Dear Insurance Company…

Tea ~ Organic Peppermint Tea

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to appeal the following claims:

  1. MTHFR mouth swab test for Charles
  2. MTHFR mouth swab test for Wesley
  3. Boston Heart Diagnostics test for myself that includes MTHFR as well as “exclusive advanced risk and genotyping tests which aid in the selection of appropriate therapeutic options, and a comprehensive offering of lipid, lipoprotein, apolipoprotein, cardiometabolic, liver, kidney and muscle tests.”

These appear to be considered either out of network or that “there is insufficient evidence establishing that the service is generally accepted in the Medical Community and/or proven to be effective according to peer reviewed clinical literature and are not covered.” The most recent tests for Charles and Wesley were to confirm that they indeed have the same MTHFR C677T gene mutation that I learned in December that I have through a completely out of pocked broad spectrum genetic test through Genomix Nutrition. I have 1 copy of this mutation and I believe that as a result of the compromised function of what is called the methylation cycle had become very ill due to a reduced ability to detox and reduce inflammation by 30-40%, resulting in Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. And Charles also has 1 copy of this SNP like I do plus 1 copy of MTHFR A1298C, reducing his ability to detox and reduce inflammation by 50-60%, but what I feared and suspected based on Wesley (currently 10 months old) and his frequent ear infections, reflux and sinus issues even though he was born vaginally at a healthy 10 lbs. and 10 oz. and is exclusively breastfed (sounds like a picture of health, right?) is that he has 2 copies of this gene mutation, reducing his ability to detox and reduce inflammation by 70-80%! He should not be picking up every single little virus and bug that floats around. At 10 months old, he already has a compromised immune system. He was born 4 days after his due date, no complications. He also gets extremely constipated or vomits whenever he eats an enriched food product containing folic acid. See more on folic acid below.


If you look back in my file at June and July of 2014, I got really sick starting 3 months postpartum with Charles in about April of that year with stomach cramps after eating eggs, then it was butter. I chalked it up to new food allergies, but eventually, it didn’t matter what I ate. Eating anything gave me stomach cramps. I ended up in the ER in June after throwing up my breakfast on the CTA in Chicago and nearly fainting, all while carrying my 5 month old in a baby carrier on my front by myself. Conventional medicine said there was nothing they could do for me, until I insisted on an ultrasound, which determined it was that my gallbladder needed to be removed even though I had NONE of the classic symptoms of gallbladder disease other than stomach cramps for 4 hours after eating. Nevertheless, my gallbladder was removed in July and things improved. Fast forward to having Wesley in June 2016 and by September, I was having the exact same pain, in the same spot, with the same foods, for the same 4 hour duration after eating eggs, then butter, then it didn’t matter what I ate, it made me very sick. By October, I was lying on the floor after eating asking my 2.5 year old to bring me my phone to call someone for help. So the thing that was fixed by the removal of my gallbladder was not the fix for the problem after all, only a bandaid. I don’t have a gallbladder anymore, so now what do I do? I’m a 6’0” tall former division 1 volleyball player and coach and I still play sand doubles all summer long. I’m in great shape, but now, I’m 15 lbs UNDERWEIGHT and look extremely unhealthy. Why is that?

The genetic testing that you currently do not cover has given me more light into how my body functions and the folate (B9) deficiency that I have that is required to give my body energy to run all of it’s systems and I believe has caused my autoimmune diseases as a result. Did you know that those with MTHFR gene mutations should NOT take birth control pills because it blocks B vitamin absorption and clogs up the methylation cycle? That would have been fantastic information 10 years ago when I saw more and more issues pop up and the beginning of my health decline. If an estimated 40-50% of the US population has at least 1 of these mutations, don’t you think it would be a good idea and in the interest of BCBS to test these women before writing a prescription for hormonal birth control of any kind in order to save you money on ER visits that appear to be from food poisoning or flu (this happened to me in 2008), new allergies like silicon contact lenses and food sensitivities (started in 2010 and more and more piled up each year) and even infertility (lack of a period for 10 months between September 2011 and July 2012, lack of ovulation for another 9 months after that). I was prescribed birth control to “fix” the fact that I was not having a menstruation cycle in the first place. I asked “why?” back then and I’m so thankful that I did and I did not start taking birth control again in 2012 after I had stopped taking it in 2010 due to the side effects I was having. Birth control is a bandaid just covering up the problem. I had a full allergy panel in 2015 and actually have very few true allergies. These are not allergies, I’ve learned, these are inflammatory responses and sensitivities because I cannot reduce inflammation or detox efficiently and effectively. Stomach cramps? Inflammatory response to food. And guess what else? In the ER in December of 2015 from uncontrollable vomiting, the doctor diagnosed it as morning sickness. I know the difference between morning sickness nausea (which I had been taking Diclegis for and it had been very helpful; oh hello, B vitamins!). This is all a result of toxin buildup and inability to detox. I believe that those with MTHFR are extremely sensitive to toxins, metals and chemicals – on our food, in our water, and even the ethyl mercury and aluminum containing vaccines which are injected into pregnant women without ever having been tested on pregnant women. Women who are supposed to have a DTaP and flu shot every single pregnancy. Why are we giving newborns the Hep B vaccine if we are already testing mom for Hep B during pregnancy? If mom is negative, then there is no reason to give a baby this vaccine until they might be sexually active. I am not against vaccines, I am opposed to injecting toxins into my body or the bodies of my children when we cannot process or remove the ingredients without harm or injury. These need more testing and need some major changes for me to feel comfortable with that. As I ended up in the ER in October after having only WATER that morning (“enriched” with fluoride and chlorine) and the ER doctor absolutely unable to do anything to help me, I am more convinced than ever that genetic testing is necessary. Most of the typical CBC labs will be normal for me and people like me. No one is listening when we say something is wrong with us and most conventional medicine hands you a pill, which doesn’t solve the problem. Medication does not fix vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. Medication does not fix malabsorption and malnutrition. When my IBS symptoms got overwhelming in October, I saw a GI surgeon and specialist. He was elderly and very overweight and said there was nothing I could do except take medication for the rest of my life. When I asked about diet, he said that would not help. How can that be? That with proper diet and nutrition I would not improve? Turns out that without enough thyroid hormone (Hashimoto’s) you cannot make enough stomach acid (IBS) and it requires a lot of your body’s energy to digest food, and where does that energy come from? B vitamins. So let’s stop treating symptoms in the ER and at the infertility clinic and start looking at root causes and asking “Why?” a lot more.


