Healthy Lifestyle Changes (6 Years Later!)

Healthy Lifestyle Changes (6 Years Later!)
It’s been 6 years since I ordered “that kit.” It was somewhat of a whim—my husband said we didn’t have much to lose, so why not try it? At least the house would smell nice, right?! And maybe, just maybe, it would help our family stop dropping like flies every time someone came home with a sniffle.

Little did I know how life-changing it would be for all of us. Little did I know I’d be learning more about science and how our bodies work than I ever learned in school. Little did I know how empowering it would be to have choices in the ways I support my and my family’s physical, mental, and emotional health—without harmful side effects.

This pic shows a few of my favorite things. A few came in that very first starter kit (well, refills obviously!) but are now counted as friends. What lifestyle choices have you made that are still part of your daily routine 6 (or however many) years later?
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The ABCs of Mental & Emotional Health

Having been to the bottom of the pit of despair and back (and doing what it takes to never return), let me offer my ABCs of mental and emotional health. Maybe there will be some nuggets you can take away and implement today! 
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From Diagnosis to Delivery: A Special Pregnancy Journal

From Diagnosis to Delivery: A Special Pregnancy Journal
Recently I started a private support group for mamas who receive a prenatal diagnosis. In putting together resources for them, such as a place they can access medical research for themselves and their health care providers (who often don't have personal experience with the kinds of diagnoses the parents receive for their child), I realized there was absolutely nothing out there for those mamas in the way of a pregnancy journal. All the ones I found were happy, happy, joy, joy. Having been through a pregnancy fraught with anxiety and fear over whether we would meet my daughter alive or not, I decided it was time to create a special journal that would address the different aspects of this unique situation. While some aspects allow mamas to focus on the joy of a new life and the positive aspects, other sections help them work through difficult topics such as what in the world to do about a baby shower and how to formulate a birth plan.

The journal may be purchased here and would make a wonderful gift for anyone you know who is devastated to receive a prenatal diagnosis. I would love to get it in the hands of genetic counselors, palliative care teams, pregnancy resource centers, and other professionals who work with women who are carrying fragile babies. If this is you, or if you know of someone who ministers in this capacity, would you reach out? We would be happy to discuss options for bulk ordering to make this resource accessible to others!

Contents include: 
  • Journaling pages plus prompts to help you remember details
  • Space to record your baby's diagnosis and unique needs
  • Appointment trackers
  • Ultrasound photo keeper
  • Ideas for a baby shower
  • "Letters to My Baby" section
  • Birth Plan Brainstorming
  • Hospital Checklist
  • And much more.
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From Diagnosis to Delivery - A Resource for Moms with a Prenatal Diagnosis

From Diagnosis to Delivery - A Resource for Moms with a Prenatal Diagnosis
It's been just over 4 years, but I well remember that difficult season of life: getting a phone call from my doctor and learning the baby girl growing inside me had what was considered a life-threatening diagnosis (Edwards Syndrome, or Trisomy 18). The following days and weeks were a living nightmare. My husband and I prepared for our baby's burial, and I was pretty much a weepy, emotional mess. Thank GOD for online connections! After about a month or so of feeling overwhelmed by negative information, we were introduced to online resources that actually showed REAL families living with children who had the same diagnosis. My eyes were opened to the positive stories of hope, and I began to turn my heart toward the idea of a different outcome than I had been led to believe initially. 

Of course, this also meant I had a whole different set of questions to address! The learning curve was steep, but as I look back, I can see how incredibly far we have come. Now our Verity is almost 4 years old, and our family absolutely adores her. I just cannot imagine life without her! But I will confess I was terrified to be the mother of a special needs child, especially when I already felt overwhelmed being the mother of 8 other children. 

