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Posted on Jul 20, 2017 in Devotional, Health, Love, Parenting, Spiritual Life, Wisdom | 14 comments

Peace

Peace

***This post is a continuation of my previous post, Fear, about the birth of my recent child who had severe medical complications and Down Syndrome. To read more about Redmond and our story about him, you can see my public Facebook posts beginning March 1, 2017, and click here.***

 

In the middle of my struggle with fear surrounding Redmond’s birth and the first couple months of his life, there were pockets of peace too. Although fear threatened to swallow me up, I didn’t have panic attacks. I didn’t come undone. I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and I used the tools at my disposal to get to peace.

From the moment I knew I was pregnant with Redmond, a sense of dread and unrest came over me. I spent the first two weeks after that positive pregnancy test praying desperately for God to intervene in whatever was wrong. I gave Him my permission (as if He needed it) to take the baby if there was something terribly wrong. I waited for a miscarriage. I could not shake the sense of dread.

After two weeks of crying out to God, I felt His presence one morning like a soothing balm pour over me. My hands flew to my belly and the words that came to me were, “Life and health, joy and peace.” Peace came with those words. Every time the fear and dread tried to return, I comforted myself with those words.

The morning of our 20-week ultrasound, which was an extra-fancy one for high risk pregnancies, I felt like I was trying to walk in mud. My feet simply wouldn’t go. I was stuck. It was everything I could do to lift them up and move them forward, so afraid of what I might find out that day. After the hour-long ultrasound, we were ushered into the grim-looking doctor’s office. As she launched into a lecture about managing gestational diabetes, I struggled to comprehend what she said.

Finally, I stopped her and asked bluntly, “Is my baby okay?”

“Hmmm?” She looked up from her paper, confused.

“Is. My. Baby. Okay?”

“Oh, your baby is fine. It looks perfectly healthy. Were you worried?” Clueless doctor.

“No Down Syndrome?” I remember that I specifically asked about that. They measure EVERYTHING in this ultrasound. A friend told me how she was warned that her daughter had a shortened nasal bone, which is a soft marker for Down Syndrome, but her baby was born just fine.

The doctor explained to me that they can’t tell for sure without several more tests, and even then they can only tell you something like if there’s a one in four chance that the baby has DS, but she’d be happy to run them if we wanted them. At the point where we were, she felt confident that there was only a slight chance that the baby had DS.

Relieved that the extensive ultrasound had shown no markers for DS or other birth defects, we again declined further testing. We agreed that we would love and accept any child God gave us, and there was little point worrying ourselves to pieces about it before we could know 100%.

I spent the remainder of the pregnancy feeling harassed and annoyed by the management of gestational diabetes and hyperemesis gravidarium (which included extreme motion sickness, making me sick even when I walked). Pregnancy is a real challenge for some of us, but I determined that 9 months of difficulty was worth the lifetime of joy that a child brings.

Towards the end of the pregnancy, I received weekly ultrasounds and non-stress tests. The baby’s heart never did what it was supposed to during the NSTs. It was supposed to go up 15 beats per minute for 15 seconds, but it never did. So I’d get another ultrasound, which would confirm that everything was okay, and we’d go on another week. We also knew that I had high amniotic fluid and the baby had a small amount of water around the kidneys. Both of those can be indicators of DS, but DS babies typically measure small, especially their heads. Redmond topped out in the 98th percentile with an average head size.

There were multiple tests and concerns from the doctors with my previous pregnancies and everything worked out just fine. I kept reminding myself of that, repeating the words, “Life and health, joy and peace“, and doing my best not to worry.

On the morning Redmond was born, I watched a YouTube video by a naturopath about managing anxiety. I’d seen it before and was looking for it to send to a friend. During a time when I should’ve been the most anxious, I was fairly calm. When Rick came back that morning, I firmly told him we had to get to the hospital. I was very concerned about the baby, but I wasn’t freaking out. When the nurse told me that the midwife was coming to break my water, I stayed calm. When they told me that the baby was in distress and I was headed toward a c-section, I handled it well. The words of the doctor replayed in my mind. I had a choice how I would handle the situation. God had promised me “Life and health, joy and peace.”

As I stumbled through those first few days of Redmond’s life, I found it hard to comprehend the things the doctors said. The words they used were terrible, and they definitely brought fear with them, but I also had a sense of peace. My baby would be okay. He didn’t have Down Syndrome. It may look like that, but the test would come back clear. Wouldn’t it?

I had to sort through what was numb denial, what was actually happening, and what might happen in the future. God might have promised me life and health, joy and peace, but at that moment I was facing sickness, fear, and sadness.

At my command, Rick left my side to be with Redmond and calmly talked to him and held his hand so our baby would sense something familiar in all the chaos. When I squeaked out the words “Down Syndrome” and “sickest baby in the NICU” to my sister, barely able to make my mouth form the words, she dropped everything and flew to my side. When the doctors determined that Redmond needed the last-resort heart and lung bypass (ECMO), my mom came to be with us. My dad, who was working and couldn’t take time off, hit his knees. For that first week of my son’s life, my dad fasted and prayed. He barely slept, waking every few hours to get back on his knees and pray some more. He prayed for Redmond, but he also prayed for me and the rest of our family.

When fear tried to take me over, I had a husband like a rock, standing firm and telling me it was all going to be okay, I had a sister and mother helping me laugh and letting me cry. I had a daddy interceding for me. He reminded me that I found strength and felt God’s presence in music. Thanks to his prompting, I turned on the praise music and sang my heart out.

Every morning while I got ready to go to the hospital, I sang. When I went to the pump room for 20 minutes every three hours, I listened to praise music and sang. I sang over my son. I sang praise to God. I couldn’t concentrate to read the Bible much. I barely had words to pray. But I sang and sang and sang. Phrases that stand out to me from that time…

The waves and wind still know His name
It is well with my soul
This mountain that’s in front of me will be thrown into the midst of the sea
Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well.

When I listened to the words of the doctors and nurses, when I got my eyes off Jesus, fear snuck in. I’d often find myself staring at objects, trying to figure out if I was crazy for believing that my baby would be okay, if I needed to accept reality and stop living in denial. But I had this peace that he’d make it through. We’d take this precious boy home with us. He wouldn’t need heart surgery. Surely by the time we left, he’d be off oxygen and his feeding tube.

