Organic Cotton: Worth the Investment?

Organic Cotton: Is it Worth the Investment?

When I first found out that I was pregnant, one of the things I was determined to be a stickler about was clothing my child in organic cotton. It’s no secret that the cotton industry is famous for their use of pesticides and is a major contributor of environmentally disrupting chemicals, and this simply wasn’t something that I was willing to subject my child to. However, with more research and thinking, I have slowly changed my tune- and I want to tell you why.

First of all, there is no governing body over what can be called ‘organic cotton’. Much like we face in our quest to eat real food, gluten free, or all-natural, companies can claim organic cotton when that might not be what they are actually producing. Which leads me to the next point: a truly organic cotton garnet is actually very hard to come by. Even clothing from companies that claim to use organic cotton is often dyed using commercial, chemical-based dyes that basically undo any benefit that there may have been to choosing organic cotton in the first place. There isn’t anything regulating this, either- so you may purchase a onesie that is made with organic cotton, but is printed with horrible chemicals, and nobody has to disclose that to you.

Organic cotton may not be all that necessary, anyway. Many of us are familiar with the ‘dirty dozen’ and the ‘clean list’ when produce shopping, which helps us know what fruits and vegetables are worth spending extra money on to buy organic. This is largely based on which fruits and vegetables have the most residual chemicals and pesticides by the time they get to our supermarkets. This has to do with a number of factors, but mostly the makeup of the fruit itself. For example, potatoes and onions are important to buy organic, as they have thin skins and grow underground, and thus absorb whatever compounds are present. In contrast, avocados are not nearly as important to buy organic, as they have thick skins and grow on trees, so it is harder for them to absorb chemicals. Cotton is very similar to the avocado- it is grown above the ground and encased in a hard shell, breaking open only when it is about to be harvested. Thus, the amount of chemicals and pesticides that are in the final product is actually pretty negligible.

What may be more dangerous for our children, instead, are unnatural fibers and blends. Things like polyester, spandex, and rayon, while they are very soft and comfortable, are made of chemical compounds and plastics– the very ones that we are trying to avoid. In contrast, choosing a 100% cotton garment guarantees the purity of the materials that your child will be exposed to. While there may be a negligible amount of chemicals, at least it isn’t composed entirely of them.

Innovations in textile production have enabled fabrics to be made of things like bamboo and even wood, but the processes to make these fabrics are questionable in terms of environmental impact. While bamboo and wood can be sustainably sourced fairly easily, it seems that the final product is so far removed from the original that it probably isn’t as environmentally friendly or sustainable as it may originally appear.

So what’s the answer to this clothing dilemma? For us, it’s hand-me-downs and secondhand stores, followed closely by 100% cotton. Buying secondhand or receiving hand-me-downs keeps us from pouring money into the industries that we don’t want to support- even the cotton industry, which is still a culprit for environmental damage.

Do you have standards that you try to adhere to for your children’s clothing? Or do you feel like it’s too much trouble than it’s worth?

This post was shared with Wellness Wednesday!

Don’t Surround Your Baby in Plastic!

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One thing that has always worried me a little bit about the typical baby’s life is the amount of plastic they are surrounded with. From swings and jumperoos to high chairs and diapers to an incessant amount of toys and tethers, it seems that everything the modern baby touches is plastic! In light of recent studies about the dangers of BPA and the chemicals that are leached from plastic in general, it seems only fitting that we should look for healthier and more sustainable alternatives to plastics for our children.

Lucky for us, there is a surge of artisans waiting to make our babies beautiful wooden toys, playlets, and high chairs! Not only are these items perfectly designed, but they are often sustainably sources, made by individuals in small companies, and are of heirloom quality. Of course, that means a higher price point, especially when compared to China-manufactured big box store toys. This begs the question: is it worth it, this quest to avoid plastics? Let’s take a look at the benefits of choosing wooden toys:

Healthier for your child. BPA has been villianized in recent years for it’s hormone-disrupting properties and cancer-causing agents, and rightfully so. But in addition to this, there are many other chemicals of concern in plastic toys, which often require batteries, are of concern for off gassing, and are regularly recalled for safety concerns. Wooden toys, void of these chemicals and never requiring batteries, can set our minds at ease.

Less environmental impact. Plastics rely on the crude oil industry, and take years to breakdown, if they break down at all. Many wooden toy manufacturers, in contrast, focus on using sustainable methods to source their wood, using wood sources that grow back easily or even that are somewhat of a nuisance (such as in the case of bamboo). Look for companies that work with the Forestry Stewardship Council! In addition, you can find great companies that not only source sustainably, but use plant based dyes and natural glues if they need to use these things in the design. Many toys are simply carved out of a solid piece of wood, perhaps embellished with a wood burning tool.

