Wednesday, October 12, 2016

And a Piece for Gretchen Wieners

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A few days ago, as I was scrolling though my Facebook Newsfeed, a friend and fellow Mom's status caught my attention. She was asking other Moms for advice on pacifiers and bottles to supplement with because she had yet to find one that worked for her daughter. I empathized because I knew the feeling. Sam would only take one specific type of each, and the paci battle was definitely a struggle initially. Seeing as I completely understood what she was dealing with, I wanted to offer my advice, but some of the other comments are what really caught my attention. Instead of offering advice, or even a simple kind word, the majority of them were so full of judgement.

"You shouldn't supplement, breast is best!" "I promise if you let her nurse often enough your milk will come in?" "Make lactation cookies!" or "Drink dark beer!" and my absolute favorite... "Don't give up!"

But wait y'all. Who said she was "giving up"? This Mama was in a similar situation to mine where she had an actual reason for no longer breastfeeding that no damn dark beer or special cookie recipe was going to be able to fix. But even if she was "giving up" and even if she could breastfeed, should it have even mattered?! She was inquiring and asking a simple question so that she could be sure her baby was healthy and happy. And isn't that all that really matters? She didn't ask how to increase her milk supply or what she could do to continue. She only asked a simple question that mainly brought her more judgement than any Mom should ever have to deal with. Without asking for it, we already deal with more than enough rolling eyes and condescending stares with each daily decision we make.

Just to be clear, there are women who can't breastfeed (myself included, no matter how hard I fought for it) and it may actually break their heart. Or it may not and that's OKAY, too! But judging them based solely on something that has worked so well for YOU is only more hurtful. I can tell you from experience that the majority of advice I've received as a mother on breastfeeding, sleep, and every other topic, has not worked for us. Because obviously my baby is my baby and what works for one may not work for another.

Mom judgement happens way too often. I get it quite often for Sam's sleep habits. Even from women who don't have children which, I can't lie, makes me giggle a little. Until you've been in someone else's exact situation, especially a mother's, you have no idea. Yes, I still hold Sam for naps and he legit has no clue how to self soothe, but people don't realize it has all stemmed from a ridiculous amount of issues with reflux and gas that made it really difficult for my baby to settle on his own. It's unfortunate and we're dealing with it but the judgement I receive on the subject every single time I ask for advice can be really discouraging.

I'm so grateful for every bit of heart felt and non judgemental advice I've been given since becoming a Mom, because Lord knows I've needed it, but parenting is hard, and there is no one right way. I've said it 1,000, times but Mamas please remember that what works best for you and your baby is all that matters. Health and happiness are all we can aim for.

Tell someone they're a good Mom today. Encourage each other. We are all one tribe of kick ass women who work hard each day to be the best we can be. Remember how amazing you are for doing what only you can do. Wear your Mama crown with honor, and maybe pull a Cady Heron and break off a piece for everyone else in the crowd. I'm breaking off one for each of you today, and praying you'll always know your worth and value to your sweet babies.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How We Survived the First 4 Months as New Parents


Ohhh man. Grab some popcorn and/or a glass of wine, this is gonna be a long one. First let me start off by saying there is no magic "one size fits all" to parenting the tiny humans. Your life as a new parent will play out largely in part to your baby's (born with and in no way formed by your actions) temperament. Sam has had a big personality since day one. The number one comments we received from the very first hospital visitors and on were "He's so alert!" and "He's so active!" and those statements are still just as true 4 months later. This kid wiggles like a maniac and is distracted by the tiniest thing! He's very strong willed but also sweet as pie, so take what I say with a grain of salt. As a matter of fact, you should always take what I saw with a grain of salt. But anyway, if you luck up and have a super laid back baby like the majority of my Mama friends seem to, I promise this will still be helpful.

 1. Accept help. (Wherever you can get it!)

This was something I struggled with. I don't know why, but just watching other people hold Sam when he was tiny and brand new, gave me the worst anxiety. Honestly, I hated it. It didn't last long but my gah, it was the worst feeling. Even if you feel as ridiculous as I felt, take the help. I promise you aren't a bad mother for it. In fact, you'll be a better one with a little rest.

 2. Leave the house.

This was my number one rule before I had Sam. And then of course, the kid throws me a curve ball and wants to nurse every 30 minutes the first two weeks of his life. It was exhausting, so even if he did give me a break, I used it to sleep. He also hates his car seat. But I love to get out of the house so we just get over it. Luckily, he doesn't seem to hate his stroller as much but he definitely refuses to let me wear him. 90% of the time you'll catch me redneck carrying this sweet ball of control issues on my hip through Target. Hey, whatever works!

