Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Deserves a Punch... In the face.

Oh... Hi.

I think it's incredibly lame to have a 5 month hiatus from the blog and then post on New Years Eve, alas, here I am. Sitting in Bakersfield while Bryan gigs and Shepherd sleeps.

We are staying at a family friends house and their dog, Charlotte Mae is snoring next to me. Loudly. The gas fire is not crackling but it's pretty and there is an ambiance about it. Isn't it so writer-y to have a fire while typing a blog post? Yes. I dig it.

What can I tell you about the past few months? Why I haven't written? I have. I just haven't posted. I write and save it to my drafts folder in my e-mail and then never look at it again. Are you wondering why? I don't know. It's not you. It's me.

Seriously, it's me. I haven't posted anything because everything that flies from these fingertips is negative. It's ugly. Sad. Heavy. I have nothing funny to say. Or crazy. Or anything. I haven't decorated. I haven't organized. I haven't cooked. I haven't accomplished anything real in the past nine months. So there is nothing to write about. All the thoughts that swirl around this brain are bad. I haven't been in a happy season in a long, long time. I don't want to always be dumping. I don't want people to stop reading my blog because I'm just so sad and they can't take reading another weighty word-fest from me.

One of my biggest fears is that people will jump to the conclusion that I am never happy. I mean, c'mon. I have moments. Bryan and Shepherd, my boys.... I get tastes of joy when I'm around them. Shepherds presence lightens my soul. When I'm wrestling with him, kissing him, watching him climb and pound and play... man. The dark clouds are swept away for a while and I can breathe easy for a while. Shepherd goes to sleep or I go to work and poof. It's dark again. Bryan reminds me of why I'm blessed. He points things out and brings me back. I believe in it all for a while.

Look at my house! Sure, it's messy and dusty but I have a roof over my head. Many people don't. Look at my car! It's new to us! Look at all the room! Not everyone has a car that even functions and I have this spiffy one. Look at my clothes, my opportunity, my family, my everything. I am not ungrateful for one single iota of it. I am so, so very rich compared to people all across the world. It's just that I don't feel anything for it.

The things I have around me do not fill me with joy. I cannot use those items to clear the persistent fog in my head, around my heart. I come home and see my things but do not care enough to dust them. Or pick them up. I don't want to deal with any of it. I don't have it in me to deal with it.

What I am trying to say, 2013, is that you were an asshat. If you were a person I would punch you and not even feel bad about it. However, I am nice enough to give credit where credit is due. Thank you for being the year in which my son was born. For teaching me true sacrifice so someone else can flourish. Thank you for teaching me that I am stronger than I ever thought possible, while at the same time breaking me down into tiny pieces that I may never truly knit back together the way they were before.

2014 is on the horizon and it's the first time in a long time that I'm truly excited. Not just faking it. That small emotion gives me hope that the sun is rising and soon I'll be able to feel the warmth.


*sorry about the a-bomb. I gotta keep it real, even if it's not pleasant. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Uncomfortable Truths, Vol 2

One of the bloggers that I follow, Katherine of Grass Stains has this amazing series of posts on her blog that are all about her uncomfortable truths. You can click here to read them, they are seriously hilarious.

I know I have a lot of uncomfortable truths about me, but these are ones I've actually jotted down:

:: I recently (as in within the past two and a half years) learned how to properly use a toilet seat protector. For most of my life, I put the "tongue" of the protector facing the edge of the toilet. At a local pizza parlor, my Mom and I fought for the bathroom so we went in together and she went first. I saw her put the protector facing the tank of the toilet and was amazed. She didn't have to rush to get her pants down before the protector fell into the toilet. It was amazing.

:: Bryan, Shepherd and I went to a family pool party the last weekend in June. Shepherd had a blow out all over my dress, which I cleaned in the sink with Shout, let it dry and put it back on. No big deal. We went to Walmart to get a few necessities and I realized that I hadn't gotten all of the poop. The uncomfortable part was how unaffected I was about having another human beings poop on me as I shopped.

:: Our work bathroom has two doors. The first door gets you to the sink and mirror section of the bathroom. The second gets you into the toilet part of the bathroom. The second door locks while the first door stays open, so someone could be washing their hands while someone is using the loo. Every woman that has had a baby has had to deal with some post-partum bathroom issues. Like, uncomfortable bowel movements for one reason or another. While reading up on labor, I found that famous midwife Ina Mae Gaskin encourages her women to vibrate their lips together (like a horse) which helps relax the muscles so they won't tear. She also encourages this for hemorrhoids. Picture me, coming out of the restroom to wash my hands, explaining this to a coworker who had heard the loud horse like noises through the door. Horrifying.

:: I will often decline to answer my phone when it rings, but will respond to a text message sent by the caller seconds after the missed call. I have phone anxiety. I also hate voice-mail messages. I never listen to them. Ever. I wish there was a nice way of saying this in my voice-mail message. "Hi, you've reached Megan at 559-555-2424. I never listen to my voice-mails so you might just want to try calling me again later. Thanks!"

:: I love headbands. And hair pins. And hair jewelry. I do. I even look pretty good in most hats. But when I try to wear them I feel very uncomfortable. Like I'm not me. Like I look like an idiot. I will often wear them at home but never out in public because my anxiety gets so high that I act like a meth addict that hasn't had a fix for a while. Jumpy and awkward. It makes no sense.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

In the Club

You know, when I was in the married-yet-childless club, I was often told that I didn't "get" it. Having a kid changed everything. You couldn't do certain things now that you are a parent. You don't understand what it's like.

I'm on the other side now and I call bullshit. Sorry for the language, but seriously. Obviously, there are changes. Expect to be late. All the time. For a while, at least. It's hard to figure out just how much time you need to pack everything that your baby has to have. What really stinks is once you get into the groove of things, your babies stage changes and you need a whole new set of things, so you have to re-calibrate. Please don't get mad at your friend because she's late. Have grace that she is even leaving her house to meet you. Don't forget that babies need to nurse/eat every few hours. So, while you can get up an hour before you have to meet your friend, your friend got up four hours earlier. She nursed her kid, took a shower, got ready, got the kid ready, packed the stuff she needs and then nursed again so that she could meet you on time and have a nice block of time to hang out with you. It is no small feat to get out of the house. Be kind. Have patience.

Another big one - a huge one in my humble opinion - is the hormones. NO ONE CAN PREPARE YOU. I'm dead serious. You can have a friend that talks your ear off about the emotional turbulence they are experiencing but it won't matter. If you are one of the lucky ones that doesn't have symptoms, yay! Awesome for you. But you'll never understand it until you've waded in the waters.

Anyways, Bryan and I watched as many people in our lives had kids. And those people showed up less. They answered their phones less. They weren't "go to" people to help if a car gets stranded or your house gets flooded. Somehow, though, you become their people. They need help with fixing their deck? They need a babysitter for a few hours? They need anything? We were there. We answered the phone when they called. We were weirdly happy that the only time we were called was when we were needed, because at least it was something. It was whack but we said to ourselves, "They have a kid now! They don't need to help us or hang out with us."

That, my friends, is crap. This is coming from someone in the club. The only difference is that you have to be deliberate with your time. You have to choose how you spend it. And those people just didn't want to spend it on you. Period.  I'm going to give you a real life example.

As a Childless Person, I would babysit my nieces and nephews. Because duh, that's what you do. I've watched them for a multitude of reasons, emergencies, appointments, date nights, anniversary weekends. My sisters had kids, I did not, therefore I was a babysitter. Not a big deal. It's easy to give up a night when you really don't have anything to sacrifice to do it, or a night on the town is all you miss. Big deal.

