Friday, August 16, 2013

A Comparison of our jobs... not to compare.

Right now I'm a stay-at-home mom. 

Can I compare my job to my husbands? 

Right now he is a pilot trainee for the Air Force.

Can he compare his job to mine?

Is something important because it's hard to do or is it hard to do because it's important? Or can it be easy even though it's important, even the most important.

Does a regulated schedule make something more difficult?

Does regular grading make a job more stressful?

Could I say I am graded regularly because I judge myself and my performance constantly and expect better every day?

Couldn't we both just respect each others' jobs and be satisfied?

How do we show respect for each others' responsibilities?

When I make breakfast, lunch and dinner sometimes in one day for my hubs, help him find numerous possessions he has temporarily lost, clean the dishes he dirtied, clean the toilet we both use, and do everything I can to raise the daughter we both had a hand in bringing to the world... I feel like I'm supporting him.

But how can he support me? 

When he's so busy working, preparing, studying, fixing. 

What do I, what can I, expect of him?

This is a mystery and a balancing act of expectations and understanding I hope to crack and conquer soon...

Before I go crazy.

Note: my husband is kind, considerate and respectful... we're just normal and this post is about working some kinks out that I want to work out.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

What I Learned on Harkers Island About My Grandpa & My Family

Written From the Porch of my 2nd cousin's, the Morrises, Home in Straights...
Right over the bridge from Harkers Island, North Carolina.
June 2013

A sweet time of overwhelming love and joy.

In the church Relief Society room I sat and felt at home, 
a temple-like setting with many who came before me that are still on this side of the veil.
They knew and loved my Grandpa.
The man that treated me like I was his only grandchild although he had many,
Even in the middle of his workday.
“Minta Jones, I love your bones!” he said as he squatted down with his arms out for me to run into.
He looked so much like my dad, only with black glasses, more gray and white hairs, a bit tougher skin and a few more wrinkles.

He died here, on Harkers Island, in ‘94, when I was 9 years old.
Since then he’s been the man I love to hear stories about.
On the car ride home from Harkers Island to Straights, Joella, my dad's cousin, kindly related some of her memories of him. 
She said that when he visited the island his eyes would light up as he talked about his grandkids that were back in Seattle.
Most everyone stayed on the island, actually. 
Grandpa was the daring exception who transplanted himself creating roots and a legacy in the West.  My dad says it was the missionaries who baptized him Mormon that convinced him to go to BYU and marry a Mormon girl.  

Joella went on and said she could tell us grandkids were the apple of his eye and his pride and joy.  To hear those words from someone I look up to and that remembers him well meant so much me.  To hear her talk about him with a vivid memory and get a first-hand witness of his love for me- for us- was touching and I had to hide my emotions.

Then, she told me about that day.
That horrible day when Grandpa's earthly life came to a sudden end, leaving many behind.
People all over the island could hear the explosion, she said.  Traffic stopped for the ambulance and the name on the truck confirmed her fear.  Someone else was driving Grandpa’s car behind the ambulance.  What had happened, they thought?

One tragic accident after another here, it doesn’t seem fair.
Many years before this my grandpa's little brother, who my dad was named after, died of Leukemia at age 8.  Dad says his Grandpa was never the same afterwards, so sad about losing his boy he became even quieter.
Then, following my Grandpa's accident, Uncle Mike died in a car accident. My dad says that his Uncle Mike was shy, an artist, a fisherman, and so good with his hands he used them to make boats.  He loved his grandchildren so much that even though they were little boys, when he opened his boat-making company he named it Hancock & Grandson's.  My dad's pretty sure those grandson's run it now.  My dad also says that when his Uncle Mike hugged and kissed him, it felt like his own dad.  I realized it's the same with my Uncle Mike for me.

Then Grandma died in a car accident.  My dad loved his Grandma and felt so much affection from her. "My Deeny, my leetle Deeny," he can remember her saying, and, "You are the prettiest little thing ever in this world." It's funny how that affection and praise carries on because I don't think a day passed growing up that my dad didn't say he loved me and that I was "as cute as a bug in a rug" which now I clearly understand is a compliment. :)
Shortly after Grandma Margarette's death, Grandpa Charlie Hancock passed and everyone's almost positive he died of a broken heart.
The day my Grandpa died I felt it too, thousands of miles away.  
I felt the explosion, the rush of fear and confusion, the deep sadness.  
Minta, my aunt, was crying at the table and my dad yelled and collapsed in the other room. 
I couldn’t stop crying for days.

That sadness stayed with me until he came to me in a dream.  With all of his grand-kids on his lap at once he looked down at me and said, “Minta, I want you to know that I love you and that I’m OK.”  I could go to school now and not cry in class.  The dream was meant to comfort me and anyone else who believed.

Those faces were his.
Sister, June, Bill.  They carried his skin, his face shape, his nose, his hair color, his blood.

Why do some go so early?  
Only for the ones that loved them to get tired, wrinkled, grey-white and more sad about being left behind.

“It should have been me.” “Why wasn’t it me that died?”

