anchored in light

anchored in light

A lifestyle blog about finding light in every avenue of life

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

How I Use a Prayer Journal

A few weeks ago Brian's little sister was in town with her family. It was fun because his sister had a baby girl only two months before we had Everly, so they finally got to meet each other. While they were here her husband brought up that they had to speak in church that Sunday and Brian's sister's topic was her prayer journal. 

I have tried keeping a prayer journal for years, but have never found a way to be very consistent. While I do feel that I connect best through writing, it just takes a lot of time to write out your prayers every day. I also tried another setup that I'd seen on Pinterest, but this also seemed to take too long. However, when we started talking about what her prayer journal looked like, it sounded like the perfect set up for me. Basically, you just pray like you normally would, but then afterward write down any impressions you get. It gives the Lord space to talk back to you. I modified the idea a little bit and have been using it for a few weeks now and it has worked out so well for me. 

There are three basic parts to my prayer journal.

1. Prayer Roll
I got this idea after Brian talked about how our ward has a prayer roll. I had never occurred to me that I could do that as an individual. Prayer rolls are something that we have in our temples where we write down the names of people we know that are struggling or sick or in need of some extra prayers. So each Sunday I sit down and I think about who in my life might need extra prayers for the week and I put their name on my prayer roll. Then when I am saying my prayers I look at the list and make sure that I include each of them. I don't use this journal all day long, mostly just for my morning prayer.

2. Concerns
I don't know if you've read Present Over Perfect by... but she has a beautiful chapter in there about prayer. She talks about pouring out the vinegar to get to the oil. In other words, telling God all the things that you are concerned about, the things that weigh heavy on your heart. Once you've done that then you can get to the rich oil. The good part that we crave. So again, on Sunday I write out my concerns, the things that are weighing heaviest on my heart. It helps me focus on what I can work on to fix them as well as just getting them out there. There is something so therapeutic about taking my biggest worries and giving them to God knowing that if I can do something about them, then he'll help me to fix them. 

3. Inspiration
I put this on the back of my page and throughout the week after my prayers, I write down what comes to mind. Then I make a conscious effort to do the things that I write down. Because I use this journal every morning, I see what is on the list that I haven't done yet and it reminds me to keep working on accomplishing those things. Some examples are, text a friend, plan a night to hang out with so and so, get back into writing, start doing family history... Sometimes I'm unsure of whether or not it's just me making up things that I want to accomplish, but as long as it's a good thing I put it on the list.

This past Sunday in church one of the speakers talked about how when we pray we should not just tell God our problems, but ask ourselves what we can do to fix those problems. So I also try to listen for inspiration with the thought in mind of how can I help fix my concerns? Is there anything that I can do to help those who are on my prayer roll?

I also include in my prayer journal what I need to be praying for Brian about. We still do couple council every Sunday and one of the questions we ask each other is how we can pray for them that week. It's really easy for me to forget what Brian has asked me to pray for him, but I want to pray for him, so this helps me to see it and remember each day.

I feel like I am constantly learning how to pray better and how to feel more connected to my Savior. I feel like prayer has always been something that I have struggled with, which is why I am always trying to work on making it a habit as well as something that I want to do and look forward to. It's probably something that I will need to work on for the rest of my life, but I'm ok with that. 

How do you make prayer more meaningful for you? Have you tried a prayer journal? What has worked best for you?

Click HERE to get your free printable. I've included a half size and a full page layout. 

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Blessings of the NICU

We started off our parenting journey pretty rough. Everly needing to go to the NICU honestly wasn't even on my radar. Even though one of the main reasons that I wanted to have our baby in a hospital (yes, I toyed with the idea of home birth in my mind) was because I wanted that safety net of doctors and people on hand, I never thought that I would have to use it.

So when Everly went to the NICU there were a lot of things that I hated. Most of those things I went over in Everly's Birth Story post, but today I thought that I would detail some of the things that made our lives easier because Everly was in the NICU.

