Thursday, July 17, 2014

Iris' Birth Story

Today I am so excited to be sharing my niece's birth story on the blog. Iris was born just three days after Irelyn and my sister Helena and I are just loving having babies so close together. To read more about that you can go here but for now enjoy this beautiful birth story!


To my sweet sweet Iris,

I have always loved hearing the story of my birth, over and over again (even though I caused my mother lots and lots of pain!) so I want to write down your birth story for you to read someday, and also as a way for me to remember everything that made it such a hard but miraculous experience. 

Your due date was April 19th, the Saturday before Easter. The week before I'd had a few nights of Braxton Hicks for a few hours, and my lower back would ache, but your due date came and went with no sign of your coming. Dad and I spent the day at Ma and Pa's with his family to celebrate Easter. I had expected all along for you to be late, so I wasn't too disappointed.

Right around midnight the Wednesday after your due date I started feeling very mild contractions, usually about 5 minutes apart. This was more regular than anything before, so I suspected it was the real thing, but still didn't believe it yet or want to get my hopes up. I woke up my mom to let her know something was happening, and an hour or so later contacted your Gramma Cluff to let her know they were good to head down from Springerville- it looked like you were coming! By 2 am contractions were closer together, but a little shorter. When I wasn't in the bathtub (listening to Benjamin Francis Leftwich) I mostly rocked in my rocking chair, breathing through contractions. By 3 am contractions were strong enough I could talk through them but didn't want to, and the back labor had gotten much worse. Between my legs would ache and shake (the same way I remember them shaking when I went to the dentist when I was younger. So I guess just a nerves thing.) By 5 am my contractions had been consistently 2 minutes apart for a while, although still shorter than in the beginning. We gathered up last-minute things for our hospital bag and headed to the hospital. The whole drive there we listened to “All at Once” by Jack Johnson on repeat, a song that I have always thought is very soothing and relaxing.

At 5:45 in triage they checked me and I was at 4 cm. They suggested I walk the halls for an hour to get me dilated further. It took the whole hour pretty much for my mom and I to walk down the hall and back. I would only get past two doors between contractions, and then I'd have to stop, lean my head against the wall, and sway and breathe through the contraction. Mom would also put pressure on my lower back throughout each contraction to help with the intense back pain. At 7:50 they checked me again- I was at 4.5 cm, you were beginning to move down, and my water was bulging right at the edge of my cervix but had yet to break. They suggested I walk for another hour, and at that point if things hadn't progressed further they would have to send me home. At this point your dad came back in to triage (they'd said at first that only one person could be in there with me), and I spent the next hour sitting on a birthing ball and leaning over the side of the bed, with Mimo and Dad constantly putting pressure on my back, and rubbing my legs to help with the aching and shaking. I didn't feel like my legs could have taken much more walking. At about 9:30 they checked me again, and I (thankfully!) was between 5 and 6 cm dilated. They started me on a round of antibiotics for Group B Strep and I was officially admitted! I remember feeling so relieved that things had progressed enough for them to not send me home. I did NOT want to get back in the car.

At some point they moved me to a delivery room, and I think I spent the next few hours mostly lying on my side on the bed. (My ability to measure the passing of time accurately during labor was a bit skewed, thankfully.) I think I was urged multiple times to labor in more vertical positions, to help you move down, so two or three times I labored in the shower with Dad for a bit, but didn't ever last very long because my legs were exhausted. Over the next few hours I just focused on breathing through increasingly strong contractions, and trying to rest in the two minutes between. At some point your Gramma Cluff arrived (with your aunts Karra, Evie, and Jessie) and joined Dad and Mimo in rubbing my legs and back and giving me verbal encouragement. I don't know what time, but eventually they checked me and I had reached 8 cm. That meant we were getting closer! But also meant time for the most painful contractions as you were making your final descent down the birth canal. After 2 or 3 hours of very intense contractions along with very painful back labor, a part of me wanted to give up. My eyes would water and I wanted to look up at my mom and tell her I couldn't do it anymore. I continued enduring contraction after contraction though, and finally decided to try a technique your aunt Emma had used three days before during her labor with Irelyn, after learning you were posterior (which they had known all along but never told me? Probably a good thing because I think that would have made me worry and made it harder to stay focused). The technique (abdominal lift and tucks) would help get you facing the right direction, which would move things along and relieve most of the back pain.