Oh, the comfort that is waiting for those that are left behind, comfort from the Master and author of all that is good and beautiful in their lives.
Oh, the sweet peace and rest that they deserve.

What will he be like when we see him again?  
Will he be close to our Heavenly father?  Will he want to bring us to him?
Will he want us to kneel with him before our Elder Brother who has made possible the sweet reunion?

The water is sweet, warm and salty, the sand soft and heated.
The grass is thick and strong and the trees rise high above the houses.
What did he love about this island?

Is it the connectedness of all his neighbors? Or, maybe, the family names on so many road signs.  Part of it had to have been the boats that symbolized plentiful food and breezy rides. 
I bet it was the comforts of long-lost memories from drawled voices heavy as boat anchors to his heart.

He loved me, and he loved this island.

He left me pieces of him in all the people and places of Harkers Island.

But, he is in more than that.

I know that because he came to me in my dream and made it the last night I wet my pillow with tears because I missed him.

He loves me and I know he longs to be with me again.

He must long to be with all of us.

I’m so glad I know he’s already with many people that he loves… like his mom and dad, his brothers and many more that came before him.

Learning about him, his family and where he came from gives me deeper reason to follow their examples.

A few ways I can do that is to love and cling to family.  To tell Sarah, and all of my family, that I love them and why I do. 
If I hug tightly and wrestle on the floor with the little ones I’d be honoring their example. 
Family was number one to them all.  I hope to always have the same priorities.

They worked hard and always provided for each other.  They weathered storms of nature and of persecution like we can read about in Uncle Joel’s book.

I am because they were and I can be as great as they were if I keep learning about who they were and why they lived like they lived.

I’m so excited to see the faces of my family at our reunion in a couple weeks and know the same blood that runs through them runs through me and ran through our beloved Grandpa, his parents, siblings, and their children.

Family is a wonderful thing and this visit to Harkers Island only intensified my feelings towards the one I was sent to.

I ultimately thank my Father in Heaven, whose Spiritual DNA I believe carry, for putting me in the Hancock family and having such a beautiful plan with families at its center.

A Little Background to the Essay

My almost 2 year-old, Sarah and I arrived to at New Bern, North Carolina Saturday evening and the Morris’ greeted us and drove us home to Straights.  The next day we went to church and then Joel and Susan’s for lunch and then to my Grandma Hancock’s home.

At church I was overwhelmed with love and gratitude- the Spirit of our Father in Heaven- during the Sacrament and Relief Society Meetings.  I have to thank the nursery, specifically Lauren Hancock (my second cousin-in-law) for watching my little one so I could go to Relief Society. In every face I felt a connection to my Grandpa Hancock whom I loved so strongly as a child.  I wanted to talk to each of them, hug them and hear about their lives and possibly memories that have of my Grandpa.  I did get to hug and speak with some of them and I’m so grateful for the opportunity I had to feel so connected to my Hancock side.  The feelings I experienced in the Harkers Island Ward building were comparable to what I experience in the temple- love, joy, faith, strength and hope.  I believe that is because I was touched by the Spirit of Elijah.  My heart was turned to my fathers (to my father’s father to be specific) and I think his heart and that of his family in that ward were turned to me, his grand-child.  For those reading this that aren’t familiar with our faith or temples, that Spirit of Elijah is the same Spirit that resides in our temples because of the nature of the work we do there.  We connect ourselves forever to our ancestors and our descendants.
Here’s what I wrote the Monday following that Special Sabbath I was blessed to enjoy mid June on Harkers Island, North Carolina.

Another Important Note of Thanks

The Morris Family, James and Joella and their 4 wonderful kids, were so incredibly welcoming and treated us so much like family.  Yes, I know, we are family.  But, we're second cousins and we rarely see each other so some might say that's just an excuse for a free place to stay.  Well, let me tell you I have vivid memories of meeting each of my second cousins when I was little and idolizing them ever since.  They were good-looking, fun, family and lived in a cool place where my Grandpa once lived.  
Now, more than 20 years later and with a child of my own, it was so relieving to feel at home there and that is all thanks to the Morris family. 
Joel and Susan also welcomed us and fed us whenever we could go by, and I sincerely appreciated that, also.
I can't tell you how much it meant for me to feel welcomed and loved by you, thank you so much!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Light Inside


I walk outside and the sun hurts my eyes.  I have to walk to the mailbox with them half closed but my head still hurts from the bright pavement I look down on.
My apple tastes cool and I’m grateful for the natural sugars it gives my blood.  Why  am I down?
Would the sun not be so bright if I were lighter inside?
How come it takes me so long to walk outside?
A pool a walk away.
A TV mounted to the wall.
Food in our pantry and friends on the screen.
That’s what this is... a dimmer.
Light pushes, slams, forces its way into my body and the darkness is overwhelmed.  
I wish it lasted,
A relationship that I can touch means almost nothing but those that are out of reach I long to be touching.
Is this his biggest trick in the book, make good things seem empty?
Because when I feel like this it’s the bad things that I want to do so I can be full- eat, watch, read, skim, stalk, envy, wish, self-hate, embarrassed, sad.
Am I giving life to death when I write the truth or would it be more dangerous to cover the pain with dishes, laundry, fake smiles and empty words.