 3. Sleep when the baby sleeps.

 Everyone says it. It's not rocket science, people. See number one. SLEEP. All newborns do is sleep, even if it is in smaller increments, so take advantage of it! Sam still wakes up all night long but it does get better. For us, it gets better in the sense that I have adjusted to running off of little sleep. Also, if you're pregnant, don't complain about the lack of sleep you're getting. THAT does get worse without getting better. You can no longer take those glorious naps and sleep whenever you want once that (1,000 percent worth it) little nugget makes its way into your life. I'm just sayin', I don't know about you, but I "Mama" better with a little sleep.

 4. Make noise.

Turn all the TVs on. Talk loud. Play loud music. Do whatever you have to do to get your baby used to noise. Again, this is something we intended on doing but failed on. Initially Sam slept with Grey's Anatomy on because he nursed for so long I needed distraction but when he basically stopped wanting to nap, it took a dark quiet room to get him to sleep, so parent fail there. But again, you do what you have to do for sleep!

5. Listen to your gut.

Like I mentioned before, what you do does absolutely matter, but every single baby is different. Your baby's temperament is your baby's temperament no matter what. I promise you, Sam was born with his and while he may look just like his Daddy, his personality is very much like his Mamas. I also promise you that it's okay to not be perfect. Your baby will not remember you crying at 3am screaming to Jesus that all you want is him to sleep. But you will need to remember that you are a good Mama. You do know what's best for your baby, just don't forget what's best for you. Mommin' ain't easy, friends. But there is no other crown I would rather wear.

6. Remember: "This Too Shall Pass"

Unless you're a saint, there will be the rare occasion where you think to yourself "oh what have I gotten myself into?!". The first 4 months are tough, but I promise they get easier. They have been especially hard on Matt and me, but we both agree that in the first 4 months the only thing you can do is let your baby just be a baby. It does get better, you will sleep again, and your love will grow stronger every single day. One day you'll think you've reached capacity, and then the next day you realize your heart grew bigger overnight. 

 Must Haves:

Keep in mind some of these are things I wish I would have purchased, so take what I say with a grain of salt but also know that I can tell you everything under the sun not to do and buy. I mean, I'm still bouncing a 16lb. baby to sleep and holding him for all of his naps.... in a dark room. Someone come teach this baby how to self soothe. Lord, help me.


DockATot.

(Or any other co-sleeper of your choice.) Y'all. This is something I'm kicking myself for not buying. One of the reasons I love the idea of the DockATot is because you can move it. You can put it in your bed or in the bassinet next to your bed and eventually in the crib, making the transition much easier. Sam still sleeps in his RockN'Play (and I'm obsessed The Jonathan Adler version, btw), which we have loved because it saved us when he was refusing to sleep flat, the transition to his crib has been super difficult. Between being held for naps and sleeping in the RNP at night, he's so used to being cuddled and sleeping inclined. Praying for a shift in luck soon!

Swaddle.

Oh the swaddle. Babies have this silly thing called the Moro Reflex that causes them to startle like spastic crazy people falling off of bridges. Sam's was horrible. We used the Halo Sleepsack but I think next time we will try the Miracle Blanket. Unfortunately, we thought he hated it so it took us a while to implement it. The thing is, most babies will fight it... at first. But all it takes is a few seconds and it calms fussy little ones, and allows everyone to get a few extra zzz's, because his little arms aren't flailing and waking him up. I remember the first night we used the Sleepsack on Sam. He went from sleeping 3 hours to 6 hours and it was glorious. Now, I don't remember the last time he slept 6 hours straight.  Sadly, Sam is now in a transition Zipadee Zip, but man I miss those swaddled sleepful nights. (P.S.-If you ever plan on purchasing a Zipadee Zip, buy two. Sam's smells after two days because he sucks on his hands through them so much! Ew.)

Noise Maker.

 I've heard great things about this one but we've ended up just using a plain old box fan. We live in a split level home and it gets warm upstairs so they were already running anyways. Next time, I think we will invest in a Baby Shusher. I shush this baby so much it's gotta be worth it for baby number two, right?

Owlet Monitor.

