy makes me strong. I'd do anything for him. But my husband helps make me strong too! He is so incredibly supportive and such an awesome dad. We help each other.
15. Anything else you want to add? Becoming a mom is the best gift life has ever given me. I knew I would love my son. But I never imagined that having him would give me purpose. It has made me love my own parents stronger, love my husband deeper and make sure I take better care of me. My love for him is all encompassing. I am so excited for the journey ahead and can't wait to see and experience it all.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

very much in motherhood

I stopped in to see some coworkers recently, and one asked if I was ready to return to work in a few weeks. I nicely said, "not so much," with a smile and then mentioned some positivity about how it'd be just fine but tough, too, returning to work after a long but SO not long enough maternity leave. She responded with that I look so happy in my pictures that I post, that I seem to be really enjoying my time home with my baby.

She said, "you're just very much in motherhood right now…" explaining how hard that is to leave and return to work, and it stuck with me all day long.

I kept coming back to that phrase, that I'm just very much IN motherhood right now. And isn't that a wonderful feeling? And yet it's so overwhelming also. 

I'm in it. Fully enthralled with motherhood and all it has to offer. I'm soaking it all in, taking it in moment by moment, even as it's fleeting by me way too fast.

All that I think about and do is focused on being a good mother right now. It's based on making sure my kids have everything they need, and a piece of my heart along with them as they head on their own adventures and growth spurts. 

I'm covered in spit up and wearing nursing tanks. I am washing bottles and pumping and measuring out ounces of breastmilk, along with trying to recall which side he last nursed on during the previous feeding. Sometimes I forget what my kids' birthdays are, it takes me a second to remember because my brain is so full right now with a zillion little details of their lives.

I'm making sure the basketball shirt is washed and put into the drawstring bag so he can change into it after school, and that she has the exact color tights she needs for the ballet performance. I'm reminding myself to change their bed sheets, and picking up extra bath soap at the store because we ran out again. I'm RSVPing to the birthday party and picking up another Christmas gift for preschool teachers.

I'm taking inventory of the snack drawer and making a list on my phone for the next Target run I'll enjoy by myself with a sleeping baby instead of rushing after work and before big kid pickup time. I'm cleaning out my son's first grade backpack, loving every little piece of artwork that comes home, listening to every word he reads to me in the mornings when we're doing the homework totally last minute but at least we're doing it. I'm marking on the white board which day is pajama day for him and then which day she has preschool show n' tell so that we don't forget to bring a stuffed animal or doll to share.

I'm forgetting things… oh man, do I even have a brain some days? There's just no way to remember it all. And I'm forgiving myself for those mistakes, because as many of them that there are, I KNOW there are way more things I DID do. I show up every day ready to be their mother, regardless of how hard the day before actually was.

I'm holding him up long enough to get a second burp out. I'm trying to remember to shower every day because it wakes me up a bit, and yet I'm down for the count at nap time every afternoon because I can't focus without that rest time. I'm taking pictures, posting thoughts and scrolling Facebook like it's my job, as I sit and feed a growing baby a zillion times a day. I make myself sit and rest and take a moment, because these times will go by way too fast and I know this to be true.

Sometimes I'm cleaning the bathroom, other times I'm ignoring the cobwebs and dust bunnies and rugs that need vacuuming. I'm picking up takeout and divvying it out in the car because I'm driving to practice and rehearsal and everything in between. Other nights I'm making something quick for dinner on the stove because the baby is napping OK this evening.

I am very much in motherhood. I'm so in it that sometimes I wonder if it's all I've become these days. A mother. 

I'm still a wife, but we haven't had a date night in months and we fall asleep every night on the couch while watching a show before the next feeding. I'm still a daughter, but I hang up the phone when the baby is crying or the big kids are fighting, so much that I don't know the last real conversation my mom and I actually had. I'm still a friend and thank goodness my friends have patience with me, as it's hard to get back to them and we connect solely by random text messages these days it seems. I'm still a coworker, but I have no clue what I've missed the last few months and I'm sure when I return my Mom Brain fog won't have lifted and I won't be as efficient as I was before.

My eyes are tired. My body aches. My mind races and then is empty, searching for words and forgetting simple things like if I took the trash out or where I put my keys or phone.

I'm just very much in motherhood right now. 

And somehow, that's enough. It's monumental and exhilarating. It's crazy, chaotic and even boring sometimes. Motherhood is everything to me. It's all encompassing. It's suffocating some days, if I'm being honest. And yet it's everything I've ever wanted, dreamed about, and planned for. 

I'm very much in motherhood and very, very sad that my maternity leave is ending, the time period where I'm allowed to forget ALL else in my world except being a mother to a helpless, growing, needy little being that I created. I'm sad to leave our silent days behind. I'm scared that the busy world of working mom is going to be way too exhausting for my own good.

But I know that no matter if I'm home nursing on the couch or doing the school drop off or the grocery shopping or meal planning, cleaning or ignoring laundry piles… I'm still very much in motherhood. They are always on my mind and in my heart.

Very much in motherhood… it's a nice place to be. Even if it's the most exhausting thing I've ever done. It's still a nice place to be.