Dad stood behind me and did the lift and tucks for me (I admittedly was too scared to, knowing it would make contractions even more uncomfortable), while I applied pressure to my back. After a few lift and tucks I began feeling an intense (super super intense) need to go to the bathroom with each contraction. In hindsight I realized this was feeling the urge to push, but at the time I remember just saying, "I HAVE to go to the bathroom. Get me to the bathroom" and thinking they were the most awful contractions yet. As soon as I sat down on the toilet my water broke, and probably 2 or 3 minutes later I was on the bed pushing! It was one of the best feelings I'd yet experienced, knowing very very soon I would be meeting you, my sweet baby girl. 

You were born less than 15 minutes after I started pushing. Those 15 minutes were a blur. I don't remember much, but I almost right away I was told your heart rate had dropped. We needed to get you out as quickly as possible. I think after a few rounds of pushing you were crowning but weren't coming out any further. My midwife gave me an episiotomy, and you were out within seconds. Mimo says you were born with your fist by your cheek, and it looked like the cord was pinched under your arm, explaining your heart rate. I didn't get to hold you right away because you were not yet breathing, but within a minute you were breathing on your own and doing just fine. In retrospect, I realize that I could have/should have been a lot more scared and worried those last few minutes of delivery, but all I remember is feeling calm and knowing everything would be okay. I am very thankful I was able to feel that peace, because I know it wouldn't have helped any for me to freak out. I also remember feeling extremely relieved that you were here and healthy, immensely grateful for your dad and grandmas for helping me through labor, and especially thankful for our Heavenly Father. Being able to give birth to you naturally was an answer to months of prayers, and I felt the Spirit so strongly at your birth. I had never felt so close to heaven. 

After about 10 or 15 minutes (I think?) they brought you over to me to hold, and you cried and cried and cried. I have no idea how long I held you for, but at some point you went back to Dad and other family, while I stayed on my back waiting for my  placenta to come out. We waited for about a half hour with nothing happening, so they started me on Pitocin. A half hour later the placenta still hadn't detached. Because of the risk of hemorrhaging , we couldn't wait much longer for it to detach on its own. They gave me Stadol so I wouldn't feel anything and had the doctor manually detach my placenta. The pain killers made me very loopy, and although it didn't hurt I could still feel pressure and movement, which was really uncomfortable. I remember thinking it was worse than labor, although it definitely was not.

There are a dozen other things I could write about, but most of all I hope you know your birth was a special day for so many people, and you are surrounded by family that loves you very very much :)

Your Momma

Dad helping me do the lift and tucks. This was probably less than 20 minutes before you were born.

Getting cleaned up and measured.
Weight: 6 lb. 6 oz. Height: 19.5 in.

Our first family picture.

You and Gramma Cluff. 

You with your Aunt Evie. I think she may have been the first person to hold you.

You and your Mimo.

One more from the hospital.

And my most recent picture of you- almost 3 months old!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ten Tips and Tricks for Potty Training

I want to start this off by saying that I am by no means a potty training expert. I have not even read any books on potty training so this really is just what worked for us. And honestly, Race and I mostly just attribute Holland being potty trained to her little genius-ness. Haha. We are her parents though so of course we think that!

