who are you?

“Who are you?”

What a simple question, right?  But when you take it apart and really consider it, it’s a pretty huge idea.

It seems like everything in my life right now is pointing me in the direction of digging in to that idea.  Quick aside in all seriousness: I love the phrase “digging in” so much that it might be on my headstone when I die.

I digress.

This idea grew from a conversation with my therapist, then took root when I stumbled on an Instagram post by Melissa Hartwig (the amazing, kick-ass woman behind the W30).  I found myself thinking: I want to know who I am and own who I am.  I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what it means for me to do that.  I have always owned the fact that I’m moment by moment, feelings fluid, ever-absorbing my environment, tough to pin down.  That’s not near enough of an answer for me, though.

As you know, it started with that same simple question, “who are you?” posed by my therapist.  Out of my mouth came the canned response, “I’m an auntie, a friend, a good listener, a fiercely loyal member of my family and I like to read.”  Those are all words I typically use to identify myself and she came right back by telling me that those words don’t say much about ME and who I actually am as a person.  That answer doesn’t reflect my values, my personality or what gets me out of bed in the morning.  Everyone is a daughter, auntie, uncle, mother, father, son, friend, sibling or a combination of those words.  Those are identifying words that we all fall back on and while there is likely a lot of pride attached to those words, it doesn’t really say who you are at your core.  I’m pretty sure at this point in my life I should know the answer to that question – but I don’t.  I have been so busy avoiding myself that I’ve been focused on helping those around me answer that question for themselves.

Melissa Hartwig wrapped it up in a nice little package called “self-love”, which is a concept that feels foreign to me.  She says everything in life can be taken away (preach, girl) except who we really are.  So why not OWN who we really are – not just those identifiers that are easy responses or the things about us that can be taken away in a moment?  We need to have our identity wrapped up in OURSELVES – not who we are to other people.  Do not allow outside factors to define who we are, she says, and I was completely feeling that.  I’ve often handed a partner the reins in determining who I am; my value; my identity.  I have been stuck waiting for life to happen TO me instead of me happening TO life.  I’m just now starting to grasp this concept.

After much thought and consideration, this is me, as I know me in this moment…

I am strong.  Every day I show up for my life and live it heart-forward.  Sometimes it really, really, really hurts but I’ve never been sorry for my scrapes and bruises because of the lessons I’ve learned in the process.

I am caring.  I have no off-switch in this regard.  I almost care too much.  I’m a very soft person – much too soft for this world – but I’m owning it.

I am dedicated, loyal and determined.  I was once told that I only work under pressure but I think a more correct statement reflecting who I am now is that I work hard despite pressure.  I have shown myself again and again that I can keep my eyes down and continue moving through something till there’s nowhere left to go.  Looking back on where I’ve been, I can see the little rest stops where I might have veered off and taken another path – or more likely should have – but I know that my loyalty is often in the driver’s seat, so we go on.

I am open-minded (and open-hearted).  It’s not too often that I take a hard line about anything.  I’m very malleable in that I listen to other perspectives and give them time to work in me.  Outside opinions often help me get to the heart of my feelings (like this blog post) so I always try to stay open for the wisdom to come.

I am always working to be a healthier version of myself.  This is both at face value and metaphorically.  I don’t strive for perfection I strive for healthy.  I don’t always get it right and sometimes I have to stop what I’m doing, turn around, and go back.  My ultimate goal is to be healthy from the inside out.

I am curious.  I have a SERIOUS thirst for knowledge of all the things.  I like to know the reason behind human motivations and it’s not unusual for my friends, family and really any acquaintance to be met with probing questions from me in an attempt to understand them better.  I speak in feelings and understand emotion.

***

It’s hard work, figuring out who I am and what I’m about.  This isn’t where the notion ends for me – I’ll keep digging and refining.  I would just encourage you, friends, to really think about who you are at your core… after you’ve gotten past all the easy responses, what are you left with?

Advertisements

hello. it’s me. (have i used that title already?)