So why appeal this claim? Because it is preventative care. It should have been preventative care 10 years ago for me. And this is now preventative care for my children who should not have to go through what I just went through. And it is now preventative care for my husband, because if Wesley has 2 copies for MTHFR c677t, that means that 1 came from mom and 1 from dad. What do I do to prevent this for them? Contrary to the lab results for my sons that say they should receive folic acid supplementation, that is outdated information. Those with MTHFR need to AVOID folic acid. Folic acid and folate are not the same thing. Folic acid is synthetic and cannot be used, absorbed and converted properly by those who already have a reduced ability to absorb and convert folate, again, just clogging up the methylation cycle and then resulting in many seemingly unrelated health issues. That is a big deal for women in pregnancy because we are recommended folic acid to prevent neural tube defects. While this has improved the instance of neural tube defects and other birth defects, for those with MTHFR (again, 40-50% of Americans), their babies are still at risk for those defects because of the lack of ability to absorb and convert folic acid into useable form. Methylfolate is what pregnant women should be taking as that covers all of the bases whether a woman has MTHFR folate deficiencies or not. I have seen great strides in children with autism or sensory processing spectrum disorders with simple methylfolate and methylcobalamin (B12) supplementation! I also supplement with methyl B12 injections weekly and they have helped tremendously. These are not covered by insurance as they are compounded. My thyroid medication for Hashimoto’s is also a compounded thyroid hormone (t3 & t4), not covered by insurance. I pay out of pocket for these, monthly, and they are very expensive. But worth it so I can be there for my children and not so fatigued I can barely get out of bed everyday, even if I’ve had 8, 10, or 12 hours of sleep and 1-3 naps per day. There’s a difference between being tired and being fatigued.


Thank you for your time and consideration,

Sarah Amidon

How Birth Control Ruined My Life

Tea ~ Mint Kiss

Everyone tells you that “the pill” is the way to go if you are sexually active. So 10 years ago, in preparation for getting married to the love of my life in May of 2007, that’s what I did. But let’s think about this for a second. You’re taking a drug to alter your hormones so that you do not ovulate and reduce the risk of getting pregnant. Is that a good idea? If you have certain genetic mutations like I do, one in particular that 30-50% of the population has, it’s a really, really bad idea. Read more about that in depth in my previous post.

*Disclaimer* I’m not a doctor or medical professional. All I can tell you is from experience and research. Please seek a practitioner for diagnosis, but I am happy to answer questions about my experience!

The resulting symptoms I have now happened slowly, over time. So slowly that I didn’t even know it was happening. About 2 years in, I started to feel like there was something wrong with me. I was fatigued and my personality seemed subdued. Like a brain fog or that I wasn’t all there. I had lost my sparkle. I told Greg that I needed to stop taking it. He wasn’t super thrilled about it, understandably, but I couldn’t handle the reproductive responsibility and burden and had a suspicion that it was causing some underlying issues.

Shortly after I stopped taking them the fog was lifted! Even Greg agreed that it was the right decision. Birth control made me CRAZY! I didn’t even like myself. However, I didn’t have a period for nearly a year from September 2011-July 2012. It was really crummy timing since we were hoping to start a family. It was recommended to go back ON birth control to get my cycle started again. Isn’t that a bandaid and not addressing the root cause? Even when my menstrual cycle started again, I didn’t ovulate for almost another year after that. I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome in 2012, and a test for thyroid antibodies showed that they were elevated and that I should stop eating gluten. What I wasn’t told was that I had Hashimoto’s, not just a gluten intolerance. Elevated antibodies are one of the main test results that reveal hypothyroidism. A week or two after cutting out gluten, I got pregnant with Zeke. I wasn’t officially diagnosed with Hashimoto’s until October 2015, the same day I found out I was also pregnant with Wesley. My doctor told me she did not know how I got pregnant since my progesterone levels were so incredibly low. Between PCOS,  Hashimoto’s AND the MTHFR gene mutation (and a few other mutations that I have), I am super high risk of miscarrying, having pregnancy complications or birth defects in my children. In fact, I have 2 copies of the gene mutation FOLR2, increasing the risk for my children to have spina bifida or other neural tube defects exponentially. I praise God every day for protecting them and me while they were growing inside me. I actually felt AMAZING while pregnant. My Hashimoto’s goes into remission while I’m pregnant. But, unless I want to take up a hobby of surrogacy, that is not a long term health plan for me.

So why is hormonal birth control so bad? Since I have the MTHFR gene mutation, I cannot process or absorb B vitamins efficiently. A 30-40% reduced efficiency to be exact because I have 1 copy of the gene. Those with 2 copies (one from each parent) can have up to a 70% reduced efficiency.  Well, it turns out that birth control pills, rings and hormonal IUD’s block B vitamin absorption, potentially exacerbating something that is already a problem in a relatively healthy individual. Drinking alcohol also blocks B vitamin absorption. Dr. Isabella Wentz is quoted on Wellness Mama:

“Individuals with low activity of the MTHFR enzyme may present with elevated homocysteine levels, which have been associated with inflammation and heart disease, birth defects, difficult pregnancies, and potentially an impaired ability to detoxify.

Nutrient deficiencies in Folate, B6 and B12 have been associated with elevated homocysteine.

Individuals with the MTHFR gene actually have a difficult time processing folic acid that is present in most cheap supplements and added to processed foods. Some professionals claim that this type of folic acid may even cause a build-up in the body leading to toxicity. Studies have been done that showed folic acid supplements increased cancer risk… one more reason to ditch processed foods and your multivitamin!”

So if your prenatal vitamin makes you sick, you may also have issues processing folic acid like me.

It all starts with genetics. We are all predisposed to certain diseases and traits and maybe even malnourishment if you have the MTHFR gene mutation. If we don’t take those into account, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of doctors’ visits and strange, seemingly unrelated symptoms. Many conventional doctors don’t even look at this. I should never have had my gallbladder removed in 2014, 6 months after having my first son. My body was trying to detox postpartum and it couldn’t. Imagine my surprise when the same symptoms, in the same place, for the same reason and with the same foods started happening around the same time postpartum with my second son. Now I don’t have a gallbladder to “fix” the problem. Being malnourished then turns into inflammatory reactions and elevated histamine and homocysteine levels. I remember very specific times in my life where I would randomly break out in hives. Like after a high school basketball game I had just played in in 1999. Hives after 1 or 2 fire ant stings sent me into anaphylactic shock in 2008. Allergies to contact lenses in 2010. The “allergies” kept piling on. I put that in quotations because I’ve had a full allergy panel done and I’m not actually allergic to much. It’s all inflammatory and histamine responses to the slightest thing. Anything can set me off and there is no rhyme or reason to why it did this time and not last time or why it won’t next time. Even fluoride and chlorine in the water I drink has given me stomach cramps or hives after swimming in a pool. Toxins do play a role in how your body reacts as well.

These auto immune diseases are progressive because you are not able to detox, reduce inflammation, get rid of old and dead cells and make new ones efficiently. Unless you get this issue under control, more and more auto immune diseases will wreck havoc on your body. I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome in the fall as well. Now that I’ve seen my genetic mutation results, I now know this is due to the 2 copies of the FUT2 gene. There’s no going back, there is only maintaining and keeping your symptoms under control so you don’t have to live a life plagued with illness.

So if you’ve struggled with random allergic reactions, chronic fatigue and adrenal fatigue, bowel issues including leaky gut, infertility or menstrual cycle problems, you may want to look into this. Taking a cheap birth control pill may result in years of heartache with infertility and great expense with fertility treatments. Taking a methylated B vitamin complex and taking or upping your magnesium citrate supplement are just 2 tangible ways to help your body detox and get back to some semblance of normal.