It’s crazy. The things that keep me alive are all things I can’t even see. Well, one of them I can.
She is here because of me and the man I chose.
She helps me forget the darkness I dread will return.
Her needs come first and my selfishness drowns in her bubble bath.
I can work, smile and laugh sincerely when she’s around.

But, it doesn’t seem right.  To put my whole life in her hands.  I must be able to face this world and on my own two feet stand.
I’m grateful for the reprieve but I promise- for her, him and mostly for me- to use my time to find the ground and welcome the bright pavement more and more.
And, someday I know that when I walk outside my head won’t hurt from squinting because the brightness will match the light inside of me.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Addicted to Social Media Approval

I think I'm losing my identity because of my addiction to social media approval.

What is this obsession, verging on addiction, I have of “likes” and “comments”?  
I love to share my thoughts, experiences, pictures, beliefs but have I become so diseased that unless the number on the bottom of the box is big I begin to think that what I’ve shared is not as valuable?
Is this one of the reasons why people leave Facebook?
Should I leave Facebook, Instagram and the Blogosphere?

The addiction began with the first like.  Then I accepted more followers and expected more likes.  To my delight, they came.  Now, if I have over 20 likes, I know it was a good picture.
But, wait… that makes no sense.
It’s only a good picture when others like it?

There was a time I took pictures on Instagram only for myself, I had no followers.  I didn't even know I could have followers! Haha, I must have not looked that deeply into the name :).

I guess I just need to choose whether the pictures/status updates/blog entries I create are for me or my followers and then accept the plenty or more common lack of "likes" and comments if that's their purpose.  But, it has been difficult for me lately to distinguish between something done for me or for others because I personally get so much when others like and respond to what I've written or captured!

There’s a physical rush I feel when I see people have “liked” my status or my photo or commented on my blog.  That rush spills over to my mind and I feel almost invincible.  I start to think that all of my ideas are amazing and I am really an important person.  It is a literal high.  These highs become addictive.

 Do I need that approval, that high, to feel good about who I am?
Has it come to that?!  To place my worth in the hands of my Facebook friends and Instagram/Blog followers?

But who can blame me?  I should have seen it coming.

One of my long-time blogger crushes, Taza, has 150,000 followers on Instagram and receives an average of 8,000 "likes" on her pictures. Can you believe that? I guess I can, considering the popularity of her blog, the perfection of her and her children’s wardrobe, the wonder of her photography, the seemingly picture-perfect marriage she depicts and the attention she has consequently received in many other forms of media.

Is she my measure of success?  I think subliminally it has come to that.   I read her blog every day for a few minutes and feel better when I do.  Why?  Personally I think it’s because I have successfully escaped my world and all the imperfections I am I all too familiar with and entered someone else’s perfect world.  We have enough in common that I feel I’ve almost adopted her life sometimes.  She’s a dancer, she loves music, she loves her children, she’s Mormon, and she loves food. So… we’re pretty much the same person, right?

No, that’s not right.

Maybe that’s it.  Maybe following blogs and worrying about social media approval has aided in the slow and sad process of me losing my identity.

What did I gauge my success against before? 

Ideally my success as a human being is measured only against my potential and myself. 

I think that when I let my mind and time be caught up in the lives of others I naturally compare my own to theirs.

Maybe it is a time for a social media break.

Why does that scare me?

Because I know how badly I’ll miss the approval I glean from both outlets.

If I were my own best friend I would tell myself this:

Minta, I love you.  You are so beautiful.  You shine.  When you know who you are and cling to that, you bring so much light and love to everyone you meet.  Your greatest potential will be reached when you let go of outside approval and jump with both feet into a life of faith in the Creator and service to His children.  You know that you’ve been happiest when you live your life like that. 

Remember those 18 months you spent on a mission.  You had never heard of Facebook or Instagram, you didn’t text, you didn’t check your email but once a week.  You didn’t even talk to the ones you loved most very often.  What you did was make plans to help people in your area know their own potential and worked all day to follow those plans.  You loved everyone around you and you didn’t easily take offense.  You wiped away tears of frustration and weariness in order to help families understand that they could be together forever.

No, your life can never be like that again.  That time was an incredible privilege of yours.  Emails, texts, calls are now a necessary part of the interacting and planning in your daily life.  You now get to talk to your family whenever you want.  And, although you are no longer required to plan every 30-minute increment of your 15-hour day, you have responsibilities that are just as important and require just as much dedication and sometimes planning.

You’re a mother.  That is the most important accomplishment you could hope for.  Not just to have a child, but to then live well in order to be a good example.  Your time is well spent when it’s spent helping your child learn and develop.  Every time you sing the ABC’s to, dance with, or teach your child how to work you’re making another divot in the mold that will become that child’s being.  You and your husband are responsible for instilling confidence, love, forgiveness, obedience, faithfulness, gratitude in your child’s self.  But don’t worry, like I said before, it’s in the small things that you already do every day that will help you achieve this! You’re on your way to becoming the mother you’ve dreamed of being. 