Anyway, here's a quick rundown of some of the things that I think really helped us:

1. Get your child comfortable around the toilet.
For us this meant introducing Holland to the potty months ago. I have never been weirded out by having Holland in the bathroom with me so she has seen me going to the bathroom for a long time. Around 16 months she started expressing some interest in sitting on the toilet. At the time we didn't have a potty seat so I would just help her sit on the toilet for a couple of minutes at a time. She didn't ever actually go but since she was expressing interest in the potty I decided to run with it and spend the money on a potty seat for her. I ended up getting the two below from Amazon. One for on the toilet and one for everywhere else. They are so cheap that it was affordable to buy both--thank goodness! Once we had these little potties I would have Holland sit on the toilet multiple times a week {sometimes multiple times a day if she wanted to} just to get her used to it. I made sure to always make it a fun thing and not pressure her to go or anything. Usually we would just hang out and read books for a few minutes. She only actually went to the bathroom a couple of times over the next few months but she was never scared of the potty so I called it a success and left it at that!

2. Decide on a good time for your child/your family
We had thought about potty training Holland ever since she first started showing interest in it in December but ultimately ended up deciding not to before we had Irelyn though because I had heard so much about children regressing when a new baby comes home. I knew I would not want to deal with that so I just kept things at the "getting comfortable with the potty" stage for quite a while. Once we started getting comfortable as a family of four I started to think about potty training again but then we ended up traveling/having family in town for about a month so I put it off again. I think that finding a good time where you're not going to be adding potty training to other possible life stresses is important as you really don't want potty training to be a stressful thing for you or for your child. This timing can be totally different for every family though.

3. Make sure your child can communicate well.
As far as communication goes I just think that it's important that your child can communicate with you when they need to go. What I mean by this is not necessarily that they are already communicating it but more that they talk enough {or sign enough} that they are able to communicate it {use words like pee pee, poo poo, potty, etc.} and are able to answer you when you ask them if they need to use the potty. Holland was not communicating when she was going to the bathroom before we started potty training. However, she is really great at talking {another post for another time--I really want to brag about her talking skills sometime. Is that ridiculous??} and my mom had mentioned that it might help her potty train quickly whenever we decided to try. I really think that it did help because as soon as we got started and she began to recognize when she needed to go she was easily able to communicate that with us.

4. Leggings/Underwear
We had a friend tell us to put Holland in underwear and leggings as we started potty training her. That way she would be able to recognize when she wet herself but it would soak up in the leggings before pooling all over the floor/furniture. I would only recommend this if you have LOTS of leggings and underwear. Luckily we did so this worked out great for us {be prepared to do a lot of laundry those first few days}! The first couple of days of potty training we went through tons of underwear and leggings but by about day three she was figuring it out and having almost no accidents.

5. Set a time period to work on potty training.
So I don't know if this is super good advice or anything but I set a time period for how long I was willing to give potty training a go. I said I would give it one week. Setting a time limit helped me to not stress about whether or not it actually worked. I knew that I would be doing a lot of laundry for the next week but there was an end point if it wasn't going well. I knew that if I got stressed then Holland would get stressed as well and I really didn't want going to the bathroom to be a stressful thing for her. Luckily, Holland was potty trained within the week so that was super exciting!

6. Ask your child if they need to go to the bathroom...A LOT.
So this one is pretty straight forward. Ask them if they need to go again and again and again. I try not to force Holland to go but I still ask her a lot just so that she's thinking about it. Toddlers are easily distracted so doing anything {eating meals, playing, watching a show, etc.} can cause them to forget about going to the bathroom. The bulk of Holland's accidents happen while she's eating or drawing at the table. So I just ask her if she needs to go all the time and eventually she says yes if she hasn't already told me she needs to go.

7. Rewards/Celebrations
As far as rewarding Holland we just did little potty treats. When we started potty training all we had in the house was the end of a bag of marshmallows. So now marshmallows are her potty treat. In the beginning every time she went to the bathroom she would get a marshmallow and we would clap/give hugs and kisses/cheer/do a little celebration dance just to remind her how proud we were of her and to keep this whole potty training thing exciting. Now she gets a treat when she remembers and asks for it and we still cheer for her because we think she's pretty awesome! I don't think Holland is quite to the age where we are able to explain to her that once she's potty trained she'll get a new toy so we didn't even bother with anything larger than marshmallows. Which works for our budget so yay!!