The Owlet is a little sock that you monitors your baby's heart rate and oxygen levels. Should anything go below what it should, it alerts you on your phone. Sam rolled over in his bassinet in the hospital. I now know this was normal but it gave Matt and I both anxiety. Every time we put him down, there he went. I spent the first week holding him asleep and watching him sleep anywhere else. Had I purchased the Owlet, I would have felt so much better. And I definitely would have gotten more sleep.

Baby Wrap or Carrier. 

Sam and I both loved my Solly Baby Wrap but he eventually outgrew that love and now refuses the ergo. We're hoping to try something similar soon with better results. I've heard great things about the Tula and the Lillebaby. If you're looking for a less expensive alternative, the Infantino has great reviews, too.

A Good Diaper Pail.

Y'all, this is crucial. I know everyone usually ends up with something like the Diaper Genie but I love my Tommee Tippee. The company sent it to me to try while I was pregnant and it's much easier to use and masks the smell just as well, if not better, than the Diaper Genie.

All the breastfeeding accessories a Mama could have.

 I'll go into more detail in a separate post all about what I think you need and our tumultuous breastfeeding journey soon.

What are some of your must haves for surviving parenthood? Anything I should know about for the rest of Baby Sam's first year? Please share!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Mama Musings + Recent Purchases

{At baby Sam's 4 month check up. Excuse the look. This Mama was tired.}

  Matt has always said I should write my dreams down. He thinks they're so crazy they would make an interesting compilation of short stories. While that's still true, maybe even more so now that I'm woken up by fiery mad screams all throughout the night, I think the thoughts that go through my mind each day are just as crazy. In a 24 hour period, I recorded all of this insanity in the notes on my phone. All I can say is you're welcome. And if you're a Mama, clearly you're not alone. We've all lost it.

"Thank Jesus for an overactive bladder medication that finally works, allowing me to drink the 3 cups of coffee I need to stay alive, rather than the 3 sips I was able to have before. Ain't no Mama got time for frequent trips to the potty. My urologist is the bomb.com."

"Whys is baby sleep so elusive?! Where is a genie with my 3 wishes when I need him?! Sleep. Sleep. More sleep."

Having a baby on Nutramigen that is constantly refusing to eat, makes you realize how stingy you actually are. You can't help but die a little inside over every wasted ounce. "That was 39 cents! Kid's breaking me."

"Hiccups are the devil that come to ruin nap time."

"Jesus take the wheel."
"Did I brush my teeth today? When's the last time I washed my hair? God bless my husband for still loving me."
"WHY does this baby insist on banging his head on the side of the crib like he's at a rock concert?! At least he's in there."
"Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog." Seriously? This is the "diggity" stuck in my head?! Sorry blackstreet. I've betrayed you.

"Baby dry diapers? You lie, Pampers. You lie."

"Do we really like these pajamas enough to wash the poop off of them or do we trash them? Yeah, trash em'."

ALSO on my mind. "Man I have so many looks to shoot. Will I ever have the time?! Probably not." And for that reason I have included a ton of my fall purchases in the widget below. I do still plan on shooting some Fall looks for y'all tomorrow, but if I've learned anything as a Mom, it's that planning is impossible and my 4 month old is my boss. The kid always wins. And I'm so okay with that. It goes by too fast Mamas. Soak it in, I cannot believe I no longer have a newborn. Now excuse me while I go cry into my coffee.



Monday, September 5, 2016

...3 Months Later


 Whew. I can't tell you how nice it feels for my fingers to hit an actual keyboard. Trying to overlook the tiny little detail that I haven't had time to cut my nails in I don't know how long so they're driving me a little bananas. I'm not even sure what I want to write, except for "yes, I'm still alive!" 

Being Sam's Mama has been the most rewarding, and the most exhausting title I've ever carried. He is the most beautiful and happy baby, but he has also been very high needs. We've had lots of issues with silent reflux and tummy problems that meant he needed to be comforted quite often. Turn that comfort into a sleep association and what do you get? A baby that cannot nap without being held by Mama, that wakes up at 4am and wants to be held until 8am, leaving me with very little time to get any sort of work done. 

Thankfully, baby Sam is on the mend. We are finally getting his reflux under control and are finally to the point where I can start leaving him a little more and maybe even attempting a little sleep training here soon. We will see!