As many of you who know me IRL have likely surmised, and to confirm those of you who know me virtually, things have not been great on this side of the screen.  It’s nothing to worry about, just stress levels in the consistently-higher-than-usual category.  Being a person is really HARD sometimes.  Plus, it doesn’t help that I’ve been binging some pretty depressing stuff lately – looking at you ’13 Reasons Why’ and ‘Big Little Lies’ – and have been reading a lot of non-fiction (mostly about this).  I’ve also been trying to practice some self-care and have been learning a lot of *new* things about myself.  We already know when I have nothing good to say and don’t want to talk about myself, I say nothing.  I’ve been lost in my own thoughts and as I have mentioned many times, these feelings lead me to shut down from pretty much everything.  I get “over myself” really quickly because I feel like I have all the tools to “fix” whatever might be broken inside of me.  Exhibit A: I spend so much time in my own mind – analyzing all the things.  Exhibit B: I don’t like drawing any attention to myself.  I become a less-effervescent person which then makes me feel bad so I hide out even more.  Talking about silly things when my life is basically consumed with serious always feels disingenuous to both you and me.  So if you’re still out there: I’m sorry.   Someday, maybe when I’m out of the woods I’m in, we can talk about it.

Until then, let me talk about some of the more non-serious happenings in a little internets roundup of things I’m really feeling right now.

  • I am currently feeling the Bulletproof way of life.  I’m curious about bio-hacking myself mostly because I do feel like good health starts at the cellular level.  There is a prevalence of stimuli in our world today and I like to buck the trend of our just-take-a-pill society.  Pretty soon I’m going to take the plunge and rock my own Bulletproof coffee.  First, I need to get through the book.
  • In a similar vein as the above, I got both myself and my gorgeous sister some of these Mala prayer beads.  It’s something physical to channel my intention to.  The Malas represent certain qualities based on the stone they are made with.  My sister’s is made of Volcanic Stone meant to channel strength and clarity; and mine is made of Labradorite and Malaysian jade meant to channel our spiritual counterparts.
  • Trying to be an adult and get on a budget.  Ugh.
  • Oh!  I became a Rodan + Fields consultant because I believe in the power of good skincare.  And I’m obsessed with skincare so that says a lot.  If you’re equally obsessed, we should chat.
  • You guys.  The Marco Polo app is amaze.  It helps me stay connected to my family without the hassle of having to hang on the phone with FaceTime.  It’s like if FT and texting (my favorite) had a baby, it would be Marco Polo.  The videos stay in a thread like texting so I can go back and watch videos of Avery on replay.
  • Lastly, podcasts.  Almost as much variety as television right now.  I devoured S-Town and man was it DARK but it made me feel things.  Also, I’m going through withdrawal from Accused, Undisclosed S1 & S2, Up & Vanished (now that it’s mostly “solved”)… but true crime is really something that keeps me engaged and able to listen and still get my work done.

Thanks for reading and be well, friends.

my earring

Today I lost one of my most favorite possessions: one of my Tiffany pearl earrings.  I lost it in that way in which I (barring a miracle) will never see it again – not just misplaced it.  Guys, I love these earrings.  If you look at almost any picture of me at any point in the last six or so years, you’ll see me wearing them.  They class up any outfit and they don’t make my sensitive        ears go all weird cause they’re made of cheap metal like most of my other earrings.  They’re pretty much my I’ll-die-in-these earrings.

After I realized I lost it, searched frantically for it and realized it was gone, I started thinking about it.  While I was certainly upset, I didn’t cry about it and I certainly didn’t let it ruin my day.  I’m not pleased that I’ll have to buy another pair but I realized that it’s just stuff.  It wasn’t an irreplaceable heirloom I’d lost.  I definitely have plenty more important things in my life to be upset about that the pearl earring just didn’t seem like something to lose my head over.  It’s just “stuff”.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t be upset if it hadn’t been something else I’d lost – my Tiffany floating diamond necklace, my grandmother’s class ring, my dad’s wedding ring – but those things are irreplaceable to me.

RIP pearl earrings.

mornings.

Morning is definitely my time.  It’s the time of day I’m most creative and productive; my mind is the most open to receiving ideas and making plans.  My mom has forever gotten up before the sun and had her morning coffee, in the dark, and called it her quiet time.  It’s a chance to think all the thoughts that need thinking, to organize her day, to consider the days and tasks to come.  I love the idea of quiet time but the execution is where I falter.  It’s truly a shame that I love sleep too much to actually take advantage of it before heading in to start my actual job at 7:30 am.