Friday, December 16, 2016

the newborn phase

A newborn… that smell of their head, undeniable bliss. The way they scrunch their bottom when you lift them up all sleepy. The wide open mouthed yawn with closed eyes, like sleeping was the most tiring thing they've done all day.

So many tiny moments that make up a very long and yet incredibly quick period in a baby's life, in a mother's experience. A complete blur, you can't recall every detail. And then a second later, you remember. You never forget bringing home that sweet baby for the first time. 

It's baby fat rolls, and teeny tiny toes that you could stare at all day.
Grunting noises in their sleep that sound like barn animals.
Onesies and belly buttons.
Soft skin, the softest you've ever felt and will never again.

Newborn moments…
Swings rocking. Mobiles singing.
Swaying your hips back and forth as you instinctually do because you're now a mother.
Holding their head into your chest and the crook of your arm to help them sleep.

Bouncy chairs and swaddle blankets.
Baby booties, snuggly hats, and ducky bath towels.

Swaddlers diapers, Pampers, and bottle parts in the sink, after a time or two of boiling on the stove.
0-3 and 3-6 months, timing feedings and then nursing on demand.
Packing diaper bags and restocking wipes containers.
Swirling bottles of milk, washing bottles and pump parts.
The swishing noise of the pump, that noise… dreadful and yet comforting sometimes, too.

Sweet, tiny, oh so tiny.
Precious, blessing, heavenly.
An innocence you've never quite known before.
Fingers curled around my own, hand on my chest and eyes looking up into mine.
Connecting. Bonding.

Shushing, whispering, noise machines.
Fear, worrying about if they are breathing, praying they will sleep longer, waking up a few times when they do just to make sure you see the rise and fall of their chest.
Bassinets, cribs, one piece fleece sleepers.

Weight checks that make you SO proud for all the work you're doing feeding them.
Answering the question, "How is he sleeping for you?" about a zillion times too many with the reply, "Oh you know…"
Living your life in two hour increments…. diaper change, feed, burp, sleep, repeat.

Counting the ounces of milk. Freezing milk in bags. Worrying you won't have enough when you go back to work.
Praying they sleep more.
Being grateful when they sleep more than three hours at once and not wanting to tell anyone they did or else you'll jinx it from happening again.
Praying, needing sleep. Just needing to sleep.
Sleep deprivation. Ugh, sleep deprivation.

The newborn phase...
Hormones. Dark eye circles.
Belly flab that you are sick of and proud of in the same moment. That belly held life. The life you now hold in your arms.
Yoga pants. Oh, sweet, black, stretchy pants. Lifesaver. Go-to. Staple. For months. And it's OK.

Hiccups that you hear now on the outside and once recently felt on the inside.
Imagining that stretch, kick, movement he makes now on the outside is what he did on the inside… holding your belly, realizing how amazing that is.
Burping, spit up, cloths, and bibs.
So much laundry. Tiny laundry that you don't even mind folding because it's so cute.
Growing so fast they outgrow most clothes in weeks.

Cuddling, snuggling, nap time, arm hurting but don't want to move it.
Don't disturb a sleeping baby. Rest when baby rests, they say. You try.
Sweet smells, that baby smell, oh it's divine.
Kicking legs, outstretched arms and lips moving even in his sleep.

Things I want to remember forever.
And yet it's a blurry time, you don't remember all of it, it passes too quickly and you're oh so tired.
But you hold on to the small moments because they mean everything.
Those times when your little bean smiles at you for the first time, more than when they are gurgling in their bellies, like a real, "I see you, Mom, thanks for all you do, I love you" smile.

It's taking pictures. So many pictures… of hands, toes, fingers, ears, eyelashes as they sleep soundly.
Trying to video tape every little moment that means the world now, that you don't want to forget, ever.
Boppy pillow, back aching, baby carrier, and lugging car seat.
Pulling over the car to put the pacifier back in her mouth because she is screeching without it.

Staying up late for one last feeding.
Waking up at 2 a.m. thinking maybe, just maybe it's 5 a.m. and baby "slept through the night."
Finding new meaning to the term "slept through the night" to mean anything beyond four or five hours.
Somehow surviving on little sleep, despite mixing up words and never being on time again.

Watching him change and grow, learn, respond, connect.
Soaking in the smiles. Oh, the sweet smiles, your reward for all you are doing as his Mama.
Feeling hopelessly in love, overwhelmed and overjoyed all in the same moment.

The newborn phase…
So lucky to have done this three times. And yet, wishing to relive it with these growing babies once more… realizing that as many moments as I've stored in my Mom Brain, they are not enough. Touching the pages of the baby books, scanning the pictures posted, and remembering… the onesie, the outfit and hat set, the outstretched arms at nap time, the way their eyes squinted with glee when you woke in the morning together.

It goes by too fast…
If you find yourself in the newborn phase soon, take a thousand pictures and video. Don't forget the video. Sit down more. Rest more. Soak her in more. Hold him longer. It goes by too fast and it never comes again...just like everything that is oh, so sweet.