8. Stay at Home!
We stayed at home for the first few days of potty training just so we weren't adding the stress of having an accident out of the house. We also did this so we could solely focus on potty training. We started over a weekend which was nice because it meant I had Race's help changing all the peed clothes and doing the laundry. By the time the weekend was over Holland was starting to get the hang of things so the following week wasn't too bad! Also, try to make the time at home fun. Not getting out of the house as much can make everyone feel a little antsy so make sure you have lots of fun activities to do. And of course go on a walk around the neighborhood or whatever. I mostly just mean don't try and do any big family outings.

9. Bring a Potty with you EVERYWHERE!
Once you do start leaving the house bring your portable potty with you everywhere. Public restrooms are sometimes hard to locate when you need them, they are kind of scary for little kids, and they are definitely gross. So just bring your potty in your car and have your child go before you go into the store {and/or before you leave the house} and then before you load them back into the car. We also have Holland wear pull-ups when we leave the house just as an extra precaution. She usually doesn't pee in them though and we have her change back into underwear as soon as we get home and then just re-use the pull-up for our next outing.

10. Don't Stress/Make it Exciting!
I've mentioned this a few times above but this is a big one to me.  I didn't want Holland to feel at all like we were forcing this on her or disappointed in her when she had an accident so I worked really hard on not getting stressed throughout this process. Show excitement every time they make it to the potty/tell you they need to go and when they do have an accident you can have them help you clean it up and talk to them about trying to make it to the potty next time but try not to show anger or disappointment. They are still young and they will get it eventually! I think potty training can be such a fun and exciting time for our little ones but not if we make it stressful. So good luck potty training and don't stress too much!

I hope this information helps someone out there! Who knows if it lines up with any books/legit parenting information out there but it's what worked for us. Holland has yet to be night time potty trained though so if anyone has any tips and tricks on that let me know! I'm all ears!

And just for fun here are some links to some super cute little girls' underwear. I want to buy ALL the underwear now!

The top three are ones Holland has. Find them here, here, and here
{They are all super soft and comfy fabrics! The boy shorts are nice for under dresses just to give a little bit more coverage}

The bottom three are on my underwear wish list for Holland. 
{She wants tons of underwear for her second birthday, right?? Haha.}
Find them here, here, and here.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Potty Training Update

So I haven't posted about potty training yet {other than on Instagram--kind of} so this isn't exactly an "update" but that's okay!

This video is pretty much an idea of how awesome potty training has been going!

We are just in shock and awe at how fast Holland has picked up potty training. Sure, it meant quite a few messes to clean up and she still has an accident once every couple of days {sorry she peed on your floor Claire!} but we are just so proud of Holland and her skills at going to the bathroom like a big girl! It is so nice to be back down to just one baby in diapers!
I've had this post ready to go for a few days now but other things have come up first and it keeps getting pushed back. So of course, the day before it's supposed to go up Holland has a terrible potty training day! Haha. She had three accidents which really isn't huge in the whole scheme of things but it was her worst day since the first two days of potty training. Oh life. Anyway, we'll see how tomorrow/the rest of the week goes. And I'll have to do another update and post some of the things that have worked for us in getting her potty trained! Super exciting stuff, eh?! Anyway, happy Sunday everyone!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Lakeside Lavender Farm

Claire and I took our girls to a lavender farm yesterday. It smelled absolutely amazing and was such a gorgeous place to get some pictures of our girls!

There is just so much beauty in this world Heavenly Father created. It was wonderful to be able to capture some pictures of this small part of it. 

I was originally going to end this post right at the sentence above but for the sake of journaling I wanted to write a little bit more about the details of this day/week. 