Nevertheless, I start every day feeling like Gwyneth Paltrow.  Why GP?  To me, she is the pinnacle of all the things: mother, entrepreneur, brand, woman.  Some people choose Beyonce – who is also incredibly fierce – GP just aligns more with things I could actually accomplish (my dance moves are outdated and I’m not really the Queen of anything).  In the morning, I feel like there really is nothing I can’t do.  Write a cookbook?  Okay.  Three?  Sure.  Workout for two hours?  Easy.  Organize my home and life?  Done.  Start a successful business and brand?  Pssshhh…I got this.

I’m writing this blog because of the things that happen the rest of the day.  Throughout the reminder of the day I’m met with little obstacles meant to diminish my GP-ness.  These are things as simple as doughnuts in the next cube and as complex as laziness or lack of motivation.  Each obstacle I meet, I make the active decision to let it defeat me or not.  Though, until now, I didn’t really think of it in those terms because I didn’t really think of it at all.  Now it’s all I think about.

I’m going to try to work with the potential and promise I feel in the mornings because it seems a shame to waste it.  Even now, there are sticky notes all over my desk; lists I’ve made in my Moleskine (with sticky notes on those lists); there are blog ideas and lofty dreams being dreamed in my head; there are mental vacations being planned and dinner ideas floating around.  I think that’s how my creative side works: ideas will meander in my brain, waiting to be found and focused on. Waiting to be brought to fruition.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even start waking up earlier to make my lists over some coffee?

a dog story.

Hey guys!  A lot of you who follow me on Insta and FB will likely know some of this story already – but for the rest of you, I was inspired this morning to share some happenings in my little family.

I’ve already mentioned on a couple occasions that I love animals.  I take after my dad in that regard; it’s in my DNA to *always* live in a house where I’m outnumbered by animals.  When I came into the picture, Dave already had two dogs (Jack and Charlie) and then we Brady-Bunched together with my two cats and added one more for good measure (Marty).

In mid-February, sweet Charlie was diagnosed with lymphoma.  The diagnosis to decline was too rapid.  His little lymph nodes were huge and he went from being the Charlie we knew to being completely disinterested in food or firetrucks – two things that previously excited him.  We did everything we could to adjust and prepare for his struggle ahead.  There were quite a few good days we were lucky enough to share with our friend, but unfortunately the disease was more accelerated than we anticipated and we lost him early last month.  It was so much harder than I’d anticipated and anyone who has lost a furry family member knows what I mean.  We had less than ZERO plans to add to the pack since the loss hit us so hard.

Like all good things in life, what happened next was not planned.

A good friend of Dave’s is affiliated with/works for an animal shelter in Elgin, IL.  He had posted on FB about some dogs they went to retrieve from a shelter in Oklahoma.  One thing led to another and we got talking about one of the dogs.  She had such a heartbreaking story but a strong spirit and a very hopeful future since she’d been rescued.  Once we heard her story, there was no way she couldn’t be ours.  In her very short 9 months on this Earth, she’d been through the unspeakable.  Despite that, she still had a lot of love and sweetness in her heart – a testament to the resilience of dogs.  We realized we were able and ready to give her the life and love she deserves.  She joined our family last week.

IMG_9008

First time on Iowa soil

With Jack and Marty we have something that works well.  They get along with one another and the cats, we are able to leave them alone during the day without incident, they are trustworthy in the yard – so naturally I fretted about whether or not new dog would fit in with our dynamic.  I realized that I worried the same way when we got Marty and that all worked out well.  It just takes time, training, consistency and patience.

She’s fit in so well already that I can’t imagine not having her around.  The boys are still adjusting, as are the cats.  She’s so good-natured that she approaches them playfully with no aggression whatsoever.  I truly believe that rescues make the best dogs.  As we’ve heard more than once about her, she truly is the definition of a rescue and I’m so glad she’s a member of our family.

IMG_9047

She’s soooo good in the car.

IMG_9051

That bed makes her look small but she’s actually the size of a mini-horse.

 

delight.