1. Both Brian and I got a decent amount of sleep since she was born.

Because you can't have the baby in your room, and it really isn't feasible to go to the NICU for every feeding through the night, we got at least a 5-6 hour stretch of sleep every night. The nurses don't even want you to come down to every feeding. They encourage you to skip at least one night feeding and sleep and recover.

2. Access to lactation specialists.

I was really worried about breastfeeding Everly since I didn't get the chance to spend that first hour with her. They emphasize how having them latch within that first hour helps lead to breastfeeding success and I didn't even see her the first hour of her life outside the womb. I also knew that generally, you can have a lactation specialist come to your hospital room and help you learn how to breastfeed, but I never had Everly in my room.

Down in the NICU there were several specialists that I was able to work with. They came by and made sure that we were learning how to breastfeed together. Not only that but they taught me about how to establish my milk supply. They told me that I needed to get a 4-6 hour stretch of sleep every night for best milk production, had me pump after every breastfeeding to establish my supply, and told me about how much I should be aiming for in order to have enough throughout our breastfeeding in the months to come. I would have had no idea about any of this if I hadn't been in the NICU. I probably would hardly have pumped at all if I had just had her and started nursing from the beginning.

3. She always knew how to take a bottle. From anyone.

Because I couldn't feed her those first few days, between me being sick and not having my milk come in yet, Brian fed her a lot and so did the nurses. In fact, pretty much the whole time she was in the hospital I would breastfeed her and then they would give her a bottle while I pumped. I generally only fed her from one side because the only way to check and see if she was making her goal of what she had to drink every day was by weighing her before and after I fed her, which wasn't completely accurate. I wanted to be sure she was "getting credit" for what she had to drink, so I fed her and then let her take the rest from a bottle.

Because of this, I've always been able to leave her with Brian or my mom or anyone I trust if I want/need to go somewhere. She's been fine to take a bottle from any of them and she'll still take a bottle from me (which I heard can be hard because they would rather breastfeed).

4. I learned how to leave her.

I'll admit, this was maybe the roughest way to learn how to leave your baby behind. It was hard to be separated from her from the very beginning. However, because of this rough start, I was able to leave her with other people. Brian offered to let me have one night a week for self-care (I HIGHLY recommend this) to do whatever I wanted and get out of the house. Since I'd already had the practice leaving Everly for several hours at a time, it was no big deal for me to leave her with Brian while I went out with friends, or with my Mom, while I went to the dentist. Both because I had to leave her and because of the nurses encouraging me to rest and recover, I was able to let her be taken care of by other people, so I can take care of myself. It also has made it so that if I wanted to leave her with someone so that Brian and I could go have a date night, I've been fine to do that.

5. I learned how to accept help.

When she was born and they took her away, it was out of my hands. I didn't even get the chance to ask for help. She was in the NICU and I couldn't walk. I needed help just to see her. People had to bring us meals. Brian had to help me get in and out of bed and help to get to the bathroom.

I lost a lot of pride when Everly was taken to the NICU, but in a good way. I learned that letting people serve you sometimes does as much for them as it does for you.

6. Everly learned how to sleep through sounds and how to sleep on her own.

A lot of people gave me advice to vacuum near the baby. I think I would have been a little afraid to do something like that if I'd just taken her home right away, but because she was in the NICU I knew that she could sleep through a lot. I'd been there when people were coming in and out and alarms were going off and people were talking. She was able to sleep through all of that. So I knew that she could sleep through it. In fact, the day that she came home, we moved her bed (while she was sleeping in it) and hammered in some nails on the wall above it. She slept through it anyway. In fact, when people came over to visit and she was sleeping, I had to encourage them NOT to whisper.

Also, I knew that she could fall asleep on her own. She didn't need to be held or rocked or any of that to fall asleep. All she needed was to be swaddled and laid down. When she came home she was held so much that she started to believe that she couldn't fall asleep without being held so I had to retrain her a bit, but I'm sure it was nowhere near as hard as it would have been if I hadn't already known she was capable of doing it.