During my pregnancy, “It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise, pour out our praise…” were song lyrics that swept over my heart. I’d think of the baby growing inside me and pray for his lungs. Another song that ministered to my heart said, “Your love is like radiant diamonds, bursting inside us, we cannot contain… God of mercy, sweet love of mine, I have surrendered to Your design. May this offering stretch across the sky, these hallelujahs be multiplied.” I’d think of the cells inside me, dividing and growing (bursting!), only able to be contained for about 9 months. I’d think about my “offering”, submitting to another difficult pregnancy and trying so hard to be gracious and patient through it, and beg God to honor my sacrifice. As I sang those songs, there was no medical evidence that he had any issues at all.

My main problem finding peace during the storm was not questioning God, but questioning myself. Was I sane to believe Redmond would be okay? Was the peace I felt actually shock and denial or a gift from God? Or both?

Much of my fear stemmed from the knowledge that God is running the universe. He has very seldom seemed to take my wants or desires into account as He does, so I braced myself for the gut punch of disappointment, the disbelief that what I had hoped for was gone. My brain played tricks on me. Strong medication taken for pain from surgery affected me. I felt acid rising in my throat, burning me when I tried to pray for God to save Redmond’s life and heal him. Hope and peace were mingled with fear and dread. Surely God would do what was ultimately best for us, but how much was I going to hurt in the process?

I submitted myself to His will and waited to see what He would do. I asked my friends to pray because I couldn’t. I allowed the Holy Spirit to intercede for me with those groans I hear so much about.

Romans 8:26 – 27 says, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the word of God.” (NKJV)

Please save my son, Lord. But not my will but Thine be done.

I kept hearing the words, “He spared not His own son.” I had no guarantee that He would spare mine.

Please hear this point before you close your computer and shut out these horrific thoughts… Please understand me. I knew that if God did not spare my son, He would give me the grace to get through the horrific loss. I had no doubt that if my son didn’t make it out of that place alive, God was indeed running the universe and it was somehow in His perfect will for my life to take Redmond home so early. The thought horrified me, but even in the worst moments, I knew that God would walk me through it all. I was not alone.

Knowing so well that God owes me nothing, that any loss I face is nothing compared with the trauma of His own son’s death, I relish even more, savor, and bask in the beautiful YES that He gave me.

My precious baby boy, a cuddly bundle of smiles and love, sleeps soundly in my arms. This baby who came so close to death, who should be terribly delayed and have all kinds of problems as a result of the very medical interventions that were used to save his life, appears to be doing just fine. He coos and “talks”, sings with me. He actively rolls from back to front and back again, chewing on his thumb and reaching for toys. He laughs out loud, startling himself with the sound. He’s growing like a weed, wearing nine-month sleepers at 4.5 months old. He sighs deeply when he sleeps, burying his face in my neck, and tries yet again to pull the oxygen tube out of his nose.

He’s still on a feeding tube, still needs supplemental oxygen, which I wish away many times every day. But after all he’s been through, what are these little annoyances? I adjust my attitude to thanking God for these tools that I have to keep Redmond healthy, thriving, and growing. He should’ve had hearing loss, but he hears perfectly. He should’ve needed heart surgery, but the holes in his heart are closing. Pulmonary hypertension is GONE. He’s active, alert, and cheerful. He sleeps through the night like a little champ.

The chromosome test for Down Syndrome came back positive, and it took us a while to deal with that. He has an extra chromosome, which was present at conception and not a result of the complications of pregnancy or the medical treatment he needed early on. With it comes low muscle tone and the possibility of many other physical and intellectual handicaps. I have prayed over this child though, emboldened by God’s miracles in his life so far. I pray that he has the mind of Christ, that his eyes see truth, and so on. I pray that he is ABLE, not disabled.

A few days ago, I whispered to God during a rare moment of quiet, “And please God, would you heal him from Down Syndrome?” Very swiftly and firmly, I heard a voice whisper back, “It’s a gift.”

My heart lurched.

Many parents of children with DS report that they feel very lucky to have a child with DS, and Rick and I have shaken our heads in confusion. Why are we lucky to have a child with physical and intellectual impairments? Is low muscle tone and a congenital heart defect a gift?

But this God I serve, He works in mysterious ways. What is mystery to us is great glory to Him. And so, although I cannot claim to understand at this point, I have decided to embrace this gift in the same way I embrace the God I do not understand.

My child, the one with the extra chromosome I so greatly feared, is Life and Health, Joy and Peace to me. He is Life and Health, Joy and Peace to the entire world. The fact that he has a chromosomal abnormality is not a burden, but a gift.

I will still pray for him to be completely healthy and whole, to have perfect vision and a strong body. I will still pray for him to be able to walk and talk with ease, to be able to comprehend all that he needs to understand in this world. This child, and his amazing siblings who have embraced him with all their hearts, will drive me to my knees more than anything else ever has. I will pray for all three of them with all my heart. But Down Syndrome is off my prayer list. I write this with a thankful heart, full of peace: It is our mysterious gift.

Photo credit: the beautiful, blue, professional ones are all by ErikaMarie Photography. The rest are me.

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Posted on Jun 20, 2017 in Devotional, Fertility, Health, Parenting, Spiritual Life | 7 comments

FEAR

FEAR

Although there are many things I don’t recall, fear is one thing I remember well from the first few days of Redmond’s life.

Unplanned c-section because the baby was in distress. Baby taken from me without so much as a glance. Phrases like “very sick”, “breathing problems”, “Down Syndrome”, and “NICU” scatter through my mind.

Day two of his life, words like pulmonary hypertension and oxygen levels suddenly became things I needed to understand. Lungs and heart that weren’t working right. Ventilators, nitrate, blood sugar, monitors, and nurses and doctors and help. Lots and lots of help.

“Sickest baby in the NICU.”

I was so numb and confused, in shock, the words barely phased me. But they got the attention of the nurses and doctors who cared for me after my c-section. Suddenly, less than 24 hours after surgery, I was showered, dressed, given a fist full of prescriptions, and driven to the NICU an hour away to sit with my baby, hold his hand. The baby’s doctor stared at me in shock. “Why are you here. In JEANS?” I wasn’t sure where else I was supposed to be or what I should’ve been wearing. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. He gave me a lecture about how I needed to take care of myself if I was going to take care of my baby. I was to eat regular meals, sleep as much as I could, and not push myself too hard. I was to remember that I’d just had major surgery and take it easy.

I heard the doctor and followed his orders. Through blind tears, I allowed myself to be wheeled around in a wheelchair, driven back and forth from the hospital to the Ronald McDonald House, and told when to take the medications I needed for pain. I tried to sleep, but had to wake up to pump every few hours.  Then I’d wake up in a panic every morning, wondering what was happening with my baby and how I could just leave him in the hands of strangers.