Since entering the club, I have still watched my nephews. For example, my brother-in-law's sister had her baby yesterday and my sister asked if I could watch the boys so they could go meet their new niece. In my mind, I thought, crap. I'm going to work an almost nine hour day away from my kid and then I'll be away from him for another few hours. That sucked. But I said yes. Sure, I tried to get my husband to bring Shepherd over so that I could have the best of both worlds, but he was doing chores and Shep was sleeping. It wasn't going to work out.

I watched the boys for a little over 2 hours, just like I would have if I was childless. I sacrificed precious time with my own boy so that I could bless my sister and brother. That is what you do for people you love. If it is important you make the time. I ran around the house with my nephew as he pretended to be a ninja. I held my new nephew Parker, kissed his sweet face and breathed in his baby scent, just like I did with all my other nieces and nephews before I had a boy of my own.

However, there was a notable difference. When, in the past, my sister would get home and I would stay to talk about life and other things. Last night, I was out of there like my butt was on fire, yelled at a car that was going 15 in a 40mph zone and rushed into the house to hold my boy. To kiss his sweet face and remind him that the woman who had left him much earlier that day was still his Mama and she still loved him, just in case he forgot.

I don't want to miss out on those memories with any new nieces and nephews that may come my way, just because I use my kid as an excuse. Sometimes after a get together with my sister I go home and realize that I never even got to hold Parker because I was so busy with Shepherd. It makes me sad because I was there for the others. I soaked up those moments with my sisters babies. I have amazing memories of those kids, ones that are only made by the aunt that doesn't have kids yet. My sisters will never know what it feels like to watch my son and have one on one time with them because they both had kids before me. If they ever watch Shepherd it'll be while watching their own babes.

Things do change with you have a kid. But if a friend ever blamed the fact that they are being a sucky friend to you because they have a family they are really not that good of a friend at all. (Alternatively, if a childless friend ever blamed their being a sucky friend on the fact that you have a family, they are no better.)

Friends are there for you. Friends without kids bring you cookies at 9:30pm. Friends with kids make the effort to accept your invitation for dinner even though it's easier to stay home. That's how a real relationship works. Give and take. Sacrifice and support.

Having a child does not give you an excuse to be a crappy friend. Period.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Other Side of Failure

I'm back at work now. My whole life I've wanted to be a mother. Specifically, I wanted to be a stay-at-home Mom. I wanted to provide my children with the security of a mom at home to teach them, to love them, to make homemade meals, to read and play with them. I never wanted anyone else to raise my kids. I wanted trips to the park, museums and play-dates. I didn't care if that meant being 'poor'. Kids don't give a crap about money. Time means so much more to them.

Unfortunately, we need benefits. So I work. I'm lucky right now because Bryan gets to stay at home with him until school starts next month. After that, I just don't know. It's hard to face and I'm probably slacking on it more than I should because I just want to sob. Someone foreign is going to see a lot of my babies firsts. Someone foreign is going to comfort him when he cries. Someone foreign is going to nurture him. It breaks my heart.

That is probably the biggest hurdle I am facing at the moment. I am still in the throws of post-partum emotions. I still feel like I am in a thick fog but I am catching glimpses of myself now.. here and there. I will totally live up to the fact that I am not dealing with the events of my delivery and the aftermath well.

I am still so angry. There is the quiet emotion-laden rage that bubbles below the surface. You wouldn't know it. I'm sure my family might see flashes of it here and there, but for the most part I've kept it all down. I haven't even bawled my eyes out (still) because there is just no time. When there is time, I don't have the energy to just let it flow. Or maybe I just don't have a safe place to hide to make it happen. I don't know.

Where would I begin? I'm so happy with my family. I am literally blissfully happy with my husband and son. We love that boy to the ends of the universe. Watching Bryan and Shepherd makes the feels come out, ya know? They have such a connection... It's confusing to feel such intense satisfaction and happiness while feeling so miserable and disappointed at the same time.

Bryan got upset with me before we went to our Bradley reunion. I told Bryan that sometimes I don't feel connected to Shepherd. Not only did I miss out on the hormone cocktail at birth, but I haven't been able to nurse. I exclusively pump-feed. So more often that not, Bryan is feeding Shepherd while I'm pumping. I follow The Badass Breastfeeder on Facebook and Birth Without Fear; Both of whom post pictures of nursing moms regularly. Many of my friends breastfeed and post covered shots. I ache deep down in a place that I never even knew existed. I'm so happy for these women that nurse and I'm proud that they don't hide it. But it hurts. I'll be honest, I get jealous.

So the angry monster in me grows and I get mad at God because I haven't had a victory. I didn't get the birth I craved and I don't get to nurse. I've suffered and I haven't reached the other side of suffering. I suffered through my delivery,  I suffered through trying to breastfeed and suffered through low milk supply. I suffered when finally giving up and deciding to pump. I suffered through the first few weeks of pumping and watching my son have formula because I couldn't (and still can't) provide enough for him to eat. And since I'm this not-crazy granola chick who follows all these natural living women I get to see how formula is poison all day, every day and I'm like yeah I have to give my kid some of that at every feeding because its a struggle to produce more than three ounces at a sitting.

The guilt of failing at all of this is so heavy. Not being able to raise my own kid, not being able to birth my own kid, not being able to nurse my own kid, not being able to supply enough food for my own kid. There is too many 'not being able to's' there. I can't handle it! It's so dark and I'm ready for success. Right now, I am living for success. One day I'm going to look back at all of this and I'm going see that it was worth it. I am going to be in the valley staring up at the mountain I climbed and I'm going to dance a little jig that I conquered it. I'm going to lay down the guilt and shame of not being able to do what I was naturally designed to do and I'm going to know that I did my best. That I hung in there when many wouldn't. I'm living for that day.

When it comes, I'll throw a party. I'll drink a mimosa and revel in the fact that I survived one of many tests in Motherhood. And it'll give me hope that I can survive the ones to come.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Right to Know

Do you know what is fun? Having a total fail of a birth plan, having a c-section, being in a ridiculous amount of pain from being sliced open, being sore from laboring for 40 hours, trying to rush to the bathroom to pee because your body is ridding itself of all the water you've been swollen with for weeks, trying to figure out how to nurse with faulty equipment, having zero sleep, nurses that forget your pain meds which results in more pain and blood pressure so high your vision swims and trying to care for the tiniest human being that you've ever come in contact with.

Man, I can't even describe how fun it was to deal with all of that. It was awesome. And when you add to it a hospital that threatens to call CPS on you? Only makes it better.

Where is my sarcasm font?

I kid you not, internet. After all that went went through in our birth story, as we were going through the things listed above, Bryan and I were threatened by the hospital.

On Wednesday morning at the butt-crack of dawn the doctor on call came to see me, asking if I wanted to go home. Bryan and I talked with her about how concerned we were about that my blood pressure had not gone down. I was still in the high 150s and Bryan was extremely worried about it. I thought that being in the hospital, unable to take my medication on a regular schedule, not being able to sleep between the nurses coming in and trying to nurse Shepherd was what was raising it. I could tell that Bryan was shaken from the past few days so I didn't push it.

The doctor said that they'd wait 24 hours and discharge on Thursday. We agreed and prayed that my blood pressure would go down in that time. We had a great nurse on Wednesday night and she did the skin test on Shepherd for jaundice - he passed. He had no symptoms of jaundice. He was doing everything as he should and had lots of good poos. All was well. We thought we'd be discharged on Thursday. I woke up early and started to pack and clean the hospital room. I moved really slowly so I thought I'd get a head start.

The pediatrician came into the room and looked at Shepherd. He asked for the tenth time if we were breastfeeding only. I answered him for the tenth time that we were breastfeeding and supplementing with formula. (I guess he couldn't be bothered to read the chart!) He left.