7. The NICU tribe.

It's a club. One you never want to join, but it has some of the most amazing and kindest people in it. Everyone is rooting for each other to succeed and we all hope that we never see each other again (or at least until the reunions they have once a year) because that means that their baby is out of the NICU.

There are so many hard things about having a baby in the NICU and all things considered, we are very lucky that she wasn't sicker and didn't have to stay there longer than a week (even though it felt like a month). I'm grateful for all the nurses and doctors in the NICU that are capable of keeping sick and tiny babies alive and I pray that I never have to go back there again, but I am grateful for the good things it gave us.

Thank you so much for reading! What blessings have you seen from a hard experience?
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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

General Conference Spring 2018

This coming weekend is special for several reasons.

The first being General Conference. General Conference is our opportunity twice a year to listen to our leaders and the Prophet speak to us. It's a chance for us to receive personal revelation for our own lives. It's amazing to me the way that all the talks tend to weave together into themes even though their topics are not assigned. It's also amazing to me the way that I get inspiration for what I need to be focused on in my own life.

Sometimes I go into Conference with questions that I would like answered. Usually, I'm wondering what I should do for my life, or what I should be working on. This last conference I don't remember going into it with any specific questions, but I felt like I was told over and over again that I needed to stop focusing on temporal things. I was pregnant with Everly and I kept looking at all the things that I wanted that I didn't have. General Conference helped me recenter my life on what is most important, not things, but my family and the people that I love around me. I love that I have that chance to re-choose what I really want every Spring and Fall. It's like a more intense version of church on Sundays. Each week I have the chance to recenter, but Conference always seems to take it a step further.

Another beautiful thing about this weekend is that it's also Easter. I love that I am going to get the chance to spend this whole weekend with my family, focusing on what Easter is really about. In our church, we focus on the resurrection of Christ more than the crucifixion. This year is even more meaningful for me because now I have Everly. I love the promise that we will be resurrected and that we can be together for eternity. I can't imagine being separated from her for any great length of time. I can't imagine anything more beautiful than knowing that through the Savior, I can be with her for all time. 

This weekend is a reminder of all the beautiful things and hope in life. I'm excited to see what the spirit can teach me as I listen to conference. I'm excited for the chance to sustain a new prophet. And I'm so grateful to know that Heavenly Father loves me enough to provide this opportunity for me.

Below I've created a simple printable for you to use during General Conference. Even if you don't print it, I encourage you to think about the questions on it!

Click Here to print

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Everly's Newborn Photos

We are 7 weeks in.

I am so in love with this little love. I've been so surprised to find how much I love being a mother. I loved babysitting as a child, but when I got into high school it just didn't seem as much fun. It never seemed worth the money and I was always counting down the hours until their parents came home, yet with Everly, I don't like to leave her. Brian has been an angel and once a week he watches her for the night so that I can get out for a few hours and get a mental break from being mom 24/7. As much as I need that break (and I do need that break) I still miss her when I go. 

She's a good baby. I do feel like we've been spoiled with her since she was born. We've gotten a fair amount of sleep since we work together with her at night. Brian takes her after 8 or 9 until about midnight and then after that, I take her. 

That being said, we definitely are still figuring out how to be parents. I wish that babies came with a little indicator light when something is really wrong. I was telling my mom the other day that when I was pregnant I was looking forward to when she was born mainly so I could worry less. I was always worrying that she wasn't doing ok inside me, so I thought that once she was born and I could see her then it would be better and I could more easily know that she was ok...
Not true. 
I have a whole new list of worries. Is she eating enough? Is she getting a good routine in to learn how to fall asleep on her own? Is that a rash? Do I need to call the pediatrician about that? Is that a normal diaper? 

So far I've called the pediatrician once. I've cut dairy out of my diet since she was having a lot of green diapers. I've had Brian give her a priesthood blessing once (since we got out of the hospital) because I was so worried about this rash she was getting on her face... 