I have still been struggling with fatigue and anxiety, so please be praying for those to improve. The fatigue I believe to be caused by my 2 copies of the gene mutation SOD2. I need to experiment with manganese as I am likely deficient here too as increasing magnesium citrate (which is necessary to detox) will deplete manganese.

I’ve found that the Low FODMAP diet has been super helpful for me! Even eating healthy bone broth alongside veggie & fruit smoothies, the onions and garlic in my broth and the mangoes and even pea protein powder in my smoothies are high FODMAP foods that irritate the gut of patients with IBS. These are Paleo, Whole 30 and Auto Immune Protocol compliant, so you can imagine my frustration! It’s made a world of difference! Still working out the kinks. There may be a degree in Epigenetics in my future, this information is incredible!

I hope this helps someone. Be encouraged!

So What’s Wrong With You?

Tea ~ Jasmine Pearls

Do you struggle with any of these or know someone who does? Read on.

Fatigue, chronic illness or gets sick easily, food sensitivities or stomach cramps after eating, migraines, miscarriages or unexplained infertility, preeclampsia, pregnancy complications, birth defects, anemia, low red blood cell count, insomnia, joint pain, fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome, gallbladder problems, liver problems, brain fog or memory loss, allergic reactions frequently requiring anti-histamines, lip and tongue tie, anxiety, depression, ocd, ad(h)d, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, thyroid issues, addiction, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis or any number of autoimmune diseases, mental illness, psychological, behavioral or neurological problems. Even strange things that make people think you are crazy.

*Disclaimer* I’m not a doctor or medical professional. All I can tell you is from experience and research. Please seek a practitioner for diagnosis, but I am happy to answer questions about my experience! Sorry this is so long, it’s a lot of information and these are just the highlights.

Having stomach cramps for 4 hours after you eat really sucks. Having them and not knowing why and with continually more and more foods obviously sucks more. This started happening about 3 months after my second son was born. This started happening about 3 months after my first son was born too. First with eggs, and then with butter on a sweet potato. It didn’t stop there. After months of this in 2014, with doctors scratching their heads, even after I threw up on the el in Chicago and almost fainted while hitting my son’s 5 month old noggin on the handrail and was traveling by myself after a particularly fatty breakfast with my brother, he suggested maybe it was my gallbladder (Click here to read more on that). By the time I saw the doctor in the ER, my symptoms were gone and she wanted to send me home. I insisted on an ultrasound which showed possible issues with the gallbladder, but I would need to have a HIDA scan done (where they inject a radioactive isotope to see how things are moving with a special scanner) to know for sure. I had no classic symptoms other than stomach cramps after I ate. But, the surgeon recommended we take it out. We did, and I felt great afterwards. No other issues. Until 3 months after I had my second child. Except now I don’t have a gallbladder. And I have 2 littles under the age of 3. Now what?

I was already grieving the loss of my first child’s infant stages with illness and surgery and was so looking forward to enjoying my 2nd baby instead of the blur to just get through the days and nights without an attack. Fear of eating the wrong thing. Fear of lying on the floor or in bed unable to move with no one else home. (This was a stage where my husband was also traveling more for work. A LOT more.) Asking my toddler to bring me my phone so I could call someone. Anyone who would come watch my littles while I wait for this attack to pass. An attack comes on within 10 minutes. I have the most incredible parents, friends and neighbors. You know who you are. And to those who have been fervently praying for me. Thank you from the bottom of this momma’s heart!

We struggled to get pregnant for 1.5-2 years (click here to read more on that). I struggled with extreme fatigue during that whole time. I stopped taking birth control pills in 2010 because I was sure it was making me crazy. I was right and my husband agrees. It made me feel foggy and like my personality was completely subdued. I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome in 2013, shortly before I got pregnant with Zeke. I gave up gluten at that time because I learned that 80% of women with PCOS have a gluten intolerance. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis shortly before I got pregnant with Wesley in fall 2015. I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome this fall, in the midst of all of my other health woes. I’m deficient in iron, vitamin d even though I play sand volleyball doubles all summer long, b vitamins, my thyroid hormones are out of whack (tsh, free t3, reverse t3,  free t4), elevated thyroid antibodies, low progesterone, to name a few. I feel my best when I’m pregnant and these things go into remission during that time, but clearly that is not a long term plan unless I decide to take up surrogacy as a hobby. I’ve been taking supplements in these areas for months/years. I see an amazing practitioner of functional medicine and we’ve made a good team the last 1.5 years. What’s the deal, man? What are we missing? We are treating the thyroid, the iron, the female hormones, etc. I saw a GI surgeon who was both elderly and very overweight who handed me a box of pills in our consultation which involved no tests other than a brief abdominal exam and said you have IBS and the only way to treat it is with medication. “So I can’t help it at all with diet or anything else?” He said no. You’re fired. Peace out.

Over a year ago, I had read about instances of Epstein Barr Virus and underlying infection as being a cause for your body going haywire with auto immune disease. This is the virus that causes mono. I had mono when I was 7 when no one else around me had it. 95% of adults have EBV. Just about everyone gets it in infancy or childhood. Many show no signs or symptoms. I asked to be tested. My PCP wasn’t sure why, but we did it anyway. My numbers were through the roof and she was shocked! There are 4 stages, I was positive for all 4 of them – past infection, past exposure, recent exposure and recovering infection. 2 of them in particular should have been below 18. Mine were 189 and 435. Ok, so let’s treat the virus. We did that for about a month, but I was still dealing with digestion issues.

My practitioner recommended we look at genetics to see if I had any predispositions to being unable to absorb certain vitamins and nutrients. Drumroll please…

I have a genetic mutation that prevents me from absorbing and converting B vitamins efficiently! This process is called methylation. The gene is called MTHFR or methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. 30-50% of the population has this mutation and it is hereditary.

Ok, what does that mean? Turns out that B vitamins are essential to live.

“Referred to as vitamin B complex, the eight B vitamins — B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12 — play an important role in keeping our bodies running like well-oiled machines. These essential nutrients help convert our food into fuel, allowing us to stay energized throughout the day.”

They help your body to naturally detox and reduce inflammation by repairing your cells and making new ones and providing energy in your cells. When you can’t do that efficiently, your health starts to snowball until the problems become bigger and bigger. If you can’t detox, you have a hard time producing things like dopamine and serotonin to feel good, putting you at risk for depression and anxiety. A buildup of toxins and inflammation may start a chain reaction similar to this:

Vitamin B Deficiency


Toxin Build-up and Inflammation

Immune System Weakness

Auto Immune Response

Food Sensitivities or Allergic Reactions

Stomach Cramps, joint pain, sleep problems, miscarriages/infertility, refer to the list at the top of this post!

All we see are a list of seemingly unrelated symptoms at the bottom of this list or the outside layer of the onion. How can these food sensitivities just be popping up out of nowhere and with no rhyme or reason. I could eat eggs one day and be fine and eat them another and have stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea or constipation, fatigue, etc. I’ve been tested for food allergies and actually have very few. We need to dig beneath the surface and look at the body as a whole. Find a physician of functional medicine who will do this with you. All of these things I’ve written about in this post and previous posts all stem back to this gene mutation. You can take a test at home, but it is recommended you see a practitioner trained in this area.