The numb confusion started to lift when the phone rang early on the morning of his third day of life. We’d been told the night before that he’d made it for the first 36 hours, so he was not likely to need to be transferred for the one kind of care our hospital could not offer. But when the phone rang, we learned he was to be transported to a bigger hospital, about 40 miles away, to have the chance to go on a heart and lung bypass machine. He might not need it, but they didn’t want to wait any longer to chance it.

Redmond was very sick. He needed more help than what he could get at the hospital he was in. Suddenly, I was very aware that this was serious. My baby might actually die. I jerked into action, signing papers and asking questions and trying to focus on what each person said to me.

Emotions flooded over me. Guilt. So much guilt. I was 41 years old and the likelihood of Down Syndrome increases exponentially with the age of the mother. I had gestational diabetes that wasn’t well-controlled, in spite of my efforts. He had complications from that. If I had been in better shape. If I had tried harder. If I had listened to my gut and ignored the strange rules from the doctors and nutritionists to eat carbohydrates, he wouldn’t be so sick. Shame. I was so ashamed. Memories of studies I’d read stating that the age of the father is now known to affect the baby’s health as well flooded over me. My husband was 52.

Illogical, panicked thoughts woke me up with a jerk every time I fell asleep. I was like King David of the Bible. God took the son of King David and Bathsheba. David fasted and prayed for the child’s life, but when the baby died, he got up, washed, and ate. In my muddled state, I forgot that David was punished by God for serious sin – including murder and adultery. My son was not the result of any sin, but I had irrational thoughts that he would die and I’d have to get up, wash my face, and get on with life. (I discovered that one of the medications I was taking for pain sometimes caused people to have terrible dreams and jerk awake in a state of panic.)

I flew down to the baby’s room at the crack of dawn, walking rather than taking the prescribed wheelchair (because my husband wasn’t moving fast enough for my panicked mind), nearly hyperventilating with fear. I couldn’t breathe. I just knew I’d arrive in his room to find him gone, hospital workers waiting to tell me in person, rather than call and disturb the last peace we’d ever know.

But there he was, laying quietly, an enormous machine run by four people beeping and humming, keeping him alive. ALIVE.

I dissolved into tears, breathing for what felt like the first time in minutes, barely able to stand with the relief that flooded me. As they stared at me, I tried to explain. But the words wouldn’t come. Instead, I stumbled to his bedside, took his limp and swollen hand, and poured out the words that God placed in my heart in that moment. God had felt so far away from me, but in that moment His presence rushed in and I spoke truth.

“Redmond Samuel Wyse, you are a gift from God. Every moment of your precious life is a gift. And whether I have you for six days, six months, six years, or a lifetime, I will be grateful for every single moment. You are an answer to my prayers, and I cherish every moment I’ve had with you – every moment of that horrible pregnancy, and every fear-filled, terrible moment since you were born. You are a gift and I’m grateful for you.”

And with those words that I hadn’t felt just moments before, things changed. Love rushed in, replacing numbness and thoughts that maybe it would be better if he didn’t make it. Love replaced efforts I’d been unwittingly making to protect my heart from the pain of losing him. Love reminded me that in Christ, every life is precious and worthwhile, even the lives of babies with Down Syndrome, congenital heart defects, and pulmonary hypertension. Love rushed in, reminding me that God is greater than any fear, any doubt, and any lie from Satan.

That was very early on a Sunday morning. It would be six very long days before he’d be taken off the heart and lung bypass machine. It would be six scary days of praying that he wouldn’t have a bleeding event. It would be six days of feeling helpless, eating hospital food that was brought to me, pumping to provide milk for him when he was able to eat, sitting on bright orange chairs in front of large windows that overlooked a massive cemetery, riding in a wheelchair back and forth to the Ronald McDonald House, jumping every time the phone rang. But on the sixth day, he was taken off the machine and his heart and lungs functioned well enough to stay off it.

The next day, when he was ten days old, I was able to hold him for the first time. I cried the ugly cry, tears and sobs and gratitude all mixed into a snotty mess. He was covered in tubes, wires, cords, and contraptions. It took three people to pick him up to place him in my lap. His ventilator was pinned to my shirt. I couldn’t get close enough to kiss him until they put him back, at which time the nurse held his little head close to mine for a quick kiss. But I was holding him. I sang him songs and marveled at his tiny body, then fell asleep in a blissfully rare moment of relaxation and joy.

For a week after that, I was able to hold him once a day. One time, Rick held him, although he grumbled quite a bit about it, worried he would pull on one of the tubes going in and out of him, worried he might break the fragile boy.

When he was four days old, the day they put him on the bypass machine, I called my in-laws and asked them to bring the older kids up to meet their baby brother. I was seized with fear that he would die before they got to meet him. It suddenly became a terrible fear. How could I explain to them that the baby died if they never got to see him alive?

And so they came, arriving just moments after Redmond’s surgery to have giant tubes inserted into his neck. The tubes allowed blood to be pumped out of his heart, artificially oxygenated by the machine, then pumped back into his heart. It was a terrible time for a visit, straining the nerves of the nurses and specialists, but still very important to me.

The kids were held up by their daddy, allowed to touch the baby’s hand, and then taken out quickly. We went to a play area in the hospital where the kids could get out some energy. I sat in my wheelchair and cried, the numbness worn off, so very sad that my baby was fighting for his life in another part of the hospital. Sad that I couldn’t run and play with my older kids while I had them with me. Sad that I had ruined our perfect, lovely life, free from hardship and pain.

A few days after the bypass machines rolled out of his room, the fear in my heart began to let loose a bit. When they took him off the ventilator, the fear let go some more. Every step along the way, fear has had to go, little by little.

Today, at home with weeks having passed without any need for hospitalization, fear only pops up from time to time. It’s still hanging around, but it isn’t hovering, dark and sinister, taking up all the space in my mind.

“God hasn’t given me a spirit of fear.” It’s the truth. Fear isn’t from God. But it’s very real when a baby’s life hangs by a thread. God gave me ways to manage fear and get through it, but it was very real and present.

Those early days in the hospital, I kept looking around for someone to come and offer me a temporary fix for the fear and sadness. Where’s the wine? Where’s the Xanax? Where’s the massage therapist to work the stress out of my muscles? Where’s the counselor to help me with these crazy thoughts?