From the moment of our diagnosis to the beautiful experience of Verity's delivery, my pregnancy was an emotional roller coaster. And beyond delivery came more learning. I won't say it's an easy road, but I wouldn't have it any other way. And because of the JOY and HOPE we have as a family (which ultimately comes from Jesus), I am now in a place where I am able to offer a bit of wisdom and experience as a resource for moms who have a prenatal diagnosis and are drowning in a sea of emotions.

We have a new private support group for those moms! I also have a free guide, From Diagnosis to Delivery. Please help spread the word! This is a journey best traveled with loads of support!
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Hope & Peace

Hope & Peace
Three years ago our family had the opportunity to do one of the Advent readings in church. To be honest, I have no idea what we read or even which week of Advent it was. What I DO remember is what happened before church. We arrived in time to send our children to Sunday school and youth group, but I didn't feel like being with other people. Ted and I sat in a fog next to Verity's stroller in the gymnasium where the church service would be held the next hour. It had been another rough night, like just about every night was in 2017. Just as our interim pastor and his wife came to where we were seated to greet us, Verity began retching. Her vomiting spells happened about 6-8 times a day. Trisomy 18 kiddos tend to have GI issues, but this was getting out of hand; Verity was losing weight, and at 12 pounds and almost 10 months of age, she didn't have much to lose. 

The unexpected scene took the pastor's wife by surprise: copious amounts of liquid were coming out of Verity's mouth and nose as Ted frantically whipped out the suction machine while I mopped up the mess. (Yes, we traveled with a suction machine in those days. We lived in terror of Verity aspirating because of how frequently she vomited.)

When things were calm again, Gretchen asked if things like that happened often. I burst into tears. I couldn't help it. I was so tired, so weary, and somehow just so angry that people didn't know what our life was really like. I knew it wasn't Gretchen's fault that she didn't know, so I tried to describe life with Verity. She hardly ever slept, which meant we hardly ever slept. I couldn't leave her side for fear she would vomit and choke. The terror we lived with around the clock was ever present. I still remember the compassionate look on the faces of this couple, whose ministry we had sat under for several months by this point but who truly had no idea what our family was going through.

Half an hour later we stood in front of the church lighting a candle and reading words I can't remember. I felt like such a hypocrite, creating a picture of what surely looked from the outside like a perfectly lovely family. Two parents, nine children, the tiniest of whom was living a very precarious life. Little did people know what was happening on the inside: the deadness of my heart, the difficulties of my marriage, the near-destruction of my mental and emotional health. I didn't intend to put on a show; I would have gladly shared our struggles with others. And I think I tried. It's not that people didn't care or didn't ask, but somehow there just wasn't time or energy to sit down and lay it all out. 

Fast forward three years...our church now has a new full-time pastor, and our family was asked to do the reading for the second Sunday of Advent 2020. We relit the first candle, Hope, reminding the congregation (and ourselves) of the hope we have in Christ. Next, we lit the second candle, Peace, testifying to the fact that Christ came to bring God's peace to us.


As I stood holding Verity on my hip while my sons and husband read their passages, I suddenly remembered that exhausting Sunday morning 3 years ago. We have come so far. Not only is Verity doing so much better health-wise, but our family is so much stronger for having gone through some really dark times and seeing the light of Hope and Peace shine in the midst of it all. When Verity squealed during the prayer, I couldn't help but feel the joy surge in my heart. 

Hope. Peace. Joy. And LOVE--so much love. They were there all along, even when we couldn't feel their presence.

If you are experiencing a season of darkness, I pray you find the light of true Hope and Peace.

Father, we thank you for revealing yourself through Jesus, and we praise you for the greatness of your love. Help us to know your peace in our lives. When life does not go as planned, may we know and understand that you are with us and we can have peace and rest in your ways. May we also share your peace with others and live our lives more like Christ every day. In His name we pray, amen.

*******

If you're looking for support for your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and/or financial health, check out our free community Fit for Life!

Do you know someone who has received a devastating prenatal diagnosis? Please spread the word about a new support group, From Diagnosis to Delivery.
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