Speaking of baby Sam, how handsome is he?! So often I find myself staring at him thinking "I can't believe you're mine!" He's so full of personality and even at 3 months, he definitely keeps us on our toes. He giggles at everything, rolls over from both sides like a maniac, and I swear he's already a baby genius. But, doesn't every Mom think that about their baby? Either way, he's perfect to me and being his Mama has been the greatest pleasure Jesus has ever allowed me. {For more baby Sam, his monthly updates are on my Instagram!}

All this being said, I do plan on getting girl(ish) back up and running over the next few weeks. I love blogging, and especially now that I have Sam, I want to document so much of our life with him. I plan on posting more fashion of course, but girl(ish) will also focus a lot more on our daily lives as a family of three (four with Cruise!). You'll see things like day in the life posts, faith based posts, recipes, parenting, marriage, etc. I would love your ideas. If there is something you would like to see, please let me know. Also, if you're local and would like to participate in a focus group over the next month or so, please contact me via email.

Thank you so much to those of you who have stuck around and will continue to read and subscribe to girl(ish). Your love and support means more to me than you will ever know.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Sam's Birth Story

Y'all. I apologize for the lack of posts but this Mom thing is no joke. Sam and I are having so much fun bonding and getting to know each other so I'm soaking up as many cuddles as I possibly can! Hopefully now that he is sleeping a little more, I can get back into the swing of things. Hopefully. Until then, I'm finally sharing our birth story! 

 
 Matt and I arrived at the hospital Friday morning May 27, 2016 at 5am for a scheduled induction. Going in, my only plan was to have no birth plan. I had no expectations and was totally okay with whatever happened so long as I got my epidural. Ya girl is no hero and I knew from the very beginning that I didn't want to experience the pain of labor any longer than I would have to. For me, being able to enjoy the process was important, and being pain free was the only way to do so. 


As soon as we checked in, Matt plugged in my essential oil diffuser (gentle baby + lavender) and started Grey's Anatomy on the iPad. These were the only things I required to keep me "calm". At the same time our (AMAZING!!) nurse got us settled in and hooked up to everything and I made sure to go ahead and tell her I wanted the epidural. I wanted to make sure she knew so that if there ended up being people ahead of me, she could go ahead and put me on the list.




At 7:20am she came in to start me on a low drip of pitocin. At this point, I was already having contractions on my own (for at least a month) but nothing regular or intense. The pitocin made a difference but again, nothing crazy.


After about an hour, my doctor came in to break my water. Thankfully, this would also be my last dilation check without an epidural and at this point, I was at 3 centimeters. (I had been at 3 at my doctors appointment the Monday before, too!) Everyone tells you that after your water breaks, stuff starts to get real, and everyone is not lying. My contractions started coming on fast at 2-3 minutes apart and lasting 45 seconds to a minute each. Y'all, saying they hurt just seems silly to me. That's the biggest understatement of the year! People will tell you they are similar to kidney stones, and as someone who had kidney stones twice during her pregnancy, those same people are also liars. REAL contractions hurt ten times worse! I would rate them an 8.5-9 on a 1-10 scale. The only reason I won't rate them a 10 is because should I have had to survive them, I could have. But whew, thank God I didn't!


Thanks to my sweet nurse being so proactive, it was only about 35 minutes of pain later before they came in to give me my epidural. That thing is a (painless) miracle drug my friends. A MIRACLE. It started to work almost immediately, and about 20 minutes later, all I could feel was pressure.


At 10:55am my nurse came back in to check me and I was dilated to 6 centimeters! At this point, I couldn't believe how quickly things were moving, but I still didn't want to get my hopes up too much because I had heard things could stall after the epidural.

At 11:45am she came back in to flip me to my left side because Sam's heart beat had started to slow. About 10 minutes later she checked my cervix again and I was dilated to an 8.5! At this point, I knew we were close to having a baby! I'm not sure how, but I was so calm at this point. Knowing that I was about to meet my sweet baby boy kept me at ease the entire time!


At 12:50 I was fully dilated and was told to sit up and put my legs in a "Buddha" position to get baby to drop a little more while I waited on my doctor. Just a few minutes later she and a couple of nurses came in and started getting things ready. It really is like a well oiled machine and these people meant business. At this point, I was so excited and so determined to meet my baby boy as quickly as possible! At 1:28 after 14 minutes and 6 pushes, my sweet baby Sam made his way into our world.



People talk about it all the time, but you really don't know that kind of love until you meet your baby. The rush of life changing emotion is indescribable and incredibly beautiful. Being Sam's Mama is my biggest privilege and I pray I will never forget that!