Apparently, in the .5 seconds that he saw Shepherd, he felt that he needed to be tested for jaundice again. So labs were run. Shepherd's level had been at 7 and apparently they now had him at a 12. It was a high jump, for sure, especially with him showing no signs of jaundice. We were told we would not be discharged and they wanted referred Shepherd to a neonatologist.

The neonatologist came in and of course, English was her second language. Super. We could barely understand her thick accent, plus, she didn't really open her mouth with words, so it was especially muffled. She said she wanted to put Shepherd in a light box with a blanket and she'd allow them to do it in our room. She then started saying that she would probably keep us over the weekend until Sunday. Bryan and I immediately said we couldn't stay until Sunday, Bryan had to work Friday night so we had to be gone by 1:00pm the following afternoon. She said she probably wouldn't release Shepherd and that he would be transferred to a different floor and I would be permitted to stay with him, but Bryan couldn't stay with us over the weekend.

Things were starting to get a little dicey. We told her that we could not stay - we didn't have anyone in Fresno, and there was no way Bryan was leaving me alone to care for an infant all night when I just had surgery and could barely walk. The doctor pretty much said there was no way around it. She left.

We were pissed. We searched online and while level 12 was in the high mediums (getting to a 20 is very bad) Shepherd had no symptoms of jaundice and was eating and pooping. We couldn't believe what was going on.

We are sitting in our room, talking when the lab tech comes back in. She starts talking and then stops when she notices she's already been to our room. We didn't know why she was there, and she couldn't believe that they had ordered FIVE VIALS of blood to be drawn from my less-than-five-pound kid. Uhhhh, WHAT? We had no idea what labs were ordered, why they were ordered, and why SO MUCH had to be taken. Especially when he had already given two vials earlier that morning.

The lab tech said, "I've never even seen these tests being ordered on a baby before, anyways."

Oh, really? Hmm. We were not happy.

The lab tech was just as unhappy as we were, and refused to draw for the labs - which we wouldn't have let her do anyways. We call our nurse in and ask her to ask the doctor to come back to our room because we were concerned about the labs and everything that was going on.

Internet.  I kid you not. She wouldn't come back to our room. She called on the phone. Bryan talked to her because I was so emotional I probably would have been less that professional. Bryan asked her about the labs, why they were ordered, why she didn't ask us for consent, why all of this was happening, and basically told her that no matter what, we were leaving Friday and we would go straight to a Adventist Health in Hanford if necessary. We had a pediatrician appointment on Monday morning, just in case we didn't have to go to the hospital. We had all of our bases covered and we would leave Friday against medical advice if it came down to it.

The doctor told Bryan that we could not take the baby, that he and I could leave but the baby could not leave. Bryan informed her that we are not prisoners here and we could absolutely take the baby to any medical care facility we wanted too. The doctor then said that if we took the baby the hospital would call CPS on us. Mind you, I'm paraphrasing a lot because its a long story, but she STILL wouldn't come back to the room. I kept asking Bryan, where is our INFORMED CONSENT?

So, I'm shaking. Bryan is angry. I start to cry because I can't believe how all of this spun out of control so fast. Bryan hugs me and tells me its going to be okay. We start calling our prayer warriors and seek out people that can give us advice. One of my mother-in-laws best friends is a nurse and she gave us the same advice: Stay overnight, pray that we are discharged. If not, leave AMA and go straight to care in Hanford.

We braved up and stuck to our guns. We requested another doctor. If the one we had wasn't going to give us informed consent, we had the right to request someone else. We waited and he finally came. It was a young, well spoken guy who had ties to Hanford. He explained to us what was going on and we explained to him our side of it. As we were talking, a social worker from the hospital came into our room and stood by the door. We completely ignored her and continued to converse with the doctor. I shakily explained that while we weren't trying to cause trouble, we needed our right to informed consent, and since the previous doctor wouldn't explain to us in detail what is going on, we were not able to consent to any tests or staying an entire weekend.

The new doctor apologized for things getting out of control, he said to keep Shepherd under the light box and wrapped in the light blanket as much as possible, even while nursing. After asking what labs were ordered and why, we asked them if there was any way that the tests could be ran on the same blood. Five vials were ordered, but after our conversation, they only took two because turns out - they could perform all the tests on just two vials. Fancy that. He said they would test first thing in the morning, and we would go from there. He said that it was likely that Shepherd's level would go down and we would be discharged. Bryan reiterated that we had our pediatrician willing to assume care and that we had to leave tomorrow afternoon regardless of the level. He understood and he said hopefully it wouldn't come to that. The social worker left when he did without saying one word to us.

We had the same nurse on Thursday night and filled her in. She couldn't believe it. She mentioned that she wondered if they were trying to milk my insurance because my policy covered Thursday night. She said she bet that we'd be released Friday even with a slight decrease. The next morning, Bryan and I prayed for a lower level and prepared for a fight. We spoke with our pediatrician in Hanford and we were all on the same page. The level came back at a 9. They released us and we went home. We went to the pediatrician's on Monday and had new labs drawn, Shepherd was at a 5 and out of the woods.

It was a horrible ordeal. A few weeks after we were home we heard about the Sacramento family that had a situation like ours that had turned out to be much worse.

As parents, as humans, we have a right to consent to medical procedures done to us. We have a right to seek the medical care of any professional, at any time, for any ailment. Medicine is a BUSINESS. We can take our business anywhere we choose to get the very best doctors and care. We can travel the world in order to find specialists and professionals that can heal the sick. That is our right. Medical care should not be a hardship on a family. Whether you have insurance or not, we are PAYING for them to do their jobs. It is not a public service. We are the customer and we have a right to know what we are paying for and to okay it. It's no different from hiring a contractor, a landscaper or plumber. They are specially licensed to do a specific job and have to get approval by you before going and tearing up your house or yard.

In the situation of the Sacramento family, they took their child out of the hospital and went straight to another hospital to get better care. They received it and went home at the approval of their new doctor. The other hospital that lost their business called CPS on them, the police restrained the father and entered their home without a warrant (I won't even get started on that) and CPS took the child back to the original hospital which allowed them to financially gain from the situation, even when the parents did NOT want that hospital caring for their child and sought a better one. It blows my mind.

These events are happening to people, good people, that care about their children's health all over America. Our rights are being violated. Families are being torn apart. The hospitals should not be allowed to bully parents by threat of CPS. Hospitals ARE NOT prisons. If you aren't receiving the care you or your children, husband, parents, siblings, aunts and uncles deserve you should have the right to get to a different care facility.

I will never forget what happened. I will never leave it up to a doctor to dictate what is best for my child on their word alone. I will never quiet down when I feel that something isn't right. I will fight for these doctors to slow their roll and give me the information I need in order to protect and care for my child. My armor will never be down when it comes to the medical industry.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm overreacting but then I ask myself... Why would five vials of blood be initially ordered for tests when later all the tests could be performed with just two? Why would they have taken so much more than they absolutely needed to from a 4.8lb baby? If we hadn't raised our voices, our son would have lost six vials (a pediatric vial is one milliliter, so six milliliters total) of blood that day, when a 0-10 pound human has 20~ milliliters of blood volume. Blood banks consider 7-9% of blood volume can be removed if a person is healthy. I wouldn't consider a baby, born right on the line of preterm, weighing 4.8 pounds that is "jaundiced" healthy. So why they wanted to take 30% of Shepherd's blood volume in less than a 10 hour period of time, I'll never know.

Do your research. Know your rights. Fight for them.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Unnatural (Part 4 - with pictures)

*Sorry for the delay in the fourth part of our birth story. This was hard to write. I, to this day, have not had a moment to cry, to let out all the emotions I have been holding in for so long. Also, all the pictures (of our entire birth, beginning to end) included in this post are completely unedited. All my swollen, shiny shame is on display. Be kind, I'm hard enough on myself. xo - M.