So, don’t worry what other people think.  There will come a day that your own daughter, whom you’ve given so many days to love and rear, will reject you and go against what you’ve taught.  Even then, your worth will not change.

Even then you’re an eternally worthwhile soul that has come to this earth with a purpose and done all you can to fulfill it.  You can be happy to know that the only acceptance and approval that will matter in the end is yours.  You will be your final judge.  Please remember that.

Can I do this?  Could I stop social media for a week? A month?  Would it be good for me?  What do you think?

Monday, May 6, 2013

My Faith and My Church: Why I belong and What I Believe

I'm writing this because there is so much in the media about the Church I belong to and I have a strong desire for the people I love to know why I belong to the Church.

Core Beliefs:

I believe in an Eternal Father who created my Spirit and then sent me to earth at this time with a certain family for a specific purpose.  I believe that His Son, Jesus Christ, is my Elder brother and that I knew and even spoke with Him before this life.  I believe that my brother accepted the challenge to come to earth and live a perfect life and then suffer an infinite suffering in order for all of us to be able to return to live with Him and Heavenly Father after this life.  I believe that our earth lives are short in comparison to our Spirit's eternal life.  I know that while Jesus Christ lived on the earth He established what we call a church- an organization that serves to bring God's children closer to Him.   That organization didn't survive the persecution and corruption of humankind and was lost eventually.  All according to God's plan, though, it was restored to the earth through an unlikely candidate- a fourteen year-old boy who was searching for the truth and wanted to know in which church he would find it.  I also believe that Joseph Smith was foreordained and found worthy to help usher in the last time the gospel and Christ's church would be found on the earth in its entirety.  Again, this church was established by Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and other ancient apostles through modern-day prophets like Joseph Smith with the sole purpose of bringing people closer to their Father in Heaven.

My Baptism and Confirmation: 

163 years after the Church was re-established, in 1993, I chose to be baptized a member.  Just like Jesus Christ I was baptized by immersion.  Unlike Him, my sins were washed away.  I made a promise to always remember Him, obey His every commandment and be an example to others.  I then received the Gift of the Holy Ghost by men that I knew and loved that were worthy to act in the name of Jesus Christ.  That gift was God's promise to me, to always have His influence in the form of the Holy Spirit with me, if I kept the promises I made to Him.  I took this as seriously as an eight-year-old could.  I knew what I was doing and what it meant for the rest of my life.  I knew I wouldn't be perfect but understood that Jesus Christ was my Savior and life was meant to be a learning experience where we continually try to do better and slowly become like the Savior in feelings, thought, word and deed.  I was so excited.  I still remember feeling overwhelmed with joy and peace right after my confirmation- when I received the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  I reacted emotionally and could barely speak, but I knew what I was feeling was good and real and that it came from the God of this universe- the Father of my spirit.

How I Practice Now:

It has been 20 years since that baptism and confirmation.  I attend church weekly, read my scriptures almost daily, kneel in prayer a few times a day and- on a good day- constantly have a prayer in my mind and heart.  I fast once a month for a couple meals in order to show my gratitude and devotion to the one that gave me my body, my mind and every blessing in my life and to ask for special blessings like to get pregnant or that a loved one can be healed of an infirmity.  I've made even stronger commitments to the Lord when I went through the temple for the first time and renew those promises as often as possible as I assist in making those covenants available to people that have passed on from this life.  I regularly question my beliefs and faith.  I am constantly in search of more information that confirms the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ found in the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Am I Just a Sheep?:

As I grow older, independence, individuality and general and emotional intelligence are more and more important to me.  It is tempting to view myself as a sheep in a blind herd following something I was raised to believe is true.  But, then, I realize I've been questioning its validity for years and haven't been let down once.  Also, the closer I come to my Savior the more empowered and unique I feel.  Really, actually, the more I depend on Jesus Christ, the stronger and seemingly independent I am!

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contains in it the beautiful complete teachings and goals and directives taught by our Savior Jesus Christ while He lived on this earth and even more with the blessing of modern-day revelation.  Every modern-day revelation received only assists us as God's children to know more about who Jesus Christ is, experience joy in this life, help others to do the same and have confidence in the hereafter.

Truthfulness found in the Function and Organization:

Not only have I found truth in books, talks, prayers, and conversations but I've found it in little evidences in my daily life.   I want to touch on what happens at church that leads me to believe its true.

The Church (of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) operates thanks to millions of volunteers.  Nobody is paid except for a select few leaders that have been asked to spend full-time serving (full-time missionaries on the other hand pay their way).  On one of the smallest levels of the church- the ward, ours with about 200 in attendance- an average Bishop puts in the same time as a part-time job and then some.  More than this, he puts in his heart and takes on the great responsibility of watching over every family in his ward-boundaries and making sure their physical and spiritual needs are met.  Next from him are his counselors who support him in this calling and then the auxiliary leaders who preside over groups of  men and women.  Each auxiliary has counselors and other callings or assignments.