But that’s not all. The combination of the gene mutation and the Epstein Barr Virus were a perfect storm for me. You can have these mutations and it not really impact your life much. Or, you could have them and they can become life threatening. There is usually a trigger that makes it become a problem. For me, that was EBV. At one point in October, I told my husband that I thought I might die. I’ve never said this before in my life! An article published just today about EBV triggering Hashimoto’s and Grave’s Disease (both thyroid auto immune disorders) had this to say:

“But why is it difficult to eradicate viruses?  Viruses live and replicate inside the cells, and they actually insert their own genetic material into our DNA.  Most active viral infections will eventually result in the death of the host cell, although cells in which the virus is in a dormant state usually function normally.  But the only way to eradicate the virus is by killing the infected cell.  The alternative is to do things to prevent the virus from replicating.”

My mind was blown when I read this. Why aren’t people talking about this?! So the virus is active in me, but I can’t detox the dead cells and can’t make new ones. I’m fighting an uphill battle of malnourishment. We need to come at this from both sides. The article describes some therapies to help with Epstein Barr. With methylation problems, it is recommended you take a methylated B Complex vitamin. If you have this mutation, you cannot convert folic acid and it actually can make you sicker. As many know, this is an important vitamin during pregnancy to prevent birth defects and genetic abnormalities. Folic acid is often fortified in things like cereals and pastas, so it is best to stay away from fortified foods like this and your multi-vitamin likely contains folic acid. Avoid taking antacids as they block B12 absorption.  The list goes on. And use caution with drinking alcohol and smoking as they often impede the methylation process and may put you at risk for any number of diseases, stroke, cancer, etc., later on.


My Instagram Post December 30, 2016

Dec. 30, 2016 – “Friends, just being transparent here. You think you want what the outside of this body looks like. You don’t. It costs something. I weighed 137 lbs when I woke up this morning. (I’m 6’0” tall and 6 months post partum, having gained 60 lbs in my first pregnancy and 50 lbs with my second pregnancy, and gave birth to 8#12oz & 10#10oz babies) And I’m still nursing. Clothes that fit me fine pre-pregnancy now fall off. I feel incredibly insecure about what people think when they look at me. “You lost that baby weight fast!” “Do you even eat?” “Wish I could look like that after having a baby!” This is not healthy. This is malnourished. It’s terrifying. You have no idea what this has been like or what my family has gone through. Nothing good comes from comparing yourself to someone else or someone else’s journey. Truly.
Sorry to leave you hanging while we figure out what’s going on. Still processing everything and we think we have found the root cause of why I’ve been so sick since the beginning of September. Keep praying and encouraging and I’ll have a blog post update in hopefully a week or two. Know that I feel the best I have felt in months and my digestion has drastically improved.”

I am feeling much better with regard to digestion. I feel a great amount of fatigue currently, but apparently this can be normal as my body recovers and detoxes. It’s a wait and see game with dosages of vitamins. I’m also taking naltrexone to reduce my antibodies – related to the EBV infection because they are also attacking my thyroid and stomach simultaneously with the autoimmune piece of the puzzle. I’m hoping to see this snowball into my other symptoms with Hashimoto’s, PCOS and others. Only time will tell. I now know that I did not need my gallbladder removed. And that post partum for me is a time of depletion, detox and restoration. I’ve just been unable to restore my own body. My problem is not “solved,” and POOF I will be all better now. It is something I have to maintain for the rest of my life. Some days will be good days, great even! Other days will just be “hanging in there,” as I’ve said I have been for the last 4 months. It is truly a miracle that I’ve had not just 1, but 2 healthy babies without a miscarriage or major birth defects. I praise God everyday for those huge blessings and I pray for the strength and perseverance to enjoy them moving forward. I also pray that this helps someone else because I will wonder the rest of my days if my grandmother would still be with us had this one small change of taking methylated b vitamin complex helped her instead of losing her battle with Alzheimer’s at age 70, as she was forgetful for as long as I’d known her.

Be encouraged! Cheers to improved health in 2017!

I Deserve…

Been reading about contentment this week. The definition of CONTENTMENT is – “a state of happiness and satisfaction.” The opposite of contentment being: disappointment, upset, unhappiness, depression, sadness, worry, misery, agitation. These things can then lead to RESENTMENT and bitterness.
What gives us discontentment? Comparing ourselves to others, not having what we think we ought, a sense of entitlement; what we DESERVE. What we feel we have EARNED. <—- Those are RESENTMENT, which by definition means “a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury.” That is selfishness. That is pride. We see it in ourselves daily – in our marriages, friendships, with our children and parents. I deserve…
Guess what, you are not entitled to anything. What we should delight in is an outpouring of thankfulness. It’s difficult to be discontent and resentful if out of your thoughts and mouth come graciousness & thankfulness.
“These are the things you are to teach and insist on. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” ~ 1 Timothy 6:3-8
In what ways this week can we be grateful and fight the urge to place demands on God and others in our lives? What we deserve is the nails in our hands and feet that Jesus took for us. Nothing else compares to that. We are loved, we are forgiven. And that DESERVES a lifetime’s outpouring of thankfulness!
Be encouraged!

Called to Love

Tea ~ Citrus Soother

My heart has been so heavy this week. I can’t even breathe. I never thought I would see some of the things that my brothers and sisters in Christ have written. Disappointed? You betcha. I can see why our state leaders find it necessary to halt incoming refugees from coming into their respective states. Safety of their citizens. Honestly, I can respect that.

Here’s where it gets a little murky when it should be crystal clear. Do I want my family to be at risk for whatever repercussions come of taking in some number of refugees? Of course not. But that’s my flesh talking. If you call yourself a follower of Jesus, we should not be celebrating or repeatedly speaking out against allowing refugees into our country and bashing those who would like to see Americans be generous and humane. Because now you appear to be an American Patriot before you are a Christian. If you do not consider yourself a follower of Christ, this does not apply to you and you can stop reading here if you’d like.

If your argument is that we need to be helping our veterans and homeless before these refugees, the answer is because those homeless and vets are not, at this very moment, fleeing for their lives. And we are not talking about thousands of refugees, but MILLIONS. If you are at work, making money to provide for your family, do you not clock out to respond to a crisis situation if a loved one is having a medical emergency or was in a car accident, for example? Priorities can change when the dire need of a situation calls for it. And if you still feel that way, I pray your checkbook or work with your hands with those vets and homeless are there to back it up.