The last picture of my bump, taken in a dark triage room.
The doctor was checking to make sure the baby was stable.

All of this is fuzzy...I remember bits and pieces. As I was asking my family members their side of the story to make sure I had all this accurately written (which is part of the reason this took so long), sometimes their stories would jog a memory that I couldn't recall before. I was very, very tired. I was also distraught. I had a hard time believing that all this was happening; That my pregnancy was over. When I get that way, overly emotional, I tend to shut down and mentally disconnect from my body. It's a skill I honed as a child of an alcoholic, and it comes in handy when I am in extreme physical or emotional pain. To me, this was the ugliest way my beautiful pregnancy could end. More than that, I was scared for my boy and his development. He clearly hadn't been getting enough nutrition between the two and a half weeks that my swelling and blood pressure skyrocketed... I couldn't even entertain the thought that I might lose him. I was silently drowning in what ifs and instead of voicing them and risk scaring Bryan or totally losing it, I didn't talk much. I didn't cry. I just unplugged from it all. Anyways, back to the story.

Kari and Adam stopped by after we were in our room.
Kari brought toenail polish because, although I scheduled a pre-labor pedicure,
we never quite got there.

All night my support system was moving me, re-positioning me, trying to get our boy to move onto my cervix.  We bounced, squatted, swayed, pelvic-rocked, everything. My crew would crack jokes to keep everyone's spirits up and there was joy and laughter in between the pain and depression I was feeling. The doctors came in and requested to break my water. They said I was at a seven and that it would speed things along. They also wanted to put a monitor in to get a more accurate reading on the contractions I was having. Bryan and I talked about it and decided to go ahead and do it. We had labored for over 24 hours at this point. We both weren't happy about it, but we got it done. We knew from this point on that we would be limiting any further cervical checks, so we'd have less of an idea of how I was progressing but we accepted that we needed the extra push that breaking the water would provide.

This was on Sunday morning. I was even more swollen than the day
before and still on water restriction. I hate this picture.

While the actual process of breaking the bag didn't hurt, it was terribly uncomfortable. Not surprisingly, the baby was surrounded by a ton of water and it took a few tries to break my strong bag - Bradley Method for the win! I want to remind you that for the last three months of my pregnancy, I was retaining water. A LOT OF WATER. So when they broke my bag, it was like a lake poured out of me. That boy was well cushioned! Unfortunately, all that water led us to believe that the baby was bigger that he was... So, they put the monitor in and the contractions were more intense. They left us to do our thing, all of us hoping that this would put us in 'real labor.'
Late afternoon on Sunday, April 7. I had the balloon in at this point. 
I tried to sleep as much as possible, thinking I would need my energy to push.

I now recollect that Bryan was not doing well and my sisters kept trying to get him to lay down and rest. He told me that he was having a hard time seeing me go through all of this for so long. He was feeling really anxious and his nerves were shot. Every hour or two lab techs would come in to take blood from me. I was poked all over - I looked like a heroin addict and I am not exaggerating. I have bad veins in my right hand and the IV was in my left, so it took them a lot of tries to get blood sometimes. I bet I looked terrible. I would probably be sick too if I had to see Bryan in that position.

Sunday night at 9:45... Bouncing on the ball. 
Not that I want to draw attention to my upper thigh, but if you
have the courage 
to check out my knee/calf. 
I'm so swollen you can't see my kneecap. My leg is just big puff ball. So hot.

At some point, we talked to the night shift doctors about a c-section. Both my heart rate and Shepherd's heart rate were stable. We felt it wasn't necessary yet. We told them we wanted to wait, but we asked questions. Most specifically I asked how they close their c-sections. She said staples. I was beyond bummed. I had previously told Bryan, over and over again throughout the pregnancy, that if something should happen and I end up in the hospital, I better not get staples. I didn't like the scars they left and I didn't want that kind of a reminder of whatever bad thing had happened. (I knew without a doubt that I would not be having this child through cesarean unless it was an absolute medical emergency. I also knew that having that kind of scar to remind myself of a medical emergency would be way too much for me to handle.)

Sunday night at 10:45. In another position, hanging of the edge of the bed. 
I'm in the zone! 

I asked multiple times if that was the only way to close. She said yes. I'm not saying that I had already given up and accepted a c-section as our fate, but I think I was subconsciously preparing for it. I remember laying my head back after that conversation and being so angry at God. I felt so cheated and so robbed. I also felt damn stubborn and I think it did the same to my coaches. The conversation renewed all of our strength and resolve to try to have a natural birth. I did not want staples. I did not want a c-section. I would be damned if I had to do both.

Most of my overnight crew. From left, my mom, Kari and my mother-in-law, Sylvia.

This my eldest sister, Alison. If she ever decides to change
professions, midwifery would suit her. ;)

We made it through the night and on to shift change, which meant a new nurse. Her name was Alicia and she was pretty awesome. We also got new doctors... The attending doctor had terrible bedside manners. She asked if she could check me and we said we would rather not because my bag had already been broken. We discussed it with her and then on our own and decided she could check me. She was very, extremely rough. It was the most painful that I had. She said I was a four. The previous doctors had said a seven. How did I go from a seven all the way to a four?! Everyone was pretty upset by her attitude and demeanor. 

She left for a while, came back and immediately said,  "So we are prepping you for c-section?" I'm pretty sure my sisters and the nurse wanted to tear her limb from limb. We angrily said no and she left. We continued to try different positions and I believe I was on the bed, side-laying with my leg up on the meal tray when the attending doctor (with bad bedside manners) and the resident doctor came in to discuss our options a little while later. The resident doctor was much nicer, and we had a discussion about the check I had received. She asked if the seven had been noted on the computer and our nurse said it had been. The doctor asked if she could check me, and we again said we wanted to limit the number of checks because of infection. She said she would like to check herself to see what it really was, a four or a seven. Bryan and I discussed it and she checked me. She said that she agreed that it was a four - but almost a five.

 My sisters and new addition to the crew, Colleen. 
9am Monday morning. It had been a long night.

They talked to us about a c-section and we said we wanted to wait longer and to keep trying. They said they would come back later. I'm not sure if the nurse said something to the resident doctor, but we never saw the attending doctor again. A few hours passed by. I'm not really sure of the things we did. The next thing I remember was sitting on the toilet looking up at my husband and my eldest sister, Alison. (I wasn't going to the restroom - I was just squatting there.) I brought up talking about a c-section and both Bryan and Alison said that they still believed that I could have a vaginal birth.

Right before noon.

I remember looking up at them and just knowing that this wasn't right. I wasn't in labor. Neither was Shepherd. We were just innocent bystanders in a medicinal labor. My body never took over the laboring process. Shepherd and I were both not ready for all of this to happen. I told them that I had been doing this for over 36 hours. I was exhausted, out of options, and Shepherd was not on my cervix. I had been on pitocin and magnesium since Saturday evening and we were lucky that both me and the boy were still stable. I had accepted that we couldn't go on like this forever. I was a 28 on pit (which would only go to thirty), I was exhausted and I was HUGE. I had retained even more water during the labor, so much that as Bryan explained to me later, they had to cut off my hospital wristband and give me a new larger one. I explained to them that I was scared to keep going and risk something happening to Shepherd because I was too proud to get a cesarean. I remember thinking that I would never forgive myself if I had refused a cesarean up until it was a life-or-death emergency. Not worth it. Both Bryan and Alison still wanted me to have the natural experience and I did too, so we looked at my options.