Back when it was still summer outside, Dave and I took a trip to the farmer’s market (as we often do). That particular day, amongst the veggie vendors and bread bakers, there was a man doing tricks for the crowd. He was juggling and sword swallowing in time to some rather cliché sounding French music. He was there, on a sweltering hot day, in his tattered black pants, tank top, tiny leather shoes and hair slicked back in a little pony, performing for passers-by. He drew quite the crowd. Watching him juggle was initially what stopped me but it wasn’t his act that transfixed me – it was the look on his face as he was performing. It was nothing short of pure, unfiltered joy in what he was doing. For that reason, we stood there watching him for fifteen minutes. I could have watched him all day.

Since then, I haven’t been able to shake the idea of that sort of raw, pure joy. Even now, I can’t recall a time in recent memory when I’ve experienced such visible joy – inwardly or outwardly. It seems like everything from my yoga practice to the books I’m reading lately have reflected this attitude. This week in one of my yoga classes, we dedicated our practice to gratefulness. The instructor read a quote that was something along the lines of “Gratefulness is seeing what’s there instead of noticing what’s not.” Through that, I’ve finally been able to shake loose a bit of a working idea; something to bring to you to talk about.

I want to talk about delight.

It seems like such a simple word, such a simple idea. For me, it’s puppies or Jeni’s ice cream or watching my niece discover the world. It’s traveling and exploring and feeling inspired and listening to Adele. “Feeling all the feels” is probably a good layman’s definition for the word itself. As I was considering it the last few weeks, I came to a much simpler conclusion. This life is something to find delight in. It’s nothing short of a miracle that we wake up every day, that we get to take part in this Divine plan, that we breathe in oxygen and convert it to the energy that powers our bodies moment to moment. Yet, it’s so easy to take our eyes off that simple miracle and get caught up in the mundane. I get up, go to work, come home, talk about my day, eat dinner, watch some TV then go to sleep to do it all again tomorrow. Surely there’s an opportunity in there to delight in something; to be thankful for one thing; to be grateful for a moment. But I keep missing it.

In all “life manuals” we’re instructed to find the thing that makes our hearts happy and do it. As though it’s the simplest thing in the world. And for some people it probably is. In my own head, it’s this Mt Olympus that seems to keep growing ahead of me that I dare not even start the climb. On CBS Sunday Morning this week they were airing a piece about The Piano Guys. Four dudes who, in their time away from their family, make music. Watching them reminded me of the guy doing tricks here in DSM; there was that same look of pure joy on their faces and it’s because they’re doing something they love. They have figured out what makes their hearts happy. I’m going to resist the urge to solve my own problem here and really just leave it open. I need to consider this idea of delight and take it with me. I invite you all to find it along with me.

33

I’ve been 33 for a few days now and – as expected – it doesn’t feel a lot different than 32. The thing that does feel different though? My mom & sister came to DSM to spend my birthday with me this year. It’s been a long time since the three of us were actually together on my actual birthday and this year felt pretty special.

They got in on Friday early afternoon and we immediately commenced shopping and eating our way through the city. Some highlights include shopping in the East Village, eating at Tacopocalypse, shopping at Raygun, mom’s homemade scallops and alfredo, the gallon jar of pickled eggs mom & Rach made just for me, birthday dinner at Lurra Cocina, lunch at Exile, WEST.END.SALVAGE and coffee, coffee and more coffee.

Come Monday morning, I wasn’t ready for them to head back. I’m so grateful I’m so close with my family and I’m so grateful that they didn’t think twice about hopping in the car and coming out to be with me on a day that usually includes a bit of tears.

My beautiful mother

My beautiful mother

 

listen: manchego cheesecake

listen: manchego cheesecake

 

charcuterie plate with mom's homemade hummus

charcuterie plate with mom’s homemade hummus

 

Sunday.roast.

Sunday.roast.

 

anyone want to get me this Herman Miller Eames lounger?

anyone want to get me this Herman Miller Eames lounger? at west end salvage.

 

... and we walked around with wine

… and we walked around with wine

 

west end salvage is amazing. I want all the things.

west end salvage is amazing. I want all the things.

 

 

IMG_8355

 

IMG_8316

birthday shenanigans!

birthday shenanigans!