If you don’t want to see images of Syrian children drowned after a failed attempt to escape the dangers and imminent death that awaits them if they stay, yet you don’t want to give those displaced a place of refuge, I’m frankly, a little confused. Because it’s happening, whether you see it or not. We are desensitized to what is truly going on in the world today. I’ve heard this before from people in the work that I’ve done the last 4 years with human trafficking, many times, from believers and non-believers alike, that they do not want to see it. Well, you are effectively contributing to it if you do not want to see it. It’s happening to someone’s brother, sister or child, just not yours. Therefore, it’s not your problem. And those who are in the trenches working in this evil on a daily basis, the only reason we can sleep at night is because we tirelessly pray that we can both be sensitive and compassionate to those who are victims while at the same time asking God to protect our hearts and minds from the nightmares that we would surely have from hearing despicable story after disturbing act that was done to them. And human trafficking is a real problem for refugees – they are desperate, vulnerable and have no one else to trust. I assure you, that the only way I can sleep at night is by the grace of God and His protection. And God is faithful, we can trust Him.

When did we start thinking it was a good idea to ask the world how we should respond to every situation?

I keep hearing, “so what is the answer?” The only place we should be seeking answers is God’s truth. And how can we know what the truth is if we don’t read His truth, immersing ourselves in the Word? Or do we only look to the Word in order to call out sin in others’ lives when it is convenient for us? And calling out the sin of those who are not believers and do not want to associate with believers. How “loving” of you. The Bible is not the book of truth by which non-Christians live by, so why do we expect the same way of living & morals from non-believers as believers? The world will give you answers of the world and as we know, Satan runs rampant in the world.

“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We also know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” – 1 John 5:19-21

The divisiveness of this topic has revealed idols in the lives of Christians. When did we start valuing safety and our children/families over living out God’s greatest commandments?

““Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”” – Matthew 22:36-41

Why are we living our lives like we have something to lose? Christ died for us, once and for all. And those who call upon Jesus as Lord and Savior will spend eternity with Him. Are we confused about what that means? This world is not our home.

“Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”” – John 18:36

This is an opportunity to store up treasures in heaven and we’re still hoarding the “treasures” here on earth that aren’t even ours. NEWSFLASH:  everything you have or own, your children, resources, money and possessions, have been entrusted to you to bring glory to God. You are a steward. They belong to God. He gave them to you and He can take them away in a second. If you think differently, I’m sorry, but you are calling God a liar. Will you choose to be faithful with what God has given you as a manager?

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;” – Psalm 24:1

For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” – 1 Timothy 6:7

When did loving others become convenient? Or easy? I could list verse after verse about how you will have trouble in the world, how you will be persecuted, how the world will hate you. It’s the truth! If you are looking for safety, security and ease of everyday life, this isn’t the path of a Christian. But there is 1 thing that should separate us from the world:

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. – John 15:13

There it is. There is nothing convenient or easy about that. I would lay down my life for any one of you, Christian or not. I would put my family at risk by hosting strangers. I do. All of my friends know they can call me and I will host anybody in my home. I host friends of friends in my home who I haven’t met, with joy! We’ve been in the process for months now of getting approval to host children with Safe Families. Is there risk involved and could we get hurt? Absolutely. But, there is a huge need and we have the desire to meet that need. I pray that you stay sensitive to the Holy Spirit and be generous wherever you can. Let our hearts not become hard to people and situations we will never understand.

I have no control over the number of my days. I have no control over whether refugees will come to my state or my town. But I have open hands. I’m trusting that God will protect me, my heart, my mind and my family. And if it is His will that something should happen, I will run into the arms of Jesus with abandon. This world has nothing for me. This is not a problem, this is an opportunity. An opportunity to love. I’ll take a few refugee families, I’ve been researching it this week, bring it on! I pray that you seek Scripture and ask God in prayer to protect you from fear and respond in love.

I was struck with the truth of these words and this song yesterday as I was seeking what to do or how to respond to this situation. “From the Inside Out” by Hillsong (link to youtube video):

A thousand times I’ve failed
Still your mercy remains
Should I stumble again
Still I’m caught in your grace
Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame

Your will above all else
My purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise
Everlasting, your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, your glory goes beyond all fame

My heart and my soul
I give you control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise
Become my embrace
To love you from the inside out

Be encouraged!

This Just In… I’m Not Healthy

Tea ~ Orange Swirl

If you look at my body, you wouldn’t know it. If you saw me smile, which is a lot because there is a lot to be joyful about, you wouldn’t know it. Looks are deceiving. You don’t know what a person is going through. Please don’t comment on the size of someone’s body whether big or small. Saying “you’re so skinny,” or “wish I had your body.” They might be fighting a battle underneath it all and you have no idea.

It’s really hard for me to write this. I used to think I was a pretty healthy person. I eat right, cooking mostly vegetarian by default, since I’m married to a vegetarian. I’ve eaten gluten free for 2.5 years thinking the fatigue was from that. But, I would say the last 5 years or so have revealed otherwise as new allergies developed from anaphylactic shock to fire ants, far too much discomfort wearing contact lenses that revealed a silicone contact lens allergy and giving me contact lens induced conjunctivitis whenever I did wear contacts of any kind for even just a couple of hours (so happy I got LASIK in January!). Birth control pills made me *cRaZY* and promptly got off of those! This started while living in Dallas. Then it just seemed to escalate when we moved to Chicago in 2011. I didn’t have a period for 10 months. Perfect timing as we wanted to start a family! Read more about that story here.

What in the world is going on?!

Knowing what I know now, Zeke is truly a miracle. Seriously, God gave us this equal parts sweet and wild little boy as a gift, because it was not by my body’s doing that he was conceived, carried to term and born. Thankful for a gracious God who answers our prayers and gives us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4) in His timing.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease on October 2. Hypothyroidism. Its an auto immune disorder. My immune system attacks my thyroid, causing it to be under-active and to not release the proper amounts of hormones to make the body function properly. It involves inflammation and antibodies. I am not absorbing essential vitamins and nutrients like iron, vitamin d and b. I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) in 2012 and the fertility clinic who diagnosed it was all too eager to get me on a number of drugs, hormones and IUI/IVF to help us conceive without so much as a blood draw. Hmmm, could there be thousands of dollars involved for them? Yes. Be careful out there.


I’m certain I had Hashimoto’s before we became pregnant with Zeke. The biggest symptom has been fatigue. Why am I SO tired?! I exercise, eat well, stay active in general. No amount of sleep, going to bed early, naps, etc., makes me feel rested. To top it off, another symptom can be insomnia. I’ll lay in bed, exhausted, but am unable to sleep. And then, cold hands and feet is a symptom. WHAT?! I’ve struggled with this for YEARS! I have about a 5 degree differential in temperature tolerance. My parents used to joke with me on car trips because I would say, “I’m hot, can we turn the A/C on?” then like 10 minutes later, I’d say, “I’m too cold, can we turn it down?” “I’m too hot. I’m too cold. etc. etc.” It would go on and on. Turns out, Hashimoto’s patients have a difficult time regulating their body temperature. That and low libido…it’s not just me! Hallelujah! Constipation, it’s a terrible symptom, but so present and a reminder to me everyday that this is my life now, but it has a name, thankfully.