Friday, December 2, 2016

gifts for the family of 5 - third baby ideas

Many moms have asked in our Mommy Stories group the last few months what to get for a mom friend who delivered her third child. Here are a few ideas that may help you out, coming from my own experience recently!

image from
  • Meals- Food is a must for anyone having had a child. This is especially true for the parents of third child. First, they have two other kids who need to eat, so anything extra is helpful. Second, fewer people visit with the third child. I think people are busy, they have more kids themselves by the time you have your third around, and they probably think you've got this, you're pros. Well, even pros need to EAT people! So bring food. If you can't visit yourself, send over takeout gift cards. 
  • Mama care package- Whip something up for the mom so she's not forgotten, so she's celebrated in this big thing she just did by giving birth, and so that she can relax a bit. My good friend sent me a package JUST for me, nothing for baby or anyone else, it was SO sweet to be pampered. She included things like chapstick, chocolate, comfy socks, water bottle, snacks, hot chocolate mix, etc. Such a nice idea. 
  • Little brother or sister outfit- These are my personal favorites! It's nice to show off the little guy or gal in something specific to them. It helps in that whole complete family feeling. 
  • A new outfit for baby- This is really nice with the third child, so that they are spoiled and feel special. I'm all about hand me downs, it's 95% of what our kids wear! But it's nice to have something that was specifically bought for this new little being. 
  • Practical stuff- Everyone appreciates diapers, wipes, bottles, shampoo, etc. They will need these things, and most don't find these items fun to purchase so the parents will totally appreciate if you actually do.
  • Remember the big kids- It's nice to give them a small token of celebratory fun at being a big sibling for the first time or again. So grab a coloring book or a box of goldfish or something for the big kids. The new mama will appreciate you thinking of her big kids too. 
  • Drop by- Bring a muffin and coffee. Offer to hold the baby while she naps or takes a shower. Take the trash outside for her without asking if she needs it done. Take the kids outside while she gets some rest inside. Text ahead of time but do the drop by to see if she needs something. 
  • Hospital snacks- Our brother in law did this for us this time around and it was AMAZING. We ate those snacks for days, chocolate, popcorn, granola bars, etc. It was great, and also an awesome treat to have on hand for when the big kids visited the hospital. 
It really doesn't matter what you send over for a gift for the new mom or the third baby, they are going to appreciate it. 

preparing for baby #3

So you're having THREE!?!?
It's so much fun, don't you worry!

But preparing for the third one is sometimes more challenging than preparing for baby #1 and #2. For us, it meant rearranging EVERYTHING in our home! We had to make room physically for this little third one to join our family. We already were cramped, and had no place to put things. It took a very long time to move things around in our home to prepare for baby, but I'm glad we spent so much time ahead of time getting things ready and organized.

For me, with this third pregnancy I started nesting immediately! I'm not kidding. At week 7 I believe I was cleaning my house and starting to get rid of things we didn't need anymore, consigning and donating things, selling items, making way for baby to come. I knew I didn't want to deal with these things when baby was here, knew we'd have no time, so during pregnancy I focused on organizing everything and de-cluttering and downsizing items.

I went through the toys, bookshelves, clothing, kitchen drawers, ETC. I ended up consigning and donating and moving out 60+ bags of things. I know, nuts that we had that much stuff, but things accumulate when you're having fun with kids right?! It felt SO great moving things around and trading things in for baby items we needed.

We also had to really sit and figure out where the baby was going, where the swing would fit in the living room, where car seats would move to in the car. It was a lot of planning and thinking to get things prepared this time around, whereas I feel the first time it was more fun, this was more "how are we doing this logistically?!"

It's kind of chaotic and overwhelming preparing for the third, as you're so busy and cramped in the house anyway. But it's FUN I promise. In the end you'll feel proud and accomplished at what you get done before baby comes, hopefully, if you follow some tips and start early!

Here are some tips for preparing for your third child:

  • Start early - My #1 advice with preparing for #3 is to start as soon as you can and feel comfortable doing so in your pregnancy. You won't have as much time this time around, already having two kids, being more tired because of those two kids, and more involved in activities and things that take you away from the home you're trying to prepare. Everything took me three times longer this pregnancy to get done. Doing laundry, oh please, don't get me started... you already have tons of laundry as a family of four... so adding in baby laundry took even longer to get finished! I had to break tasks down into weekly to do lists, and I never got my lists crossed off early or easily. So take your time by starting early. This means definitely by start of second trimester, not waiting until third trimester. 
  • Make room - For us, we had to change the play room / office / treadmill room into a nursery. Do you have any idea how long that took?! Yikes. We had to move everything in that room to spread it out among the other rooms in our house. It took weeks to do this. So start early, and figure out where you can make a room if you don't already have one. This may mean kids are bunking up together, so that involves preparing them ahead of time, too. If you have painting or carpeting or things like that to do too, you really need to start early. 
  • Where will baby go? Looking for childcare is even more difficult this time around if you're not able to send your child to where your first two went. If you are able to send him there, you're good to go. But if you have to start over, start over EARLY. This took me months to figure out, and I wish I'd started sooner. Again, another thing that takes longer because you're so busy. Visiting daycares, talking to people on the phone, etc. all takes longer. So give yourself plenty of time to solidify things. 
  • Hospital plans - Figuring out who could watch your dog the first time was easy. Figuring out who could watch your firstborn toddler the second time was no problem or at least had a little thought put into it. Figuring out who is going to watch your dog and two kids?! Not as easy. This time around we really had to think about who would stay home with our kids while we were in the hospital, because it included getting kids to and from school, figuring out if they'd go to dance and soccer and activities or not, who would help with homework, etc. It's a lot more work with bigger kids versus just telling them where the diapers are with your first. Prepare early. This includes writing notes on the fridge and figuring out logistics while you're away. 
  • Gift bags for siblings- I ordered our kids a gift early on and wrapped them and put into our hospital bags at least a month before due date. I didn't want this to be something we forgot or didn't get to do, as I knew our kids would appreciate the gifts at the hospital. 
  • Checking the equipment- Our baby stuff like the swing, car seats, etc. were almost 7 years old when we prepared for our third child. Not a lifetime, but also not super new either. Several items including the car seat were expired and not in as great shape as we thought they were after our second child when we'd packed them away for someday. So we needed to spend more time and money on items like bottles, car seat, bibs, etc. So make sure you get the equipment out ahead of time so you have enough time to look for deals on items you need. This goes with clothing too, especially if you're having a third baby in a new season from the other kids. 
  • Get organized - Go through everything and get rid of as much as you can, because adding another person into the mix, especially with baby stuff galore, is a LOT for one house to take. So go through drawers and junk and toss out what you don't need. Consign as much as you can to trade in for new items. Put extra hand sanitizer in the car and back up band aids and cough syrup in the cabinet. It helps to focus on these things now before you are sleep deprived with #3 in the mix. 
  • Make a list - I know some don't believe in a third baby shower or sprinkle celebration, and many don't agree with making a registry. However, I disagree! I think even if you just make the registry list for YOU to remember what you need, it's helpful! You also get a discount at the end of your due date time to purchase what's on the list, so it's a cost saving benefit also. I made a registry list and kept adding to it as I would go through baby items that we needed new or updated things for the new baby. It helped having a list so I could prepare what we really needed, from diaper cream and baby shampoo to a new bath tub or swing. It's also helpful too in case people ask what you need, they can get something practical. 
  • Freezer meals- I made at least 10-15 meals for the freezer, soups and stews, pasta sauces, etc. so that we'd have plenty to eat. I also froze a bunch of items we typically eat like raviolis and burger for tacos. When you had your second, you know not as many visitors came by with food like with your first child. Well, with the third, it's even less, if not nonexistent. People are busy! So stock up yourself so you're prepared, and anything people bring will be gravy on top :) If you're too tired and pregnant to cook enlist your partner or kids to help cook, or find some healthier freezer options already made and stock up on those, no big deal. Just make sure you have some meals ready to go for your family so you'll feel less guilty eating pizza every third night later on. 
  • Bulk up- I made a HUGE list of things we needed to bulk up on in the house before baby came so that when baby was here we'd be all set and not need to rush to the store last minute, which is clearly difficult with two kids so don't even think about trying it with THREE kids! On my list included items like:
    • toilet paper
    • paper towels 
    • paper plates (easier when you're so tired, trust me)
    • dish soap
    • detergent 
    • shampoo
    • toothpaste
    • vitamins and prenatals too 
    • anything special to the mom - like my particular saline solution and face lotion, deodorant, etc. that nobody else will understand what to find for me when I can't get to the store for a couple months 
    • food items - cereal, pasta, tomato sauce, freezer items like veggies and chicken sausage for quick meals, ETC. anything that you eat all the time like snacks for the kids' lunches, buy 2-3 boxes of each so you have them for quite a while without needing to shop again. 
Hope these tips help you in preparing yourself, your family and the house for another one to join in the mix. It's not easy or perfect, but you can do it! Anything you do ahead of time is going to help you a lot in the long run. 

a birth story - my mighty Quinn

My sweet little man was born on September 28th at 8:38 a.m. My sweet boy, my rainbow baby, my third precious angel. It's still surreal to me, even weeks later, I can't believe he's here. I say it to him and to others all the time, I cannot believe he's here.

It was a difficult pregnancy, exhausting and some issues along the way. Now that I look back at the pregnancy I realize how lucky I am to have this little man. I've told friends, "I have done the pregnancy and birth thing three times now, and yet I still feel so blessed and know what a huge miracle it is. How lucky are we to be moms?!" That's an amazing feeling I'll never forget.

the day before I was scheduled for c-section

I was scheduled for a C-section on the 28th of September, a Wednesday. I worked up through the Monday of that week. I had planned to also work Tuesday, but it was pretty miserable walking around the school building that I work in and everyone encouraged me to take at least one day to myself. So Tuesday was pouring rain and I decided to stay in all day and watch movies, resting up for the Big Day. My husband surprised me and stayed home, too, and we ate, watched movies, slept and talked about our surprise in my belly, wondering one last time what we were having, boy or girl.