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Introducing Our Sweet Baby Sam




On Friday, May 27, 2016 at 1:28pm, our hearts were forever changed. Weighing it at 7lbs, 1oz, Baby Sam has turned our world completely upside down in the best possible way. He is absolutely perfect!

Everyone is doing great! We are all adjusting and trying to sleep as much as possible whenever we can, but I will be back in the next couple of days to share our birth story! 

Thank you all so much for your kind words. We are all so very grateful!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sweet Baby Sam: 37-38 Weeks

 
 I almost didn't post an update this week. Mostly because I'm so anxious and exhausted the only thing I can think is "When is this baby coming OUT?!" Also because of the lack of new pregnancy photos. I don't look much different, so this one will have to do as a place holder. As of my doctor's appointment Monday I am between 2 and 3 centimeters dilated. I've had tons of almost symptoms and contractions but nothing consistent. My next appointment is this coming Monday and if Baby Sam hasn't made his way out yet, our doctor has allowed us to go ahead and schedule an induction if we want. It mainly just depends on what she says and how far dilated I am at that point. We shall see! I'm secretly hoping this is my last pregnancy update!
 
Weight Gained: 30 pounds, I think! Maybe 31? I can't remember.
 
Symptoms: Contractions, hip pain, lacking appetite (but I still have cravings and I'm still hungry!). I also had about 30 minutes of severe back pain yesterday that led me to believe I was in labor. Again, not consistent enough and it went away after about 45 minutes! 

Movement: A ton as usual. While he is still head down and ready to go, he has rolled over at some point. His knees were on my left side last week, but are now rolling on my right side and kicking my kidney. They are super obvious and I've even seen a foot come across my belly at this point. Crazy!
 
Food Aversions: Same as always. Sausage and plain chicken breasts.

Food Cravings: Dark chocolate, Mon Amie Blueberry Pancakes, Cereal. Yeah, nothing healthy. I cannot wait to have my love for healthy back! 

Sleep: I've actually had a few decent nights up until last night. I slept for 3.5 hours straight a few nights ago and it was glorious!

Maternity Clothes?: At this point, I'm good in this department and so over maternity clothes! (Same as last week!)

Stretch Marks?: Still just the few around my belly button but I have a feeling a few more may pop up after this baby gets here!
 
Miss Anything?: Exercise! Other than that I can't really complain right now!

Baby Items Purchased: Not a thing! I think we are all set! 

Looking Forward To: Holding this sweet baby in my arms! And an update at the doctor's office Monday if he hasn't made his debut.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

My first (fur) Baby and my Hopes for him as a big brother

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{Photos from our 2014 Anniversary Shoot! Photography by Candace & Josh Spencer - Lotus Creative Studios}
 
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 {His favorite spot in the nursery! Also: Excuse the wrinkled crib skirt. My sweet husband put it on before I could iron it! It's on my to do list. }

For the past few days, Cruise has been acting a little differently. He's a Mama's boy and is usually following me everywhere or snuggled up beside me. He's even been more clingy since I became pregnant. But not lately. He'll constantly stare at me, but he won't come to me when I call him, he's mopey, and he won't even sleep in our bed. (Seriously, the kid loves to sleep in the bed!) Matt has joked with me that once Sam was born he would get his dog back (years ago, he was a Daddy's boy) so he's been loving that all of the lack of cuddles I've been getting, are going straight to him!

My biggest fear with having a baby has been how Cruise will take it. The last thing I want is for him to feel sad or left out. It would seriously break my heart! He turns eight years old next week, but to us he is our baby. He has no idea he isn't human, and he's always been the only "child". He's completely spoiled (with so much love!) and I just don't want him to be hurt. We've prepared him in every way we know how and we don't restrict him from anything regarding Sam or his nursery, except chewing his stuffed animals. Although I know there will be a time when they are sharing everything and I honestly cannot wait! I just pray it's enough.

My hope and prayer is that he always remembers that he was our first baby, and that we love him unconditionally no matter what. We will honestly make our best efforts to give him the most love and attention we possibly can. I pray that he will love his baby brother and protect him the way he does his Mama and Daddy. I have this vision of play time and sweet cuddles for these two, and even a vision of bruises and ear pulling, and my heart can only hope and pray that these visions come to life through brotherly love.