Bryan said we could either keep trying, we could get an epidural to see if that would let my body rest and hopefully take over...or we could get a c-section. 

We talked more about how we were lucky that both my heart rate and Shepherd's stabilized after the Cervidil was out. If we kept going, who knew what the magnesium would do to both of us. We had given it our best shot and he was just too early. He wasn't ready to come out. 

With the final two options, an epidural was required. As much as I didn't want my Portuguese pride and stubbornness to get in the way, I still remember feeling so defeated. So upset that my pregnancy was ending like this. Why couldn't there be a rewind button? I needed a do-over. I couldn't rectify that everything that was happening to me was the exact opposite of what I had wanted, what was natural. I remember that I just didn't want to do it. Any of it. I wanted everything to stop, to go back to Saturday and never come to the hospital. But then I thought of the worst case scenario with pre-eclampsia and that was unbearable too. 

So I left my squatting perch and went to the bed. I got comfortable and talked to both of my sisters. We requested the epidural. Bryan sat with me as it was administered, and then we waited. After an hour or two, nothing had picked up, so we made the decision to do the c-section. There was truly no other option. He needed to come out so that we could both get off the medicine and my blood pressure would go down. 

I could see in Kari's eyes that she was heartbroken for me; well they all were, but I think her more so. She knew what I was going to experience. I could see that she wanted anything else than that for me. We prayed together and then I asked them to let my mom, Bryan's mom, and my friend Colleen up to pray with me. We explained the situation to them and we prayed together. 

Once they left, it was all very fast. We talked to the doctor and I asked again if there were any other options for suturing the cesarean. I explained that I did not want staples. She assured me that we could do dissolvable stitches and terry strips instead. I was happy for this tiny victory, even though I felt like I was drowning. I was wheeled to the operating room and transferred to the table. I was terrified and I wanted to breakdown, but I couldn't. I wouldn't scare Bryan, I wouldn't put that on him. I would just endure, although if they had strapped my arms down I probably would have had a panic attack, but no one did. 

The anesthesiologist asked me what type of music I wanted to listen to and I said Christian. He checked to make sure I couldn't feel any pain. Soon, the surgery started and Bryan was let in.

Bryan said something funny. 

Bryan said something stupid.

I seriously love these pictures.. probably because they remind me of this picture that Bryan took:

Not much time elapsed before I could feel the doctors struggling to pull Shepherd out. The reason that he wasn't on my cervix was because his head was stuck sideways in my pelvis. They had to PULL multiple times. The whole table shook. We later learned that the cord had been wrapped around his little neck once, but that would have been okay and fixed if he had came down the birth canal. Finally, they pulled him out.

Bryan was obviously the first person (that I cared about anyways) to take a look at our son, the little life we created. I remember him catching his breath, and he looked at me with tears in his eyes. He says now that it was such an intense moment - that it all became really real for him. He got to take pictures, and we heard Shepherd's little cry. I cried a little. I got to see him soon after and he was beautiful. He is beautiful.

Shepherd Lincoln Vickers was born at 3:36pm on April 8 after 41.5 hours of labor.

Bryan stayed with Shepherd while they closed me up, which unfortunately, I started to feel. The pain was... indescribable. I could feel the doctor suturing my uterus. I started to hum like I did during contractions. The anesthesiologist clicked a button, but I continued to feel, so I continued to hum. I heard something click again. But guess what! Still feeling THINGS! So I hummed on. Then, I heard him 'grrr' under his breath, followed by multiple clicks on a button and that did the trick.

First time holding my boy. 

I definitely didn't have the cocktail of hormones that I had wanted so much. I just felt...numb. After I was closed up, they wheeled me into recovery and the epidural was taken out. I got to hold Shepherd for a minute before the pediatrician came to take a look at him. I was experiencing some pretty gnarly pain in my left leg that I was told was a side effect of the epidural... it felt like the growing pains I had as a child but worse.

Already rooting for Momma. It's insane that they come right out 
of the gate rooting. Amazing. 

Skin to skin contact. I was exhausted.

First bath. Immediate after this he calmed down and 
enjoyed getting his hair washed. 

All clean, wrapped and warm. My sweet burrito.

We were in recovery for longer than we anticipated because they had some problems getting me the pain meds I needed and everything hooked up. Bryan and I traded holding Shepherd during this time, and soon enough we were moved to a room where our family could visit us.

Bryan and I had our son. We were all healthy and I was so happy about that, really and truly. We were both so smitten with him, we just kept staring at him. It was hard not to kiss his sweet  pudge-less face, count his skinny fingers and long toes, and send prayers of thanks to the God for the gift we were given. He was perfect.

But nothing could have prepared me for how unprepared I was to deal with the aftermath of pre-eclampsia and a cesarean, especially when coupled with being new parents.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Part 4 is coming...

I've written and re-written this post. I'm almost ready to post part 4 of my delivery story. It should be up tomorrow afternoon. Thanks for sticking with me. This was an emotional post for me...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

They Dropped Me Off (Part 3)

We pulled up to the front entrance and Chanah got out of her car. We had followed behind her in ours, so I looked at Bryan before getting out and he gave me a little smile.

Chanah told me to wait right in the front for her and Bryan to return so we could get registered. I stood there by a lonely piano, looking out at the hospitals front windows and ran all the different scenarios through my head. Was this my fault? How could I fix it? What kind of control did I have to get through this and still be a whole person after?

When Bryan and Chanah met me, we went straight up to Triage. Chanah explained the process and I kept shaking with nervousness while Bryan was strong and silent. I filled out the necessary information and we were escorted to a tiny room with a curtain for a door. I was told to strip down and they'd take care of me.
I was hooked up to a series of gadgets and monitored over the next two or three hours. It was definitely pre-eclampsia, we would definitely be staying and we would be delivering that baby sooner rather than later.

We got into a room, settled in as much as possible, I was poked and prodded and attached to magnesium (which is awful) and soon the doctors came in to check me and get a game plan. Cervix was soft but closed. We were no where near ready to start labor and this translated to only one thing, lots of medical intervention. The one thing I wanted to avoid would now be my reality.

The doctors plan was to use Cervadil, a "mild" cervix softener that would help to dilate my cervix. It's inserted into the cervix and stays there for twelve hours. At this point, it was 10:00pm. Our midwife had left and it was just Bryan and I. I kept shaking. Its common for me to get nervous and start to shiver, but I was so scared that I was having full on shakes, and Bryan would talk to me to calm me down. We got dozed off for a while until things got really got started. 

I don't remember a whole lot about the Cervadil process. All I know is that I started to have intense contractions, one right after the other, often double peaking. I remember that instead of my normal contraction hum, I was saying to Bryan, "Nooooo." over and over again. I remember hearing myself say that I couldn't do it, they were too strong too fast. Bryan would talk me through it and another one would come. Apparently, I had a very strong reaction to the Cervadil which was not the norm for the medicine and the nurses said it could have been a "strong batch." 

I wasn't the only one having a negative reaction to the Cervadil, unfortunately, Shepherd was too. I wasn't aware enough at the time to know, but after I would have one of the crazy contractions, Shepherd's heart rate would dip and take a while to recover - he was having a hard time too. We barely reached the three hour mark when the doctor came in to take out the medicine. I had dilated to a one. They decided to let Shepherd and I rest for about an hour before they used a non-medicinal approach that would help me open to a four. 

Bright and early Sunday morning, they inserted a balloon (THREE TIMES) into my cervix and filled it with a saline solution. Bryan said that he got frustrated that it took so many times because it was obviously causing me a lot of pain. The Foley Balloon would act as the babies head to put pressure on the cervix and get it to dilate. At the end of the balloon, they tied a rubber strap and at the end of that strap was a bag of saline solution. The saline bag was putting tension on the balloon to really get it to sit on my cervix. When the time was right, meaning my cervix had opened it a four, it would pop out right out on its own. 