I love how these pictures turned out and how peaceful they look. This week has been anything but peaceful. Race has had some bad back problems and because of that I feel like I have been running around like a crazy lady. Race has been to doctors, physical therapists, a spine specialist, and a chiropractor trying to figure out what is going on with his back and he has been on some pretty strong pain killers so the girls and I have been driving him around to all of these appointments all week. The girls have been such troopers through all of this. Irelyn sleeps tons and is pretty good in the car and Holland has been so sweet to Race. She keeps talking about how his back hurts and he has to go to the doctor. I'm sure Holland also hasn't minded eating out three times this week. Ketchup with a side of chicken nuggets might just be her favorite meal ever! 

Anyway, when Claire told me about these lavender farms earlier in the week I knew I wanted to go but wasn't sure how to fit it in with everything else. I am so glad we found the time to go though. I might have been way exhausted and a little stressed while we were there but there were a few little blessings about our afternoon at the lavender farm that I want to remember:
  • Irelyn slept in her stroller while I got some photos of Holland and then she was so sweet when I woke her up take some pictures of her {I know, I'm crazy for getting her up to take pictures!}. 
  • Holland was in a good mood and let me take lots and lots of photos of her {with some marshmallow bribes}. 
  • Holland didn't have any accidents while we were out and about {We bring her toilet with us everywhere so she just goes on that in the car}!
  • And finally, I was able to enjoy some of Heavenly Father's beautiful creations. 

I know that I will cherish these photos for years to come because someday my girls won't be little and things won't be this same kind of stressful and I'm sure that I will really miss this time in our lives. 

Anyway that's my spiel! Now here's to a relaxing weekend {hopefully}! Happy Saturday everyone! 

Friday, July 11, 2014

LASIK, anyone?

Please, please hold your laughter. I know this is a despicable picture. Hear me out. So, when I was in high school my parents absolutely hated the phrase "hanging out." They acted as though they thought it denoted wanton teenage sexual behavior, and probably caffeinated beverages! I was pretty clever though, and figured out that by substituting the phrase "hanging out" with the much creepier phrase "playing with my friends," I could get away with anything. I congratulated myself for being so witty, and never had a curfew all through high school when I asked "Hey, can I go play with my friends?" Then I got ahold of this picture years later, and I realized that my sharp wit had nothing to with the free reign I commanded. This picture explained my entire youth. I mean seriously- what trouble could this kid get into? Teenage pregnancy was never going to be possible for this guy, and my parents must have known it. Now, I can't blame the glasses exclusively, but I've always wanted to be rid of glasses all the same.

So, this year Emma and I talked about my options. I work at a computer, and contacts dry my eyes out particularly fast staring at a computer screen. I don't know how Emma functions for days at a time in the same contacts. She can put them in without even needing a mirror. Contacts have never been convenient or comfortable for me, and glasses are worse. So the option of LASIK came up, and with lengthy financing it became a real possibility, and I had the procedure done about 3 months ago. There are definitely pros and cons, and I think I should just say what happened, in case anyone was wondering what LASIK is like.