Heirloom quality. Plastic toys break, they are designed to. They are created to be a temporary fixation for your child, to be battered and bruised and then tossed away, easily replaced by the next chemical-laden gadget on the market. However, wooden toys are designed to last for generations- and they do. One toy can be passed down as an heirloom and barely look used at all. While the price point may be higher, you get so much more for your investment.

Encourage imagination and cognitive development. While plastic toys are designed to entertain, usually with a very specific purpose in mind, wooden toys have limitless possibilities. A set of blocks can become a princess castle, a boat, a tower, grocery store items- the possibilities are limitless. This flexing of the imagination paves the way for heightened cognitive development and encourages the child to think for themselves and be independent.

Here’s some of my favorite wooden toy companies:
Tegu
Grimm’s Spiel und Holz Design
Plan Toys
HABA Toys
Little Sapling Toys

On the whole, I would so much rather my child be surrounded by wood than by plastic. What do you think? Are there plastic toys that your child just couldn’t live without?

Infertility and Miscarriage Resource Roundup

infertility roundupHello, friends!

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Month. As a result, there have been countless bloggers offering their own stories of loss, grieving, healing, and honest looks at their fertility journeys. After sharing my own story last month, I was blown away (and continue to be) by the response. So many women go through these journeys and just need someone in their life to tell them that they aren’t alone, to share their story with them.

The following is a roundup of some great blog posts on Infertility, Miscarriage, and a special section for those of you who may not be dealing with either, but want to learn how to be a better friend to those who are. These are also great words to share with friends who, ahem, maybe need a little more grace in their dealings with you. I hope that you are encouraged, that you find truth and hope, and that we can continue to speak candidly about our journeys.

Blessings,
Karli

INFERTILITY

Amanda at A Royal Daughter (though recently, joyously pregnant) has been blogging through her infertility journey for several years. Her honest and yet Christ-centered approach to the journey of her family echoes the attitude I think many of us wish we had. She is vulnerable and yet encouraging, writes straight from her heart, and never fails to give the Lord glory. Click here to read many of her posts regarding her journey with infertility.

Natasha at Kindred Grace shares a beautiful reflection on facing Mother’s Day as an infertile woman, with an especially heartwarming story about a donkey!

Faith of Modern Alternative Pregnancy shares Jenn’s story of infertility and adoption. Jenn is honest about her physical struggles, and the process of surrendering to the Lord that she and her husband had to journey through. You can read Jenn’s story here.

Alex at Mama Say What shares a poignant post on secondary infertility after the birth of her son. Secondary infertility is discussed even more rarely than primary infertility, and I am thankful for Alex’s faithfulness in sharing her story, especially while in the midst of questioning and processing. You can read her thoughts here.

Sarah of Sarah Writes shares her journey of miscarriage, infertility, and the eventual adoption of her Happy Baby. I especially love how she encourages women not to be ‘named by infertility’- it is so easy to allow ourselves to be defined by this, but we can’t! Read Sarah’s story here.

Katie at Clomid and Cabernet shares marriage tips for surviving infertility together. Her tips are practical but important. The C&C community is a very encouraging place- check it out when you have a free moment. Read Katie’s tips here.

MISCARRIAGE

Julie at A Little Bit of All of It has been an honest and faithful voice to this subject for some time now. Her blog includes many vulnerable and heartfelt stories of loss, hope following, and the many complicated emotions that come along with healing from miscarriage. Click here to find all of her posts.

Kristen of Smithspirations experienced a loss a few years ago and has been sharing her thoughts through her healing and grieving ever since. Her post entitled ‘The Invisible Loss of Miscarriage‘ is like reading my own story. Here, she shares her reflections around what would’ve been her due date, including a beautiful letter to her child.  I’m so thankful that she has been faithful to share the journey the Lord has lead her on.

Amanda at A Royal Daughter shares several resources that are helping her through her healing process after suffering a miscarriage earlier this year.

Sara of A Mama’s Story shares her thoughts on overcoming feelings of guilt or judgement after a miscarriage on Modern Alternative Pregnancy. I think this is incredibly important, as I know that I dealt with those thoughts, and though they are unnecessary, many times they are unavoidable, too.

A guest writer on Modern Alternative Pregnancy shares her thoughts on experiencing a missed miscarriage, and the emotional toll that that can take on the mother. This is what happened with my husband and I’s baby, and I found her post extremely thorough- especially when an MMC is a foreign concept to many. You can read this post here.