Being a mother is hard in a lot of ways. It definitely takes a village and as someone on Instagram said, it doesn't just take a village to raise a child, it takes a village to raise a mother. I've definitely felt that. I'm grateful that I've had so much support and that my recovery (minus my pelvis, which is still healing) has been so easy. My doctor even said that between my easy pregnancy, my recovery from birth, and my quick weight loss I was made to have babies and said I could have 8 babies if I wanted (I do not want 8 babies), but it's encouraging that the thing that I've always wanted to do has gone so well. 

I'm looking forward to her babbling more and staying awake for longer periods in the day. I'm especially looking forward to when she regularly sleeps through the night (she slept a 7-hour stretch last week! She also usually sleeps 5 hours straight at night for the first bit then every few hours after that) although I have no idea how breastfeeding mothers ever sleep through the night, SO uncomfortable. If you have any tips on that, let me know ha ha. 

I'm not looking forward to putting away more of her tiny clothes. I've already had to put away a few of her newborn things. I love that she is so small, even though she needs me so much right now. I hope that she always remembers that we love her unconditionally. Even now when she doesn't do much more than eat, sleep, and poop, we couldn't love her more. 

I'm looking forward to more of these motherhood days. 

Thanks for reading! I'm so glad that I can share my sweet little love with you all! :) 

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Problem with "Perfect"

A couple of things happened last week. The first thing that happened was that Brian showed me this podcast about drug addiction in Utah. I'm not really a fan of podcasts in general because I dislike the fact that I can't talk while they're going and I have a hard time paying attention to podcasts. It's the same reason I can't listen to audiobooks, even if I start out with the intention to listen, somewhere along the way I stop listening without realizing it. However, this podcast was interesting because it had an outsiders perspective on my religion and also because it addressed the subject of perfectionism in our culture.

We were listening to it on our way to and from an appointment at Primary Children's Hospital for Everly. I couldn't help but think about our baby sleeping in the back seat and wonder about how we could raise her so that she would feel like she could make mistakes. I don't want her to think that she has to be perfect or feel so much pressure from our high standards that she feels like she can't meet them.

I was pondering this and then I went out later that night with my friend Hatred to Leatherby's (side note: Cheese fries are basically the best thing ever) and we got on the subject of perfection and being the "perfect" child. It's something that we were both labeled as growing up. We both talked about how while this may have seemed like a compliment, it was actually a terrible thing to say to us because it led us to place our self-worth on whether or not we were perfect. 

In fact, I hate the word "perfect." I made Brian stop calling me perfect because it took me back to that place that I was in as a child. 

Let me break it down a little bit, when people call me perfect it makes me feel like they have no idea who I am. While they may be saying, hey, I know about all of your flaws and you are still perfect to me. What I hear is, you have no flaws. I know myself. I know myself very well. I am well aware of the fact that I have flaws. So when someone calls me perfect it makes me feel like they don't know all the things that are wrong with me, and someday they'll find out what's wrong with me, and when they do then I'll no longer be worthy of their love/attention/friendship. 

This perfectionism complex led me to do all sorts of things growing up. I went to bed early because that is what the perfect child does. I did my chores without complaint or argument because if I complained then I wouldn't be the perfect child anymore and then what would be my place in the family? It made me take care of myself when I was sick and never tell anyone when I didn't feel well because the perfect child wasn't a bother. 

Luckily, I feel that for the most part, I was able to find ways to cope with it. I was able to still find ways to love myself even though I knew that I was far from perfect, but I know so many people who it didn't work out that way for. Perfectionism is something that pervades our culture. I don't want Everly to ever think that I will only love her if she doesn't make mistakes, or that her worth to me is based on whether or not she obeys the rules I set out for her or whether she conforms to my preconceived notions of how she might live her life. 