 

birthday dinner!

birthday dinner!

 

IMG_8311

gorgeous carrots that became an accompaniment to Sunday roast

gorgeous carrots that became an accompaniment to Sunday roast

 

directive : look perplexed

directive : look perplexed

 

mom & me exploring the farmer's market

mom & me exploring the farmer’s market

 

 

IMG_8354

it’s complicated

In all the relationships I’ve had in my life, there have been a few I’d classify as “complicated” at some point or another.  The one relationship in my life that stands out as being the.most.complicated is my relationship with running.  You guys remember this post.  It’s always been a give and take, a start and a stop, a renewed dedication.  It’s always been the one thing I could go back to and even though I always had to start over (ugh), it was the one thing I always knew I could do.

So this spring I started training to run the DSM Half with my sister.  I was a little behind the training schedule and hadn’t been running as consistently as I should have… till about three weeks ago.  But even when I started getting serious about training, things weren’t gel-ing for me.  My shoes weren’t great, I had no energy, running 1 mile was hard (let alone 4).  I did some tweaking last week just in time to run 6 miles on Sunday.  Which I did – kicking and screaming and in the time that it takes most people to complete a half marathon.  But I did it, and it was over, and I felt awesome after.

Till yesterday.  I had pain in my right foot that wasn’t there previously.  Of all the ailments that have ever plagued me in my running life, foot pain was never one of them so this was different.  I went out this morning (after FINALLY finding an awesome trail around the corner from home) even though my foot hurt.  I walked to warm up and started out with an easy pace.  I even have a mantra from my sister that I remind myself of when I’m just getting warmed up: “it’s my pace” in my head over and over.  Pain interrupted my mantra.  I didn’t even make it a full mile before I turned around and headed back to the car.

Flash forward four hours.  After meeting with the sports medicine doctor at the walk-in clinic… I have a stress fracture.  Which means my half-marathon dreams are over since I have to wear this stupid boot for four weeks.

Here’s the real rub for me: I want to be in control over when I do and don’t run.  I went on a serious hiatus after I moved to Iowa – we’re talking two years – but that was my choice.  I don’t like to NOT have the option to run for any other reason than I choose not to.  I drove home trying to get used to the idea that I wouldn’t be running a half, I wouldn’t even be allowed to run; I’d have to start all over again in four weeks with one dumpy mile.  In short, running never looked so good till she’s gone.

This boot is already annoying and I have to take it on and off every time I drive.  This is going to be a long and disappointing four weeks.  It kind of doesn’t feel like I really have to do this.  I’m reminded the moment I take my boot off and walk around and it starts to hurt again.  I guess this is for real.  Maybe next time I won’t take it for granted that I’m healthy enough to run.  I think that has to be the silver lining here… right?

cleveland, my hometown

FullSizeRender

I’ve found myself inspired to write about my “hometown”: Cleveland.

The truth is that I’m from a town closer to Akron but after going away to college in another well-known Ohio town, “Cleveland” became the learned response to the question “where are you from?”  (Until LeBron, no one really knew of Akron so the chances of anyone knowing a suburb of a suburb of a suburb of Akron was highly unlikely.)  So I’ve been saying “Cleveland” to answer “where are you from?” for ages even though my real hometown is about 45 minutes away.

I’m in Ohio this week visiting my family for my usual summer trip and it seems like every time I’m here, I appreciate it just a bit more.  When I lived here prior to making Iowa my home, I kept my radius a bit tight.  I didn’t venture far from the fanciness of Beachwood where all the shopping is, University Heights where the Whole Foods is, and the east side where my sister lived.  As it turns out, Cleveland is really cool when you know where to go and I wasn’t going to the right places.  It took moving away and stalking the city from afar to really figure out what made Cleveland tick.

I’m continually amazed at how much this city has changed.  Even in the three short years since I’ve been gone.  There’s such a sense of community and the local movement has really taken root here.  It’s exhibited by the restaurants all along W 25th St that pride themselves on dishes made from locally sourced ingredients.  And with the West Side Market around the corner, how could they not feel inspired?  The food scene here could rival almost any big city.