The people that kept showing up, over and over again, were my church’s pastors. They prayed. They sat and listened. My sister and mom helped me remember that in the worst of times, we laugh to get through it. We find the funny, even through our tears. The nurses and doctors didn’t offer me a temporary fix. I didn’t take one nerve pill, didn’t drink one drop of alcohol. I slept. I ate. I leaned hard on my husband. I sang praise songs. A few days before we left the hospital, I got a massage. A social worker showed up one day and helped me work through some of my guilt and shame. Then I never saw her again.

I don’t know how to wrap up this post. I could write and write and write. I’m not sure I’d ever run out of words. In fact, I have written and written. Thousands of words. I try to edit them down and just write more. In the coming months, I’ll try to post them. I’ll try to share a bit of what this has been like. And you’ll have to forgive the repeats and the stumbles and the grammatical errors. Or point them out to me so I can fix them later.

All I know to say in closing is that God has not given me a spirit of fear, but fear snuck in anyway. What God did was help me through my fear. What God continues to do today is help me through the fear. Gratitude is slowly taking over as I cuddle and nurture the sweet, sweet baby boy He placed in my arms. My heart is at peace.

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Posted on Mar 25, 2017 in Fertility, Health, Parenting | 4 comments

It’s Another Boy!

It’s Another Boy!

I’m so pleased to introduce you to our second son, Redmond Samuel Wyse. He has had us on quite a roller coaster ride for these last 23 days, some of which you may already know from my public Facebook posts. He was born on Wednesday, March 1st, 2017, at 4:21 p.m. in our local hospital. He weighed 8 pounds, 12 ounces, and was 20 1/2″ long. He was born just before 38 weeks, via an unplanned c-section.

At around 37 weeks into my pregnancy, Redmond shifted from a very active baby to not moving much at all. The midwife and OB had been supervising my pregnancy closely because of gestational diabetes. We had some warnings that his heart might not be exactly as it should be, but repeated ultrasounds showed no reason for concern.  Redmond moved less and less that week, which I attributed to his growing size and getting squished in there. But Wednesday morning he stopped moving all together. I tried everything to get him to move, then decided we needed to get to the hospital right away. I began to panic, afraid I had waited too long.

As soon as we arrived at the hospital, the nurse pulled out the doppler and we heard his heart beating. I was so relieved. Although his heart was beating, they soon realized he was in distress and a c-section needed to happen right away. I was able to remain calm until he was out, but then I knew something was very wrong. They didn’t let me see him and suddenly my world turned upside down. The very wise anesthesiologist gave me something for anxiety. I sent Rick to be with Redmond while they worked on him and I slept in the recovery room.

That night, Redmond was taken to a larger hospital with a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). He’d been put on a ventilator and I was only able to see him inside of a closed travel crib for a few moments. Too medicated to fully grasp what was happening, I went back to sleep. I was aware that there was a problem, but felt completely numb. It’s strange to write those words, but I believe that was actually the very thing I needed at that time. How could I have handled the weight of what was happening to my son, totally unable to be with him or do anything to help?

The next day we were told that Redmond was the sickest baby in the NICU and they were not sure what to do with him. I was released from the hospital less than 24 hours after my c-section, driven home by a wonderful friend who is also a nurse at the hospital, and was soon on my way to see my baby about an hour away. My sister dropped everything that day, got on a plane from the Carolinas, and actually beat me to the NICU. I am so grateful for her and all she did over the next several days to keep me calm and focused, asking intelligent questions when I could think of nothing, and buying a large quantity of snacks (and supplies)!

A few days later, Redmond was transferred to a larger hospital about 80 miles from our home. The hospital he’d been in was excellent, but had done everything they could do for him. They felt like a treatment called ECMO (for more info, watch a video about it here: http://www.mottchildren.org/conditions-treatments/ecmo) was what he might need. Redmond had several heart issues and his lungs weren’t working like they were supposed to work. ECMO, a heart/lung bypass, would allow them to rest and have some time to start working. The photo below is what his room looked like with the ECMO machine, ventilator, and other equipment he needed.

When he was just 3 days old, he was put on ECMO. We had our older children, Eliana and Charlie, come up to the hospital with their grandparents to meet him. We weren’t sure if it was a good idea to let them see him with so many things attached to him, but decided they needed to see their brother alive. It was a terrible thing to have to decide, but they handled it very well. We allowed them to briefly see and touch him, then we took them into a play area in the hospital. While they ran and played, I sat in a wheelchair and cried. I cried because this short period of time was all I had with them and I couldn’t even play with them (c-section recovery). I cried because my baby was in another room fighting for his life. I cried because I was hormonal and exhausted.

Redmond was on ECMO for six days. They were terrible days, full of ups and downs, alarms going off constantly, no fewer than 2 people in his room watching him at all times. He had two large tubes in his neck and was medically paralyzed. His chest didn’t rise and fall, he was puffy and discolored, and he looked like a lifeless doll. Often there were 4 people watching him – 2 nurses and 2 ECMO specialists. There was barely space in his room for us. We often walked out of the room to sit on nearby chairs and get a break from the sound of the alarms.

On March 7, when he was just 6 days old, we were startled by an early morning phone call from the nurse practitioner. Overnight, Redmond had developed a tension pneumothorax, or an air pocket outside of his lung. It was causing his heart and other organs to be pushed off to the side, which interfered with ECMO. The standard treatment is a simple chest tube, but that was extremely risky for him because he was on blood thinners. A chest tube brought with it the risk of internal and external bleeding. Without the chest tube, ECMO couldn’t continue successfully. That kind of uncontrollable bleeding didn’t bode well for him either.

As the medical team discussed how to handle it, I prayed with all my might. “Please God, give them wisdom, creativity, and knowledge. Help them to find a way where there seems to be no way.” God chose to speak through a pediatric surgeon. He said, “When we don’t know what to do, sometimes it’s best just to wait.” They all agreed to give Redmond 6 hours, repeat the chest x-ray, then do the chest tube if necessary. They made a plan for the chest tube and continued on their way. I called on everyone I knew to pray for that 2:00 p.m. deadline. Please, God, give us a miracle.

At 2:00 p.m., the chest x-ray was repeated. Our pastors had come up to be with us while we waited for the news. As I sat on the edge of a bright orange chair outside his room, the nurse practitioner walked up and told me the news. “The pneumothorax is gone. His heart and everything else have lined back up correctly. No chest tube is needed.”

I almost fell off that chair with gratitude. Sobs of relief came rushing out of me. God had answered our prayers with a miracle. The nurse practitioner, who has never mentioned God to me, agreed that it was a miracle. She had never seen anything like it in 21 years of working in the NICU. That day Redmond turned a corner. Before that day, ECMO specialists, nurses, and doctors were constantly confounded about him. He was difficult and touchy. Anytime they needed to move him for any reason, alarms went off. After that day, the reports changed. He was improving. He was improving more. He was improving faster than they expected. Blood cultures, labs, and other tests looking for other problems were coming back negative.