I think that's one of the beautiful things about becoming a mother. I love Everly. I love her completely. Which if you think about it makes no sense. She keeps me up at night, I change her dirty diapers, I endure pain and emotional and financial hardship for her. Yet, I couldn't love her more if she could change her own diapers or if all the things she needed were free or if she didn't take up my free time. I realize how much my love for her isn't based on anything other than she is my daughter. I hope that I can help teach her that. I hope that she can understand that no matter what she does, we will still love her just as much as if she did exactly we wanted. I hope that I can show her the kind of love that makes her understand that not only is it OK if she makes mistakes, I expect her to make mistakes. I hope I can show her that even though I plan on being the perfect mother, I make mistakes too, that none of us are perfect and that's ok. We're all striving and trying to do the best we can and that is enough.

How do combat "perfectionism"? How do you help your children/those around you accept their flaws?
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Monday, March 5, 2018

One Month Update

I can hardly believe that it has been a whole month since Everly was born. In some ways, it feels like it just happened and in other ways, it feels as though we've always been doing this. 

I'll admit that I was a little scared of the Post Partum stage of life. I was warned that I would be exhausted and that I would be overwhelmed. Not to mention that I'd be learning how to take care of a newborn and adjusting to a completely new life while recovering from birth and labor.

I was pleasantly surprised that they were all wrong. I will say that it is in no small part due to all the help and support that I've been given through these last 4 weeks.

I have been so lucky to have the support of friends and family. Most especially my husband and my mom. We've only had to cook twice in the last month because of all the people who have brought us meals.

Brian has been an angel. I'd highly suggest everyone marry a man like him :) He has willingly let me get to bed at 8 or 9 every night and then takes the next feeding so that I can get a good 4-5 hour stretch of sleep. In fact, Everly likes to sleep that long, most of the time he doesn't have to take the next feeding at all because she's sleeping. I'd let her keep sleeping if I weren't worried about her gaining enough weight (she only gained half an ounce at her 2-week checkup).

Not only does Brian let me sleep but he makes sure that I get a shower every other day and watches her exclusively one night a week so that I can take care of me. He'll even get up in the middle of the night to change her diaper for me.

My mom was there every day with us in the hospital and came to my home every day for weeks to make sure that I was ok and recovering. I have no doubt that I might still be using a walker at the least, but quite possibly be unable to walk at all without her help. 

After I came home, I needed my mom more than I thought I would. Emotionally I needed her, probably more than I needed her physically. All those hormones running around left me feeling like normal things took twice as much emotional energy as they normally would have. I cried at least once a day, and I quickly learned that there are songs you should not listen to as a new parent. So far the list includes "Let them be little" by Lonestar and "Never Grow Up" by Taylor Swift. 

Luckily, because I had all this support I never got to the point where I felt overwhelmed. I never got to the point where I felt exhausted. It has helped me to enjoy this time with Everly, to love her and notice the sweet little things about her, instead of resenting the way that things have changed. It has made me enjoy motherhood. It hasn't been easy, but I have loved it so far. Because all these people have given to me, it has filled me with enough to give back. It has made me want to give more to others and to be kinder. I already feel like I've changed so much, for the better. Motherhood has made me more the person that I have always wanted to be, closer to "Ideal" Rachael than I have ever been. 

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Everly's Birth Story

Just before we get started, I'll say this. This is a pretty raw post. It's unedited, just whatever came to mind as I wrote it and I cried my way through most of the end of it. I wasn't sure I could get back through it to edit but I still wanted to tell the story, so here it is. 