I actually felt amazing during my pregnancy (I gained 60 pounds!) and well enough while nursing minus the frequent sinus infections. I’m certain this condition combined with the PCOS gave me a hard time nursing with low supply and we were constantly nursing to keep up. It was very stressful and a very, VERY heavy burden for me. If I were to do it all over again, knowing what I know now, we’d be doing a nursing and formula mix and that’s that. Stress triggers symptoms, so it’s just hilarious that all these symptoms are stressful, and yet, I need to not be stressed to help avoid them. We weaned at 15 months because I was having a hard time, and had a boost in energy afterward for a few months. I felt AMAZING! And then the last half of the summer when I’d been playing beach volleyball doubles multiple times per week and in the best shape I’d been in for about 10 years my energy just TANKED. What gives? I would feel fatigued right after eating especially, if not all day long.

So now what? I’m not healthy. Let’s just call a spade a spade. Sickness all last winter, tons of sinus infections. All of the inflammation makes my symptoms go crazy and increases allergies. I need to be on a low carb diet to stabilize my blood sugars. This will help decrease all of the antibodies and my immune system always working to attack my thyroid and then hopefully my hormones will be somewhat normal. I need to boost my protein to 60 grams a day (equivalent to 3 chicken breasts). So really, I’m going on a mostly Paleo diet/lifestyle. I’ll do some dairy for the protein and because my spouse is a vegetarian and if I eat MORE meat and no grains or legumes (yeah, no rice, no quinoa or other “ancient grains,” no beans) AND dairy, the thought of making meals is stressful. No/low sugar as well because sugar is carbs. I’ve been doing this for about 2 weeks now and I would say I do feel better, better energy. The times I’ve cheated, I’ve regretted it, and I’ve had trouble with regulating my body temperature, increased insomnia, and fatigue. I’m taking a number of supplements like Selenium which is supposed to be great for Hashi’s patients. If diet and supplements don’t help, there are thyroid hormones I can take. But for now, this seems to be helping and we’ll get extreme later if we have to.

We’re just a treat to have over for dinner! I’m getting over the angry/pity-party for myself phase and into the grab the bull by the horns phase to just start feeling better! Thankful for some answers and some items on my to do list to get to better health. And all you have is your health, don’t mess around with it. You only get 1 body, so you’d better make it work with the one you have. I would appreciate prayers during this transition, it’s been difficult for me.

Hope this helps someone and encourages someone else.

Senseless Indulgence

Photo above is of Zeke’s First Birthday Cake

Tea ~ Clean Sweep, a Christmas gift from my sister-in-law

For the last 2 days, I have literally been unable to taste or smell anything. Even sticking my head over a bowl of hot water with peppermint and eucalyptus (which Greg said was like being punched in the face with peppermint), nothing. I feel the burn, but cannot smell it. We considered going out for a nice-ish dinner last night, but why? What’s the point?

It got me thinking about how much of our eating is indulgence and purely done for pleasure. Of course, God created our senses to enjoy and find pleasure (or displeasure) in the things we see, smell, taste, touch and hear. Our senses are used to tell us if there is danger, like the heat and smell of a fire where there should not be one or the sound and vibration of a glass that has fallen and broken. And they are used to bring us gratification and delight through a hug or kiss from a loved one, or the sound and sight of your child giggling. I ate a bowl of ice cream last night based on the memory of what it tasted like, trying to recreate the same experience I’ve had hundreds of times before, but was left with disappointment and calories I probably didn’t need.

Even drinking this tea right now, I’m disappointed I can’t taste it and am drinking it purely for the health benefits and because I should. How would our food choices change if we could not taste or smell? Even Subway pumps that fresh bread smell out into the air and on to the sidewalk as you stroll by. It’s like they know we will indulge if we could just smell how good it is and much of our taste is from smell, so then we would have gratification with our 6-inch (ok….footlong) veggie delight (ok…meatballs with extra cheese…aaaaand bacon). What a sales tactic! The Blommer Chocolate Factory in Chicago smells amazing when the wind is blowing just right in River North, but on some days, it smelled just as close to chocolate as it did to poo. I’m sure that was just a hybrid mixture of Blommer and the Chicago River. Ew. But to prove my point, our indulgences can make us feel as awful in guilt and sickness as they do in pleasure and enjoyment.

I pray that we can make healthy choices with our minds, bodies and senses, and will indulge in God’s Word and plan for our lives in 2015. I want to recreate the love God has for me with the love I pour out on others and I want to experience the joy and peace that only comes through Christ Jesus, our Lord.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

Be encouraged!

Mothers Don’t Get Sick Days

Tea ~ Lonestar Chai
In a mug and in my oatmeal this morning

[Reflecting on surgery to remove my gallbladder 2 months ago while recovering from a major lower back injury from a bike accident. Throw in the process of moving just for kicks.]

Can you call it recovering when it gets worse everyday for a month and no amount of chiropractic adjustments or painkillers, prescribed or otherwise is relieving the pain? I was in this accident to avoid seriously injuring a toddler who was where they should not have been, unsupervised on a bicycle with training wheels on the lakefront bike path in Chicago during rush hour. Did I mention that this path sees 30,000 people a day during the summer months? I thank God that Z was not with me on my bike like he was the day before. And I will never again ride my bike in Chicago. It’s just not worth it.

For 5 weeks, this injury was worse than post-op, but also at the same time as post-op. I say to you – Don’t ever take your health for granted. We say or mean “health” as nonchalantly as “food” or “water” in our culture of privilege. It was the hardest 3 months of my life when the 4-hour stomach cramp episodes started out of nowhere in May. They increased in frequency, with a traumatic instance of vomiting and nearly fainting on the CTA red line and hitting my then 5-month-old’s head into the hand rail in the process of pushing my sweet guardian angel, Katie, an off-duty OB/GYN from Evanston, out of the way so I did not throw up on her while I handed him to a complete stranger. I also handed this stranger my phone and had my husband’s phone number up and ready to go should I indeed pass out. Greg picked me up at the next el stop to take me to the hospital. The ER nearly sent me home because my symptoms were gone after 4 hours of waiting, but not before I insisted on an ultrasound thanks to the suggestion of my brother, Phil, at breakfast that morning. Katie asked me if I was ok. I deliriously replied, “I need to have my gallbladder taken out.” She thought I sounded ridiculous. She also thought I was falling asleep before she came over to my side of the train to check on my baby and I.

Thankful for my health does not even begin to express that need as a mom. Mothers do not get sick days, especially nursing ones. I could not lift Zeke for 5 weeks. I could barely stand upright. I cried…a lot. I called my mom to come 2 days early before surgery because I couldn’t even take care of myself, let alone my baby. It was an extreme emergency. She couldn’t even understand me on the phone because I was sobbing so hard that it was difficult to make out any words. I’m so thankful for my mom! She is perhaps the coolest, most selfless person I know and one of my best friends. My parents are such a blessing! My childhood best friend, Kim, also came to do the heavy lifting for a few days all the way from Baltimore. Greg tried to work from home as much as he could while transitioning to his new job in Indiana.

Looking back on it, I’m not sure how I made it through all of this. Strength and healing from the Lord sustained me through all of your prayers. I’m so thankful to be PAIN FREE. No stomach cramping, no back issues. It’s been about a month without pain. I can run, bike, lift moving boxes from room to room and wear my baby! I think I missed wearing him the most – at the grocery store, going for walks, out on adventures and hiking. It’s the easiest way to bring him contentment. But don’t ever take your health for granted; you can lose it in a second.