When he was 9 days old, he was able to come off ECMO and tolerated it well. I held him for the first time when he was 10 days old. He had so many things attached to him that it took 2 nurses and a respiratory therapist to put him in my lap. When he was 15 days old, he was able to get the ventilator out. When he was 16 days old, I heard the amazing sound of his cry for the first time. When he was 22 days old, he was completely weaned off IV medicines and his PICC line came out, he got his Foley catheter out, and I was able to pick him up by myself to hold him. When he was 23 days old, he was switched from a c-pap breathing ram (forced air) to nasal cannulas (supplemental oxygen), which is one step away from breathing on his own.

We are looking forward to how he reaches the next milestones – coming completely off of oxygen and learning to drink from a bottle.

We have seen so many miracles along the way. I’ve made my Facebook posts about him all public, so I won’t rehash every one of them here. But we stand in awe of God and the way He has answered our prayers.

Rick and I have been mostly separated from Eliana and Charlie since the day Redmond was born. We’ve been home a few times, very briefly, and are extremely grateful for the ability we have to stay with our baby. Rick’s parents and our amazing babysitter have provided so much love, support, and care for them that sometimes we wonder if they even miss us. They’ve been able to keep to their regular schedule and come up to visit us several times. We hate to be away from them and miss them terribly, but are so thankful for the excellent support we have at home.

We’ve been staying at The Ronald McDonald House, which has been a tremendous blessing. We will be lifelong supporters of their charity because of way they’ve helped us. Not only do they provide housing for families whose children are in the hospital far from home, but there’s typically a meal provided every day, as well as countless other grace-filled gestures.

Redmond has some things that will continue to challenge us as he grows. We’ve been told he has a ventricular septal defect (VSD), or a hole between the lower chambers of his heart. It’s possible that it could close on it’s own, be something he’s able to live with, or need to be repaired surgically in the future. We are praying earnestly for God to close that hole without the need for surgery. The hole is a complication of Down Syndrome, or Trisomy 21. This diagnosis came as a surprise to us, as none of the tests we had done before he was born suggested it. It took a while for the chromosome test to be completed, but we were told it was a possibility within an hour of his birth.

Redmond (wise protector) Samuel (God has heard) Wyse will not be defined by this diagnosis. Named in honor of his paternal grandfather, Samuel Wenger, his name means “God has heard and blessed us with a wise protector.” We chose this name before we knew anything about him and believe God has a purpose and a mission for his life. He will be a mighty man of God, given every opportunity to succeed, and supported through every possible path he may take. We have prayed for him since before he was born, asking God to give us another child, and have believed that he  would bring “life and health, joy and peace.” He is our great blessing and we praise God for answering our prayers. He has already exceeded the expectations of our doctors, and we look forward to seeing all the ways he exceeds the expectations of the rest of the world.

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Posted on Aug 25, 2016 in Fertility, Health, Love, Marriage | 11 comments

Baby Wyse #3

Baby Wyse #3

Rick and I are so happy to let you know that Baby Wyse #3 is on the way! The baby is due to be born on March 16, 2017. We are soon to be out-numbered!

After Charlie was born, I decided there would be no more pregnancies for me. Pregnancy and I didn’t get along very well, and I had my son and daughter. My hands were incredibly full with a 15-month old and a newborn, so the idea of another baby made me feel like suffocating.

But the kids are now 3 1/2 and 2, much more self-sufficient and getting along great. I considered returning to work, but the options in our rural area are limited. After exploring those options without success, Rick and I decided that another baby might be a good thing. I was still terrified of pregnancy from my two previous experiences, so I began exploring alternative health options to see if I could have a different experience in the future.

I found a wonderful chiropractor who helped with the energy deficiency I couldn’t seem to shake. She introduced me to a local naturopath who ran some tests and provided hope that I could get some deep-seated health issues resolved and have a better experience. I had excruciating pain in my knees, in spite of having lost 20 pounds and following a diabetic diet to keep my blood sugar healthy. My primary care physician, chiropractor, naturopath, and the massage therapist I’ve been working with for several years all told me the same things: 1) This is a reaction to stress. Go on vacation and get your mind off your recent disappointments. 2) You need an anti-inflammatory diet. Meat, vegetables, fruit. No more bread and sugar.

I heeded their advice. I began taking the remedy the naturopath gave me (one bottle, not hundreds of dollars in various supplements). Our family rented a beautiful cabin in the mountains of Gatlinburg, and we brought our babysitter along. For the first time in about four years, Rick and I slept through the night without interruption for 8 nights in a row. I cannot minimize how much that helped me. A lack of sleep for that many years had really affected me. During that vacation, I took a complete break from social media and things came back into perspective. I have been so blessed with a wonderful family, and I simply enjoyed them.

Following that vacation, I started The Whole30, which I’ve written about before. I used that eating plan to help find a good balance for my body, and while I’m not where I want to be yet, I am confident that I’m headed in the right direction. As my diet changed, anxiety fell off me. My knee pain all but disappeared. I lost more weight. I began exercising again, and as summer came around, I began enjoying gardening and the warm, fresh air.

Strange things began happening, like instead of falling asleep after over-eating, my body screamed at me to MOVE. I started jogging a little, doing jumping jacks, and even (shock…) craving vegetables! I began to have healthy, normal responses to hunger and satisfaction. My hormones balanced out and the naturopath could find NO vitamin/nutrient deficiencies when she tested me.

Baby Wyse 3As I worked on my health, Rick and I decided to let nature take it’s course to see if we might conceive, but nothing happened. We thought it was possible that we had reached the end of our biological clocks and were okay with that. We are so content and blessed with our precious children. But I’m not very good at “going with the flow”, so after almost a year of seeing what might happen, I got serious. I began tracking and testing and was very pleasantly surprised to find that IT WORKED! The first month! Whoa.

Within an hour of getting that positive pregnancy test, I went to work. I made a list with the title, “Preparation for Armageddon”. I listed all the things I needed to do in the next one to two weeks to prepare for the sickness I’d had with the other two. I cooked up a storm and filled our freezer to the brim. I organized and planned and prepared. I had boundless energy and I used it!

When week five hit (the first time I threw up with Eliana), I still felt great. Relieved, I scurried around more, doing fun things with the kids while I could, making lists, and working in the yard and garden. I was intent on meeting my “step goals” on my fitness tracker and did so every single day that week.