I went into labor on Wednesday morning at about 4 AM. Well, really I woke up and went to go to the bathroom and realized that my water had broken. Or, at least I thought that my water had broken. I’d heard so many stories about how your water almost never breaks outside the hospital that I wasn’t really sure I knew what was happening. Especially since I’ve never had a baby before and all sorts of crazy things happen with your body that have never happened before. 
It wasn’t too much longer before I was pretty positive that my water had broken (fun fact, when your water breaks, it doesn’t just gush once and you’re done and at least for me it does feel very much like you’re peeing your pants). I woke Brian up to tell him that I was in labor, but I wasn’t really sure what to do about it. I knew that typically, on tv, when your water breaks, you go straight to the hospital, but in my birth class, I remembered them saying that you don’t go to the hospital until your contractions are regular and about 3-5 minutes apart, which mine weren’t. So I looked it up and then called my mom. She told me to go in and get checked. I ended up calling the doctor and found out that yes, when your water breaks, you go in. So Brian made us breakfast since I knew that once we got to the hospital I wouldn’t be able to eat anything until after the baby was born. We packed up our things and headed out, it was probably around 6 AM at this point. 
We listened to "I’ll Be" by Edwin McCain on the way to the hospital.
Brian wanted her to be born on the 31st so that we could tell her she was born under a Super Blue Blood Moon. 

Once we got there and got checked in, I was feeling pretty good. They confirmed that my water had broken (by testing the fluid on a pad that I’d thrown away) and then started hooking me up to an IV and such. 

Before we went in I was still seriously considering going natural. I’d heard that it was a better recovery and that getting an epidural slowed down your labor. Plus I kind of wanted to prove how tough I was, that I was really an amazing woman because I could do brith without drugs. Especially since when we went in my contractions felt like cramps and cramps I can do. I wanted to prove that I really did have this high pain tolerance. However, once they gave me pitocin and the contractions got harder, I no longer wanted to do things naturally. I couldn’t imagine going hours and hours feeling like that. It was to the point where I was starting to feel sick, so I told them to put me on the list for an epidural.

The anesthesiologist came in within a few minutes after I requested the epidural. I think that was about 10 AM and they got me all prepped. Brian sat somewhere where he couldn’t see just what they were doing so that he wouldn’t pass out and my mom (who got there not long after we did) watched the whole thing. I was a little scared and when they jabbed me to numb the area I pulled away. I remember saying, “Sorry, I’m sorry.” I knew that I couldn’t do things like that when they were working and so I started crying, but managed to stay still for the rest of the procedure. 
Once the drugs kicked in it was wonderful. I had an ideal epidural in that I couldn’t feel my contractions anymore, just my stomach getting harder and then softer again. Not only could I not feel the contractions, but I COULD still feel my legs and move them around. I probably could have walked if they would have let me. 
Then we settled in to wait. They kept coming back to check me and slowly I progressed. Everyone thought that I would deliver by 5 PM, which I was totally ok with! Labor didn’t sound so scary since they took the pain part out of it, and I was ready to meet my little girl. We passed the time by talking and watching the monitors that showed my contractions and Everly’s heart rate. They showed us what it looked like when she was sleeping and when she was awake. My OB came by periodically and checked on me and around 3 PM they had me do some practice pushes, which seemed pretty easy. They kept saying they’d come back and check me when I was further along. 
It wasn’t until 7:30ish that they finally had me start pushing with every contraction. By this point my OB had actually gone home and I was pushing with just a nurse in the room. My mom held my left leg and Brian held my right. I was so surprised that they would have me actively pushing without the doctor being there, but that’s what we did! 
I had never really imagined what pushing would be like. It wasn’t until was doing it that I realized how draining it is. Not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. They said that I was really good at pushing and that it wouldn’t be long before the baby was born, but then at an hour in they gave me a five-minute break and I was spent. I remember thinking that I couldn’t do this forever. My mom later told me that she thought I was strong because I never had a freak-out moment where I said, “I can’t do this” or felt like I couldn’t go on, but the truth is that I felt that at the end of almost every contraction. When we were on the third push and they’d tell me to give it everything that I had for every push, 3 times, every contraction and I felt like I had nothing left to give. In fact, I rarely felt like I was doing anything productive by that third push. All I had left was holding my breath to the count of 10 because my brain couldn’t seem to connect to the muscles that I had been using to push anymore. I’d tell my body to push, but it literally felt like my brain couldn’t get the signal through. The contraction would end and I would just lay there. It got to the point where I felt like this was all I had ever done. Laid there and pushed and got through each contraction. It felt like that was all I would ever do. Logically I knew that it had to end at some point, but emotionally that point disappeared after my OB went home. It disappeared after every time they told me that I was “so close” and yet I couldn’t see my baby’s head in the mirror that they set up for me. I swear it was about an hour in that they said she was so close that her hair was almost born. 
I got really annoyed with just about everyone by the end of labor. Every time anyone said that I was so close, I wanted to punch them in the face. It felt like they were just lying to me to get me to keep pushing. 
Finally, my nurse went and got another nurse. She said she wanted her to check something. It wasn’t until she started talking to the nurse in front of us about how she wasn’t sure that the baby was going to fit under my pubic bone that I wondered if maybe this really never would end or that they’d have to do a c-section. My mom tried asking the nurse about this, but the nurse deflected her question. 
Then the doctor came in, I have no idea how long it was before delivery that he came in, but I think it was about a half an hour. He asked me if I thought that I could keep pushing for awhile. I have no idea what I said in response, but I said yes, because really, what other choices did I have? 
When it came time to deliver her I could actually feel the contractions, not in a painful way, but I could feel the pressure of her on my tailbone. I was pretty sure that I was going to break my tailbone, but I didn’t worry too much about it, I figured that if it broke, it broke, there was nothing that I could do about it. 
I remember when I finally DID see her head, and even then it seemed to take forever for her to get out. They immediately put her on my stomach. I looked at her, hardly believing that she had come out of me, that we had made it, and suddenly they were taking her away.