At the doctor on Monday, we found out that I am one centimeter dilated with a very thin cervix. (Yay!) Is that TMI? Whoops, hope not. Anyway, we are thinking (and I'm hoping) that he is just sensing the changes about to happen and that's what's causing the change in his attitude. He truly is the sweetest baby boy and deep down we are only hoping he'll be just as sweet to his little brother as things start to change. Does anyone have any advice as we make the adjustment? Any tips to make this a little easier on him (and us) would be greatly appreciated! 

P.S. For more Cruise photos, make sure you're following me on Instagram (@amanda_sumner_)! I'm kind of obsessed with him, obviously.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Sweet Baby Sam: 35-36 Weeks





 









 Crocheted Cut-In Cami Maxi Dress: Express {Not Maternity!} | Tory Burch Miller Flip Flop: Nordstrom

You know you're pregnant when you go on a date night with your husband and A.) are willing to pay for valet parking so you don't have to walk too far. B.) Your husband has made the reservation and when you walk in the hostess says "a table near the restroom, correct?" C.) You cry in the middle of dinner because of the song playing in the restaurant. and D.) You leave Chocolate Moose with three cupcakes because you just couldn't choose and you know this will be the only time people don't judge. Not even a little shame.

Also, pregnancy brain is a real thing. These photos were supposed to be taken with our DSLR but I forgot the memory card. So, iPhone had to do because I refused to go back home. It was a miracle my hair and makeup was done, so I wanted to get a few regardless!

Weight Gained: 27 Pounds and I'm feelin it.
 
Symptoms: I'm officially in the uncomfortable state of pregnancy. I'm in "pre labor" (not to be confused with pre term labor) meaning I have symptoms of impending labor. It could be a week or four, but these contractions aren't playin! Basically every time I stand or walk at all, I'm having a contraction. Luckily, they still slow down/stop when I rest, so no need to worry yet! Also, kidney pain, swollen hands and feet, exhaustion, hangry, and super intense hip pain at night.

Movement: My body is sweet Sam's punching bag at this point. I've heard people say movement slowed down or they felt it less at this point, but not with this boy! I also feel his head twisting and getting into position which is a tad uncomfortable and definitely feels a bit strange! I'm trying my best to soak in all the sweet movements I can!
Food Aversions: Same as always. Sausage and plain chicken breasts.

Food Cravings: Ben and Jerry's "The Tonight Dough". I should be ashamed at the amount of pints I've demolished in the past week but I'm just not. It's seriously all I've wanted to eat! And bagels with honey nut cream cheese!

Sleep: I wish I could give y'all the same look I give me husband when he wakes up and asks "How'd you sleep?" Yeah.... I didn't.

Maternity Clothes?: At this point, I'm good in this department and so over maternity clothes!

Stretch Marks?: A few teeny tiny ones have popped up around my belly button. I'm not a fan, but it is what it is.
Miss Anything?: The ability to walk and not waddle, haha. Contraction free days and a good nights sleep!

Baby Items Purchased: Basically everything in Carter's that we didn't already own and liked, bath products from Tubby Todd, and some Young Living Gentle Baby essential oil. We also had a diaper party over the weekend and are so grateful for all of the diapers our sweet friends brought us!

Looking Forward To: Having my cervix checked for dilation Monday. Or at least the answer from it, haha!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Finding the Beauty in God's Timing through Infertility: Our Journey to Sweet Baby Sam


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"Infertility" is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse (six months if the woman is over age 35) or the inability to carry a pregnancy to live birth. {source.}

 We are one in eight. Our journey to conception with our sweet Baby Sam was a long one, and so is this post, but it's also one that I wouldn't change for anything. It's also not something I have ever kept secret. I encourage you, if you are experiencing any sort of infertility, to share your story. Talk about it with your peers or anyone you feel like may need to hear it. Understanding that I was never alone was a fact that kept me strong on my weakest days.

Matt and I got married on November 16, 2013. We knew before our wedding, that children were something we wanted immediately. We've always known that we were meant to be parents, and were never the type of couple that needed to "live life" before children. Four days after our wedding, on our way home from our honeymoon, I started to experience a sharp pain in my lower abdomen (at this point, I can't even remember what side!) so I decided to make a doctor's appointment. After just one visit and one ultrasound, we found out that one of my ovaries was covered in cysts and the pain was probably from one erupting. I should also mention at this point, I hadn't had a period in over 3 months but the doctors seemed to think this was normal since I had quit birth control in September. This was my only diagnosis. Cysts were common, and probably something I shouldn't worry about. So for the next few weeks, I continued to live a normal newlywed life.