In my last congregation in Enid, OK, I was a member of the Relief Society presidency.  There were more than a hundred members we were responsible for as a presidency.  My favorite part of the assignment (we call it a "calling" usually) was providing loads of food and household goods for several families in the ward.  The RS president drove a couple hours to our Church's Food Store House, loaded everything up into a trailer (with help), and drove it back to our church building.  A few volunteers (usually the missionaries and some members of the families that would be receiving the food and myself) would help to unload the food, separate it according to its nature and then fill bags after bags after bags for each family to take home.  These families were trying their best to survive but needed help.  They were active church goers and hoped to someday be in a situation that they no longer needed the assistance but instead helped others to receive the needed aid.  How does the Church pay for this you ask?  Every member of the Church or each family is asked to fast (if able to) 2 meals a month and donate what they would have spent on food to the ward's funds that all go towards this goods-providing service.  We are encouraged to be as generous as possible, meaning we can donate much more than that if circumstance permits.   What an incredible program- for those of us who have more to donate to help those of us who have less.  And for those that benefit directly from this program to one day be the ones helping others. 

My "Job" in the Church:

Currently I am a teacher in the women's organization, the Relief Society.  I will spend a good number of hours a month preparing a meaningful lesson with effective questions in order to promote discussion.  My lessons all come from a manual used world-wide in the Church of a certain latter-day prophet, now being Lorenzo Snow.  My next lesson, for example, is titled: Sacred Family Relationships that in essence teaches how to strengthen relationships in our family now and look forward to maintaining them after this life.  I will put a lot of effort into preparing the lesson.  I'll pray each time before I do anything for heaven's help.  My job is to be sensitive to what the Lord knows the women need to hear.  I have sat in too many Relief Society lessons to count with tears because what the teacher says is exactly what I needed to hear and will help me encounter life's difficulties with more faith and confidence.  I consider it a huge honor to teach.  It is actually my favorite caling in the Church because it humbles me to prepare a lesson and motivates me to live so I can feel God's influence and receive His help.  I'm also a comfortable public speaker, but really anyone could do it because it's the Holy Spirit that ends up doing the real teaching.

Jesus Christ is at the Center:

Every week, though, I go to church and I see these women and men that dedicate hours of their week and much prayer and care to our well-being and am touched.  Why do they do it?  Becuase, like me, they believe they are helping in the most important work there is: to help their brothers and sisters stay on the path that brings happiness and eternal life with God and Jesus Christ.  We believe we can achieve such things by small steps every day and only through faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is at the center of everything we believe and do.

Sometimes we make the mistake at our Church meetings of going through a whole talk, lesson or testimony without acknowleding our Savior and dependence on Him.  But, anything that is taught in our Church can find its roots in the mission and divinity of Jesus Christ.  He is the head of our Church and is seen in everything we believe, teach and do.

Jesus Christ showed us how to live- not only do we love and serve others but we withhold all judgement (except for the Bishop who judges in certain circumstances in order to help people stay on the right path). We strive to live clean lives and are moral in our thoughts and deeds because our bodies and the sexual acts we can perform with them are sacred.  We treat our bodies with respect as we refrain from any harmful substances.  We are honest.  We are grateful.

I'll be the first to say I haven't been perfect.  There are times I am tormented by mistakes I've made and continue to make.  But that torment only comes when in my weakness I forget that Jesus Christ wants to forgive me and remembers my sin no more (D&C 58:42) when I sincerely repent.

I am so grateful to have a personal knowledge of these things and have made the choice to believe on my own.  Believing and following the Gospel of Jesus Christ found in the scriptures and through latter-day Prophets has only brought happiness, goodness, clarity, purpose and meaning to my life.

Your friend and sister,

some quick resources:

A Video Profile on My Dad!
My Mormon Profile
The Book of Mormon

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Best First Birth Story I Could've Ever Asked For

Sarah’s Birth

(I wrote this in my journal on my bed the days after her birth.  I edited a little bit of it since and added details as I remembered them)

Contractions started to be steady at 4 am on July 31st, 2011.  I could sleep in between them.  I knew sometimes you could start contractions and then stop so I just passed through them or let them pass through me for a while.  They were strong enough, though, that I knew I needed to get rest and eat well.  So, I decided to stay home from church and have Michael stay with me to help keep track of contractions.  They were decently strong but the breathing and relaxing got me through them just fine.  We watched a funny church movie and my contractions took an hour break.  Then they came back stronger but not too strong.  We went on a walk to the park.  I had a couple contractions.  Then I needed to go to the bathroom really bad so we walked home and I had at least one on the way home, and I peed my pants. I’d tell Michael whenever they started and then when they stopped and he kept such amazing track in t his little brown waterproof notebook.

All the while I am eating all I can- turkey bagel sandwich, crackers – and drinking tons of water.  I also would lie down when I felt tired because I needed to pace myself as Chris (my midwife) advised.
We knew it was going to be a long haul so I needed to get as much rest and food to preserve my energy.  And am I sure glad I did!

Between going to the park and finally arriving at the Birth Center we went to QFC and stocked up on good food- Pirate’s Booty, Cheez-its, Peanut butter cliff bars…mmm.