My contractions returned to a normal pattern and we got to rest in between them. In the morning, I begged for food because I was getting a migraine. They took pity on me and gave me some fruit, yogurt and an Motrin to knock the migraine out. I was able to sleep off and on that whole day and visit with Bryan's mom, Sylvia, my mom and sisters. 

The balloon popped out sometime that evening... Bryan guesses sometime after 4:30pm. Then, it was all about the Pitocin. Every half hour then increased the dose by two grams. After resting for some more time, at about 10:00 pm, my sisters and Bryan helped to get me into different positions to labor. Earlier, when I was ballooning it up and laboring, we had christian music playing. We needed a change of pace and some new energy so we put on Maroon 5. I changed positions a billion times, got on a birthing ball, did some squats, rocked my pelvis, everything. I was surrounded by people dedicated to making this birth happen, and I hoped to have our baby before the 7:00am shift change Monday morning.

I remember bits and pieces of these moments and have had to ask for clarification by my visitors to help me get the rest of it together. I remember at this point feeling like I could do this. It was late night Sunday, I was moving and grooving to get the baby to position himself better so that I could deliver vaginally. I had been on Pitocin for twenty-four hours and while I felt pain, I was handling it. I was breathing through it. I believed I could do it and more importantly, I was surrounded by people that believed I could do it, which truly makes all the difference in the world. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

All the Things I Didn't Do (Part 2)

As I walked to my phone to call my midwife and I touched my pregnant belly, I thought of all the things I hadn't done...

I hadn't taken maternity pictures.
I hadn't washed all of his little clothes.
I hadn't organized all his things.
I hadn't sent out my almost completely written thank you cards from the baby shower.
I hadn't cleaned the bathrooms, made extra meals or dealt with the animals.

I paced around the house listening to my midwife and feeling Shepherd kick. It went from easiest pregnancy ever: scheduled home birth; To a high risk non-negotiable hospital birth in seconds.

"It's too high, Megan. It won't come down on its own. We have to recalculate our thinking and do what is best for you. Take a shower, pack a bag for you, Bryan and the baby, and come to Fresno. I'll check you myself and we will go from there."

I agreed and we hung up. I stood with my phone in my hand and eyed my already halfway packed bag. Bryan asked me for details and I walked to the living room, sat down and started sobbing. Everything I had dreamed of, this warm, spiritual birthing experience was morphing into a nightmare. The worst part was there was nothing I could do to stop it.

I was scared. I was not ready for labor. My son, while head down for weeks, wasn't ready. Our "due date" was May 4 and it was only April 6. He was going to be a month early.

Would he be okay?
Would he have fingernails? Eyebrows? What about his lungs? His little heart?

Bryan hugged me. He said we would get through it. No matter what. We held each other close and felt our little boy kick between us. I went into the nursery and started a pile of things to bring for Shepherd. I looked at the tiny clothes, wondering what size he would end up being. I decided to pick a few options, just in case.

I text messaged my midwife and asked if I could take a shower or if we needed to high-tail it up there. She told me to relax, eat a little something, do something simple and manageable for a few days with my hair. She also wanted me to lay down on my left side for 5 to 10 minutes and then check my blood pressure again.
We had only text my mom and sisters at this point with very little details since we had so few, and by the time I got out of the shower, Kari was at my house. We sat on the couch and talked, then I slowly started to get ready. She told me things I should take and snapped a few last minute photos. Bryan left to deal with the dogs.

Kari braided my hair back as she told me it would all be okay. She reminded me I would just have a baby sooner rather than later. I laid down to rest and she prayed over me. Bryan got back and made us lunch, we said bye to Kari and hit the road to Fresno, silent and stunned.

The house my midwife owns is literally just a few confusing turns away from the hospital and after she confirmed what we already knew, we headed to the great unknown - Fresno Community Regional Hospital.

The Beginning (Part 1)

The Wednesday after Easter I woke up feeling a little funny. I figured that I was 'settling in' to the end of my pregnancy and continued working around the house.

Thursday, I went to Visalia with Bryan for an morning appointment and I had a really hard time waking up. I figured I was pushing way too hard and the stress of getting everything done was weighing on me. I needed to give myself a break.

Friday I took it really easy all day and went to Harris Ranch with Bryan to eat a yummy meal and rest, while still getting out of the house.

When we woke up Saturday and I was still exhausted, I knew something was up. I ate a little bit and we watched some of the Hunger Games on Netflix. I kept having this nagging feeling that something wasn't right and a little voice in my head popped up and turning to Bryan, I voiced it, "Babe, get me the blood pressure machine."

I checked it once and was shocked. I googled frantically. I took a walk around the house and checked it again. I googled more. It was a beautiful day and I went for a walk around our block. I came back, laid down, took a breather, and checked it again. Nope. This was it.
My swelling had turned into full blown pre-eclampsia and whether or not Shepherd and I were ready, our pregnancy was over.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Before, During...More During. Ain't no After Photos yet, Ya'll.

Today is my sister's birthday. She is 31 years old. She is my favorite oldest sister.

Not to be confused with my favorite second-oldest sister, Kari.

The one I'm talking about is Alison.

But then again, this post isn't really about her. It's about me. She just happens to be involved.

One year ago, Alison wanted to celebrate her 30th birthday with a bang. I dig that, since you only turn 30 once. It should be awesome. Family from the Central Valley high-tailed it down to San Diego to have a party at a cute little club-ish type room near Old Town and we danced, had In-N-Out and generally a ton of fun.

Except... Well. I was a heifer  Huge! Fat! Heifer! I had just started my weight-loss journey in January and I purposefully was losing the weight slowly, by changing habits. I knew it would be a long, hard road, but I felt that retraining myself on how to eat and live would benefit me in the long run.

And it did. Then I went and got knocked up. Argh.

Anyways, I was trying to find a picture to post of my lovely sister, and I couldn't believe the hideousness of my face. So I didn't post it on Instagram because I'm ashamed. But! Lucky for you, my blog is ripe with too-much-information and baring my shame for all to see. Gotta keep it real, right?

This was me.... ONE YEAR AGO. (shudders)

This was me.... In December, at our Gender Party. Hello face! I recognize you again! You have cheek bones and less chins! Your tiny, squinty eyes aren't being swallowed by your face! Yaaaaay!!!

I took this last one first thing this morning, one year later from the picture with Alison above. I am 29 weeks, 5 days pregnant and 7 pounds heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight. You can see that I have kept my curves (that you can't see in the picture with Alison due to my sweater, but trust me, they were non-existent last February. I was just wide. Wide in alllllllll directions) and of course, the depth of my belly is bigger (there is a baby in there!), but I've gained some weight back in my face. Just when I had started to get it back. (sob)

Sorry for the uncomfortable faces in these pictures... I really hate taking pictures of myself and I especially hate mirror photos. #awkwardkid4life

I try to remind myself that gaining one pound a month so far in pregnancy is a total win and that I will lose it ALL when the baby comes. No matter how hard I have to work or how tired I am.

I will never, ever, ever be that fat girl again.

At least....on the outside. :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Dreams: What Real Love Does

Yesterday I wrote about dreams. I ended with a pretty important question.

How can you keep the weight of your failed dream from crushing your soul and the spirit of your relationship?

I've been thinking about the answer for a while now. It's not easy. Society has bred us to think of ourselves. To do what is best for us in the moment and what feels good now. We are not a people of long term payoffs. Many, many mistakes have been made because the future was not thought of in a moment where it should have been.