FOR FRIENDS & FAMILY

Kristen of Smithspirations offers a beautiful post on how to support someone who has experienced miscarriage.

Amanda of A Royal Daughter shares a heartfelt, two part reflective letter to moms on behalf of infertile women. She also shares her thoughts on Mother’s Day here.

Amy at The Messy Middle writes a compelling open letter to pastors on how they approach Mother’s day. I personally think all pastors should read this- maybe you should forward it to yours?

Whitney Cornelison of Modern Alternative Pregnancy writes a thorough and well-thought-out post on helping children grieve the loss of a sibling here.

Virginia of Georgetown, MN shares her experience making a memorial quilt for a friend who suffered a loss, via Modern Alternative Pregnancy.

Alex at Mama Say What shares a thoughtful post, ‘10 Ways To Support A Friend Dealing With Infertility‘. More than just a list of things ‘not to say’, Alex encourages friends to educate themselves, support their friends through treatment plans, and best of all to be faithful in prayer.

Kindred Grace: conversations between sisters in Christ

A Little Bit of All of It

AProverbs31Wife.com

Preventative Measures for Winter Health

Preventative Measures for Winter Health- via Feed Me, Mama! It’s that time of year- when everyone is either sick, recovering, or hiding in their home to avoid getting sick. But it doesn’t have to be this way! There are so many small changes and things to implement into our lifestyles that can naturally boost our immunity, cleanse our bodies, and keep us from getting sick. Here are some of my favorites:

Neti Pot. This is an easy one, but really important and effective, especially if you struggle at all with sinus issues and upper respiratory infections! If you’ve never tried it, it can be a little intimidating, but after you get the hang of it it is a soothing daily ritual that cleanses the nasal passages of bacteria and other irritants.

Exercise. This can’t be overstated- regular exercise is imperative for good health, and a little sweating out of toxins is powerful for cleansing the body! Even walking daily (my current routine) makes a big difference.

Hot Lemon Water– this is such an easy, yummy way to start the day. Lemon water is great for digestion, alkalizes the body, fights infection and inflammation, and lifts the mood. And we all need a bit of that this time of year 🙂

Avoiding processed foods and chemical beverages. This is a more complicated topic, and certainly takes more effort as a lifestyle, but processed foods and chemical-laden (read: diet and energy) beverages are killing your immune system! Your body needs whole foods and complete nutrients to be at it’s best to fight off illnesses and keep you well. Processed foods are full of fake things that your body doesn’t know how to process, which uses up your energy that should be used to fight off illness!

Medicinal teas– there are many types of medicinal teas on the market today, but it is also easy (and economical) to buy your own herbs in bulk and mix your own blends. I love being able to go to my tea cabinet (yes, I have a whole cabinet of herbs) and select the herbs that best fit my needs, and drink it up immediately! Echinacea, alfalfa, ginger, sage, thyme, oregano,and nettle are all high-nutrient herbs that support the immune system. I’m currently drinking mass amounts of a ‘pregnancy blend’ that I’ll be featuring on the blog later this week!

OnGuard Oil Blend– this is a beautiful blend that I was just introduced to recently, but I can practically swear by it’s effectiveness. I dilute 1-2 drops of this oil in some coconut oil and rub it on the bottoms of my feet and the back of my neck each morning, and any tiny bit of sickness I feel melts away in a matter of hours. I actually didn’t use it today, and I can really tell a difference!

Other healing beverages– this could include a healthy morning elixir, kombucha, kefir, green tea. Or just drink water! Staying properly hydrated is really important, too.

Fermented foods– Things like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, etc are all filled with probiotics that line the digestive tract and help prevent illness. Though I would say if you are already sick, stay away from dairy, as it is difficult for your body to digest!

Don’t sterilize your life. See this post on how that’s not really helping as much as you think it is 🙂

Acupuncture– this can definitely be used in acute situations to address a specific problem, but acupuncture is very effective at keeping the body finely tuned and promoting general wellbeing. If you need a recommendation and you’re in the Carroll County area, I see an acupuncturist who is wonderful!

Elderberry Syrup– one of the most popular alternative immunity boosters, elderberry is especially renown for helping fight (and shorten duration of) the flu. You can buy commercial elderberry syrup, or buy elderberries in bulk and make your own!

This post has been shared at Thank Goodness It’s Monday at Nourishing Joy, Tending the Home TuesdayWildcrafting Wednesday,  Wellness Wednesday, and Natural Living Linkup!