We watched the Superman movie that came out a few years ago (yeah, we're behind, parents of three!). The whole thing was about hope, the S symbol of Superman meant hope, this movie claimed. Hope was something I clung to during this pregnancy, after I'd had a miscarriage a few months before this time. Randomly watching this Superman movie filled with power, strength, courage, and hope, I don't know, it stuck with me and made me less nervous about my impending surgery the next day. I had been anxious the whole pregnancy, worried something would go wrong like it had the last pregnancy. So this was so nice to spend one day with my husband surrounded by hope and encouragement.

That night, we went to bed like we had done twice before, full of anticipation and surprise and excitement about what was to come the next day. I was filled with worry also. I won't go into how bad my anxiety was about this complicated surgery (I have a fibroid in my uterus), but I was genuinely afraid of so much with this surgery and birth. I just prayed a lot that night. We kissed goodnight, but barely slept the next few hours.

I was awakened from midnight on with contractions every few minutes, nothing major but they were annoying and uncomfortable. I told my husband, "This baby wants to come today, that's for sure." Since we were heading to the hospital in a few hours I figured we were good to wait out the uncomfortable-ness at home.

Before leaving for the hospital and leaving our two big kids with my best friend, I went upstairs to kiss my big babies before leaving. I teared up, looking at them peacefully sleeping, wondering how they would fare without me for a few days, worrying about how this new child would change things for them, praying they liked their sibling, hoping with all my heart that it would not change their view of my love for them.

And then we were off... we listened to music, looked at the stars and then the sun rising, it was so early in the morning. We held hands the whole time, as if I was able to take my husband's strength and positivity and will myself to feel the same way, letting go of the anxiety.

On the way to the hospital, just like I'd done twice before, I called my other best friend and asked her to pray with me. She told me in that wonderful prayer not only to focus on positives, love, and hope, but also to have fun with this experience, to enjoy it, to really be in the moment and enjoy this as a fun and exciting day instead of all the worries I had in my mind. That stuck with me the entire day and I swear it's the number one thing that got me through the nerves of the C-section: focusing on this being a beautiful experience, nothing to fear.

When we got to the hospital the nurses told me I was lucky to be scheduled first thing in the morning, as they were experiencing their busiest birthing week that year! They also asked if I was feeling those contractions, coming every couple of minutes. I said a big UH YEAH. It was painful at this point, not unbearable but certainly more than uncomfortable. Baby was moving nonstop, kicking away that morning, as if to say, "Let's do this, Mama." I took comfort in every single jab and kick, trying to memorize the feelings, as this was my last pregnancy.

They kept me on the monitor longer than they typically do, just to keep an eye on things since I was having frequent contractions, the nurse told me. Hearing the heartbeat over and over, it was music to my ears. I just sat in the hospital bed, giddy and excited, talking to my husband, playing the Questions Game that we have played since high school, especially to calm my nerves over the years in big moments like this.

Our parents came to check in with us, gave big hugs and "I love yous," and then it was time to walk into the surgery room. I hate that part. Walking away from my husband to go get my spinal inserted. I cried as they held me still, through contractions, clinging to a nurse, talking me through it with positive stories. And then a calm came over me, like we can do this, I'm fine, my baby is fine, we're going to be a family. It was so bright in there, the surgery room, which usually is blinding. But on this day, choosing to find the fun and excitement in this event, I saw it as sunshine.

I pictured holding my baby, just like I'd done for the last 38 weeks since I found out I was pregnant after a miscarriage, full of worry and fear that something could go wrong, I pictured myself holding my baby. It was the one thing that got me through the fears, picturing what I wanted, what I hoped for, willing it to happen.

And then the fear set back in... as I heard them whispering that the baby's heartbeat was down... and then it was some professional rushing around, moving quicker than typical, and asking where the Dad was... not waiting for Dad to get started they said... and for a few moments I was terrified, wondering what was going on, but trying so desperately to trust they had this, they knew what they were doing, we were OK, me and my baby were going to be fine.

And then my doctor called it, as she has done the last two times I was in that operating room. She said what we were there for: a C-section birth for me and that we don't know the gender and that Dad would announce that part, and let's get started... and my husband was by my side, thankfully.

From there it was quick... my baby was born at 8:38 a.m. My husband held my hand tightly as he announced that we had another baby boy! I heard my little one scream loudly as if to say, "Yup, I'm HERE! I've arrived!" It was the loudest cry ever. It made my heart feel full instantly. I burst into tears, as if I'd even stopped crying all morning anyway! I instantly thought, "I have a boy, I have another son..." I was so happy, elated. When they announced that he was 6 lbs 13 oz I almost laughed, as my first son was 9 lbs 3 oz and my second, a daughter, was 7 lbs 14 oz. What a peanut we had here!

He screamed and screamed, louder than our other babies. He was so upset coming into the world, until he lay with me and was snuggled by his Dad, he then calmed down. It was perfection.