You have to do everything opposite of what your instincts are telling you. Yes, you should cry. Yes, you should talk to your partner. You should be open and honest about your feelings, because stuffing them down will only make them bubble up with a vengeance later.

Truly, the only thing to do is the right thing. You have to pick yourself up and do the right thing for your relationship. Filling your heart with bitterness and resentment is only going to make a terrible situation worse. Just because they failed you does not give you a pass to fail them. You do what you are supposed to do and you do it with as much class and dignity as you can muster. You do it with the right intentions. You don't do it with spite. You do it because you know exactly how it feels when the person you love most doesn't support your dreams. Regardless of what they have done to you, no one deserves to feel the disappointment and heartbreak of a failed dream.

You do what you should do and you do it with a glad heart because even if you never get a reward on earth for it, maybe Jesus will add just a little sparkle to your crown in heaven.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Weight of Dreams


It's a common thread between all people. I don't mean sleepy-time rendezvous with famous actors and actresses. When I refer to dreams I mean life-goals. I'm sure you hear it all the time, "If I won the lottery, I would..." "Someday, I'll be a..." "I would be happy if I could..."

Everyone has them. Some are smaller than others. "I want to get through tomorrow without smoking a cigarette." Some are medium-sized. "I want to open up a bakery." Some are huge. "I want to cure cancer."

While dreams differ from person to person and some are 'small' and some are 'large' none is more important than the other. A man whose dream is to quit smoking is no less important that a woman who pushes herself to get one step closer to opening a bakery. These both rival even a lofty, world-altering dream like curing cancer because regardless of the impact of their dreams, they each have one. They each wake up every day knowing that one day, someday, they are going to get to that place.

I hear often that families and relationships break apart because of dreams. A man leaves his wife because she doesn't support his dream of being a pilot. A woman leaves her husband because he doesn't want her to become an actress, ogled by men across the country. Even if they stay together, the bitter bite of resentment tailors their day-to-day life.

A relationship won't function properly if both parties aren't willing to support the dreams of their counterparts. This means celebrating successes, suffering through losses, making sacrifices together. As one. Each person has to be willing to put in the time, labor, money and effort into the dream for it to succeed. However, a dream cannot come true when the dreamer won't put the effort into it. No matter how much you want the dream of your partner to come true, you cannot accomplish it for them. You can support them. You can walk through the hard work with them. You can even reap the reward with them. But it won't be as hard for you... It won't be as sweet a payoff in the end.

I remember when Bryan and I were seriously talking about getting married. I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but it was almost like a business negotiation. Sure, we had love and passion, but were we compatible? Could we support each other's dreams and live a life together? We went back and forth to make sure that we would be true partners, chasing after our own and each others dreams. That we wouldn't discourage the other persons goals and we would certainly not let they other one give up after meeting obstacle after obstacle. We would figure it out together, we would make it happen.

All of us recognize that there are seasons in life. Hills and valleys. Life is unbearably hard at times and others it coasts by, fluid and effortless. There are times that you put yourself aside and give to others, because maybe it's not your moment.

What I want to know is this: What happens when your moment arrives? The time has come; Your dream is on the horizon. You can almost grab hold of it. It's on the tip of your tongue. You are waiting for the support, sacrifice and encouragement from your partner that you have given for however long a season and slowly you realize that it is not coming. The window of opportunity for your dream to come true is only so long, heck, you can even see the end in sight... And you're alone. The return on your investment in making your partners dream come true is not paying off.

What do you do?
Do you let it pass and hope it comes around again?
Do you cry?
Do you approach your partner and say pay up?
How do you recover from that kind of let down?
What do you do with the emotions? The anger? The sadness and heartbreak? The fear that you've committed yourself to someone who didn't truly have the intention of supporting you as you supported them?
How do you continue to support the dream of the person who let yours pass?

More importantly, how can you keep the weight of your failed dream from crushing your soul and the spirit of your relationship?

Monday, February 4, 2013

My New (Furniture) Baby

A pet peeve of mine with the blogging world is how blog 'businesses' can time their posts. Does that makes sense?

An example would be, a blog is redoing their guest room and they write a blog about how they've painted and they list a few projects they still need to get done, furniture they need to find, etc. They may happen to mention that they are looking for a dresser to fit a specific space and what style they have in mind.

MAGICALLY, a week later, they have an update about said guest bedroom and hark! They found the. perfect. dresser. And they came across it 'randomly' on Craigslist just by searching 'dresser'.

In your mind, you are like wow! That was so quick! They found what they needed at a great price. Awesome! I wish I lived in an area where people posted fabulous stuff all the time! But in reality, they have mapped out both the guest bedroom project (and the items that they were looking for) weeks or months ago but they didn't post about it until later.

This grinds my gears. For over a year or two now, Bryan and I have been using a "long" dresser that my parents bought before my eldest sister Alison was born for our entertainment station. It was flanked by two massive DVD racks that held our ridiculous collection of movies. It was a fine interim set up, even if it was ugly as all get out.

During that entire time, I was searching, yard saling, thrift storing, and stalking every website I could to find a dresser or buffet that would fit our needs. I came up empty every time. I could either pay a sickening amount of money for a real-wood piece, a ridiculous amount of money for a particle board contraption, I could go through the pain and mentally challenging process of trying to build something from scratch, or I could play the almost endless waiting game of finding the 'right' piece at the 'right' price. This last option, the one I chose, was like trying to find a pair to any of my shoes since adopting our new puppy, Sophie.

A few Saturday's ago, my friend Colleen and I were in a neighboring town and we hit up a thrift store we both like. I've been looking for a few items, namely a desk for my office and a entertainment center (with pretty specific measurements) for quite some time, so it was standard operating procedure to peruse a store and leave empty-handed.

Side note: I leave thrift stores empty-handed more than I leave with an item. If you hit up a thrift store or yard sale and you buy something every time at every one? You're doing it wrong, cause no one is that lucky.

Back to the story. We were looking at the furniture and we both saw it at the same time. And I gasped.  It was a long dresser, with three drawers surrounded by two cabinets that had three small drawers inside. It was a solid piece of furniture in great condition. We both stared at it and each other for quite sometime.

Colleen had a measuring tape in her purse (lucky me!) and it fit my dimensions almost perfectly. It was a really nice piece of furniture and it was marked at $80.

I couldn't believe my luck. Bryan was out of town snowboarding, so I snapped a few pictures and we left. I didn't want to buy it without him at least seeing it. When I showed him he looked pretty impressed. I tried to get him to drive back to the thrift store that night so we could buy it but he said he was way too tired to deal with it that evening. The store was closed on Sunday and I worked Monday. I thought for sure we were going to miss out on this nearly perfect piece of furniture for our house.

Then, Colleen said she would go buy it for me on Monday morning and put it on hold so Bryan could pick it up later that day. She wanted to go to Costco so it wasn't too out of her way. I called the store that morning to ask if they could put it on hold for me and they said they could only hold it after it had been sold. So, Colleen was our only hope! After swinging by my work to pick up $100, she left and I waited to hear the news. A while later she called me and said it was still there and she bought it... but when she had walked up to it, she noticed that there was an additional sticker on it. That beautiful, blessed sticker marked down the dresser to HALF PRICE.

I thought she had to be kidding. There is no way I was now the proud owner of a piece of furniture that I had been looking for forever and it was only FORTY DOLLARS.

But it was. And I was. Proof:

Finally, my long and tiring search had paid off. My father-in-law had to go to Visalia that day anyways, so Bryan went with him and they loaded it up and brought my new furniture baby home. Colleen and her husband Jordan came to help us move things around and get it in place. I love it. It holds ALL of our DVDs, with a little room to grow. It's the perfect height and length.

Lets do the before and after:

I know it's hard to see with the vase in the way, but there is the so-called long dresser with the two DVD towers next to it.