Taking Initiative Within Your Church Family

Taking Initiative Within Your Church Family- via Feed Me, Mama!

I think that the church today a serious problem with ‘the grass being greener’. I’m a victim, too- I get excited and inspired when I see what other area churches are doing- easter egg hunts for kids, drive thru nativities, open art studios, various ministries and studies and groups, etc. It’s amazing the things that churches are doing for the glory of the Lord!

It’s really easy to cast blame- on many different places. Maybe it’s because your church doesn’t have the right building. Maybe it’s because theres only so many positions to be filled within the existing ministries. Maybe it’s your leadership’s fault. Maybe it’s that one person who dropped the ball on that big project’s fault. Maybe everyone is too busy. No- I think we have a bigger problem.

We have no initiative.

We are so busy looking around at everyone else and pointing fingers that we don’t realize that we are called to become the answer to our own prayers! When we see a need that needs to be filled, our job isn’t to wallow in pity for the people who will be affected, or make excuses that it “isn’t our gifting”, no- our job is to FILL that NEED. If we have ministries that we would like to see in our church, our job isn’t to expect the leadership to read our minds and make it happen for us on top of everything else that they are doing- our job is to get out of our seat and become that leader. Our job is to serve. To worship. To build the Kingdom, to build community.

I heard a quote recently that really struck a chord with me, particularly in thinking about our church. “When you feel that the grass is greener, your call is probably to water the grass you’re standing on.” How incredibly convicting! How many times to we neglect our own responsibility and simply look on to more attractive things and get stuck in a cycle of self pity?

So what is it that you’re longing to see? What are you yearning to be a part of? What are you passionate about?

Does it break your heart that theres so few youth workers, or nursery workers, or worship leaders? What are you doing about it?

Do you wish you had more church-wide fellowship opportunities? Could you and a few friends plan one?

Is there a study that you would like to see led? Could you lead it?

Do you want to see more small groups or home-based fellowships within your church? Could you open up your home and start one?

Want to see a group for people of similar interests or vocations- maybe for people who own their own businesses, or MOPS, or adoptive parents? Could you talk to those other people and set a date?

The call to action is simply at this point- ACT. Just get going! Make things happen! Bring the vibrancy that you long to see in your congregation into fruition. Take your passion and turn it into a blessing for others. Take your God-given gifts and use them to build up the church like you’re supposed to. Remember that the church is NOT a building, its a COMMUNITY, and it’s everywhere. It’s you, it’s me, it’s all of us, and it only functions properly when we are all being obedient. Go!

What To Do When You’re Unhappy In Your Church Home

What to Do When You're Unhappy In Your Church Home- Feed Me, Mama!

There’s a little saying that I’ve been hearing around recently- “bloom where you’re planted”. It’s cute to hear and conjures up images of little flowers in springtime, but in reality, this is a very difficult thing to live out! I’ve been meditating on how this phrase can apply to my own life, especially in relation to ministry opportunities.

A friend posted several subsequent quotes as Facebook statuses today regarding churches. These hit me hard!

“Church hopping is the equivalent of speed dating. It’s consumeristic and shallow.”

“There is no “perfect church” so ask Jesus how you can serve to make yours better so more people can meet Him.”

As someone working in ministry (and with family in ministry), it is amazing to me how often I see this situation- people searching for the perfect church to meet their needs, hopping from place to place with a pros and cons list, or leaving a church because of one thing or another. It’s become too easy to simply switch churches, and I believe that it grieves the heart of the Lord.

Just as we teach our children that dating must be taken seriously because large-scale breakups are very much like ‘practicing divorce’, I believe that church-hopping and general ‘serve-me’ attitudes towards church bodies are creating an unhealthy culture within the family of God that doesn’t actually foster family at all- it fosters division.

In the new testament, division, conflict, and disunity run rampant within the fledgling communities of the Way. And yet, you never see Paul advising church members to go and find another body that will suit them better. Instead, Paul is the champion of conflict resolution, difficult accountability, and tough love. He doesn’t sugarcoat his words to the church, but instead admonishes them to maintain their unity and work together to continue being the Kingdom of the Lord here on earth.

How often do we follow this example in our own churches? As my friend said, there is no perfect church. There will never be a church that wonderfully fits every need of your family and has the perfect sermons and worship and service opportunities and community. There will always be something lacking. So, what do we do about it?

PRAY. As the saying goes, we must seek out the reason that the Lord has placed us within the congregation He has and ‘bloom where we are planted’. Many times we spend so much of our thought life wallowing in what we don’t like, or thinking about the next step, that we miss the opportunities right in front of us.