At one point with my boy on my chest a nurse asked what his name was, and I smiled saying the name I had in my head for four years prior... Quinn. She said "oh he's a mighty Quinn all right" as she heard him loud and clear. I love that. It's now his #amightyquinn for my Instagram pictures. He is definitely mighty... after all we survived together during pregnancy... he's mighty for sure. My mighty boy.

He cried so loudly. I sobbed. I just wanted to hold him, my whole body ached to hold him tightly as I'd pictured so long after my miscarriage, just wanting to hold that baby tight and know everything was all right, he was safe and sound on the outside. There were moments in the delivery room when I just smiled, thinking, "I did it. I carried him to term, we made it together. He's here. I'm so blessed." I felt so proud of my body in that moment. So proud.

My sweet boy's birth was nothing short of a miracle and yet it was an easier than expected surgery to get him here. I felt so lucky. When we were wheeled into the recovery room I was beaming and excited, just wanting our family to rush in to see us. My husband told me to slow down, let's enjoy this together since it's our last time, our last little one. We stared at our baby boy for a while, just taking it all in, memorizing his face in that instant. He was so tiny. I looked at him and realized that in an instant he'd grow so quickly and we'd never have this time back again, so we better stop and enjoy it as it came to us.

And that's how it's been... now 9 weeks later (ugh! took way too long to write this birth story, but such is our busy life with three kids now I suppose!)... he's already so big I barely recall how little he started out as back then. Time is surely flying by, and we're very, very blessed.

This birth was filled with sadness as it was my last, and pride from what I'd accomplished through this tough pregnancy and difficult surgery. It was filled with smiles and tears, fears and worries, and ultimately bliss that we had completed our family with our sweet boy, Quinn Ronald.

It could not have gone smoother, better, happier. I am such a lucky mother.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

the first holiday without our boy by Christine Coutu

I am grateful to my good friend Christine for sharing her advice for those going through the holiday season as a grieving parent, one who has lost their child far too soon. Her advice is straight forward and honest, heartfelt and thoughtful. Thank you for sharing, I know this will help support a mother who may be struggling. 
The First Holiday Season Without Our Boy
by Christine Coutu
This Thanksgiving and Christmas season has been difficult to say the least.  Not because we’ve felt the pressures of hosting our first Thanksgiving dinner for family, or worried about Christmas gifts or had tons of baking to do.  No, those things used to affect me.  They used to give me energy, in fact.  I actually enjoyed this time of year; especially Christmas.  I love baking, shopping for people, wrapping gifts and eating those special treats you only eat at holiday parties.  I would be lying if I said that I never got stressed around the holidays, and in fact I’d argue that if you claim not to feel at least a little pressure this time of year, you need your head examined! ;-)

This year is different for me.  In many, many ways.  Frankly, I absolutely dread going out in public.  I have come very close to tearing down decorations in stores and punching people who tell me to have a “wonderful holiday”.  This year, Bing Crosby can take his “White Christmas” and shove it.

See because this year, there will be a very small but extremely painful and noticeable absence in our midst; our son who passed away just over 5 months ago before he was born at 38 weeks.  An infection killed him.  It almost killed me too.  After he was born, I wouldn’t stop bleeding.  A trauma team of surgeons, 3 surgeries, 8 days in the ICU and 2 total weeks in the hospital later, I finally went home; without my son, without a uterus and with a very, very long and painful road to recovery.  

My husband and I have a mountain to climb in terms of attempting to wrap our heads and hearts around what happened to our perfect little family. We’ll be climbing that mountain for years to come.

The holidays (especially this first year) are a part of that mountain and so here are the things that I’ve quickly learned about surviving this season after a loss like mine.  I’m still working through it as we clearly have just gotten into the holiday swing, but here it goes.

  1. When you go shopping, do it alone if you can.  That sounds crazy.  Yet, for me it works.  I can mumble under my breath about the “stupid Christmas stuff” in my way, or the holly jolly spirit everyone has that makes me want to puke without having to explain myself to anyone.  I can also block things out and be a “Scrooge” if I want to, zipping past people with my cart and keeping my head down.  Lastly, I don’t need to be my super cheery self when I’m alone because sometimes I don’t freaking want to, and I’ve learned to be okay with that.  Pretending to be happy takes a lot of emotional work, damnit! And in my state of grief and physical recovery, remembering my grocery list and how to even get to the store can be difficult some days.  I’m not kidding.  I once turned around in my car three times before I remembered where I was going and how to get there.  Oh! And one more thing.  If I need to go out of the store, make a beeline for my car and have a sobbing, messy breakdown after seeing another newborn or just because it’s an extra hard day, I can do that and don’t need to worry about freaking anyone out!
  2. Do not apologize.  If you knew me before my life fell out from underneath me, you’d know that I apologized a lot.  I was also a self-proclaimed people pleaser.  Nope.  Not anymore.  I’ve learned that life is too short (cliche, I know) to be concerned about other’s feelings when it comes to speaking up for my needs.  Now, I try to speak up for what I need and advocate for myself and my family.  While I attempt to do this with love, I will admit that I probably come off “witchy” to those who know me because it’s not something I ever did before in such an upfront and blatantly honest manner. Oh well.
  3. Save yourself the stress, don’t buy gifts.  This year, we are not giving out Christmas gifts (at least not from my husband and me, my 2 year old will paint cheap ornaments etc for grandparents and the like).  Instead, we are giving to a charity.  The organization through which we sponsor a child always has a Christmas catalog in which you can order “Christmas gifts” like goats, seeds, school books etc for people in other countries.  This year, they have “safe baby delivery kits” available and so we are buying two of them in honor of my son.  If there is an organization close to your heart or something that might be connected to the child you’ve lost, donate to them instead of giving gifts this year.  I’m writing a letter and sending those out in lieu of Christmas cards to inform our family and friends of what we’re doing.  Which leads me to….
  4. Holiday cards etc.  If they’re too painful.  Don’t do them.  We aren’t.  Heck no.  A Christmas picture to have for all time that will remind me of this period of hell that we’re going through?  Ummm….no thanks, I’ll pass.  This also includes any “routine” or obligatory Christmas pictures your family or extended family may take during parties this year.  Either politely express your plan to not be a part of said pictures or show up after the pictures are taken if they are usually done at a certain time during the party (before dinner, gifts etc).  Remember too that you are sharing your intentions, not asking permission here.  Don’t say “do you mind if…” because you mind, you don’t want to participate in picture taking, so say so.  