(A few highlights: The Greenhouse Tavern, Townhall, Bier Market, Bar Cento, L’Albatros, The Black Pig and I’m dying to try The Butcher and the Brewer.)

Beyond the food, though, this city is a crafter’s dream.  It’s like an Etsy beyond the internets with vendors lining some of the coolest streets for things like Hingetown, and Cleveland Flea.  This city has really become an artist’s community and really celebrates their creatives.

The city stretches far and wide – you have your outskirts communities like Rocky River and Avon and Westlake – and there are so many more people, places and things beyond just my scope.  I’ve written about CLE in the past; sometimes in good and not-so-good context and I’m happy to embrace this place I call home.

There are still things that make CLE less-than-ideal (the crime rate, lack of an organized public transit system, spaced out neighborhoods, lack of walkability between aforementioned spaced-out-neighborhoods) but I do believe I could kill it (socially speaking) in this city after having been forced to spread my wings and learn a different city.  I’d be more active in the community, more likely to get involved and celebrate all that’s going on here (versus lamenting what’s not).  I’m someone who is somewhat of a city snob but I’m real and I’m from CLE.  Having very little “hometown” loyalty, I am happy to say that this city is something to celebrate and there’s a lot of good coming from CLE right now.

FullSizeRender-1

rachel’s story

Hey everyone! We have a first here at the blog: a guest.  With Mother’s Day not too far in the rear-view, my sister agreed to share her daughter’s birth story.  As many of you know, I adore little miss Avery.  In real life, away from the blog, it also happens that I adore my sister—we talk almost every day—and when I’m not talking *to* her, I’m talking *about* her (always in a good way).  Rachel is one of those rare creatures whose birth plan went about 98% as planned and she handled every single struggle like a boss.  For real.  So please, sit back and enjoy this written in my sister’s voice.

Rachel’s story

Awesome.

That’s not normally how someone would describe their labor and delivery. I am sure you have read a lot of blogs about horrible experiences in the delivery room and ‘things no one tells you about after you have your baby’. I read them too.  And if you’re looking for that, it’s not here. I will be honest but the truth is that birthing Avery was the most amazing thing I have ever done. Because I’m an ‘over-sharer’ let’s get started with some backstory and way too many details.

Married

I was married when I was 21. I met Adam at 20 and just recently celebrated my 30th birthday – so doing the math, I’ve been with him all throughout my 20’s – that’s not said to be a bad thing. I share it because our first couple years were rocky. We were just really getting to know one another. I would leave lights on around our house, which he hated, it would leave him saying stupid things and lead to fights (about something pretty trivial). Lesson: all marriages have hot buttons. We just made it a priority to work on ours so that we could have a happy marriage. Of course, we failed time and again but continued to work together. Making a marriage work takes a lot of *hard* work. In fact, most people tell you it’s not easy but it’s truly hard to understand what they mean until you are knee-deep in it.

Babies were not something on my radar. Throughout most of our marriage, Adam and I would joke that we might never have children. Then there are the people that tell you “You have to have kids” and my typical response was “uh, no we don’t.” I fully felt that it was our decision to make. Right before I turned 29, I watched a riveting documentary called ‘The Business of Being Born’ and safe to say it changed my outlook on having children. Not only did I want to have a baby, but I wanted to bring it into this world in a beautiful way; surrounded by my loving family. I have such a wonderful family and I’m so blessed to have such amazing people in my life. I also wanted to bring a child into the world in a very natural, unmedicated way as well – which is what most of the documentary is about. You really feel that sense of empowerment when you realize what our female bodies are made to do. Needless to say, it blew my mind. I am pretty sure I was crying with Ricky Lake at the end. After watching the documentary, it prompted Adam and I to have the discussion about children. I shared my deepest desire for truly wanting a child with my amazing husband. The conversation was a little shocking to him but I’m pretty sure estrogen made me do it.

Working momma

In 2013 I had been working at Target for almost four years. I was in a pivotal place in my career. I was asked to take on a new task working overnights as the stores in my district were being remodeled in order to offer produce to our guests. It was a huge change for me. I wanted the career but I also wanted a family. I was ready to put 110% into my new work assignment but at the same time, I was also ready to get pregnant. Whatever happened, I was prepared to work through it all. I got off birth control in February and to my surprise, we were pregnant by June.