So I was told in advance that the procedure would take about 30 minutes, and I'd feel a little uncomfortable afterwards, and the easiest thing to do would be to take a little nap, and I'd wake up with perfect vision. So I went to get lasik done, and they laid me down on the table in this dark room and gave me a couple numbing eye drops so I wouldn't feel anything. I was laying on my back, staring up at bright lights and trying to discern the figures hovering over me, wearing medical masks and positioning the massive ominous laser machine over my face. Someone nearby started chanting "look at the blinking light, look at the blinking light..." Without warning someone started pulling on my eye, and my vision went blurry. "Look at the blinking light, look at the blinking light." I spotted the red dot flashing above me, and thought "I can handle this." Then a shot of liquid came from the side, presumably to frighten me, but it could just have been to lubricate my eye. I could feel pressure as something plastic was forced onto my eye uncomfortably, and more liquid was squirted in for good measure. "Look at the blinking light, look at the blinking light." I tightened my grip on the table, clenching my fists. I started to sweat as a strange clicking and whirring came to life right above me. Through the liquid and plastic I could make out the laser machine focused on my eye. "Look at the blinking light, look at the blinking light." I could smell something burning, and my butt cheeks clenched as smoke started to fill the air above me. Suddenly the clicking stopped, and just as the smoke cleared my vision disappeared completely- just a little squishing sound, and it was totally gone. Then the burning and clicking started up again, and more squishing. "Look at the blinking light, look at the blinking light." Right- I forgot about the blinking light. Where did it go? My vision comes back hazy, and I spot it clear off to the left... no wait, the right. Then there's like 6 blinking lights dancing every which way. More liquid sprayed onto my eye, and the plastic bits were removed with a squelching sound. One down, one to go. My knuckles were white- every muscle in my body completely tensed. I was hyperventilating as the process started all over again. "Look at the blinking light, look at the blinking light." 'click click click, buzzzzzzz.' More smoke, more burnt smells, my other eye went dark, then came back, accompanied by splashing and squishing. Did the blinking light just change colors? I was about to throw up when someone grabbed my shoulder and pulled me upright. "All done, let's get you out of here." I blinked, and I could make out shapes of people around me through an impossibly thick white fog. I was ushered out the door by Emma, and into the car. Complimentary sunglasses protected my eyes as I looked around trying to decide how well the procedure had worked.

At some point on the drive home, I realized my eyes hurt. A lot. Back at the house, I popped a few ibuprofen and laid down for my recommended nap. No dice- my eyes were on fire. I couldn't tell if lasik worked because my eyes were so sensitive to light that I could barely open them, and what I could see was completely washed away by my eyes watering up. I was wiping away tears, snot and drool, moaning in pain for the better part of an hour before I finally fell asleep from exhaustion.

The next couple of weeks I was terrified of anything touching my eyes. I kept Holland at arms length, and freaked out anytime a light breeze rolled across my face, for fear it would jostle some unhealed part of my eye and cause permanent blindness. Months later, let's review. Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY! I can see just like I'm wearing contacts, except I'm not. Every morning when I open my eyes I can skip the obligatory fumbling around for my glasses, and I've finally done away with the nerdy glasses push-up during sports and exercise. I love lasik, and it's totally worth it. Every time I see the trees or mountains of Idaho off in the distance, with beautiful clarity, I'm grateful for my new eyes. In many ways I compare lasik to Jesus' capacity to heal blindness. It's magical, and I can't believe anyone figured out this was possible. I'm looking forward to a couple of decades without glasses or contacts- hopefully they'll be the most active years of my life, and that's exactly why I chose not to wait until it was more affordable.

Fourth of July

Our Fourth of July was absolutely wonderful! We spent it with our good friends Claire and Devin and their family. We are so grateful they invited us to spend the weekend with them since we didn't have any plans! We had so much fun going to the small town parade {Holland and Irelyn's first parades!}, eating yummy food, going out on their boat, watching fireworks. and just hanging out with great company!

Holland and Ava at the parade! {Thanks for the picture Claire!!}

Race, Holland, and Ava playing in the grass {Thanks Claire!!}

Playing at the river. It was so fun watching Holland spin and dance in this gorgeous lighting!

I could stare at Irelyn's beautiful eyes all day long. Also, I love the fist sucking stage!
I accidentally stumbled upon the camera settings that create these awesome silhouette photos and I'm in love. I wish I had had Race take some of Holland and I!

Headed out on the boat to watch the fireworks! {Thanks again Claire!!}

I attempted some firework photos but they didn't work out very well since I didn't have a tripod AND I was on a boat. I am excited to try again next year though! 

I am so grateful for this wonderful country we live in and for the freedoms that we enjoy! 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My Girls

These girls make me so happy. And I love making them giggle. Irelyn isn't quite to the giggling stage but Holland is teaching her so I'm sure she'll be giggling soon enough! I love that these girls are starting to have a relationship! 

Here's a little video of the three of us hanging out! 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Anything can happen- a man can have a baby!