HUMBLE OURSELVES. One of the most toxic phrases floating around the church today is ‘I just wasn’t getting fed’, or, it’s cousin, ‘our needs aren’t being met’. When did being a church member become all about us, and what we get out of it? Yes, our churches should foster healthy spiritual development. But this development should come when diligently seek ways to serve one another, use the gifts the Lord has given us to uplift the body, and function as an accountable member of the body. It should be more about giving than receiving.

MEET WITH LEADERSHIP.
If you have serious concerns with something that you feel your church is lacking, I urge you to meet with the leadership of your congregation and share your heart with them. It’s very likely that they are aware of this lacking, and that it grieves their heart as much as it grieves yours. Rather than simply leaving your congregation to find a place that meets your need, try to set a plan in motion to see that need met within your church body. And don’t forget to ask yourself what your role can be in meeting that need, too!

BE DISCERNING. I will be the first to tell you that there are definitely times and places to leave a congregation. False teachings, major character flaws and corruption in leadership- we have to take responsibility for our spiritual development. That said, I fully believe that if the Lord is leading you away from your congregation, and you have gone through the above steps with your concerns, He will give you peace about that transition, and the ability to leave gracefully and without leaving conflict and dissension in your wake.

Friends, I encourage you, do not take your church home lightly. If you are already rooted somewhere, it should be a very, very big deal for you to leave. If you aren’t, it should be an emotional, serious process for you to commit to a church home. But have faith- the Lord knows what our churches need, and He desires unity and growth among His people. Seek His way for you and your family, and He will make it clear!

AProverbs31Wife.comTending the Home Tuesdays

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Oil Pulling- Your New Morning Routine

I spoke last week about how I really miss detoxing, so I’ve been folding in ‘everyday detox’ measures into my daily routine to help avoid the buildup of toxins during my pregnancy and help support my health in general. Here’s one you may not have heard of, but you definitely need to give a try!

When I lived in Florida, I spent a brief period of my natural health learning studying Ayurvedic medicine. This is normally associated with Indian/middle eastern culture, and is completely fascinating in how far removed it is from western tradition, yet how completely effective it is! Many common health tricks (such as the Neti Pot and starting the morning with warm lemon water) have their roots in Ayurveda, but there are many Ayurvedic traditions that are not as well know. Oil pulling is one of those- it was on my radar for a few months, then I forgot about it until I got involved with a stellar group of crunchy mommies on Facebook, many of whom are devoted oil pullers!

HERE’S WHAT TO DO:
Swish 1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil (or another lighter healthy oil, some like sesame) around in your mouth for 15-20 minutes. Don’t let it get in your throat, though- no gargling!
Spit the oil into the toilet and flush the gross stuff away. Don’t spit in the sink- the oil can clog the drain!
Rinse with warm water.

POSSIBLE BENEFITS OF OIL PULLING:
Remineralizes teeth and prevents cavities and tooth decay
Pulls bacteria, parasites, congestion, and mucus out of your system
Coats teeth with anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antiviral goodness from the coconut oil
Clears skin on the face
Gently cleanses the system of bacteria and parasites
Relieves congestion in the sinuses and mucus in the throat (similar to kapalabhati in yoga)
Heals chronic skin disorders such an eczema, psoriasis, and tinea versicolor
Gently whitens teeth and strengthens gums
Helps alleviate arthritis
Gently detoxes the liver

I’ve been oil pulling semi-regularly for a few months now, and I really do love it. It takes some getting used to (the texture of oil in your mouth is likely a foreign one haha) but the effects are undeniable! I have struggled with bleeding gums since being pregnant, but much of that has disappeared since I’ve started pulling. My mouth feels cleaner, my skin is very clear, and much of my chronic sinus congestion has been kept at bay. In short, I’m a believer!

Library Date Night

Free & Fun Library Date NightOne of the most important parts of my marriage is having regular date nights. We learned very early on that if we weren’t intentional about spending quality time with one another, and continuing to ‘date’ each other (anyone who knows our story knows how funny that is), we would quickly find ourselves spinning into miscommunication and not loving one another well.

Though out hectic schedules don’t allow for us to have one regular, sacred date night per week (if yours does, luck you!), we do try to have a special date night every week, or at least every other. Usually this involves some type of coupon or gift card for dinner and then watching a movie at home. This week, however, I stumbled across some ‘date night idea’ blogs on Pinterest, and they inspired a super fun night out for us!

I will fully admit that this date was very much created to the tune of this blog post from Singing Through The Rain, which was inspired by this post from The Dating Divas. All this to say, it’s clearly an awesome idea, but the general concept of it definitely isn’t mine, so go explore those blogs and get some fun date night ideas of your own!