The reveal

I had just gotten over some fluke flu, which is what prompted me to take the pregnancy test in the first place. After taking the first test, I took two more just to be sure. I wanted to tell Adam we were pregnant in a very special way. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m very into Pandora bracelets. I carefully chose the baby binky pendant as a present to him to show him we’re having a baby! My timing probably wasn’t the best; he was gone for work for two full days, and I’d just gotten over the aforementioned flu. We went to have dinner at Sixth and Pine, which is the restaurant in Nordstrom. I had a couple bags in hand from my pre-dinner shopping excursion, and as soon as he saw the Pandora bag, he asked what I bought (you can’t plan this, people). I confessed to the cutest pair of earrings and then told him I had a surprise for him. He slowly opened the perfect little bag and as he pulled the tissue out and saw the pendant, he had no idea what it was. He kept asking me what it was and after about 5 minutes or so of prodding him to guess, I told him we were expecting. He was in shock but really happy because we had been trying. I think the realization set in that holy cow, we’re pregnant!

The pregnancy

At first it didn’t really seem like I was pregnant other than the minor lifestyle changes (goodbye booze, goodbye bologna, goodbye Cedar Point, see ya beef carpaccio). These changes become very real when it’s time for that first ultrasound. I didn’t cry then but thinking about it now makes me tear up. The little life that grows inside you is simply breathtaking. I thought in that moment that people have to be crazy to think that life isn’t human. It’s a life that grows and breathes and develops and moves inside you. Avery looked like a turtle at first but with each ultrasound got progressively better. We didn’t know the sex at the time so the baby was known as ‘Baby Roy’. I looked forward to each ultrasound visit. I would talk to Baby Roy, play the baby music and read out loud. It was amazing to connect. It also made me take precious time for myself to relax. Every mommy knows that changes once the little bundle arrives.

For the most part, I was very healthy throughout my pregnancy. I would read and do research, LOTS of research. I was a research junkie. I did so much work to prepare however there are some thing you cannot prepare for. I felt pretty confident but I had some rough patches. Around six months in, I developed pregnancy induced carpal tunnel, which, by the way, totally stinks. You lose feeling in your hands because of the extra blood and swelling. My left hand went numb and then my right hand. I couldn’t feel my fingers. I kept hurting my hands because I couldn’t feel anything. It’s a very odd sensation, or lack thereof. Even with those issues, I felt very blessed to have an overall wonderful experience being pregnant. I had a birth plan and I was one of the lucky people whose birth plan goes exactly as I wanted it to. I found a Doula and a birthing class and I recommend both. Birthworks is an awesome birthing class and find a Doula on D.O.N.A. You’ll be so happy you did.

Even though we shared that she’d be a girl, we were keeping the name a secret from our friends and family. We gathered to celebrate our little girl at her shower. I loved every minute of Baby Roy’s baby shower. I love being around my friends and family so that was a very special time for me. My motto is ‘go big or go home’ and I had a very big shower. It was like a wedding reception and everything was wonderful – from the guests to the food and the support and love I felt. Her room was done and everything was organized. I was ready for the baby to come.

The birth

The one fear I had was that my sister wouldn’t be there. I’m not a huge fan of of her being so far away but I know she’s loving her new surroundings and that makes me happy. But having Ryan be a part of this experience was something that was very important to me. We made a plan early on that once I knew it was go-time (for real), she’d get on a plane and bust-it back to Cleveland. The day before Avery was born, my contractions started around midnight, then became more consistent around 2 a.m. I made sure to contact Ryan early.

A lot of people ask what contractions feel like and I’d say really bad period cramps – like 100x worse. Thankfully our bodies can handle those. At first, they weren’t so bad. I had time to pack, shower, put a full-face makeup on, do my hair and get ready to go. My plan was to wait as long as possible before heading to the hospital. This is where having family support and a doula was helpful. I knew I had to wait and they kept me calm. We had good conversation, they helped me breathe through the contractions and I even tried to eat. That turned out to be an epic fail as it all came back up. This is real, people. I knew I had to wait till Ryan arrived (which is about a 4 hour trip, airport to airport) so I just kept working through the contractions. Just days before going into labor, I was reading a chapter out of ‘Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way’ and they mention just when you think you are ready to go to the hospital, you’re not ready and continue laboring a little bit longer. (This book is an enlightening and educating read and I totally suggest it.) There was a point after laboring at home four hours, just before Ryan arrived, that I asked Adam how I’d make it to the car. I laugh in my own face thinking my contractions were that bad then. No matter what, I had to reach a point where I knew I’d be ready to go to the hospital and that was as soon as Ryan arrived.