OK, so maybe that's stretching the truth a little bit. Actually, that's a quote from Emma's little cousin. The kid asked his mom a question, and when the answer was 'yes,' he got pretty excited and said "Anything can happen! A man can have a baby!" I wasn't even there, but the quote is pretty great. Also, just so you're not confused, it's Race speaking :) I post far too infrequently on here, but I love Emma's blog and everything she puts into it, and the pictures that she posts and the insights she has. We talk about most of her posts, so even though you don't often hear from me, I'm Emma's biggest fan. So, what's with the 'man can have a baby' quote?

Well, for the last couple of weeks, I'm pretty sure I've come as close as a man can come to experiencing childbirth. It started about a month ago, when I went white water rafting with my brother-in-law Patrick, and some friends from work. We had a fantastic time, and the river was running higher than I've ever seen. We were just coming down the last couple miles of the south fork of the Payette river in central Idaho when the biggest rapid I've ever seen sucked us under. The next couple minutes are a little fuzzy- I remember gulping in air as soon as I finally broke the surface of the river, and being scared to exhale, because I wasn't sure when I'd get another breath. We survived, and the only casualties were two of the rafting paddles. We were euphoric afterwards- like we cheated death, and I was laughing and joking and relishing the memory of a great rafting trip.

This is the exact spot that we got sucked into the river. Apparently somebody named Brent died here? 

South Fork of the Payette River, Idaho

The river was running an impressive 6000 cubic ft/sec of water.

The next day, I was feeling pretty stiff, but that was to be expected. Everything happened so fast, I very well could have hyperextended my spine, or hit some large rocks, or gotten twisted around funny... I wasn't sure, and I'm a 26 year old kid, so I figured I'd just take a couple Ibuprofen and be healed in a day or two. Well, after a week with a mildly stiff back, I realized there was an added twinge of pain in there. Right in the center of my spine, I felt a little bite of pain when I twisted to check my blind spot driving in the car. The worst was checking my blind spot while hunched over on my motorcycle on my daily 20 minute commute to and from work.

At some point, I realized that every day my back hurt a little worse, and a little worse, and a little worse. Then one day, I woke up and realized I had crossed the line. I was in genuine, debilitating pain. The next day, it was even worse. I went to my doctor, who ordered a few x-rays of my spine. He couldn't find anything structurally wrong with it, so he concluded it was a muscle problem, and referred me to a physical therapist. I started physical therapy, but the next day my back hurt so badly I couldn't wait until my next session, and went to see a chiropractor. The chiropractor tried to give me an adjustment after a look at my x-rays, but the next day presented a new kind of pain- spasms. By this point the back pain was at like a 5 or 6 out of 10 on the pain scale, but the spasms were an instant 10 out of 10. Fortunately they only lasted for 2 or 3 seconds at a time. I persevered with the physical therapy and chiropractic visits, and every day was more painful. Spasms became more frequent. Today, I was supposed to be watching Holland while Emma got a haircut. Emma said she'd take the baby, and Holland would nap, so I could just lay there and relax my back. Right about the time that Holland woke up from her nap a series of muscle spasms struck so hard I couldn't stand. I collapsed onto the floor and started screaming and crying and gagging. I couldn't breathe, and I was scaring Holland. That beautiful little girl gave me a sweet little kiss, told me it was going to be ok, took off her own pull-up panties, and pooped on her little training toilet like the little adult she is. When Emma walked in the door I was still screaming. Emma is a true champion among wives- she managed to clean up Holland, load the car, and drag me into the passenger's seat and drive me to the nearest emergency room. Now, I have bottles of painkillers, muscle relaxers, and other drugs I can't pronounce. I was given a shot of morphine straight to the muscle, and I'm at my absolute limit. I'm floating between a narcotic-induced haze and 9 out of 10 on the pain scale, without even a diagnosis in sight.