I thought that they were going to weigh her and take her measurements, even though I’d said that I wanted to do skin to skin. I know that they can hold off on most of the things that they do until after skin to skin, so I didn’t really understand why they had taken her, but I wasn’t worried. 
Not until I looked over and suddenly there were about 10 or 15 people huddled around her. 
The doctor who delivered her was so kind. Explaining to me both what he was doing as he stitched me up and what the people huddled around my baby were doing. Then she was gone. They took her out of the room and all I could do was cry and think over and over, I want my baby back. 
That was the moment when I realized just how wrong everything could go. 
As much as you know that there are chances that there will be complications and that they might have to do a c-section or something like that, I was completely unprepared. Everly had done fine throughout labor. Her heart rate was always good, in fact, she was even taking naps between pushes (at least in the beginning). Even when I thought that they were going to have to take her via C-section, I thought I was pretty guaranteed an hour of skin to skin with my baby. All the things that I had learned told me that skin to skin was important. They even had signs about it around labor and delivery, titling it, “The Sacred Hour.”
Just like that, my sacred hour was gone. My mom stayed with me, I sent Brian away with the baby. I didn’t want her to be alone.
They came in and told me that I wouldn’t be able to see my baby until my epidural had worn off a little bit, it would be at least an hour, maybe two. They also told me that Everly would have to stay in the NICU transition unit for at least 6 hours, during which time she might be able to “test” her way out by doing well enough.
I couldn’t imagine waiting a whole hour to see her, but luckily, the time went by pretty quickly. They transferred me to a wheelchair and took me down to see her. She was laying on a table with plastic sides, already covered in wires and things to monitor her. I remember rubbing her little feet for the first time. 

The people taking care of her were very kind and told me that I could hold her. They put her in my arms and I got to hold her for just a few minutes before we had to go. 