I safely made the car ride to the hospital with no issues. After arriving, Ryan and I made our way upstairs and even though I called the nurses before arriving, they weren’t ready. Even so, they made me feel at home fast. When the nurses checked me out, I was 8 cm dilated (not too bad if I do say so myself). Things did slow down a bit and even though I was fully dilated two hours later, my water hadn’t broken. I pushed but didn’t have that urge to. Truth: I was very calm and pleasant to be around during my entire labor and delivery. The last thing I wanted was to be mean to everyone, especially my husband. No way did I want to be mean to the man who gave me such a precious gift, no matter how hard this experience was. I wanted love to carry me through and it did. A couple times I was praying to God and He gave me the strength to fight a little harder. I had been having contractions without the urge to push for five hours. I was safe and healthy and the baby was too so the doctors were supporting my decision to have my water break naturally. I was so tired at one point, I considered having them break my water but I waited. Finally, I was sitting on the toilet, and my water broke (kind of like a ‘whoosh’). Adam kept me calm and encouraged me throughout. I had a second wind, which I totally needed. My only thought was: ‘yay! Baby Roy is making her way into the world.’

As the doctor continued to check me out and stretch me (yes, I said “stretch”) I got an indication that Baby Roy was sideways and every time I pushed, she kept slipping back. I kept pushing harder and harder with no results. Baby Roy was moving but it wasn’t enough. At that point, the doctor handed me a towel and said to pull – almost instantly that made a difference. She started moving and not slipping back. My contractions felt like they were on top of each other. Seriously, I didn’t have time to rest between them. I must have looked pitiful when I would tell everyone I needed to push but I just desperately wanted 10  minutes of rest. Everyone was getting so excited that they could see her head, then she was crowning and the whole family got really excited. Adam said “I can see her head!” and I knew I had to get my game face on. I don’t know where it came from but suddenly I had a burst of energy. I was entirely exhausted by this point but I wanted to meet our baby so I just kept trying. At one point in the labor, I looked over at my mom and I told her I was so exhausted and I had no clue how I’d have the energy to breastfeed immediately. She looked at me and told me that I would be so excited once the baby arrives that I wouldn’t even worry about being tired anymore. She continued to encourage me to keep on pushing and I felt relieved I’d have the energy to breast feed after delivery.

When the baby started crowning the doctor gave one end of the towel to Adam and I held the other. After a few short pushes, Baby Roy entered the world. My heart melted as I looked at this little life. A life that needed me. Baby Roy was placed right on me and we began our bonding, Vernix and all. She wasn’t breathing so the nurse took her for a second (and it was really a second) to remove fluid from her throat to enable breathing. After the nurse put the baby back on my chest, Adam and I looked at each other and he said “do you want to share her name now?” We both knew she was an Avery. Avery Jo Roy, sweet baby, little life, gift from God and she was ours.

After

Getting home with our baby was a truly odd experience; there’s a new being in the house. Our furry baby, Mera the cat, had no interest in Avery. Life truly did turn upside down for all of us. The house was filled with love. My mom, sister and friends were here to support and help us. Our first night with Avery, Ryan took the night shift so I could sleep a little and that’s about all I did. I was tired but my body was in mom-mode. I’d have to say that I really wanted to be the perfect mom but that doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to get into a schedule, for you to feel like yourself again and somewhere in there you’re a new person. Avery has made me crazy, happy, sad and whole. Bringing a child into the world is unlike anything I have ever done. So “thank you” to everyone who ever tried to give me wise advice before I was ready because now I hear you. All the stories and jokes people make about having kids aren’t as funny until you have one of your own. I am now the proud wearer of that badge of Mommy honor.

 

Rachel & Avery

Rachel & Avery