If nothing else, I want to stay healthy for this guy!

If nothing else, I want to stay healthy for this guy!

Be encouraged!

Zeke’s Birth Story

Photo by Jaclyn Simpson Photography
Tea ~ Pomegranate Blueberry

Happy 3 months to this guy, Charles Ezekiel! 3 months is really about what it takes to come up for air from what is most certainly the beginning of a life changing experience. The first month, you are so sleep deprived that you don’t really know what’s going on. The second month, you realize that this is your life now, for better or for worse, so you’d better get used to it. And by the 3rd month, you’ve developed some routines and at least for me, the adoration for this little person who looks just like my husband grows immensely and I’m excited for him to wake up each morning and give me that big smile and know that I’m his favorite person in the world right now. Not forever, but at least for now. I’m ok with taking pride in that for this very short and temporary stage of his life.

So how did Zeke get here? Z’s due date was on January 4th, and until a few days before, I had zero signs of labor, not even Braxton-Hicks contractions. We selfishly wanted him to come over Christmas break & before New Year’s, both because life slows down around the holidays and it would be easy for Greg to miss work and enjoy it and for insurance deductible and tax purposes, that would have been nice! But not at the expense of potentially a completely different labor and delivery experience. On the 3rd, I had 10 hours of contractions every 2-4 minutes, so I went in to the hospital to be examined. 80% effaced and 0% dilated. No one told me they should be strong contractions, just that they should be close together and consistent. I got sent home, disappointed and grieving and also feeling like I had wasted everyone’s time. No other signs of labor for another week and there was a scheduled date for testing and possible induction since I was at 41 weeks and 42 is the end of the line. 41 weeks, day 1 came and went. I even went to a Traffick Free Praxis Month event that I figured I would not be able to go to.

Ready for the Traffick Free event!

Off to the Traffick Free event! Taken about 30 hours before delivery.

3:15am on January 12th, as I was about to get out of bed to use the restroom like I usually did around that time since pregnancy started, I felt a gush and I slinked off the bed just as my water broke. Well, I guess it’s go-time, no doubt about it! My parents were already at our place waiting with us and I woke up Greg with the good news. Thankfully we had already done the “get everything together and get to the hospital” trial run, so we weren’t as anxious to forget anything. Since my water leaked every time I moved, and I had some concern for cord prolapse as that can happen when your water breaks, I stayed in the shower on my hands and knees until Greg was packed and ready and I called the hospital during that time. My contractions hadn’t started at this point, so my midwife said they may have to induce me with pitocin. I was sad to hear that because I wanted a natural childbirth experience, but I understood with the chance of infection increasing the longer we waited to deliver. But by the time we got to the hospital, the contractions started and my midwife didn’t see a need to induce and would just let it run its course. Oddly enough, the midwife who examined me 9 days prior in triage, was the same one who would deliver me.

There are 9 midwives at Swedish Covenant, so I was surprised and excited since I enjoyed Libby’s upbeat personality. Libby asked one of the nurses before coming in if I was mad that she had sent me home. Of course not! Why would I want to hang out at the hospital with no baby coming? At least this time I skipped triage and went right to my labor & delivery room! Soon after getting to my room, an announcement came over the PA, “The coffee is ready in the break room.” We all cheered!

Hair up for this event!

Hair up for this show!

I knew going in that I would have to have an IV because I was Group B Strep Positive (bacteria that everyone has in their gut at one point or another, but if there is enough of it, it can give the baby an infection when passing through the birth canal) and needed antibiotics administered every 4 hours. Not a huge deal, I would get unhooked after each round to labor freely as I needed to. Unfortunately, it became a huge deal. The antibiotics burned going in and hurt more than my contractions at that point, so they had to slow it down. It took 2 hours for the antibiotics to go in the first round. And then they made me incredibly nauseous. I was so glad when that first round was over so I could focus on laboring and moving around, going for walks, etc. And then I kept throwing up. For the next 12 hours. I couldn’t keep anything down, not even water or tea. It was really starting to wear on me. My midwife said it was rare to have nausea from IV antibiotics and that she hadn’t seen this before. I’ve heard the, “this is rare, I’ve never seen this before,” thing a lot in my life. I’m just that lucky. Having contractions is one thing, having contractions and throwing up before, during or after them is quite another. It was hard to get out of bed at all. I took a shower to maybe get some relief and it seemed to help. I broke down and cried in the bathroom after that and asked Greg to pray for me, I was just having a hard time. I was so hungry and so tired and so nauseous all at the same time while the contractions kept coming. Then a doctor walked in, looked at me mid-contraction and introduced herself. She said, “are you ready to go home now?” What?! “Why?” I whimpered. I was doing so well and progressing I thought, I didn’t want to be sent home again! Then the doctor realized she was in the wrong room and apologized profusely. Sigh of relief.

Laboring with Ashley

Laboring with Ashley

At about 3:15pm, my midwife checked my cervix and I was 90% effaced and 4 cm dilated. After 12 hours of this, that was IT?! I was this empty shell of a person from all the vomiting. It was becoming routine to ask someone to hand me the bucket in the middle or end of a contraction. They said I handled it like a champ, though. So after that check, I was seriously considering throwing in the towel on this whole natural thing because of the throwing up. I couldn’t handle exhaustion from that and labor at the same time. I looked at Greg with desparation and asked him what he thought because, after all, he is the head of our household and this was his experience too and he knew what I really wanted. Our code word for drugs was “Santa’s got a brand new bag.” I was ready to say it. He said, “4 is a heck of a lot closer to 10 than it is to 0.” I didn’t see it. The diagram on the wall that showed the size of each centimeter circle, it was not my friend right now. All I could think was that 4 rounds closer down to 0 than up to 10. But he & my mom asked if there was perhaps some sugar water and anti-nausea meds through the IV they could give me to help with relief of the symptoms. There was, yay!

Greg was a great coach! And my Pretty Pushers dress was amazing!

The first anti-nausea meds didn’t work. The second, Zofran, was amazing! FINALLY! The nausea subsided from the antibiotics. I still threw up on occasion from an intense contraction here and there, but not to the degree it was before. Now that I could labor without any distraction, I could even sleep! I slept on and off for about an hour. My contractions had let up and slowed down to every 5 minutes so I could rest. That was such a relief and a huge blessing to have that time. Greg even got to nap while my mom and Ashley (my doula) helped with massage, water and bucket-holding support. When I woke up from resting, I knew I could do it. That sugar water saved me! I had some energy again! I was ready to move around and get going. I thought I would bounce on the birthing ball a bit, but as soon as I sat on it, I jumped back up. Zeke was sitting SO low that it was incredibly uncomfortable. Even standing was so much pressure that it was hard to walk. I was back in bed and continued to labor on my right side where it was comfortable for me. Libby checked me again and at 5pm, I was 5 cm. By 5:30 I was at 8cm and I wanted to push, but she told me to wait a little bit longer if I could.