And here is a terrible picture of it once we got it into place. The accessories have changed already and it looks better. Maybe I'll try to get a better picture of it right now. 

That's not really a great picture either but it gives you the idea of what I'm going for. I have yet to find suitable lamp shades for my World Market lamps. It's harder than I thought to pick out lamp shades!

Anyways, I got a nice piece of furniture that can easily be updated if I so choose. Right now, I like it how it is, although I probably will replace the knobs. Oh, we took out a drawer to house our cable box, Wii, router and PS3...I'm hoping to reuse the face of the drawer so we have the ability hide them. I'll keep you updated on how that progresses.

Moral of the story; good things do come to those who wait. I was patient and picky but it paid off. Woohoo!

Friday, February 1, 2013

We Have a Post with a Point! #winning

I'm just going to get right into it since yesterday was an epic word-fest. I went to Target and I bought two different products out of the plethora of options that the Mead Organizher line has.

 I chose the Expense Tracker:

 and the On-The-Go Family Planner.

I love the pattern and color on the Family Planner but the Expense Tracker is kind of...yellow? I wish they matched. Maybe I'm being overly picky but since I bought these two and they are the same brand it would have been nice for it to be identical.

But I got over it pretty quickly once I got inside these bad boys. I'm going to start with the Expense Tracker. This is just a general overview (with too many pictures) because I haven't used it yet. I plan to wait until January is over, right in all my amounts and expenses then base February's budget on what we spent on January, cutting and trimming all the places where we can to get us on track.

You start with a bigger than 8.5x10 three "ring" binder. The front and back cover are plastic. What is interesting is that the binding a canvas type cloth... I'm assuming so you have lots of room to fill it up with bills, receipts, etc.

You are greeted with a plastic folder to hold loose papers, notes, coupons, or whatever works for you.

They include a template that shows how to use the expense tracker. It gives you a few ideas on how you might want to utilize the page, which is nice.

On the back of that page, it shows who to use their budget spreadsheet. It's all very basic, but nice information to have.

Next, there is a three year small calendar page and the back is lined for notes (not pictured)

Okay, here is where things get cracking. Each month starts with a pocket folder with a undated Monthly calendar. You would use this to store bills that need to be paid and you would jot down when a bill is due on your calendar to keep everything nice and organized.

The back has a pocket for Receipts that will make for easy tallying later.

The Checklist and Expense list is next. I like the checklist for reminders, but I don't know about anyone else but Bryan and I put everything on our debit cards for easy tracking. The space for expenses is not great, so I would reserve that for the bills that are paid monthly and/or regularly. Like a mortgage, credit card, card, school meal account, cable and student loan bills. If you have a lot of these, great news! On Mead's website you can download more pages and the Expense List is one of them. Definitely a great tool!

Now, you are at the meat of tracking your budget. Mead anticipates your standard bills and leaves you room to add in other items. You have your estimated cost (which sets your budget), your actual cost (which keeps you accountable) and how much you were over/under your budget. It gives you the option to subtotal each individual category and tally it all at the end. The month ends with a lined note page (not pictured).

I'm really excited to use this system. I think it's is a really unintimidating way to start tracking your finances. It's simple, clean, and looks like it takes very little brain power. I will be doing a follow up post on this once I finish February to see how it all worked out.

The second item I purchased was the On-The-Go Family Organizer.

It is probably 5x8 with aluminum spiral binding. It has a sturdy hardcover cover and each undated Month is tabbed. Each month starts out with a small Monthly calendar, separate areas for reminders, to do items and projects.

This is what sold the planner for me. The planners moniker gives you a hint this is truly a family planner. Each day of the weekly section is made up of six subsections. At the top there is a 'mine' section, followed by 'theirs' and finally 'meals'. It's easy to see that they are making it easy for you to keep track of your own personal calendar and that of your families. In the theirs, you would list up to four family members to easily keep track of dentist and doctor appointments, sports events, etc. What I loved is that this could easily be changed for a busy woman with different time-suckers. More on that later.

Towards the back you have a place to store website/blog information and passwords.

A dedicated spot to keep a list of books to read and movies to watch...

And a quick reference guide to birthdays and holidays by month. (Love this feature - wish it was in the front though!)

Mead even supplies you with a bunch of colorful labels to use to make things easy. You'll find labels for pretty much everything here, like the first/last day of school, winter break, spring break, doctor/dentist visits, anniversaries, oil changes, HOA dues and even prescription refill reminders!

Color me impressed, Mead. It didn't take me long to swoop this up along with the expense calendar, even though we only have one son and he's not going to have too much of a busy schedule for a while... well, beyond the eating/sleeping/pooping schedule babies tend to keep. :)

I immediately knew that I could alter this planner to fit my busy life. Here is how. I opened up the planner to the very beginning, January. I left the 'mine' portion of the weekly calendar and went directly to 'theirs'.

I filled in the different categories of my life that needed to be organized. I chose Work, CASA, Breakfast, Lunch and then under 'meals' wrote Dinner. Like so:

Right now, these are the biggest areas of my life. I need to be organized at work to get ready for maternity leave and make sure pregnancy brain doesn't jack me up too bad. I chose CASA because I needed a place to write when I had appointments, In-Service's, Court days, etc. I also needed to be able to see how this would conflict with my schedule personally and at work. Finally, I broke my meals up into Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner because since I'm pregnant, I need an eating plan. It's really easy to just forget to eat during a crazy day. This is also extremely helpful because we are doing the Bradley Method, which requires you to track your meals. This keeps everything in one place so filling out my forms is a breeze. It's a huge stress reducer.

This planner is mostly un-dated, which means you before you can start logging the important information, you  have to go through and number all the days. I don't really mind this because it allows anyone at any time to start using this planner and get their lives organized.

It is time consuming though. Also, I found annoying is that the actual weekly pages don't have a place to put the day's number, so I just wrote it in at the top. Not having the weeks pre-numbered means that you have to flip back and forth between months when they don't end on a Monday. For example, February starts on a Friday. So I would have four days in the January section and three days in the February section, so I would have to constantly flip back in forth. I decided to note: LOOKING AHEAD at the top of the 'mine' section on February 1-3, and double entering my schedule in the February section.

Unless you create your own planner from scratch (hey, i did that!) and can afford to have it printed (hey! I can't!) then you are going to have to "settle" for a big box product. I've tried many a planner in my day and this was is by far the most customizable and organized planner I've had. I am willing to skew it a little to make it work for me.

It's worth noting that I also purchased a package of different colored pens, which I intend to use in addition to pencil to keep things nice and color-coded. Once I find the rhythm in my schedule, I'll be jotting things down in colorful colors to enhance the at-a-glance factor of this planner.

Wait! There is more!

We gotta talk cash money, baby. How many beans did this system set me back?

Dolla-Dolla Breakdown:

On-The-Go Family Planner - $9.99
Expense Tracker - $15.99
Pens - $6.24
Toothpaste - $2.99
Discount - $1.76 (Target Debit Card 5% - What WHAT!)
Total: $35.96

You could potential save $3 if you husband doesn't need toothpaste when you purchase this system. That's a bonus!

When you look at the alternatives I had ($50 Erin Condren or $80 Megan Vickers planners) and not doing anything (not even an option) thirty beans isn't that bad. It's definitely an investment you can afford to risk to see what the benefit with be to your life.

I've only had my planner in operation for a week and I feel less stressed. I'm excited to get a budget together because it's not going to be a painful, hair-pulling experience. To me, that is worth $30.

I'll keep you updated on how the planner works after the "glow" wears off and how I do with the expense tracker.

Do you have a system for your budget or a personal/family planner? Do you just use the calendar on your phone? Let me know!