When week six hit (when I really got sick with both kids), low-level nausea made it’s appearance. It was no big deal. I didn’t throw up, I wasn’t couch-bound, I even felt a little better if I went for a walk! So I walked and gardened and kept on cooking. One day we had a family fun event and I was pretty tired of feeling nauseated, so I took some anti-nausea medication. The rest of the day was great and I had no issues at all.

The days since then have been a combination of feeling pretty good (except for very, very tired) and feeling yucky/nauseated. I haven’t thrown up. On the days when I’m extra-tired, I take a nap with the kids. My energy comes back within a few days and I make up for the days before. I’ve been spending more time indoors and not getting many steps in, but I’m giving myself grace for that.

So far, this pregnancy is pretty normal. I remind myself that nausea isn’t that big of a deal and repeat out loud how grateful I am that I’m not throwing up. I can go for walks (with Eliana, extreme motion sickness made walking impossible), work in the garden, pick peaches with my husband, and cook meals. My meals aren’t spectacular right now, but they’re often hot and nutritious.

We’ve decided to wait until the baby is born to find out the gender. Once the baby gets here and is big enough to sleep in a crib in his or her own room, we’ll evaluate where the older two are with their maturity level and decide how to arrange the kids’ bedrooms. We have lots of ideas, but no solutions right now, and are hoping it becomes obvious to us when we need to decide.

I’d like to have a different birthing experience this time. The epidurals didn’t fully take either time before, and last time led to a horrific spinal headache that negatively impacted Charlie’s birth and my health for a while afterward. I’m planning to fully educate myself on non-epidural pain-relief methods, utilize a local midwife, and plan for a midwife-attended hospital birth. I take medicine for a headache, so I see no reason to go through labor and delivery completely un-medicated. However, the epidural is off the table. Thankfully, with the last two, the birthing process was actually the “easy” part. Not really, but so much easier than the pregnancies themselves.

We’ve told Eliana and Charlie and they’re thrilled. They have all kinds of fun and interesting questions. I have an app on my phone that shows an illustration of the size of the baby each week. Eliana LOVES to look at it and asks me almost every day to show her how big the baby is right now. Some questions I’ve had so far include:

“When the baby gets big enough to come out, will your belly just POP?” (A basic anatomy lesson followed that question and seemed to satisfy her concerns.)

“Do I have a baby in MY belly?”
“No, sweetheart. You’re too little to have a baby in your belly. That won’t happen until you’re more grown up.”
“Like Kristina?” (our 18-year old babysitter)
“Well, yes. You have to be at least as grown up as Kristina to have a baby in your belly.”

One day when I was particularly nauseated and tired and laid on the couch most of the day…
“Is the baby in your belly still sick?”
“No, Charlie, the baby isn’t sick. But because the baby is in Mommy’s belly, Mommy’s belly is a little upset today.”
“Oh, okay. Can you walk?” (Well, shoot. I guess I’ve been particularly lazy today. After that, I got up, took a Zofran, and got some things done.)

“If you throw up, Mommy, will you throw up the baby?”

****************

I’ve always wanted a large family. Maybe we’ll stop after three and call that “large enough.” Maybe we’ll test nature a little more and see if four is possible. Rick looks at me like I’m crazy when I say that, but these kids will keep us young! 🙂 Our babysitter’s mom told me she had four more after she was my age, so it’s possible that if I keep myself healthy, I have plenty of time left…

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Posted on May 16, 2016 in Health | 0 comments

Awesome Whole 30 Recipes

Awesome Whole 30 Recipes

I finished my Whole 30 program at the end of March, but am continuing with the plan because I feel so good about it. I wrote last time that I was surprised by how good clean eating can be. This time I’m going to prove it! Give these “recipes” (I use that word loosely) a try and let me know what you think, if you modified them, and how they turned out.

You’re welcome.

Pork Roast

Pork RoastThis one is so easy, I can’t stand it. The flavor will make everyone think you’re some kind of a genius in the kitchen! I don’t know if I ever had pork roast before The Whole 30. A friend recommended it, or I would’ve never attempted to make it myself. The basic recipe is here and I modified it slightly to suit my pantry.

Basically, get out your crock pot, spray it down with cooking spray (I use Pam Organic Olive Oil), and lay 3 slices of no-sugar bacon (I got mine here and it’s delicious), or prosciutto if you can’t find sugar-free bacon, on the bottom. Put a 3-5 pound pork roast (I use the biggest one I can find because I want lots of leftovers) on top of the bacon. (Make sure your pork doesn’t have MSG in it. I got a natural one from Wal-Mart, but check the label!) Now, make 5 deep slits in the meat and put a peeled garlic clove in each one. (I crush mine a little with the flat side of my big knife so they melt into the meat a little easier.) Lastly, put a couple tablespoons of Pink Himalayan Sea Salt on top of it. Cook it on low for 12 hours (newer crock pots) or 16 hours (older crock pots). Do not baste it or mess with it at all. Trust me.

THIS IS IMPORTANT! When it’s done, remove it from the crock pot and put it in a large bowl or casserole dish. Using two forks, shred it. Do NOT shred it in the crock pot. The juice is way too salty and will ruin it. You really need to shred it (and mix it around pretty good) to distribute the roasted garlic and crispy skin evenly. Roasted garlic is mild and delicious, even if you end up eating a whole bulb of it at once, but it really enhances the flavor of the meat when it’s broken apart in the shredding process.

Just to make it extra-easy (because you do so much prep-work on this diet), I serve this with roasted red potatoes, canned green beans, and store-bought, sugar-free applesauce.  I also take the remaining juices and bacon from the bottom of the crock pot and put them in a container in the fridge. Whenever I need cooking fat, I pull that out and savor the added flavor. YUM. Just note that if you use it, you won’t need nearly as much (if any) salt because it’s already very salty.

Ingredients list: 3-5 pound pork roast, 3 slices sugar-free bacon, 5 cloves of garlic, 2 T Pink Himalayan sea salt (I didn’t grind mine, but if yours is ground, you should probably use less.)

Prep time: 5 minutes before, 5 minutes after

Cook time: 12-16 hours

 

Roasted Red Potatoes

The Whole 30 is extremely restrictive, but it does allow for all varieties of potatoes. According to my sister (an expert in all these things), if your main goal is weight loss, you’ll want to skip all but the sweet potatoes. But if you’re feeling deprived without bread or pasta and want to splurge a little, this recipe is delicious. I came up with it one day when, on a whim, I decided to invite friends over for lunch after church to share my precious pork roast. I’d planned on making 2 roasted sweet potatoes, but that wasn’t enough for all of us. I came up with this on the fly and it was so quick (compared to baking for an hour) and easy, I made it for guests several time. There were rave reviews every time.