A little after 6pm I was at 10cm and ready to push. I had an army of people surrounding me and encouraging me, holding my legs, reminding me to breathe and make noise in low tones instead of high squeaky ones because they were more productive. Visualizing waves washing over me was not at all helpful for me because I could not get out of reality. I wish the waves worked! Massage oils and diffusing lavender were great and we had the lights turned down low and had battery candles around the room for a calming ambiance to go along with our Josh Garrels Pandora station. At one point, Libby told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head and I kept saying “My baby…my baby…my baby,” after I felt that full head of hair. Some other chants included, “Ohhhhh boy, ohhhhhh boy,” and felt that “Ring of Fire,” I had read about. I was in transition for about 20 minutes with 2-3 pushes and he was here! Greg caught him and everyone cried! Everyone but me. Even the baby cried & screamed non-stop! I wish I could cry like I always do when I watch movies and documentaries where babies are born, but I was too happy (and tired)! They put him immediately on my chest and I couldn’t believe how big he was. I was under the impression from some previous midwife appointments that he would be more my size (at 7 lbs.) than Greg’s size (at 8 lbs. 12 oz. at 3 weeks early). Zeke weighed 8 lbs. 12 oz. just like his daddy (but 8 days late)! He was bright red and received an Apgar score of 9 (no one scores a 10). We held him for about an hour and nursed within the first 20 minutes before they weighed and measured him.


Great memories for me were how great my support team was. Seriously, who you have in that room with you will make all the difference. I was so happy and honored to have my husband, my good friend Ashley to serve as my doula with having 2 girls & a variety of labor & delivery experiences, and both of my parents present. It was really special having my mom & dad there because my mom was never able to have vaginal and natural births the way she wanted to, she had to have 3 c-sections. I was so thankful to be able to labor and deliver without pain medication. Zeke was so alert from the first moment he arrived and I was happy to avoid the risk of complications, because if they were to happen to anyone, they would happen to me. It was amazing to experience the miracle of birth as God intended it and that I had studied both Scripture and pregnancy books on the subject. [Read Part 1 & Part 2 of my previous blog posts on this based on my research, its pretty interesting]

And nursing has been really special and continues to be. I’ll write more on what I’ve learned later. But I would have to say that breastfeeding was harder (at least for me) than labor and delivery. Perhaps because it lasts a lot longer than 15 hours. 6 weeks of breastfeeding bootcamp is pretty intense with a newborn relying on your progress, but man, you come to the other side of it SO proud of yourself!

Thanks everyone for the love and support. We love our little Zeke and look forward to making many more memories together as a family! If you haven’t seen our video slideshow introducing our little cutie pie, you’re in for a treat!

Photo by Jaclyn Simpson Photography

Photo by Jaclyn Simpson Photography

Traffick Free’s Top 10 List of Products Made with Child and/or Forced Labor

134 goods in 74 countries were reviewed in the U.S. Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor for 2012. Check out the List for a detailed record of those products and countries that have reported child labor or forced labor.

“The International Labor Organization (ILO) has produced new global estimates placing the number of people trapped in forced labor at 21 million, including 6 million children forced into labor or sexual exploitation. The ILO also estimates that 215 million children are working as child laborers, of which about 115 million participate in hazardous labor.“

Here is Traffick Free’s Top 10 List of products you may be shopping for this holiday season that could be contributing to labor trafficking worldwide, based on the Department of Labor report:

  1. Diamonds, Gold, Minerals, Metals & Gems – 90-95% Child Labor (CL), 5-10% Forced Labor (FL) – of 34 countries reported to have used Child and/or Forced Labor
  2. Cotton, Garments, Leather, Jute, Silk, Textiles, Thread & Yarn – 80-90% CL, 10-20% FL – of 25 countries reported
  3. Coffee & Tea – 100% Child Labor – of 16 countries reported
  4. Embellished Textiles, Fashion Accessories & Footwear – 90% CL, 10% FL – of 7 countries reported
  5. Cocoa/Chocolate – 100% Child Labor – of 6 countries reported
  6. Nuts & Seeds (Brazil Nuts/Chestnuts, Cashews, Hazelnuts, Peanuts, Sesame Seeds) – 60-70% CL, 30-40% FL – of 6 countries reported
  7. Flowers (Real & Artificial) – 50% CL, 50% FL – of 4 countries reported
  8. Soccer Balls & Toys  – 100% Child Labor – of 2 countries reported
  9. Electronics – Both Child & Forced Labor – of 1 country reported
  10. Christmas Decorations  – Forced Labor – of 1 country reported

Some notable findings:

  • 60% of child labor worldwide is agriculture

  • Over 55% of the world’s forced laborers are in the South Asia region

  • The highest concentrations of forced labor in manufactured goods are found in the production of garments and bricks.

  • Agricultural goods with concentrations of forced labor include: cotton, cattle, and sugarcane.

  • Manufactured goods such as carpets, fashion accessories, footwear and garments are often made with child labor – developed countries are not exempt!

Goods associated with a notably high concentration of child and/or forced labor include cotton (17 countries), sugarcane (16 countries), coffee (14 countries), cattle (12 countries), rice (eight countries), fish (seven countries) and cocoa (six countries) in the agricultural sector; bricks (18 countries), garments (eight countries), carpets (five countries) and footwear (five countries) in the manufacturing sector; and gold (19 countries), diamonds (seven countries) and coal (seven countries) in the mining/quarrying sector.

With the 2012 update, the List includes 123 goods in the “child labor” category:  58 agricultural goods, 38 manufactured goods and 26 mined/quarried goods, as well as pornography. The relatively large number of agricultural goods produced by child labor is consistent with the ILO estimate that 60 percent of child labor worldwide is in agriculture.

With the 2012 update, the List includes 56 goods in the “forced labor” category: 26 agricultural goods, 18 manufactured goods and 11 mined/quarried goods, as well as pornography. Agricultural goods with notable concentrations of forced labor include cotton (eight countries), cattle (five countries) and sugarcane (five countries). Among manufactured goods, the highest concentrations of forced labor were found in the production of garments (eight countries) and bricks (seven countries).

*A country’s absence from the List does not necessarily indicate that child labor and/or forced labor are not occurring in the production of goods in that country. Data can be unavailable for various reasons, including both research and policy considerations.

*Some countries with relatively large numbers of goods on the List may not have the most serious problems of child labor or forced labor. Often, these are countries that have more openly acknowledged the problems, have better research and have allowed information on these issues to be disseminated. Such countries include Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, India, Kenya, Mexico, Philippines, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda and Zambia. The number of goods on the List from any particular country should not be interpreted as a direct indicator that these countries have the most extensive problems of child labor or forced labor.

If researching where to buy products is overwhelming, consider buying less…or buying 2nd hand stuff – go with used, pre-owned, refurbished, last season, sale rack & thrifty!

For fair trade recommendations on websites, shops & apps to help you with your holiday shopping this year, see the What You Can Do! post on the Traffick Free website. And please consider participating in #GivingTuesday and donating to Traffick Free this year as a gift to the abolitionist in your life or to support our work (and my personal work).
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