All Birth is Brave

Today I need to say something. I am a csection mama, and I’m not ashamed of it.

It’s not been exactly easy. Sometimes I still run my hand against the scar and ache inside a little. At the same time, I am grateful. That cut means today, I have a living baby girl.

I had always known exactly what I wanted my labor to be like. Natural labor. Minimal interference. Preferably no pain medication. Quiet, and only the absolutely necessary number of attendance. Just Scott and I there to hold ourlittle one for the first time. I wanted it to be beautiful and intimate. Empowering.

But that’s not what happened.

Pregnancy wasn’t hard for me.

True, my feet became unrecognizable, swollen blimps for which I could find no shoe or sandal. I walked barefooted for five miles almost every day, and I felt great!

True, I had two pregnancy rashes from head to toe that sometimes itched so badly I thought I might go crazy. But I didn’t care. It wouldn’t last forever, and at the end…we got a baby out of it!

Over all, being pregnant was easy. All 42 weeks and 2 days of pregnancy.

I knew my date of ovulation. I knew that babies don’t always arrive by magic on the 40th week.  I was okay with waiting on labor. It would happen.

But it never did.

On the last day that my midwife was legally allowed to attend, I checked in to a room at the woman’s center and the first one of all of my dreams for labor and delivery slipped away.

Trying one thing after another to kickstart my body into natural labor. Induction. No progress. Meconium so thick in the fluid that it was more like slime than liquid. Hour after hour of contractions with no breaks between the peaks. A fever that spiked out of no where and wouldn’t go down. They feared infections. And my baby suddenly going into distress. More than 36 hours after checking in, I found myself being wheeled away for an emergency csection.

Absolutely nothing that I’d dreamed of for my labor and birth experience happened. Everything I feared, did.

I was just thankful at that point to be okay, and that she was okay.

And then it started. The guilt and shaming by people who I needed to be supportive and happy with me.

  • I took the easy way out.
  • If I’d done x y and z, none of this would have happened.
  • It was my fault for not fighting the system harder and just waiting to see what happened.
  • Baby would come when she was going to. It was my fault for “rushing it”.
  • What did I expect was going to happen by going to the hospital instead of staying at home?
  • I didn’t really give birth. I was just “lucky” and “weak”.
  • I got what I asked for.
  • It was my fault.

I believe that they probably meant well. Perhaps they thought they were encouraging.

But could I have changed the outcome of my experience? Probably not. Did I try everything? I did all that I knew to do. And in the end, Scott and I made the best decision we could for the health of our child and for my health. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done.

But at the end? We got a baby out of it. A gorgeous, chunky redheaded baby girl. She was perfect. I was okay. I would heal.

But that’s how it goes with cesarean mamas. We’ve been through something hard. Traumatic.

Csections are not a lucky break. Most of us fought our way through labor, hoping, praying, trying everything we could to give our baby the best possible start.

Two years later, I’m still healing from my csection, physically and emotionally. Recovering from a surgery like that and taking care of a colicky newborn is not for the weak.

We all – natural mamas, epidural mamas, csection mamas, want the same thing: a healthy baby at the end. We are all good mamas. We all do what it takes to “get the job done”.

But for us who delivered our little ones into the world on a table in an operating room instead of at home or in labor and delivery, we often get shame.

We’re left to believe that we’re less of a woman because our birth wasn’t “how it was suppose to be”. We get the message from around us that others believe that we weren’t brave or strong enough to do the real thing, and it’s loud and clear.

Of all the things in the world where we should give love and support, why do we judge and shame instead? Why do we think we can decide which mama is brave and which one isn’t?

Most of us didn’t walk into the hospital and sign up for a csection. And even if we had, does it really matter? 

Don’t get me wrong. I still believe that natural birth is wonderful. If I could have had it, I would have. But at the end of the day, things don’t always go as planned.  At the end of the day, we make the best choices we can. There is no shame in that. There is no one way of giving birth that can claim exclusive rights to being the real thing.

Natural birth without any pain medicine. Birth with epidurals. Birth by cesarean.  Birth by adoption. Whatever process you took to becoming a mama.

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Because in the words of a sweet friend, all birth is brave. 

All.

It’s Cesarean Awareness Month. Be kind. And remember, no matter how you became a mama, you are brave.

Find a Way or Make a Way {My Virtual Assistant Journey}

In January, I checked off an exciting milestone: two solid years since I officially began my journey as a Virtual Assistant. I have never been so proud, or excited about a profession as I am about my Virtual Assistant job. But getting here has been a long journey. Today, in honor of the book that changed everything for me and my work at home dream, I want to tell you my story.

A little over five years ago, Scott and I both found ourselves suddenly jobless. The aircraft company he’d worked at for the last few years and that I was mid-process of getting ready to start the job I’d just been hired for at, hit some huge financial bumps as the economy wavered. We, along with over a hundred others in our small community, were suddenly without work, and no prospects.