The whole experience left me feeling robbed. Being pregnant is kind of surreal experience. You find out that you’re growing a human inside of you, but at least for me, it never really seemed to hit that I was creating another human being. No matter the evidence, from the growing baby bump to the ultrasounds and the little kicks and nudges that she gave, it all seemed like a dream or something. I was always scared that she was going to be taken away, that I would lose her somehow. Then we went into labor and I was waiting for that moment when they gave her to me, to know that she was mine, that I had made her. When they took her away right after birth, it made it feel like maybe I hadn’t ever really been pregnant at all. I felt completely out of control of what happened to her. It all seemed so unreal, especially since after I gave birth to her my baby bump was virtually gone. It all added to the feeling that she wasn’t going to come back and that it was never real.
Especially when she did earn her way out of NICU and they told us in our room that she was just going to the nursery for a few minutes and then they would bring her to us. And then they didn’t. I never had my baby in my room with me the whole time we were in the hospital. I never held her without wires until the day she was discharged from NICU and just like labor, they were always telling me that she was going to be out soon, and then she would have to stay another day. One problem would resolve and another would take its place until there was a day where I seriously considered walking out of the hospital with her. I wondered what it would take to kidnap my own child from the hospital because she seemed fine to me and they kept placing these restrictions on her, things that she had to do and when she’d done them, they’d give us new ones for what she had to do before she could leave. I had to punch in a code or be let through security doors any time I wanted to see my baby. I had to make sure she ate a certain amount and I had to pump every time I fed her. These were all things that they told me I had to do. I had no say in my child’s care and her life. All I could do is hope that the doctors who were in charge of her were more concerned with making sure she was healthy than making hoops for us to jump through. 
It was especially hard for me because I couldn’t walk after I had Everly. I can’t say for certain why, I’m pretty sure that I dislocated my pelvis during labor, but I never saw a doctor about it at the hospital. The nurses never seemed concerned that I couldn’t even make it to the bathroom from the bed on my own. I requested to see a Physical Therapist, but no one ever came to see me. So if I wanted to see Everly, I had to get in a wheelchair that had almost no padding, be let out through the security doors, down 3 floors and through the labor and delivery doors, down another long hallway and through NICU security doors. Then I had to wash my hands. All before I could see her.
The day after delivery I was so sick from the pain medication that I think I only made it down to see her once. We’d tried to attend a breastfeeding class and had to leave early because I wasn’t feeling well. I remember when we wheeled our way into the class. We’d gotten there late because of the time they were checking my vitals at. The room had maybe 3-4 other couples and I was the only one in a wheelchair. The only one wearing a hospital gown. Which wouldn’t have bothered me so much except that after we left early and I spent the rest of the day in our room I kept Brian with me. I felt like a terrible mother already because not only was I incapable of walking, but I was sick. I didn’t really want to go down to see her because I felt so unwell. Not only that, but I was keeping her father from her for myself. 
Every expectation that I had about what would happen after Everly was born was gone. I had to tell myself not to dwell on all the things that were taken away from me, or the fact that for the first few days of her life, she saw more of the nurses who took care of her than me or her dad. 
I couldn’t even let myself really hope that they were going to let her leave when they finally decided that she was doing well. Even after we went through all the hoops that you have to go through to get discharged, the videos we had to watch, the powerpoint presentation that we had to go through, the car seat test that she had to pass. Even after they gave us the “official go ahead” to take her home, I kept waiting for them to pull the rug out from under us again. I kept waiting for something to happen that would mean that she had to stay. I was convinced that we were never going to get out of there. Even when we were waiting in the lobby after they’d done their little graduation ceremony where we took pictures of her leaving and the board they made saying that she graduated, and all I had to do was wait for Brian to bring the car around, I felt like they were going to take her back. I felt like there was no way that we could really be taking her home. 

On the way home, we listened to the same song that we’d listened to on the way to the hospital and I just lost it. The lyrics were way too close to home and I was still somehow worried that Everly wasn’t going to be with us.
I still worry that she’s going to have to go back. With every person that comes to visit her I worry that they are carrying some kind of virus or bacteria that even though they aren’t sick, is going to get Everly sick and that they’ll take her away from me again. 
Slowly I'm working on knowing that she is going to be here with us. I'm a little less worried about them taking her away, although whenever she sleeps too long it still makes me nervous. 
Being part of the NICU parent club is not a club I ever wanted to join, but I am grateful for all the nods and kind words that complete strangers gave to me as we passed each other on the way to see our babies. 
I'm so grateful that she's home with us and that we can see her anytime we want and most grateful that she is healthy. 
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