I remember having a contraction in the freezer section at QFC, then in front of the chase branch office.  Michael would just stay by me and help me feel like I was doing a great job.  People may have seen what was going on because I would be totally hunched over and kind of swaying my hips.  I didn’t make as much noise, though, during contractions in public.

For every contraction Michael was there and aware.  At the beginning I’d have one and be kind of quiet breathing, waiting relaxing.  Then when they got stronger I started the moaning noises or low and deep “uhhhs.”

One time, when I was on the ground in the dining room having a contraction he started to rub my back and hips like we’d practiced- quickly I realized I didn’t want anyone touching me.  I told him I loved him but would rather he not touch me during contractions. He was not offended.  I told him it helped just to have him close by, so that’s what he did. * Thank you Michael for meeting my every need with so much love and understanding!  I will be forever grateful to you for being by my side figuratively and literally through the whole labor and birth process.

He was so good at timing the contractions and not saying anything if it wasn’t as long as the last or if the time in between them had changed.  That way I could stay mentally focused on getting through each contraction instead of worrying about my progress.  I don’t think I worried about how I was progressing once.  That was a choice I had made and one Michael had apparently made from the beginning.

From the beginning of labor (~4 AM, July 31st) we both just enjoyed our time together.  We stayed calm and remembered that sometimes contractions come and go without it being the real thing.
My parents got home from church and when my mom asked if we were anxious and didn’t want to have to wait, both of us looked at each other and shook our heads “no.”  We weren’t in a rush.  I knew she would come when she and I were both ready.

Then I just focused on resting pretty much, and getting through each contraction, one at a time.  (Mom and Dad went to Mike and Melissa’s for dinner). 

Once the contractions started to be at least 4 minutes apart, lasting at least 1 minute for about an hour we knew we needed to call my midwife, Chris.  This was around 11:30 pm.
We were on the phone with Chris for at least 15 minutes.  I answered what seemed like TONS of questions and some of them I answered repeatedly.  I didn’t get frustrated, though.  Chris stayed on the phone during contractions and coached me through them, telling me to relax and let my bum go soft and everything go soft.  Michael would hold the phone near me so I didn’t have to. This all happened on the floor on my side of our bed in the guest room at my parent’s house.  

This is also the only time I experienced the thought “I don’t know if I can do this.”  I had been experiencing labor for almost 18 hours and I was tired.  I knew the hardest part hadn’t even started yet and so I let myself look ahead and get scared about all I had left to do instead of focusing on getting through the present calmly.  This is a very typical feeling and many women- even those that wanted to deliver naturally- welcome an epidural at this point.  It’s true that some women have exhausted themselves so much that an epidural is what truly saves them and helps them successfully deliver their babies but I was not completely exhausted I knew.  Michael was there to reassure me and Chris was on the phone when I started voicing this fear.  She helped me calm down and regain faith that all would be well and that I could continue to pass through contractions naturally without assistance.

Once she established I was at the point in labor I needed to be before coming into the birth center, we got off the phone and started to leave.  Getting to the car took a while (a LONG while says Michael (: ).  I kept getting contractions and needing to stop and breath and relax through them (on the way down the stairs, by the door, just outside the car) Talking to Michael now, he kept thinking “Why don’t you just get in the car and then you can go through your contractions in there and we’ll get to the birth center quicker!” Good thing he didn’t say that, or else I wouldn’t have felt so supported! It’s definitely not that simple.

Finally we got in the car around 12:15 am. The car drive was surreal.  The stars were so bright; it was an absolutely beautiful night. I remember thinking how beautiful this night was that my daughter would be born.  I called Siri once we got in the car.  I felt her concern and sincerity immediately after we began speaking.  She said she’d get ready and be to the birth center right away. Now, I had never talked to her before.  She was my “back-up” doula because Mandy was out of town that weekend and I was still a week before due date not expecting to have my baby.  So to be like this when a stranger (she knew she was my “back-up” doula though) calls you at 12:15 am when you’re tired because you have kids of your own is amazing!  

The rest of the drive I breathed and relaxed through contractions with Michael by my side offering support.  I remember thinking how long that drive down 148th in Bellevue was taking.  It was interesting and perfect driving through the city I grew up in and had left behind for years but was back now to give birth to my first child.

We pulled into the birth center and Chris pulled in right after.  I threw up a couple times (which could have been a sign of “transition”) on the cement and in the dirt right outside door, oops!
We got inside and I immediately started taking my clothes off.  Michael got out my bathing suit tops and asked which I wanted to wear and I just shook my head and said neither.  I didn’t even want to think about putting clothes on my achy, shivery, and ready to explode body.  I wasn’t thinking about the videos and pictures that would be taken and how I wouldn't be able to show them to anyone because I’d be buck naked in them all.  Next time I’ll definitely wear a sports bra so I can show my kids and anyone else that would find it helpful.  During the preparation I saw more than a few natural births including that of my natural birth teacher’s 3rd child.  It REALLY helped and got me excited to watch these.

Chris “checked” me right away and I was at 6 cm.  She could tell I was progressing quickly and so we did the normal tub instead of the big pool… a choice that proved to be best anyways.
About 5 minutes passed and the tub was ready for me.  I got completely naked and got in.  The contractions in the tub were nice because I would just float and look at Michael and he’d help me not go under the water.  My head was rested on a small pillow on the side that Chris gave me.
Michael remained with me the whole time.