Scott and I had been married for just six months. We were just getting started in life, and the job loss knocked us down flat. For six months we struggled and searched. But Sandpoint is small. There weren’t many options available to start with. And with the job market suddenly flooded with unemployed families looking for work, finding anything decent was even harder.

With nothing keeping us, and with hope of a better working future we loaded our few possessions in a small moving truck. On our first anniversary, we locked up our first home and headed east and south to Tennessee.

And that was the beginning of two and a half years of one of the biggest lessons of trust I’ve ever experienced. With nothing to loose by failing, “find a way or make a way” became my motto.

I’d worked from home before as an inbound customer service specialist for some big companies. I’d even tried my hand at webdesign. I’d known for 10 years that my dream job was a job I could do from my living room. I was determined that it was now or never. And then I bumped into the idea of “Virtual Assistant” online. I knew that this was it. Virtual Assisting was exactly what I wanted to do.  But I had no idea how to get started, and the more I read about it online the more confusing and impossible it sounded.

Half of the information was vague and unhelpful, and half of it was scammy. I felt lost and confused. I began to think that my dream of working from home was actually the impossible dream. I just wasn’t quite willing to let it go.

About the time when I was at the depth of my discouragement, I was introduced to Lisa Morosky and her soon-to-be-released book, The Bootstrap VA. That book changed everything for me. I’m not trying to be dramatic when I say that it changed my life. Because it really did.

I went from feeling absolutely hopeless and confused to feeling more and more excited with each page I read. For the very first time, I believed I could do this. I could be a Virtual Assistant. For the first time, I believed that I could work from home to bring in a viable income, and love what I did. 

Lisa explained everything. What to expect. How to get started. How to find clients. How to set up the foundation of your business for success, and how to keep it going. It helped me to get a plan together and know how to execute it. It helped me to pinpoint my ideal client and play to my strengths from the start.

It was all so simply put. There were no vague references, no scammy tricks. It was down to earth, honest-to-goodness facts and inspiration. I felt so inspired and so encouraged…and so very grateful. Hands down, The Bootstrap VA is the best book I’ve read on how to work from home successfully, and I cannot recommend it enough. 

I literally devoured the book in one sitting, and then read it again.  I might have cried a bit the first time from relief and happiness. In fact, when I think about how much The Bootstrap VA helped me, I sometimes still choke up a little. I am incredibly grateful to Lisa for writing it, and to God for allowing me to find it when I needed it the most.

A few months later, I launched. I was officially a VA. And I’ve been slowly but surely growing my business ever since. I’ve worked with some great people. I’ve learned so much. And every single morning as I sit down at my desk to begin my day, I thank God for this journey.

I love what I do as a Virtual Assistant. I love being able to work from home. I love that it lets me be the boss of my time, and that I still get to enjoy being a Wife and Mama. And I love helping other women find their way to their dream of working from home. I’ve told so many people about Lisa’s book. I get asked about what I do, and how I started working from home all the time. I get so excited to share The Bootstrap VA with them because of how much it’s meant to me. I even started a group on Facebook for Women who are self employed or work from home!

I’m super excited to share with you my story. I hope it inspires you that you can do this. Because you totally can.

Note that this post contains affiliate links to one of my favorite work at home books. Your clicks and purchases help support this site at no extra cost to you.

It’s not always easy, but it is possible to make your own work from home dream come true. Working from home is not something that only a lucky few can do. I truly believe that with creativity and determination and some good information, anyone can build their work at home dream. I’m excited about my goals and about the future. But that’s a topic for another post.

It will feel hard and tedious sometimes. But don’t give up. It will be worth it!

The Art of Cookie

There must be some special extra something required to be a master of the art of cookies. Something more than reading the recipe, and being careful to follow the instructions to a T. Maybe it’s some secret little thing that you are born with. Some of us have it, and some of us don’t.

And I think I just don’t have “it”.
Hominess to me is clean sheets on the bed,  a clean sink, sparkling floors and a jar full of cookies. Let’s just say that I am pretty good at the clean sheets. I usually wash all my dishes every day. And there’s often cookies in the house. But they aren’t the cookies of my homemaking dreams.

In my brain, these cookies are perfect. Just enough chewy. Just enough crispy. Just enough soft. Perfectly round. Just sweet enough. They look pretty on a plate too.

But mine? Well. They’re…Cookies. Good enough to eat, yes. But not absolutely perfect. In fact, usually nothing like I’m wanting.

I’ve tried. Oh I’ve tried dozens of recipes. I’ve tried tips from the pros. I’ve followed the instructions from the Masters (Like Alton Brown.)