Matt and I had dinner (with a gift card haha) and then ran some errands before ending up at our local library, just down the street from our apartment. I had prepared several cards that each had a few ‘tasks’ on them, like these:

-Find a recipe you want to make for your spouse
-Find your favorite childhood book
-Find a book that details your dream vacation
-Find a joke book that your spouse will think is funny
-Find a movie that your spouse will want to watch tonight
-Find a CD that your spouse will be excited about
-Find a magazine that you think your spouse would like a subscription to
-Find a poem that describes the current state of your relationship
-Find a book on a subject that your spouse would like to learn more about
-Wildcard: give your spouse an assignment, and they give you one back

I made two of each card, so we were always searching for the same things. When we found what we needed on each card, we would meet back in a corner with some armchairs and share what we had chosen for one another- in detail! We read our childhood favorite books to each other, shared our poems (which were tear-inducing, darn hormones), critiqued one another’s vacations, and told jokes to each other. I learned things about Matt that I didn’t know before, and I think the same went for him!

On the whole, this provided us with several hours of fun, good conversation, and didn’t cost us a penny. I highly recommend it! This would also be fun to do in a bookstore, where you could chat over a latte and probably have more of a book selection. This just worked well for us 🙂

Do you have a creative date night idea you’d like to share? Email me at karli.feedmemama@gmail.com!

Infertility, Miscarriage, and Hope: Our Story

Infertility, Miscarriage, and Hope: Our StoryYou never think it’s going to happen to you.

I distinctly remembering thinking about this, right around the time myself and 8 other friends got married within a 6 month window. “The odds of at least one of us having trouble getting pregnant are really good,” I said to myself, worried for those around me. Armed with my copy of Toni Weschler’s Taking Charge of Your Fertility, I knew that it wouldn’t be me.

Flash forward about two years, when my husband and I prayerfully started trying to conceive our first child. Several people close to me had recently been through miscarriages, which I figured only bettered my odds of getting pregnant quickly and carrying to term without a problem. And yet, month after month went by, as we did all of the ‘right things’ the ‘right way’, but still, no baby.

Even though I knew several people who had gone through miscarriage, and even a few who were struggling to conceive, words can’t really express the loneliness and isolation I felt during those long months. See, infertility is a silent battle in our churches. For many couples, it is a private struggle for years, with private grief and private wounds. And I understand that- because infertility is an intensely private issue. But I think that there will be major healing in our churches when we are able to put our emotions aside and talk about this issue, because it affects so many families around us, and many times we don’t even know. So I want to tell my story. I understand that a pregnant woman is not usually the one that you want to hear from when talking about fertility issues or miscarriage, but my story is real, the pain I bore (and still bear) is real, and I want to share it with you, in hopes that somewhere down the line, my story brings hope to someone struggling with the same things I struggled with, silently, for months.

Infertility as a medical term and infertility as an emotional obstacle can be somewhat different. The medical community defines infertility as ‘a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse’. For some couples, that can be the longest twelve months of their lives, as the emotional tolls of infertility set in much faster than that. I want to validate those feelings, and say that no two women’s fertility journeys are alike- and the bottom line is that we must support one another, whether a few months or many years into it. I think it was around the second or third month of trying to conceive that the emotions started to creep up in my heart- feelings that something was wrong, that we would never get pregnant, that my body wasn’t doing what it should, that I would never be a mother. Jealousy at the other pregnant women around me, no matter how happy I truly was for them and their growing families. Feeling like I was the only one that had this struggle. Not wanting to talk about it, for fear that naming it would make it real. Each month that passed became more difficult, and hope seemed farther and farther away from my heart.

Much to our surprise, around our ninth month of trying to conceive, we found out that I was pregnant.

Some people, upon finding out they are pregnant, are secretive about it for a while, waiting to tell family for a few weeks and not making anything public until the first trimester was over, in case something were to happen. I was pretty much the opposite of that. I immediately told my parents, called my husbands parents, and drove around Westminster visiting people and making calls for the rest of the day. I was elated. My heart was full. I was going to be a mom.

In the next few weeks, we made many plans for our little birdy. We knew we didn’t want to find out the gender, but we already had names picked out and that we wanted a grey and yellow nursery (okay, my husband didn’t care much about that) and that even if it was a girl she wouldn’t wear much pink because I’m a nonconformist and I don’t want her to feel like she needs to be Barbie. I was choking down leafy greens and red meat and trying to sleep enough but also stay active and do and don’t do all the crazy things you do and don’t do when you’re an expectant mommy. When the time came for my first appointment, Matt and I were elated. A picture of this little life! I couldn’t think of anything more special.