After a few contractions I started to grunt and Chris asked if I felt like pushing. I responded, “I don’t know, how does that feel?”  “Like you have to poop.” She said.  After a few minutes I must have felt that way because I said yes.  Michael then asked if I wanted him in the tub and I said I wasn’t sure if there was room.  He assured me there was and then got on his swimsuit and got in the tub with me.  He sat behind me with his legs around me to give me as much room and provide as much support as he could.  It was so nice having him there, especially during the pushes when I needed to get as much leverage as possible squatting and leaning back.

My mom, Michael’s mom, a midwife in training and my doula substitute, Siri, were also in the beautifully decorated, earth toned and dimly lit birthing center room.  I believe mine or Michael’s mom could have provided the support I needed- my mother had 4 children naturally and coached other natural births, even home births- but I felt most comfortable just having them in the room.  I wanted them to witness the life-changing event because I love them so much but for some reason my comfort of their involvement didn’t extend past them sitting close by.  I’m grateful they understood and were happy just to be there.

My first push I threw my head back and pushed hard against the tub wall and let out noise as I pushed.  It was almost like I was doing what I’d seen in the movies, it was the only way I knew how to push.  Somehow, in all my hours of studying and preparing, how to push correctly and effectively never sank in.  So, right there in the tub Chris gave me a pushing crash course.  She told me to put my chin down and hold in the breath so that all energy from my push went to getting Sarah out and not to making noise or extending my neck and head.  My body was curled, in a way, once I put my chin down.  From the top of my head to my bottom was a c-curve, like I’d practiced a lot in my modern dance classes.  

From then on I did pretty well at pushing effectively… so well that my face would turn bluish purple (says my mom) and I often wondered if my head would burst or pop off.  During some of the pushes and the breaks in between pushes I thought about the name “Sarah”.  This happened three times. I know now that I was being prepared to make our final decision on our baby girl’s name.  

A little after I started pushing Chris began to stretch me “down there” during each push.  We think my initial tear happened during one of these stretches because Michael saw a bunch of blood while she was stretching me.  I don’t know for sure, though.

In between pushes I would relax and it would get really quiet.  Michael would replace the cold cloth on my face.  I loved that time because it was so peaceful.  I even started to sing or hum, I can’t remember, during one of those quiet times.  Something important I should mention is that the birth center was SO conducive with a peaceful and quiet birth.  I believe it would be conducive with any kind of birth except for a high-stress and completely uncomfortable one.  I was so happy.  I started to cry because I was so happy.  At another point I said, “I need people to tell me everything is going to be OK.” And everyone confidently reassured me it would.  But, for the most part, I knew it would be and I could feel God’s love and power very strongly throughout the birth.
I never felt like I was “out of my body” but looking back, what I accomplished was miraculous- meaning God worked through me, gave me the will, strength, energy to push and get Sarah out and not give up until she was on my chest- which, by the way, was the best/coolest feeling in the whole universe!!!!  Two words that might describe how it felt are peace and goodness, even perfection.  Everything felt completely right.  Michael and my marriage felt so right.  Me being a mother felt so right. Everyone that was there and helping me felt so right.  Having our baby girl in our arms felt so so so right.

Throughout the pushing Chris would check the baby’s pulse with a tool she could stick in the water and on my belly.  Near the end, when Sarah’s head was getting squished the most in the canal, her heart rate would drop and Chris would take on a serious face and remind me to breathe as deeply as possible in between pushes.  She’d keep the tool on my tummy and I would breathe as deeply as I could until the little pitter-patters of her heartbeat were closer together.  I remember never caring more about anything in my life than helping my baby have a normal heart rate while she was making her way down the birth canal so she could end up healthily in my arms, right there in that peaceful spot in the Birth Center.  The thought came more than once that If I could keep a good breath and help her get the oxygen she needed then I could deliver her right there in the birth center and avoid having to get out of the tub, into a car and drive to the nearby hospital to deliver her.  I had decided to not be devastated if that had happened but still I wanted to avoid it.  Gratefully, she did get the oxygen she needed and maintained a normal heart rate.

I continued to push with each contraction.  I ended up needing to get on my feet and squat and push for a while.  It became an art, the moment I learned the best way to push; at the first signs of a contraction I would rip the cloth of my face, get on my feet in a squatting position and give it everything I had and some.  Eventually little Sarah’s head was out enough that it didn’t go back in between the contraction and we could touch it.  I could feel her cute little head and hair. That was incredible and provided all the motivation I needed to finish pushing her out.  I knew I needed to be patient with my body, though, and only push when I felt a contraction.

A contraction came and I pushed and out came her whole head.  The only reason I knew it was because Chris told me.  Because she hadn’t hit air, she could have been in the water for minutes and been OK. It’s incredible what our bodies do.  The chance to push came and I barely pushed when the rest of her body slid out.  That felt kind of crazy.  It was like my body was saying, “Well, you got her head out, now here’s the rest of her!!” 