And they all taste good. It’s not the master’s fault that my cookies fall short (flat? out of texture? just not as pretty as I want?). Theirs look exactly like I want mine to look.

But mine just don’t.

So I try. And try. And try again. Always in search of the perfect cookie. Always falling just short enough that I’ll try one more time. Just in case, you know.

It’s probably hopeless. Cookies just must be the thing that I will spend my cooking life trying to figure out.

But then, maybe I just need one of you cookie pros to rub on me a little more. Maybe I’ll somehow catch that secret something needed to master the art of cookies. I can dream, right?

In the mean time, anyone have a tried and true cookie recipe you want to share with me? Your favorites that turn out great every time? I’ll try anything!

to a new year

Twelve years ago, I wrote my first blog post.  Blogspot was brand new, and I’d never heard of wordpress. Or blogging.

I opened a new draft and wrote “Let’s see what this does.” For these 12 years, that’s pretty much been what’s happened here.

I’ve written, and learned. I’ve shared a lot of crazy words, a few good ones, and a lot of living with the web. And it scared me sometimes. Writing is an art. It’s one I’m very much still attempting to master. But I’ve learned a lot in 12 years. Enough to know that what “blogging” meant 12 years ago is not what “blogging” means today.  And enough to know that in 12 years, it’ll have changed all over again.

A part of my heart resists the changes. I miss the old days of long newsy posts. Of comments instead of likes. I miss the days when blogging wasn’t about all the rules, or about trying to make a living, but about making connections.

And as time went on, I found that I didn’t think I could do it. I couldn’t follow all the rules. I couldn’t keep up with all the latest trends.  I just wanted to write, but words started to trickle instead of flow. It was all fog and fragments.

Life got hard and personal. I lost people I cared about. The things I wanted to say couldn’t be said in public places. And I was so tired of always trying to find the balance between sharing too little or too much. Tired of the fog and the fragments. Tired of trying to figure it all out when it came to directions and this bloggy space.

The thought of walking away from writing was a crazy one. But I considered it. I stopped opening up pages only to spend hours late at night staring at the empty spaces with everything to say but nothing to write.

I stopped because I realized that my blogging journey had been good, but that in order to continue, I had to reinvent my blog. I had to take a step back and stop trying to force myself and my blog into the mold without accounting for the fact that along with blogging, I’ve grown and changed too. And that is how it should be.

I needed to figure out where I wanted to go from here, and what I wanted now from my blog. I needed to figure out how to make writing a part of my new life and to align with my current seasons and focuses instead of it just being one more thing that I thought I needed to do.

Words–they have and always will be a part of my life.  But how blogging works, and how it looks for me can’t always stay the same.

So in January, I did something a little crazy. I took the last 12 years of me “seeing what this did” away.

Not because I’m ashamed of my journey. I’m proud of how I’ve grown, and unspeakably grateful for the people who have been a part of my life for so long, and the opportunities God has given me along the way.

I took it away because for me, after 12 years very little is the same in my life. And because now I know more about blogging, there are some things that I would do differently–that needs to be different than it was back when I started. And I needed a fresh start.

I was a bit scared and sad to remove so many pages of the history of my blogging journey, but I felt instantly relief.  I could finally start figuring out what I needed to do and not be held back by what my blog use to be like. I knew I’d done the right thing.

That was January 1.

Since then, I’ve let the dust settle. It’s done a lot of good. As I continue to work hard on growing as a Virtual Assistant, and to reach the place that our little family needs so much right now, I needed blogging to work with me and not be just one more thing going in a completely different direction. I needed a place for an outlet, but I needed to be able to focus my energy a little more, too.

And finally, I think I’ve started to get some of the clarity I’ve been waiting for. I think I know what I need to do and what my blog will be like for this season.  I’m excited about it. It’s been far too long since I’ve had a direction for this blog.

So what’s changing? Well, maybe not a lot of obvious stuff.

But I’m excited to write more about books (because I’m not going to stop reading, anytime soon!), and sharing more about some of the things I’m excited about and about some of the journeys we’re taking right now towards our dream of living more self sustainable lives, and of my work at home dreams. Because really, all I ever wanted to be was a farming family. And I’m willing to do what it takes to get closer to that dream. Because we really need it.

So…12 years after my first post, I’m hitting publish again and thinking, “Let’s see what this does… Again.”

 

Until Morning

She fell asleep today. As the clock struck out the first hour of the new day, her last breath breathed out.

No more pain.
No more struggle.

Just rest. Quiet, peaceful rest.

The next thing she hears will be the sound of trumpets. The next face she sees will be Jesus’ face. The next thing she knows will be a brand new body with no cancer, no scars, no pain.

I’m happy for her. I’m happy that she can rest now.

But for those of us who are still awake, it is a sad day. We miss her. So very much.