It was July 10. I still remember pacing in the waiting room trying not to wet myself because I was told that I needed a full bladder to be able to see the baby, and I was going to see that little one no matter what! I remember the coldness of the ultrasound gel, the soft lights, and the little bean shape that popped up on the ultrasound screen. That was my baby! Right there! It was incredible. I was flooded with emotion.

But our joy was soon trampled as we were told that things were not right with our perfect little life. Over the next 24 hours, a series of ultrasounds and blood tests confirmed the worst: that though my body still thought that I was pregnant, our little one was no longer growing. On the afternoon of July 11, I received a call and was asked to schedule surgery to remove the baby. It was the worst, darkest day of my life.

My miscarriage is without a doubt one of the most painful, confusing things I have ever gone through in my entire life. Yes, I learned many lessons through that time, and I can see how the Lord used that baby to draw me closer to Him, to trust Him, and to speak to others. But it doesn’t change the hurt. It doesn’t make the grief go away. Even being pregnant again doesn’t make the fact that we lost a baby disappear. I still think about how old our child would be, marveling at the children of friends who had their babies right around when my due date would have been. One of them even named her son what we would’ve named the baby had it been a boy- a haunting reminder of what could have been.

Painful months passed as we continued to process and grieve this loss, with little direction of what that was even supposed to look like. Scripture doesn’t tell us how to mourn a lost baby, and the church, normally silent on the issue, doesn’t help either. Did the baby have a soul? Will I meet the baby in Heaven someday? When people ask me if I have any children, do I include this little one who isn’t with us anymore? Do I stand when all the moms are acknowledged on Mother’s Day? When people ask if we are going to ‘start trying’, do I launch into this tear-jerking tale? Miscarriage leaves you with a mess of questions and pain and very little finality. I still don’t have the answers.

My tiny glimmer of hope through the loss of that baby was that almost everyone I knew that had miscarried got pregnant again within 3 months, and now had beautiful children. “You’re more fertile after a miscarriage,” they would encourage, “it’ll happen.” Well, it didn’t. Three months came and went, then six, and before I knew it, it was February 14th, our due date, and I was a mess of tears in my bed, not knowing if I would ever be a mother, if my body would ever cooperate, if the Lord would ever bless me as He had seemingly blessed everyone around me. I recounted the miscarriage and all of the emotions surrounding the surgery to my husband that night, who sadly had been on the road when everything happened. As we sat and cried together, the Lord brought us closer, and yet the pain continued to grow. The feelings of loneliness and isolation only intensified.

Several weeks later I was diagnosed with a 7-cm mass that was encasing my right ovary and fallopian tube. I was referred to a gynecological oncologist, who seemed optimistic that I didn’t have cancer (which was obviously good) but told us that realistically, I was going to lose half of my reproductive organs, and that there was a chance that the same thing could develop at some point on the other side, as well. I was devastated. I couldn’t even have a baby with all of my organs intact- how was I ever supposed to start a family with only half of them? Both my husband and I felt strongly that our first child would be biological, and besides, adoption wasn’t financially feasible for us (and still won’t be for a long, long time, sadly), and so I just resolved that whatever was going to happen, would happen, and that I just needed to be honest with myself and with the Lord about where I was and what I was going through.

The Lord really met me in that place, in those dark weeks of doubting and questioning. I found myself beginning to surrender, to trust, to just let go of the emotions I was facing, the doubt, the lack of hope, and I just tried to move on with life. As good as that sounds, as I look back, it felt more like giving up than giving over, though that surrender was there, too.

And then it happened- out of nowhere, almost a year after our first pregnancy, we found out that I was pregnant again. We were overjoyed but also completely terrified. That positive test launched us into a frantic week of ultrasounds and bloodwork, trying to make sure that history didn’t repeat itself. I lived in complete fear for the first twelve weeks, always expecting the worst, because that’s all I knew- it was how I protected myself. Every cramp I felt was the beginning of the end- I over thought everything. I could’t help it. I wasn’t even excited for the first ultrasound because I KNEW that something would be wrong, and I would have to start the grieving process all over again.

To our surprise, our baby was perfect. Her heartbeat was strong- though I only saw it for about 2 seconds before I bawled my eyes out for the rest of the appointment. And here we are today-25 weeks into this journey, the little girl is kicking me as I write. What a testimony of the Lord’s faithfulness.