Immediately her whole self was on my self.  She was so little.  She was a little blue and a little goopy but not bad… the water had cleaned her off a bit.  I remember seeing her little face and almost dying of happiness.  Michael was still behind me, as he had been this whole time, and could see her over my shoulder and hold her from behind me.  Chris and the assistant put a little pink and blue hat on her head right away and kept a warm towel on her body to keep her temperature safe, but we got to sit there and hold her for what seemed like an hour but was actually about 10 minutes or so.  In that 10 minutes we heard her for the first time, such a little voice that we fell in love with. It was when the tub was too red from my bleeding that we got out. When people ask Michael if that grossed him out to be in that tub with me he just shrugs… he’s the best!

I got into the shower that was right next to the tub and sat with the showerhead in my hands spraying water on my face and my body, rinsing myself off and renewing myself physically.  It was in the shower that I realized that my body was my own, again.  I didn’t have a little peanut inside of me anymore... it was just me.  Since then I’ve learned that my body would hardly ever be my own after having kids, forever bearing evidence that I carried them and nursed them.
My energy was pretty low.  I had just given birth and pushed hard for an hour and a half!  I had to have help from the shower to the bed.  

The room was so beautiful.  During the contractions in the tub, the pushing and then the recovery, the birth center provided a calming and home-like atmosphere I was so comfortable in and grateful for. 
As my mom and others helped me to the bed to rest and receive stitches I walked by Michael who was holding Sarah on his bare chest.  He looked like he was in heaven.  As is a baby’s instinct, she was using her little lips and head to make her way to his nipple and trying to latch, we all got a kick out of that!  I was just grateful he had her and happy to take a moment to myself.
On the bed I was wrapped up in a robe and cozy in the large bed’s comforter.  I remember my mom sitting on the bed with me and stroking my head telling me how well I did and how proud she was of me.  Thank you, Mom!  What a miracle to have you there to watch me-a daughter you gave birth to- give birth to her own daughter.  It was the day I could start my life-long journey of understanding all that you’ve done and do for me.

On the bed, once I was decent, the Keller’s all came in to see the baby and me.  I remember Steve’s face… he was so happy and so proud.  Keith was tired and maybe a little uncomfortable and sat on the chair near the bed.  Whitney and Allie were beaming and excited to meet their first niece.  I think it was around that time or maybe a little before when Chris asked me what we were going to name her.  I had told Michael about thinking about the name Sarah a few times while I was pushing and both of us knew that should and would be her name.  When Steve and Laura found out they were speechless.  I don’t think we understood what that meant to them and the whole Keller family, we only felt honored for the privilege to name our daughter after a family member who had touched so many lives with her love and testimony.
It was soon after that that I could take Sarah and try to nursing for the first time.  I didn’t feel pressure for it to work right away because of what I had heard from other moms- it can take time for both you and the baby to learn how to breast-feed.  Miraculously, it worked right away.  To be able to successfully nurse her at the beginning was a tender mercy from the Lord because after that day it didn’t happen so easily for a while.  I needed that time though, that connection with this human I had carried for nine months and then felt as if I would give my own life to allow her to enter this world. 
The room was warm.  I was surrounded by people that wanted that child almost as bad as I did.  My dad took some pictures.  My hair was crimped from being in braids before and my face had traces of the makeup I put on the day before.  My skin was barely sun kissed and my cheeks were rosy from the physical exertion.

I felt more beautiful than I had ever before.  I believe I actually was the most beautiful I had ever been because I had finally experienced giving everything I had for someone else. 
If only I could learn from the me that gave birth to Sarah that cool summer morning and remember every day that true beauty and joy comes from giving, serving, loving and sacrificing… all willingly and even gratefully.  

Here's what I wrote a few weeks after her birth:

To be totally honest, I’ve forgotten a lot about the birth.  All I know is that I feel honored to have had the birth experience that I had.  Everything went perfectly and the end, when Sarah was finally on my chest and Michael and I were just smiling, laughing and crying, was magical.  I was so happy.  It was as if every bad or sad or horrible experience I’d ever had was swallowed up in the wonder/perfection/bliss of having a child- of having Sarah.  I don’t know if I would have felt that way if I had had a hospital/epidural birth*, but I’m sure glad I did it like I did.

*I’m sure that eventually I’d have felt this way but what I’m grateful for is that I could feel it during the birth and right after.

Thanks for reading my story. Every mother has her own birth story. I am grateful that my first is a positive story and hope the rest are similar to it in that I do all I can to be healthy for me and the baby and to prepare myself to bring my child into the world in the most natural and healthy way possible.  I’m not anti-hospitals/epidural… I’m just pro-healthiest way for you and your baby.  

If you have questions I’d love to answer them.  Good luck to you if you’re expecting.  Being able to carry a child and give birth is one of the many blessings from such a loving Father in Heaven.

Class I took: "Birth From the Heart" by Erika Ribary, North Bend, WA

Books I read: Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin & The Bradley Method by Susan McCutcheon

Book I will read before next birth: HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method: A natural approach to a safe, easier, more comfortable birthing by Marie F. Mongan