So now we are waiting on the trumpets.

Until Morning, Auntie Lauren.

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Lauren Harding Douglas

P.s this is not the post I planned to open out the year with weeks ago. My aunt’s sudden decline was something no amount of knowing prepares you for. She passed away Wednesday morning. Please keep her daughter and the family in prayer. It was a third blow to our family this year and the hardest. Thankful for the blessed hope.

I will be back soon. I have so many ideas brewing, and things to say!

A week gone wrong

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My week went all wrong.

Monday morning dawned with the extermination team knocking on my door giving me five whole minutes to grab our stuff and leave again. This time I had to be gone for 6 hours at least.

Well, I grabbed everything I needed for Charlotte and me to spend the day at Scott’s work.

I could work there. It would be an adventure. But not how I expected.

I grabbed the wrong cord for my computer. It’s old and won’t hold a charge.

I forgot a lunch or snacks for either of us.

Charlotte nose dived off a chair and bit her chin and lip. It bled a lot and she was mostly hysterical for the rest of the day.

I was exhausted. Behind on work. And the day felt way too long.

The week finished out with more interruptions, and disappearing Internet.

And the toilet flooded the bathroom. It took every towel in the house to dry it up.

But ultimately that week gone wrong was still filled with good things.

1.Time at the park with Papa for Charlotte.

2. A coworker of Scott who ” just happened” to have the same computer type as me and loaned me her cord.

3. Charlotte’s fall did no permanent damage.

4. Gorgeous fall leaves that I had time to enjoy.

5. And the bathroom floor needed to be mopped anyway.

Sometimes gratitude is all about your perspective.

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Which side of today are you going to try to see?

Just for rest

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It was one of those days. The kind that start our by lingering in bed late, staying in pajamas all day and sipping “coffee” curled up on the couch together.

We’ve had crazy weeks. Weeks low on sleep, higher on stress and busy. And I’ve been tired. So tired.

But today, we loaded up on resting. We enjoyed doing nothing. We read books ( and more books!). We watched nature videos. Played. Napped. Ate soup.

It wasn’t productive. It might have been a little lazy.

But I’m so glad that at the end of crazy weeks, there is a day just for rest and worship. It’s always exactly what I need.

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Morning turned beautiful

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I woke up to the sound of rain drizzling down. I sighed.

Our landlady and the bug guy decided that early morning was a good time to treat our house. Early enough that the baby would still be asleep.

And then? He showed up even earlier than scheduled. I wasn’t thrilled.

After all, one of THE rules of motherhood is you don’t wake up a sleeping toddler. And today, I had to get her up an hour early. I didn’t have a chance to do anything but grab her shoes and go outside.

But here is where it gets good.

Somewhere between the early morning drizzles and me rushing around trying to pull things away from the walls and then rushing my baby awake, the sun had come out. The last of autumn was glowing in all glory. It was warm. It was beautiful. I felt like I had stepped into something magical.

What I feared would be one of the worst mornings of my crazy week ended up being one of the best.

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Charlotte had a blast. I walked around trying to soak in the joy and the glory and feeling awed at each new glimpse of beauty.

Thank you, Lord for redeeming ordinary and even annoying inconvenient moments and making them beautiful.

 

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what’s on our table

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Art comes in many different forms. For me, making a pretty plate with local food is one of the ways I unwind. When I try something new, and it looks appetizing on the plate, it makes something in my heart feel alive. Here’s what’s been on the table at the Brankshire home this summer. Best part? Most of the vegetables came from a tiny little patch right outside of my door. Can’t beat the flavor of food that was picked 10 seconds before it hit your table.

What’s been cooking for you guys this summer?

The Beauty of Broken—a book review

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“There’s no such thing as a perfect family.” If I’m honest,  I don’t like that sentence even a tiny bit. If I’m still honest, I’ll admit that it is true.

We’re all a little broken. Either by our choices, by our parents’ or grandparents’ choices, or sometimes just because life is broken. It’s ugly. It’s messy.

It can be hard to lift up your face and look the world in the eye and admit that you don’t have it all together. It is for me. 

But, the good thing about being broken? It is the perfect thing for finding The Source of inner strength. It’s the perfect thing for finding what true beauty really is—something that shines out in spite of the less-than-perfect way our live story often goes.

In Beauty of Broken, Elisa Morgan shares her story. And how brokenness shaped her story—and ultimately, how God used it to create a kind of beauty in her life.

I appreciated Elisa’s honesty, and the encouragement she gave to not be ashamed of our stories, even if they are broken. It could be that the brokenness that Satan meant to destroy us is the very thing that God will override and use to be one of our greatest blessings.  And that, I think, is really beautiful.

*I received this book in exchange for my honest review from Book Sneeze. The opinions are mine entirely.*