    One mantra that has helped me is actually a quote from Jesus in the Bible when he says “Let your yes be yes and your no be no” (Matthew 5:37).  Simple, to the point.  Say what you mean, mean what you say and don’t muddy the waters with “if you don’t mind”’s or “would it be okay if”’s.
  5. Do something to remember your child.  If you have lost an older child and there was something specific that he or she enjoyed during this time of year, go and do it as a family.  Celebrate the life of your loved one that way.  I’ve also seen online suggestions of hanging a stocking, having a certain ornament or something like that to represent and memorialize the child or baby lost.  For us, none of those things hit home.  In fact, on the 15th of October (Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day) when I lit a candle for my son, I wanted to throw it across the room 2 hours later because it just angered me to look at it.  This year, we will honor our son by spending time as a family but will maybe do something like this in the future.  We’ll see where this roller coaster ride of grief takes us over the next couple of years.
  6. Decide what your family needs and do it (again, no apologies).  My husband and I have struggled with this one, honestly.  However, we eventually decided that the best thing for us this Christmas was to spend it alone, with our 2 year old, and away.  We just do not want to celebrate.  Thanksgiving is a tough holiday for us, too and I’m not discounting that.  However, for the both of us there is so much more tradition wrapped up in Christmas (and it’s my preferred holiday of the two) that the absence of my son this year would be just unbearable.  We’ve met some resistance from family but again, are standing up for what we feel is best for our family.  In all honesty, we’re excited about it!  To get away, do something different and spend time together.  If this is something that you need to do as a family, then do it; sometimes it’s good to shake things up a bit!  You might not need to go away completely but maybe it’s just to celebrate with family or friends you’ve never spent the holiday with before, or go out to eat or order in, or create a brand new tradition for your immediate family on Christmas morning.  Whatever it is!  Do what feels right.  

At the end of the day, this is your grief process, nobody else’s - and never ever let anyone else enforce or put their expectations of how you should grieve this holiday season (or any other time of the year) onto you.  

If people are telling you to “get over it”, that it’s “time to move on” or that “maybe you need/want to/really should be with family”, ignore them.  Do whatever makes you and your spouse - your immediate, nuclear family feel the best.  Grief is a process, a journey, and ultimately something that never goes away and to be honest doesn’t get easier.  For me at least, it hasn’t gotten easier with time; over these last 5 months I’ve just had more practice putting one foot in front of the other to get through my day and have found there to be more space in between sobbing sessions.

If you’re reading this because you just experienced a loss and need these suggestions, I’m sorry.  Truly I am.  Nobody understands what it’s like to lose a child, except for another parent who has lost one too.  If I could give you a big hug, share a cup of tea and cry with you, I would.  

My husband and I both would, but since we can’t, know that you are loved, and that we will pray for you.  And remember that some of the best things to heal a crushed and broken heart is love and laughter so be sure that no matter what you do these next few weeks, you get some of those things in, too.  

If you’re reading this for a family member or friend, on their behalf I would just ask that you keep two mantras in mind this holiday season (and for a long time to come as the journey of grief is ever changing); “whatever you need” and “we’re here when you’re ready”.  Those are the phrases that have helped us the most over the last 5 months.

All my love and prayers for a blessed holiday season.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Shop & Support Moms - Rachel Curwen - Mama's Linkz Jewelry

Oh I am so fortunate that Rachel Curwen shared her beautiful work with me for the final part of our Shop & Support Moms series this year! Her work is nothing short of exquisite! I LOVE how gorgeous these pieces are, but more importantly what they mean and the care and time she puts into making each piece spectacular. You MUST read this to hear more about how Rachel creates important jewelry that heals and provides strength to moms and families who may need it. I love the idea behind this business.

Moms, you will LOVE this jewelry, and it's great for gifts. Discount below!

Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your work and life with us!

Images shared from Rachel Curwen

  • 1. How did you start your business? Why did you want your own business? When did you start your business? 
    I started my business in March of 2016 after a friend inspired me several months prior. This friend delivered a baby at 29 weeks. I made this friend and her daughter matching bracelets with rose and crystal quartz along with a lotus flower charm. Rose quartz is known to open the heart to support unconditional love and deep inner healing while crystal quartz clears negative energy and enhances spiritual growth. The lotus flower charm symbolizes the beauty and spiritual growth that comes from difficult challenges. It was a very meaningful gift for both of them to receive and it filled me with so much joy to be able to help them in some small way.
  • I felt compelled to start a business where people could buy jewelry with metaphysical properties that would connect them to the people they love and also provide healing properties. It felt more like a calling rather than a choice.
  • 2. Why was owning a business a perfect situation for you and your family? 
    I am a stay at home mom to two children. Mama's Linkz Jewelry allows me to open up my creative spirit and give back to others in a meaningful way. It provides me the opportunity to be flexible with my time so I can be with my kids as much as possible.
  • 3. What does your business specialize in? What's your favorite product? How'd you come up with the name? 

    Mama's Linkz Jewelry specializes in bracelets and more specifically bracelet sets for family, couples, mothers & daughters or grandmothers, sisters, aunts, godmothers, fathers & daughters or sons, etc. These bracelet sets are for any two people who have a special connection and want to be reminded of each other throughout the day.
  • My favorite items to create are the custom bracelets. I love working with people to make something unique to their relationships, needs and preferences. I guess you could say I'm a people pleaser.
  • Mama's Linkz Jewelry has a triple meaning--Lynx are the spirit animal that I connect with the most. The Mama and baby Lynx are my logo. Lynx represent the power of second sight, instinct and observation. The lynx has the gift of knowing and I often find that when I make jewelry for people that certain semi-precious stones and their healing properties speak to me based on what might be going on in that person's life. Linkz also stands for the connections we have between us and the actual links in between the actual bracelets/chain.
  • 4. What do you love best about working for yourself? 
    I love setting my own routine, goals and organizing my time based on family/business needs.

    5. When working, When do you work in the day/evening? What's your process for working? Things you do daily, a routine? 
    I work both during the day and at night creating jewelry pieces that I am inspired by--I might have just taken a walk on the beach and loved the way the dark blue ocean water played off the bright blue sky and it will entice me to create a piece like the Nautical Blue Sodalite and Blue Lace Agate bracelet:
  • 6. Take me step by step through working with customers. Do you do anything special or unique, wrapping, specials, etc.? 
    I pride myself on working closely with customers to ensure they love their bracelet/s. I like to communicate clearly through the full process of purchasing--bracelet sizing, shipping dates, and packaging.
  • I offer custom design pieces as well and work very closely with clients to choose colors, charms, and design details so their bracelets will be special and unique to them and/or their loved ones.
  • I think my packaging is unique as it is a jewelry box with my logo on it (Mama and baby Lynx) wrapped in butcher's twine and glass beads. Each bracelet or bracelet set also comes with an insert that tells you how to care for your jewelry along with what the metaphysical properties are of the beads.
  • 7. What is your success rate? What do you think customers would say about your work, shop? 
    Customers have enjoyed working with me because of how quickly I respond to their needs and work hard to make sure they love their purchase. I've only received very positive reviews.
  • 8. Why do you think people should shop in your store, and why should they support moms who work for themselves? 
    I like to make the entire buying process easy and beautiful. I include a jewelry box with every purchase that is wrapped in bakers twine and tied with glass beads so you feel like you are opening a gift. Each jewelry box has an insert that describes how to take care of your jewelry and explains what the metaphysical properties are of the beads in the bracelets you purchased. These bracelets make a unique and thoughtful gift. 

    I think it is valuable and important to support women who are working hard to raise the next generation of change agents.
  • 9. What are your items to sell? 
    Bracelets and bracelet sets.

    10. How does your business allow you to be a great mother? 
    My business exemplifies the morals I want to share with my children--by honoring one's creativity, passion for caring about all people and the importance of connecting with those we love in a meaningful way.
  • 11. What do you think would surprise readers to know about you? 
    I didn't know until my 30s if I was going to want children.
  • 12. What is the coolest thing you've ever experienced as part of working with this business? 
    I was commissioned to design a memorial bracelet set for a mother and father who just lost their day old baby. A few days prior I was drawn to buy two angel wing charms which isn't something I would normally purchase. I planned to use the angel wings along with amethyst for these bracelets and was told that the parents just got matching angel wing tattoos along with purple flowers.
  • 13. What is one of your favorite gifts to give someone for the holidays? 
    Homemade cookies, slippers and a movie I know they will like.
  • 14. How many kids do you have? Give us one word to describe them.
    I have a 2 and a half year old little girl named Clara and a three week old little boy named Calvin. One word to describe them is precious.


  • DISCOUNT: a 15% discount on bracelets 
    code linkzjewelry15off expires 12/31/16