By the end of December I had finally gotten a period, along with a random phone call from my doctor on his cell phone. He called to tell me that after reviewing my ultrasounds again, he wanted me to start taking at home ovulation tests. He didn't think I was ovulating. Strangely enough, I got a super late positive ovulation (like day 30 in my cycle) and a period just 5 days later. This was also the shortest cycle I've had in the past three years. After learning so much about normal cycles and ovulation, I now know this was completely abnormal. With that, I let my doctor know I received a positive ovulation and we were given the go ahead to try to get pregnant on our own.

Now here is why I consider myself one of the luckier ones. We found out fairly soon that conceiving on our own may be difficult. We knew that no matter what the doctors said, there could still be a problem, but we chose to try on our on anyway. No more tests or peeing on a strip. We simply wanted to enjoy our first year of marriage, while trying to get pregnant without any stress.

Unfortunately by April-June (ish) my periods were still crazy abnormal and I was still experiencing a lot of regular ovarian pain. I would go 70+ days without having a period and spent a lot of time with a heating pad, so my doctor finally referred us to an OB/GYN. In June of 2014, after more tests and ultrasounds, I finally started going in for regular monthly blood tests for ovulation, all of which came back negative through October. At this point, we finally decided to turn to fertility drugs to start my period and encourage ovulation.

After a negative ovulation test our first month on Clomid, we decided to forgo a second treatment and try acupuncture. I wasn't a fan of how the drugs made me feel, and will always choose a more natural way if it's an option. After a positive home ovulation test in December, we found out we were finally pregnant in January of 2015! We were thrilled and in complete shock, but we were also horrified. Call it a woman's intuition, or sheer paranoia, but I knew from the beginning something wasn't right. Matt did his best to encourage me, but something in the pit of my stomach wouldn't allow me to relax. We went for our 8 week ultrasound to discover there was no baby. The term for this is called a "blighted ovum". Although they couldn't "confirm" the diagnoses because our "conception dates could be off" we knew they weren't. There was no possibility for different conception dates, and we left that day knowing in our hearts that we would soon miscarry. 

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 {8 week ultrasound of our first pregnancy}

Sure enough about a week later, I started spotting. It took 4 days, but eventually I ended up having a complete miscarriage at home. While this was probably one of the worst things I have ever experienced, it was also a relief. At that moment, the tiny bit of hopeful anxiety I had left was gone, and we officially knew we had lost the pregnancy.

We decided we would hold off on trying another round of fertility drugs and just stop "trying" all together. The loss of our pregnancy was so difficult, we knew it would take a while to heal. But 7 months later and after 2 more rounds of Clomid, on September 29, 2015, I woke up at 6am to take a pregnancy test. 5 minutes later, I woke my husband up with the darkest positive stick I had ever seen and the biggest smile. We had a second chance, and I had more hope in my heart than I could put into words. We were 6 weeks pregnant with our little miracle, and completely sure that no matter what, God was completely faithful. We chose to put our complete trust in Him, and have been so unbelievably grateful ever since.


God's timing is perfect, and His stories are the most beautifully written. There was a moment after we found out we were pregnant with Sam where I was standing in church worshiping while the band was performing "Every Line" that I heard these words and knew He was writing my story in the most beautiful way that I could never even begin to fathom. "I close my eyes cause faith is seeing for me. I'm out of breath, but you are breathing for me. I lift my hands, to Jesus be the glory. My fight is gone, but you are fighting for me. The battle won I'm standing on your victory. I lift my hands, to Jesus be the glory." I held my belly as tears streamed down my face. My fight was gone, no matter the outcome, because He was always fighting for me. Then and now, my heart is full of so much love and gratitude for our Sweet Baby Sam. I have the comfort in our Savior, in His goodness, and in knowing that no matter what, He is good.

Matt and I now have the ability to look back and see just how perfect His timing is. Every "no" we ever received was only to prepare us for something better. Our journey to conception was difficult and at times heart crushing, but I truly believe we wouldn't appreciate our baby Sam as much as we do, had we not gone through everything we have. It has made us stronger in every way, and we have become so much closer to Jesus through needing Him more than ever. How crazy and beautiful is it to look at our children and know that we have a Father who loves us infinitely more than the way we love them? Having a Father who loves me the way Jesus does saves me over and over every single day. My heart is so full of gratitude that Sam will know how much he was wanted and prayed for, and that he will also grow up with a Daddy who loves him more than Matt and I could ever imagine.
 