Get one of those small bags of baby red potatoes at the grocery store, spray them with some veggie cleaning spray, wash them, cut them in half (or don’t, to save time), and place them in a glass bowl with a lid. Add a few tablespoons of water to the bowl, put the lid on tightly, and microwave them for 8-10 minutes. You want them soft, but not so mushy they fall apart. That’s not the end of the world, but they’re harder to work with if they get too soft.

Drain the water and put the potatoes on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Drizzle them with extra-virgin olive oil, garlic powder (or minced garlic, if you have the time), onion powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Broil for 5 minutes, stir, then broil another 5 minutes or so. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, but let them get a nice caramel crust on them. That’s it. You’re done! YUM.

Ingredients: small bag of baby red potatoes, water, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, extra-virgin olive oil

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: about 20 minutes

 

Pepper, Onion, Tomato Awesomeness

I’m not sure what to call this mixture. Sauce? Side dish? So, we’ll go with Awesomeness, because that’s exactly what it is. With The Whole 30, you need to eat veggies at every meal and sometimes that gets challenging. This recipe works really well if you can do your prep work in advance. It’s a sweet, flavorful mix that brightens up any plate. It’s so good, I use it on just about everything – eggs, meat, and even by itself. It’s not a fast recipe, so it’s best if you make it when you have plenty of time. Then refrigerate it and warm it up when you’re ready to use it. It’s totally worth the time.

First of all, get one of those 3-packs of multi-colored sweet peppers (red, yellow, orange). Wash, seed, and slice them. In a skillet, melt some of your pork roast fat or other cooking fat, and add the peppers. I like to put a tight lid on them to speed things up. The point of this step is to soften up the fresh peppers.

*I’ve discovered a way to skip this step though. If you pre-slice all the peppers and onions and freeze them, the peppers will be very soft when they thaw out. Then you can put the peppers and onions in the skillet at the same time. I tend to do several batches of peppers at once, which saves time and tears (onions) later.

While the peppers are cooking, slice a yellow sweet onion and peel and mince some garlic. Cut a couple handfuls of cherry tomatoes in half (or use regular tomatoes, whatever you have on hand). When the peppers have softened, add the onions and garlic, stirring to incorporate everything well. Put the lid back on and sit down to read a book. Check on them every few minutes, stirring to be sure they don’t burn. When the onions become translucent, add the tomatoes, stirring everything up again. Add some salt, pepper, and a little basil if you want. (I like to add crushed red pepper too, but I’m the only one in this house who likes things spicy. Do as you wish with yours.)

Cover it back up and go back to your book. When the onions start to caramelize, you’re done. The tomatoes should’ve wilted down and everything should look like it’s soft and wonderful. Stir it up one more time, then put it in a glass dish with a lid.

Add this mix to everything until it’s gone (sigh) and you need to make another batch. If you have company, don’t put it all out on the table or they WILL eat.it.all. They won’t even realize all the work that went into making that amazing dish. Keep some back or you’ll be staring wide-eyed and mournful while they eat every last bite.

Ingredients: cooking fat, 3 sweet peppers, 1 yellow onion, tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, and basil

Prep time: How fast can you wash, seed, peel, and slice peppers, onions, and garlic?

Cook time: about 15-20 minutes

 

Fritatta

FritattaIf you’re anything like me, you enjoy making breakfast but don’t always have time for a big production. This basic dish is an excellent solution. I started making it ahead, planning to eat the leftovers on busy mornings. I used to grab a bar or a couple hard boiled eggs on busy mornings, which always left me feeling a little cheated. With this dish, I have a breakfast I can look forward to, needing only a minute or so to reheat it. It tastes just as good the second day as it does the first, so enjoy!

First, figure out what kind of meat you want to use and prepare it in a cast iron skillet (or other oven-safe skillet) over medium heat with some cooking fat so it doesn’t stick. I’ve used ground beef, chicken sausage, bacon, and kielbasa. Use enough for 2 servings. Add in some of your Pepper, Onion, and Tomato Awesomeness and half a bag of raw spinach. Stir it all up. Cook it for a few minutes so it all gets warm and the spinach wilts.

While it’s cooking, turn your oven on Broil and whisk 6-8 eggs really well. The longer you whisk, the more air gets in there and gives you nice, fluffy eggs. You can add a little water to the mix too, if you want.

Go back to your meat and veggie mix. Make sure it’s all warm and evenly distributed. If you’re using a cast iron skillet, you may want to push everything to one side and spray it again with Pam, then do the same on the other side. If I don’t do that, my eggs really stick, but I don’t have a non-stick skillet that’s oven-safe over 350 degrees F. Fuss with your ingredients a bit here, making sure you don’t have a bunch of meat in one spot and a big hole somewhere else. Once everything is spread out nicely, pour the eggs over it. Now, let it sit for a few minutes until the sides begin to set. Not too long or it’ll burn on the bottom! 3-4 minutes is typically enough. If you want to be really fancy, you can add sliced tomatoes, diced avocados, or crumbled bacon to the top. It makes it look extra nice, but isn’t necessary.

Now, take the skillet and put it under the broiler. I like to put it on the top rack so it cooks quickly. 2 1/2 to 3 minutes later, your fritatta is golden on top and delicious!  Cut it in half, pour a cup of hot coffee, and find a comfortable spot to savor your delicious meal!

*Note, I like to do as much prep-work ahead of time as possible. During the kids’ naps, I’ll often brown the ground beef with some onion and garlic for a later recipe, or slice up the kielbasa, or cook the bacon til it’s almost done. The only thing I wouldn’t recommend doing ahead of time is whisking the eggs. That didn’t turn out so well for me. :-/

Ingredients: cooking fat; 6-8 eggs; Pepper, Onion, Tomato Awesomeness; Baby Spinach; Meat of your choice

 

Grill Day!

This isn’t a recipe, just a tip. It’s really helpful to do The Whole 30 during the summer when fresh fruits and vegetables are widely available and you can fire up the grill easily.

When you get the grill going, this is the time to do as much prep-work as you possibly can for the week to come. I like to cover every inch of my grill with something (twice)! I also like to use a charcoal grill for the taste, so I don’t want all that work setting up the grill to go to waste.