I want to share this journey with you to make sure that you know that you aren’t alone. You don’t have to be strong if you aren’t. You don’t have to hold it together if you can’t. It’s okay to cry, to be angry, to be disappointed, confused, frustrated, scared, lonely. It’s okay to question the Lord and to petition Him honestly. But we must remember that our identity lies in Him and who He has created us to be in this moment. Our hope must lie in Him, and not in medicine or our bodies or our education or the experiences of others.

The months that we spent unsuccessfully trying to conceive, both before and after our miscarriage, were some of the darkest, most difficult months of my life. I felt like no one understood, like I shouldn’t feel those emotions because somewhere someone was in a worse situation than I was, and like I should just suck it up and pretend that everything was fine. But it wasn’t. So I want you to know, again, that you aren’t alone. I am here for you, I understand where you are. There is hope, but the point of this isn’t even the baby at the end. It’s the camaraderie, the community that I want you to know is surrounding you in this. You don’t have to feel alone like I did, because so many women are dealing with this very thing right now, or have dealt with it in the past.

Church, I think it’s time to take off the silencers and tell our stories. We need to fill our young women with stories of hope, yes, but also real stories of tears and grief and the Lord’s redemption and healing. We need to be honest about these struggles so that women don’t have to isolate themselves anymore.

Women, if this is your story, your journey right now, I am here for you. It’s okay to break down, to feel your emotions, to cry, to be frustrated. This is an intensely difficult thing to go through. There is so much pain and emotion and frustration and confusion involved. Be honest with yourself and with the Lord, and with those around you. You’ll be surprised at how ‘not alone’ you truly are, as people start to come out of the woodwork as they hear your story. The community is here for you- we just need to all find each other.

If you’d like to use this blog as a venue to tell your story, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Let’s be a light, a voice of love and truth and healing.

Wise-Woman-Builds Graced Simplicity
thankful thursday

The Paper-Free Kitchen

paperfree

This week, at the prompting of my husband, we made the switch back to a paper-free kitchen.  Yes, back- we had done this several years ago but had regressed back when we lived with my parents for a bit and sharing laundry between 14 people, well…paper was just easier.  But we kept our cloths, and I am thankful!

The basic premise of the paper-free kitchen is just like it sounds- no paper. We don’t keep any disposable dishes or utensils in the house at all, and we have just one roll of paper towels under the sink for emergencies (like a pet accident or something grotesque involving raw meat juices….bleh). Disposable dishes are a big step for many families- but it is a big step for the environment, too. While it definitely takes more time to wash dishes, and you may use more water, you aren’t wasting money on things you’re throwing into landfills, either! Plus, washing dishes is a great community-building activity. One person washes, one person dries, one person puts away, the others stand around and keep them company…it’s like magic. Maybe not, but remember the environment!

Steering your kitchen away from paper towels and napkins is definitely a more daunting task- though I’ve found being prepared for anything makes it a lot easier! We have a variety of different cloths for different purposes:

Hand towels: These are your standard kitchen linen, I’m sure you have some. We probably have 6-8. We dry our hands with these after washing or doing dishes. They are usually decorative and seasonal. Super cute.

Cloth napkins: We do have one set of these (4), but to be honest, we don’t use them that much. We probably should more often. Maybe we’re just clean eaters? We also use placemats, which helps keep the table clean.

Microfiber: for ‘dry-cleaning’ mostly, dusting and sweeping up dirt messes, cleaning off the kitchen table, or giving the floor a once-over with the Swiffer. Also, if there is a big spill, these are much more absorbent than our cloth rags, so sometimes we use microfiber instead. I think we have around 6.

Cloth rags: For us, these are cut-up old t-shirts. We have a big basket of them, probably around 30 or so, which works well for our household of 3. They are thin and we aren’t emotionally attached to them (anymore haha). When we would normally reach for a paper towel or napkin, we instead grab a cloth rag. They work really well with the citrus-infused all purpose spray we use for the kitchen counters! If they get crumbs on them, we give them a quick rinse and then hang them on the oven handle to dry. Once they start to get a little grimy, we take them upstairs and throw them in with our laundry, and replace them with a new cloth. It’s really that easy!

Some people prefer to use all microfiber, which does works great for everything but can be a little bit of an investment. Our shirts were headed to Goodwill anyway, and they have served us well so far! I’m so happy to put them back in action.

So yes, we do keep a roll of paper towels around just in case. But our usage is SO MUCH LESS than it was before, and we are spending much less money! Next step, moving to cloth in the bathroom….maybe when we have a house with a laundry machine 😉

Do you use cloth in your kitchen?