The comparison to having a baby is a little bit of a joke, but I have noticed some similarities. When I can't breath, it sounds just like labor breathing- rapid and shallow. When the muscle spasm hits, I sound just like I'm having a contraction, and I'm willing to bet the pain is on par with a particularly violent contraction. I'm constantly asking Emma to do little things for me that I can't get up to do for myself, and it feels like the tables have really turned from a few months ago, when Emma was at her most pregnant.

This experience is ongoing, and I have no idea when or how this will get fixed. It's significant for a lot of reasons, which I think are important enough to list, because these are genuine life lessons I don't know how I would have experienced otherwise.

  1. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've cried, for any reason, since getting married to Emma. None of them were because of physical pain. In the last couple of days, I've felt like I was back in elementary school, crying because I have no way to cope with it how I'm feeling.
  2. I can definitely count on one hand the number of times I've had a priesthood blessing since getting married to Emma. None of them were because of physical pain. I'm so grateful for the blessing I was given by some members of my church a couple days ago. From the start of this pain, I wanted so badly to turn to God for help, but sometimes crying out to God in a moment of crisis almost demands an instant reply, and I think God rarely delivers instant replies. This blessing helped validate my need for God to respond to my pleas in my moment of crisis, which is a rare and valuable spiritual experience.
  3. Ever since this pain started preventing me from doing everyday chores around the house, I've been noticing just how much Emma was already doing for our family, and how much more she's taking on now that she has 3 babies to care for, instead of the usual 2. She is truly an inspiration, and I can't imagine going through any of this without her. I've been so vulnerable in front of her throughout this process, physically pathetic and crying all the time. It speaks volumes that I can trust her enough to be this weak in front of her, and that she doesn't betray that trust by making me feel like less of a husband or father just because I'm prevented from fulfilling those duties right now. I've never loved her more than right now, when I'm about sniffing back tears and biting my tongue through the 50th muscle spasm since I started typing this post.
  4. My little girls mean the world to me. Every glance of Holland's smile has been fiercely precious to me over the last few days. Every little grunt Irelyn snorts out reminds me that I would give up anything to be healthy enough to hold them close to me. To help Holland potty train, and cradle Irelyn as she smiles up at me. Being unable to even stand today brought about a dozen missed opportunities to be there for my girls, and when I'm healthy again, I don't want to waste a second of life ignoring them or letting them down.

Irelyn's Blessing: The Small Details

Irelyn's blessing day was so beautiful. You can read about that here. Some of the things that made it so special were the little details about her dress and outfit so I wanted to give those things their own post.

Irelyn's dress was made by my mom out of the shirt Race wore on our wedding day. 


Back {with original buttons from Race's shirt}

 The original tag from Race's shirt sewn into the bottom of the dress. 

 Her itty bitty ring is from my sister-in-law Amber and I bought the bracelet to match it {I now wear the ring on a necklace with the girls' initials that my sister-in-law Nikki gave me}.  

Her shoes are ones that my mom bought when she was a teenager, saved for her daughters to wear, and then passed on to me. I love them! 

I love the tradition of baby blessings and I love having so many little details that carry family history with them.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Irelyn's Blessing Day

We were able to bless our sweet Irelyn Sage Ashby while we were in Oregon for a family reunion {June 22, 2014} and it was such a wonderful day! It was so special having both of my grandpas in the circle as well as my dad, one of my uncles, and a few of my brothers. Race gave Irelyn such a beautiful priesthood blessing to start off her life here on this earth. I am so grateful for the priesthood and for my amazing family. Here are some pictures from the day!

Irelyn on her special day. 
{A post with details on her outfit will be coming soon!}
Ashby family of four!

Race and his girls. 

Me and Irelyn 

My cousin, my mom bribing the kids with candy, my brother and sister-in-law and niece. 

My sisters with Irelyn, my aunt with my nephew, and my sister with her sweet baby girl. 

 With my Olmstead grandparents! So glad my grandpa was able to be a part of Irelyn's blessing day and so grateful to my grandma for arranging a brunch for everyone afterwards!

Sunday, July 6, 2014