To prepare, put your meat on the counter for about an hour so it gets to room temperature. Pound the chicken so the thickness is even. Coat your steak and chicken well with sea salt and pepper. Spray the grill with Pam and get it as hot as you can (500-600 degrees, yay!). Gather your supplies: oven-mitts to protect your hands and wrists from the heat, plates, utensils, sauces, baskets, meat, veggies, and anything else you plan to grill.

Grill everything you can get your hands on and have a feast! Then, take all the leftover meat and store it in individual 4-5 ounce servings. Grilled chicken and steak can be sliced or diced. I use snack size zipper bags and freeze them. Use the leftovers in salads, your fritatta, or other recipes.

Note: Living in a rural, farming community, I don’t have easy access to awesome stores like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. I buy almost all my groceries at the local grocer. I’ve found my store to be very responsive to the smallest request, upping their supply of anything I happen to mention. Anything I can’t find there, I typically order from Amazon Prime because it comes so quickly. I did recently travel 90 minutes away so I can leisurely stroll around Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. I filled my car with all kinds goodies I can’t find locally.

Lastly, if you’re interested in doing The Whole 30 yourself, I’m starting a Facebook group to offer support and encouragement. We’re starting on Monday, June 13th. Let me know if you’d like to join. And if you’d to get daily updates, follow me on Instagram. My handle is kimberly.wyse. 🙂

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Posted on Apr 18, 2016 in Health | 3 comments

Be Awesome: Update

Be Awesome: Update

Be Awesome

This year my resolution is to Be Awesome.

My fabulous sister-in-law gave me a little “Be Awesome” plaque that now sits in my kitchen. I love it. Putting it in the kitchen gave me an added boost in March (2016), reminding me as I spent hour after hour in there, of my promise to myself. In March, I completed a 30-day health reset (following the program The Whole30 by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig). It’s a pretty extreme diet to help reduce inflammation, sugar cravings, and set your body back on track. It’s very intense, but I studied the program, followed it nearly 100% (never intentionally going off-plan), and feel awesome about it.

I spent about two weeks studying the book to make sure I understood the program, preparing my mind for the changes I was about to make, and planning how I would eat and not eat. During the program, I spent a lot of time chopping vegetables, lining baking sheets with parchment paper, making meal plans, and shopping for approved foods.

The result has been great! I didn’t realize that a change in my eating could help eliminate anxiety, but it did. Some of the health issues I had have been seriously diminished or are completely gone. I lost a few pounds, and I learned a great new way to cook and feed my family. I discovered that my kids actually like healthy food better than most processed foods, and I stopped spending some much money at the grocery store. (Full disclosure, we purchased beef [grass-fed and local] and pork [free from sugar, MSG, and other junk] from other sources.)

During the time I was doing this extreme diet, we had three sets of out-of-town guests. We had two birthday parties (Charlie and Rick), a wedding in which Eliana was the flower girl, Easter, and all of our regular responsibilities. During all of these events, I was able to stay on the plan – no grains, no sugar or sweeteners, no milk products, no legumes, and no alcohol. What you eat is simple, whole food: meat, vegetables, and a little fruit. It’s designed to help you renegotiate your relationship with food, set up healthy eating habits, and allow your body to heal by removing any foods that might stir up allergies or inflammation. I set up a text message group and sent out regular texts to those who were interested, letting them know how I was doing with the diet, and inviting their responses.

I was surprised to find that the text message group became a source of fun and ministry for me. The things I shared triggered others to share personal things with me, and I was able to pray with several group members and offer encouragement beyond healthy eating. It was a great way to get my mind off myself and to reach out to others. I reconnected with a few people I’d lost touch with, and enjoyed the challenges they presented to me too.

I felt so awesome, in fact, that I decided to stick to the plan moving forward. I won’t be quite so strict, but I will make it a priority to feed myself and my family whole, healthy meals that allow our bodies to function well, rather than constantly fight off problems. If I do go off the plan, I will ask myself if it’s worth it. If it is, I’ll eat as little as possible to feel satisfied.

I did get discouraged because I’d hoped for big weight loss numbers. It wasn’t all about weight for me, but I was hopeful that it would be a side effect. I did lose weight, but it was about half of what I’d hoped to achieve. I’ve been reminding myself of how awesome I feel on it, trying hard not to let that derail me again. The longer I eat in a healthy way, the more my body has a chance to heal from the poor choices I made, and the better I can feel overall. The better I feel, the more I can do positive things like exercise, and the easier it will be to lose weight. (My goal is not to be a particular weight, but just to be healthy and fit, which for me requires some weight loss.)

In order to help keep myself on track, I’ve jumped into another program that sends reminders to my phone every day, letting me know one new thing I can do each week to be as healthy as possible. For Mother’s Day, I plan to ask for a fitness tracker. I know if I keep moving in the right direction, I can truly learn to prioritize health for myself and my family. (And not turn into a crazy mommy, obsessed with being skinny. Lord, help me find the balance!)

Beyond the physical health changes I’ve made, I’ve also made some decisions to care more for myself emotionally. (It’s amazing to me how I never seem to do enough of this, no matter how much of a priority I make it, and how selfish I feel in spite of all the knowledge I have about how important it is to take care of yourself so you can take care of others.) I’ve made a point to stop knocking on doors that haven’t yet opened. Moving to a rural, farming community has been a big change for this city girl, in spite of my childhood in the area. I thought I could change some of the basic things about myself to fit in better here, but it turns out that trying to do so only makes me unhappy and doesn’t work anyway. I’m enjoying life on the farm, and I even had Rick expand my garden for this summer! I’m looking forward to growing fresh vegetables and fruit, spending time outdoors tending my garden, and feeding my family from the harvest.

I also need some semblance of my old life, though. In the last four months, I’ve made some changes that might seem silly at first glance, but are important to me. In order to get me back into the city on a semi-regular basis, I’ve changed some of the people I work with so I have a good reason to get into the city. I’m not just out shopping, but I’m seeing the eye doctor, getting my hair done, and so forth. It helps me feel like I can breathe.

Part of being awesome this year has also included taking a week-long family vacation, with our nanny, to a cabin in Gatlinburg, TN. She watched our children at night, so Rick and I slept without interruption for eight nights straight. We haven’t done that in about four years, so just being well-rested was a hugely awesome thing! During that week, I stayed off social media and just spent time with my family. I read a book. The whole week was good for me, so good that I really wanted to stay another week. I’m usually ready to get home from vacation, but this time was different. It probably had a little to do with sleeping all night! From that well-rested place, I embarked on this health reset and found the end of a deep sadness that had come on me toward the end of 2015.

How are YOU doing on your new year’s resolutions? Is there anything YOU feel awesome about and would like to share? I’d love to hear about it!

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