 *I have never been diagnosed with PCOS. While I did have multiple ovarian cysts, and unexplained anovulation, I never met the criteria for an official diagnoses. I've never been given the reason "why" for any of our struggles with conceiving. In my heart I believe that the "why" is simply timing. It was simply God's way of saying "Not yet, my child" and I'm so grateful for His "but, now" in our story.


National Infertility Awareness Week is April 24-April 30. You can find more information here.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

"The Meaning of Marriage" Chapter One Thoughts {Husband's first Guest Post!}

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Initially, I had planned on writing this post with my sweet husband, Matt.  But after reading his thoughts alone, I've decided to just completely hand this one to him. Let me preface this by saying, I did not force him to write any of this and all of the goodness you see shine through, is completely genuine. My marriage is not perfect (thankfully!), but it is my very favorite part about life. If you know me, you know I truly enjoy being Matt's wife and I think after reading this, you'll get the smallest glimpse as to why. 
 
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{Matt and I about to sign our marriage license}
 
Let me begin by saying that I have been sitting in agonizing anticipation of the day my bride would ask me to share my thoughts on her blog; and I could not be happier that it is about the Tim Keller book, The Meaning of Marriage.  Amanda pretty much gave me free reign to express my thoughts however I wanted (she usually knows better than that), so I thought I would give some highlights of the first chapter and how I see myself applying them in our marriage.  

Before I do that, let me say first that it does not matter if you are newlyweds, celebrating your 40th anniversary, engaged, or single - this book is for EVERYONE.  It can certainly change how married couples love each other, but I can't help but be amazed in wondering the impact this book would have on a single person in preparing their heart for their future spouse.  

Chapter 1 - The Secret of Marriage

Tim starts by giving a fascinating history of marriage and how it has evolved over thousands of years.  Let's be honest, my generation is the worst generation.  We are completely self-absorbed and horribly obsessed with freedoms and rights that we are in no way entitled to.  A common argument against marriage has risen in many young people today that marriage restricts their freedom.  That submitting to another in marriage goes completely against their nature.  Their needs won't be met, they will become unhappy, and the marriage will be doomed. 

What I loved most was how Tim shatters this objection and paints it as the idea of the sinful, selfish people we are.  Marriage is about putting someone else's needs above your own.  While my peers may argue that submitting to someone else in that way restricts their freedom, Tim argues that this is the ultimate way to live in freedom.  By putting someone else first, you are learning to master your own feelings.  Choosing to live a single life because you can't stand the idea of being "tied-down" by another, only means that you are living a life "tied-down" by your own feelings and desires.  

Now let me explain how this history lesson and definition of marriage is so useful for me.  
Tim talks about how Sara Lipton, a New York Times contributor, wrote a piece once on a bunch of scumbag politicians that couldn't keep it in their pants.  She wrote that the defenses being argued for these "men" we're that truly masculine men just don't work well in a traditional marriage.  They have so much testosterone pumping through them that their desire to be the alpha-male just won't let them repress their instinctive desires and feelings.  Well let me explain something bud, those desires and feelings to sleep with anything that will let you, is not millions of years of instincts, it's called sin - and it will kill you.  Sara goes on to explain how true masculinity has traditionally been defined as self-mastery.  You are truly a man once you have learned to be the master of your own feelings and instincts.  For most of history a man who could not rule his own self, could not be trusted to rule a household.  Wow.  As a husband and soon-to-be father, that is a powerful statement.  Being a worthy leader for my family is something that I know will be a constant battle, but something worth fighting for.  

Let me close with this -  how can we know that this idea of marriage can be successful? Because Jesus modeled it for us.  Paul commands us to love our wives as Christ loved the church.  Christ's love for his church (all of us) was so great that he came to Earth, lived a perfect life, and chose to die for us.  His sacrifice makes it possible for us to be reunited with Him in eternity, when we in no way could ever be deserving of that.  Jesus became a servant and put our needs above his own.  And that, according to Tim, is the secret of marriage - that the gospel explains marriage.  

If you have made it this far, my sincerest thanks for sticking with me.  I hope you enjoyed and will seriously consider picking up a copy of this book.  I also want to thank all of you that have been following Amanda on this journey with girl(ish).  Thank you for giving my bride the voice she had for so long tried to find. 


 

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